Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (CRAG)


  1.  The European Union in general, and the European Parliament in particular, are well versed in the political issues surrounding the Armenian genocide and its denial by the Turkish Government.

  2.  The EU Parliament's most prominent expression of opinion regarding the Armenian genocide was given on 18 July 1987. In its "Resolution on a Political Solution to the Armenian question" (Doc A2-33/87) it stated, amongst other points, the following:

  2.1  The tragic events in 1915-17 involving the Armenians living in the territory of the Ottorman Empire constitute genocide;

  2.2  To date, the Turkish Government, by refusing to recognise the genocide of 1915, continues to deprive the Armenian people of the right to their own history;

  2.3  The recognition of the Armenian genocide by Turkey must therefore be viewed as a profoundly humane act of moral rehabilitation towards the Armenians, which can only bring honour to the Turkish Government;

  2.4  The obdurate stance of every Turkish Government towards the Armenian question has in no way helped to reduce the tension;

  2.5  Democracy cannot be solidly implanted in a country unless the latter recognises and enriches its history with its ethnic and cultural diversity;

  2.6  Neither political nor legal or material claims against present-day Turkey can be derived from the recognition of this historical event as an act of genocide;

  2.7  The refusal by the present Turkish Government to acknowledge the genocide . . . [Is an] insurmountable obstacle to consideration of the possibility of Turkey's accession to the Community.[6]

  3.  On 15 November 2000, an amendment was passed to the first annual "Regular Report on Turkey's Progress Towards Accession" (A5-0297/2000) that stated that the European Parliament:

  3.1  Calls on the Turkish Government and the Turkish Grand National Assembly to give fresh support to the Armenian minority, as an important part of Turkish society, in particular by public recognition of the genocide which that minority suffered before the establishment of the modern state of Turkey.

  4.  Most recently, on 28 February 2002 the European Parliament voted by 391 for to 96 against and 15 abstentions, within the "European Union's Relations and with the South Caucasus" report prepared by MEP Per Gahrton stated that it . . .

  4.1  [C]alls on Turkey to take appropriate steps in accordance with its European ambitions, especially concerning the termination of the blockade against Armenia; reiterates in this respect the position in its resolution of 18 June 1987 recognising the genocide upon Armenians 1915 as a fact and calls upon Turkey to do the same.


  5.  A number of clear themes are present in the European Parliament's continued calls upon Turkey to recognise its Genocidal past. Chief amongst these is safeguarding of the welfare of the remaining Armenian minority present within a country. Secondary issues relate to broad-spectrum democratisation and the existing power relationships within the Turkish political establishment, human rights in general and freedom of speech in particular, Turkey's bi-lateral relations with EU member states and Turkey's relations with Armenia.

  6.  Pre-genocide Armenian population within Turkey can be realistically estimated to have stood at around 2.5 million. The present population is estimated to be no more than 120,000, with the majority living in Istanbul. The Armenian population do little to draw attention to themselves and yet continue to be harassed by the Turkish establishment. Numerous examples exist that can outline of how the Armenian minority population are treated, from the brutal to farcical. For example the Anadolu News Agency reported in June of 2001, how an Armenian citizen had his licence to operate a hotel revoked because he had chosen to give his establishment an Armenian name.

  7.  Kemal Yalcin is a writer and a teacher of Turkish in Bochum. After studying education in Turkey, he studied philosophy and was then the publisher of the newspaper Halkin Yolu (People's Way). He arrived in Germany as a political refugee in 1982, and was barred from returning until 1995. In an interview with the German publication Junge Welt, in January 2002, titled "Armenians in Turkey: Has the Silence been broken?" he described the Armenians who chose to hide their ethnicity as a means of protecting themselves.

  7.1  "Hidden Armenians" live and outwardly pray just like Muslims. They live their Christianity in secret. Even the Armenian congregations knew very little about them, and have begun on the basis of my book to take up contact with them. Even in Germany, in Cologne, some Armenians have had themselves baptised only after 40 years. Their own children knew nothing. The families live as Turkish or Kurdish Muslims, and the children have never learned their native language, Armenian. Many of the young people only find out when they're 15 or 17 years old that they are Armenian, and their parents tell them "Don't talk about it".

  8.  The issue of Turkey's democratisation is of paramount importance to the EU, the possibility of Turkey's accession to the European Union without fundamental restructuring of its political, legal and constitutional norms is highly doubtful. The existing political, legal and constitutional structures are markedly tilted in favour of the dominant forces within the Turkish elite in their denial of the Armenian genocide.

  9.  At present it is impossible to raise the question of the Armenian genocide in the Turkish political arena. Any attempt to do so is quickly cut short by the Turkish government. Most recently, in January of 2002, at a "Swedish Business Culture Day" in Izmir, Swedish embassy officials distributed a leaflet prefaced by Prime Minister Goeran Persson, which discussed in part the issue of the Armenian genocide. The event was promptly cancelled and the Swedish ambassador was summoned to offer an explanation to the Turkish Foreign Office.

  10.  The Turkish legal system is presently used as the main medium with which to halt discussion of the Armenian genocide. Numerous individuals have been brought before the courts on charges relating to recognising or discussing the Armenian genocide. The late Turkish publicist Ayse Nur Zarakolu was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for publishing in December 1993 a Turkish translation of the French original of Yves Ternon's Les Armeniens: histoire d'un genocide, entitled Ermeni Tabusu ("The Armenian Taboo"). She maintained throughout, "The place to debate our history is in books, not in courts". At present most charges relating to those recognising the Armenian genocide are based on Article 312 of the Turkish Criminal Code which provides for prison sentences for "incitement to hatred on the basis of . . . class, religion or race", which provides ample leeway to the courts to prosecute those they see fit.

  11.  The Turkish constitution provides the hierarchical justification for all those wishing to suppress debate on the Armenian genocide. It provides in Article 13 provisions on "Restriction of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms" that the rights of the individual can be lawfully restricted if it is done with the aim of "safeguarding the indivisible integrity of the State with its territory and nation, national sovereignty, the Republic, national security; public order, general peace, the public interest, public morals and public health". Article 14 "Prohibition of Abuse of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms" goes on to state that rights are waived by the individual if they are interpreted as being used to "establishing the hegemony of one social class over the others, or creating discrimination on the basis of language, race, religion or sect" and furthermore "endangering the existence of the Turkish State and Republic. Discussing the Armenian genocide within Turkey can be interpreted as falling under most if not all of these provisions on restrictions of fundamental rights, effectively outlawing discussion as fundamentally unconstitutional.


  12.  The 1987 European Parliament resolution clearly states that the lack of an acknowledgement on the part of the Turkish Government is an "insurmountable obstacle" to accession to the EU. Though the political issues of the democratisation of Turkey, its treatment of Kurds and the issue of Cyprus take precedent over its record as a genocide denier, Turkey's prospects for accession are clearly being impaired by its inability to face its responsibilities regarding the 1915 genocide. The issue has been recognised by the European Parliament as a litmus test for Turkey's treatment of minorities and nationalistic political practice within Turkey.

  13.  The 2000 European Parliament "Progress Towards Accession" report reaffirmed its call to Turkey to recognise the genocide, in the spirit of giving "fresh support to the Armenian minority". Obviously recognition of the genocide, or at the very least the opportunity to allow, without prejudice, the Armenians of Turkey to put forward their case for recognition would send the right signals to the EU, that Turkey is willing to re-examine the issue. Unfortunately the Turkish government's pronouncements are becoming more inappropriate and extreme. Unfortunately it is this message of increasing intolerance to discussion that is being inferred by the EU.

  14.  The Gahrton "European Union's Relations with the South Caucasus" adopted on 28 February 2002, by a two-thirds majority, the EU has again affirmed its commitment to the principles set out in the 1987 resolution. Once more, it cannot be made clearer to the Turkish government that the EP does not accept genocide denial from a country that is applying for accession.

  15.  Furthermore based on the same animosities that fuel the genocide denial, Turkey's prospects for accession are being further damaged in that it has refused to open diplomatic relations with Armenia, and as such at present there are no direct communications exist between Ankara and Yerevan. The Armenian Foreign Ministry has on numerous occasions voiced its willingness to open a dialogue with Turkey with a view to formalising relations, but the Turkish government has as yet refused point blank.

  16.  The Turkish Government has also imposed a blockade on Armenia, all land routes between the countries are presently closed from the Turkish side, which at present cost Armenia 30-40 per cent of its GNP. Again this indefensible policy does neither serve Turkish, Armenian or European interests, and is again based on the same animosity that fuels Turkey's genocide denial.

  17.  The Turkish governments chances of EU accession are being further damaged as its policy of vicious denial of the Armenian genocide has increased in temperament and regularity over recent years and months. Seemingly unremitting to EU institution and member states' petitions for empathy for the victims of this genocide, the Turkish government is increasing further, in terms of funding and personnel, its attempts to defend the indefensible, both within Turkey and internationally.


  18.  Britain is, unfortunately, the only major European government that ignores the academic evidence on the Armenian Genocide, and for reasons of furthering its bi-lateral relations with Turkey has chosen to support the Turkish government position on the 1915-16 massacres. The British Government's position undermines the work that the EU has undertaken in challenging the Turkish denial, and will inevitably lead to Turkey further distancing itself from the policy that the EU has prompted it to adopt, if it wishes to improve its chances for accession.

  19.  Turkey at present relies on countries like Britain to defend its denial of the Armenian genocide. If Turkey were to find itself alone in its denial of the Armenian genocide; it would have to, at the very least, moderate its tone. An example of the British policy, of using the Armenian genocide as a political pawn in its relations with Turkey, can be seen in a July 2001 Foreign Office press release[7], that was covered extensively within the Turkish media. Gunduz Aktan, the former Turkish Ambassador to London, and prolific genocide denier wrote in the Turkish Daily News on 30 July 2001 that:

    "For the first time a Western government assesses the 1915-16 incidents according to international law, that is, according to the UN Genocide Convention, and reaches the inevitable conclusion. However tragic the events must have been, they do not fit the genocide definition given in the Convention." And went on "One could say, The British government is a serious-minded government. In the future, less serious-minded parliaments may come up and take the kind of decisions which would declare the incidents to be genocide. Regardless of all that, there is the quite considerable possibility that the content of the press release in question may be the beginning of the end for the genocide claims".

  20.  Though the Foreign Office and the British Government have the lead in defining official policy on the Armenian genocide, the regional administrations in both Wales and Scotland have done much in their short period of existence to distance themselves from the Foreign Office position.

  21.  In April of 2001 Jenny Randerson AM (Welsh Deputy First Minister) gave a speech regarding the Armenian genocide at the Welsh Centre for International Affairs where in the presence of Rhodri Morgan and representatives of all the Welsh political parties she stressed that:

    "Turkey can certainly be blamed for its modern denial [of the Armenian Genocide]. And I say to representatives of the modern Turkish Government who have sought to put pressure on me since I spoke out on this issue, that as someone who in past life was a historian, I know how to judge evidence and weigh up the pros and cons, and to judge where the truth lies . . . Just as worrying as the Turkish denial is the denial by our own government, our own UK Government." She concluded "I am proud to speak on behalf of the assembly this morning. And I would like to draw your attention to the fact that there are representatives of all four parties here, united in our attendance here today".

  22.  While the Scottish Executive in their "The Holocaust—a teaching pack for primary schools" stated clearly that "genocides that occurred in the twentieth century include the treatment of the Armenians by the Turks in 1915". While the Glasgow Holocaust Memorial Day Website which was supported by the Scottish Executive as the official Scottish site for Holocaust Memorial Day describes:

  22.1  Yet the Nazi Holocaust was not the first genocide to have occurred within living memory. In the early years of the twentieth century, over two million Armenians lived in Ottoman Turkey. As Christians, the Armenians had no legal rights and were periodically subjected to ruthless pogroms. In 1915 all Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army were disarmed and assigned to hard work—all ultimately were to meet their death. Following this, the government issued a general decree of deportation, stating that all Armenians must leave the country. The Armenian population was rounded up—fit men were marched off and shot or clubbed to death, young women taken for harems or sold off. Those remaining were forced on death marches across the Mesopotamian Desert to Syria. Of the two million deported from Turkey, less than half a million survived.


  23.  Turkish accession to the EU can for a multiplicity of reasons be charted in decades rather than years. This is unfortunate, as a confident and democratic Turkey would have much to add to the EU's already intricate mosaic of cultures, religions and peoples. At present the British Government's policy of supporting Turkey's denial of the Armenian genocide is one of the major contributing factors that continue to undermine the EU policy of engagement with regard to Turkey on the genocide issue. Though in the short-term it may help boost bi-lateral relations between Britain and Turkey, it does so at the expense of the work being undertaken by our common EU partners, and even British MEPs. Fundamentally the continuance of this denial is certainly not in Turkey's best interests.

  24.  We respectfully recommend that the Foreign Affairs Committee should request that the issue of Armenian genocide recognition be re-examined tactfully by the British Government, with a view to finding appropriate ways in which to help our European partners find a way to end Turkey's denial of the Armenian genocide. First and foremost amongst this must be an end to the British Government support in Turkey's denial of the Armenian genocide, as this clearly only exacerbates the situation further.

Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (CRAG)

March 2002

6   European Parliament, Resolution on a political solution to the Armenian question, Doc A2-33/87. Back

7   Press release from British Embassy in Ankara, 23 July 2001. Back

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