90 Miles From Tyranny : How to Counter 7 Lies in Turkey's Denial of the Armenian Genocide

Sunday, April 21, 2019

How to Counter 7 Lies in Turkey's Denial of the Armenian Genocide

Next week, on the 24th, is the commemoration of the Armenian genocide, 114 years after the Ottoman Empire started systematically murdering 1.5 million Armenians, as well as Greek and Assyrian minority Christians.

One man and the state he leads will not be participating in this important recognition of historical truth. Turkey's anti-Semitic, Islamist president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, fancies himself the reviver of a neo-Ottoman Empire and has undertaken to spread his ideological influence globally. That includes Armenian genocide denial.

While Turkey has long fought the recognition of the Armenian genocide internationally, the situation under Erdoğan's Islamist ideology has led him into an alliance with the international Muslim Brotherhood and its American affiliates. This has given Turkish propaganda a reach into the United States that didn't exist at these levels before. Samantha Rose Mandeles wrote at The American Spectator in February on how Turkish diplomats have spoken at and influenced prominent Muslim groups since 2014. One such organization officially embracing Turkey's genocide denial is the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), an umbrella group of over 30 Islamist charities and mosques, which published a "Statement on 1915 Turkish-Armenian Events" that forwards Turkey's denialism.

American Muslim organizations that founded the USCMO include American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), ICNA, Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), MAS, Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA), Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), and The Mosque Cares (Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed). Today, 32 Muslim organizations and mosques affiliate with the group.

Now Turkey has gone a step farther: actively distributing Armenian genocide denialist propaganda to American Muslims. Last year, MAS's 21st annual West Coast convention took place from November 22 to 24 at the Ontario Convention Center in Ontario, California. The conference featured booths from Muslim charities and businesses. But Turkey was the only Muslim government present, represented by two booths. There, amid complimentary Turkish flags, hats, and t-shirts, they distributed free books and pamphlets challenging the regime's enemies, including the Armenian people. 

A good example of the Turkish propaganda on offer is Our Neighbours of a Thousand Years: The Armenians, a slick, 52-page book filled with pictures and even a miniature CD in the back with folk songs. While the title seems friendly and inviting, the book contains questionable historical claims and shaky arguments about Armenian-Turkish relations.

These falsehoods include the following:
  1. The book quotes Erdoğan at the beginning demanding that all death and suffering of the period be treated the same, ignoring the historical question of who was responsible: "a fair humanitarian and conscientious stance requires an understanding of all the pain experienced in this period regardless of religion or ethnic origin." This is akin to insisting that equal historical weight be given to the Jews murdered in the Holocaust and to the Nazis responsible for their deaths.
  2. The book claims that the Ottoman Empire did not seek to exterminate the Armenians — that it sought only to relocate them. The decision to forcibly relocate Armenians was supposedly the result of...

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