27 April 2013

Medz Yeghern

A terrible tragedy and a new and brutal chapter in the history of humanity opened ninety-eight years ago, when the Young Turk administration of the Ottoman Empire began slaughtering its Armenian population under the guise of conscription into the First World War. On the 24th of April, 1915, the Ottoman Empire rounded up between 235 and 270 Armenian scholars in the capital and later deported them and had them murdered. The Armenian population within the Empire as a whole, having been suspected by the Turkish government of collaborating militarily with the Russians, were first conscripted into forced labour and then variously burnt alive, drowned en masse, gassed, deliberately infected with typhus or forced to march in the Syrian desert until they dropped dead of exhaustion, dehydration and starvation. The Armenian genocide killed off roughly three out of every four Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire; out of a population of two million, one and a half million perished. This was essentially the first modern genocide of the twentieth century - and stands out as an action taken by a militantly secular and nationalist government against an unarmed Christian minority (one belonging, in point of fact, to the first officially-Christianised nation).

To date, only 19 countries other than Armenia have officially recognised the great crime which began in 1915 as a genocide: Uruguay, the Soviet Union (and later Russia), Cyprus, Canada, Lebanon, Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, the Vatican, Switzerland, Argentina, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Lithuania, Poland, Venezuela, Chile and Sweden. Of the states of the United States, 43 of them recognise the Armenian Genocide.

Turkey and Azerbaijan still officially deny the Armenian Genocide; moreover, Turkey’s government has made concerted and sustained attempts to systematically bribe academics outside Turkey (particularly in the United States) to lend a patina of academic legitimacy to their denialist position, and they have been doing this for the past eighty years at least.

The two main political currents in Turkey - the aforementioned militantly secular nationalism, alongside the political Islamic movement which has found a ready constituency outside Istanbul - much as they may loathe, disdain and oppose each other (for reasons which puzzle me, since political Islam in Turkey in particular has been compromised by the Young Turks’ insistence that Islam is a materialist doctrine, which has made Turkish Islam as a whole far more susceptible to the embrace of global capitalism, NATO-lunacy and a misguided Europhilia), still as a first principle align themselves, theologically, politically and philosophically, against the synthesis of Biblical religion with Socratic-Platonic philosophy which marks the whole of apostolic Christianity. And thus they both still define themselves over-against the first nation ever to promote that synthesis.

Dear readers, do remember Armenia this week.

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