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Articles

APRIL 24 AND THE SO-CALLED GENOCIDE CLAIMS

Oya EREN
24 April 2007 - ERAREN
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!๠le="text-align: justify;">April 24 is the first date that comes to mind in the context of so-called Armenian genocide claims. This date has symbolized the so-called Armenian genocide particularly since the middle of the last century. April 24 has served as a platform to publicize these claims for the Armenian diaspora and the ones who recognize the Armenian claims. Every year when April 24 comes closer, the diaspora makes use of every opportunity so as to express genocide claims repeatedly in a feverish manner. The diaspora persistently emphasize that the so-called Armenian genocide is a historical “fact” by exploiting the visual and written media, and holding exhibitions, conferences and panels.

The Armenian Diaspora attaches so much importance to this date since it recognizes April 24, 1915 as the beginning of the so-called Armenian genocide. Well then, what in reality happened on April 24, 1915? Was there a great massacre against Armenians on that date? Was it the beginning of the relocation of the Armenians? In fact, no massacres were perpetrated against Armenians on April 24, 1915, nor the relocation of the Armenians was initiated. “The Temporary Law on the Measures Implemented by the Military against those Opposing the Government Implementations at Wartime”, also known as the Relocation Law, was published in the Official Gazette of the time, Takvim-i Vekayi, on June 1, 1915, approximately five weeks later than April 24, and came into force.

Then, it would be appropriate to take a look at what really happened on April 24, 1915. As a result of the Armenian rebellion that broke out in April 1915 in the province of Van, and when most of the Muslim population of the city was murdered by Armenians, the Ottoman government called for the termination of the Armenian rebellions by holding a meeting with the prominent members of the Armenian committees in Istanbul. Although the Armenian committees stated that they approved that call, they failed to take any concrete steps to take necessary measures that would have prevented the rebellions. Thereupon, the Ottoman government closed down the Armenian committees on April 24, 1915, arrested around 235 members and sent them into exile in Ankara and Cankiri in the following days. These people later returned to Istanbul. In other words, no massacre took place on April 24 that could be defined as “genocide”. Only a group of Armenians was arrested and sent to prisons in the country.

This is what happened on April 24, which is recognized by so many foreign parliaments as the Armenian “genocide” day. Ignorance towards these historical facts indicates that none of the related bills approved by these parliaments is based on preliminary academic studies, but the results of mere political considerations.

April 24 has not only taken place in parliamentary bills but also frequently expressed by the leaders of certain countries. Particularly, the US presidents traditionally talk about the sufferings of Armenians on April 24, though they refrain from using the word genocide. This tradition that began in Jimmy Carter’s presidency in 1978 has turned into a practice that was regularly repeated every year during Bill Clinton’s term.

The reason why April 24 is more noticeable this year is that five bills were presented to the US legislative organs early this year. When the Democrats won the elections for the House of Representatives that was held in November 2006 and Nancy Pelosi, the Representative of California, known to have pro-Armenian opinions, was appointed as the Chairperson, the efforts to make the USA recognize the Armenian genocide claims were diversified and thus their attempts were facilitated. The murder of Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist of Armenian descent, in January 2007, activated the Armenian lobby in the USA. Currently the House of Representatives has two bills and the Senate has one bill condemning the Hrant Dink assassination. Moreover, both the House of Representatives and the Senate has a bill each, aiming to have the so-called Armenian genocide recognized. The fact that Nancy Pelosi has stated that she would like the House of Representatives pass a bill on the so-called Armenian genocide before April 24 has put the mentioned date further in the fore front. It is of note that the statements of Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama, two Democrat candidates for the Presidential elections that are scheduled for 2008 in the US, followed one another in April, as well.

Consequently, it is expected that the Armenian “genocide” claims that hold an important place in the foreign policy of Turkey will set the agenda of April 24 and the week that follows it. At this stage, it would be appropriate for the political and scientific circles in Turkey to underline that recognizing April 24 as a “genocide commemoration day” is based on groundless assertions.
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