In light of the recent recognition of the Armenian Genocide by U.S. President Joe Biden not one week ago, I’d like to take this time to debunk some common denialist “arguments” spread by “historians” such as Bernard Lewis and Justin McCarthy.
Their main thesis is basically “The Armenians rebelled and killed over a million Turks and Kurds so the Ottomans had to relocate them. Only 40,000 Armenians died in relocation to Syria, where the Ottomans fed and cared for them. Oh yeah and there weren’t even 1.5 million Armenians in the empire so the 1.5 million number is a big lie.”
Summed up in the infographic below:
These “arguments” are littered with holes and fallacies, not least of which is the “they rebelled so we had to deport them” excuse.
Armenians were the last out of 39 Ottoman nations to rebel, remaining loyal when everyone else did.
“In the early 19th century, the Ottoman army had smashed the Kurdish principalities of eastern Anatolia in the view of centralizing reform efforts, but without establishing a new order in their place. The Ottoman governments instead opted for a delegation of force to various rival local actors, who were supposed to keep each other under control and were given specific powers, weapons or privileges.
As a result, many regions were affected by power struggles between provincial administration and military organs, irregular tribal regiments, and local notables. The settlement of nomads and the settlement of the many Muslim refugees from the Crimea, the Caucasus and the Balkans – which were often not given sufficient livelihood and could not otherwise provide than by plunder and stealing – exacerbated the conflicts.
Since the middle of the 19th century, the daily lives of many Armenian villages have been characterized by an excess of everyday violence, robberies and attacks against which the Armenian peasants could scarcely defend themselves, also because they as Christians had no right to carry weapons.
The Armenian Patriarchate, as well as the Armenian National Assembly, sent innumerable petitions to the Ottoman central government asking for punishment of the crimes, which were ignored. At the end of the 1880s and early 1890s, Armenian revolutionary parties were formed, which fought against the autocratic regime of Sultan Abdulhamid II and the reinstatement of the 1876 constitution along with the Young Turk revolutionaries.”
So basically any “revolt for a Greater Armenia” as the denialists claim, was brought on by the Ottomans themselves.
Second, the denialists like to deflect and say “look at all the Turks and Kurds killed by the Armenians!!! That’s genocide isn’t it??” Well, as tragic as those deaths were, you cannot logically accuse the Armenians, but not the Turks, of genocide.
The approximate definition of “genocide” is as follows: “A concentrated effort by a centralized authority to, in whole or part, remove an ethnic group and/or religion.”
There was no Armenian state at the time of these events the denialists refer to! There was no centralized authority coordinating it. So how can this be a genocide if no one party is organizing it, is the question I ask? (Answer, it’s not and anytime a denialist says this it is not worth taking even 1/10th seriously)
Now as for the “There weren’t even 1.5 million bla bla bla” argument, uh yes there were.
The only sources claiming this were Ottoman records, which were terribly and deliberately flawed.
In response to the insurgency which the Ottomans started, they butchered 200,000 to 400,000 Armenians in the Hamidian Massacres of 1894-1896, and 20,000 to 30,000 Armenians in the Adana Massacre of 1909.
Regarding the deportations and genocide of 1915 and afterwards, Talaat Pasha himself conceded “the death toll was 800,000 but undercount of 30% is likely” and hundreds thousands more were killed in Kars, Igdir etc in 1918-1920.
Therefore the Armenian Genocide’s death toll in actuality is anywhere from 1 million to 2 million, but to be fair, let’s go with 1.5 million.
So yeah, “not even 1.5 million bla bla bla,” guess what, there were.
Second, “there is no document proving genocidal intent of the Ottomans! All there is, is orders to move them.”
First of all the denialists like to corroborate this theory by claiming the so-called “Anadonian Documents” were forgeries, these documents showed killing orders of Armenians but denialists denounce them as forged.
Well surprise surprise they are in reality, very much genuine.
And Talaat Pasha himself stated:
“Turkey is taking advantage of the war in order to thoroughly liquidate its internal foes, i.e., the indigenous Christians, without being thereby disturbed by foreign intervention. What on earth do you want? The question is settled. There are no more Armenians.” – Talat Pasha, in a conversation with Dr. Mordtmann of the German Embassy in June 1915
Denialists can’t deny that.
As well, in many areas all Christians regardless of ethnicity were just deported and massacred, which goes to show absolute genocidal intent.
“In some places, at Mardin for instance, all the Christians without distinction of race or faith have had the same fate.”
More reports from the American Ambassador in Constantinople:
Regarding the Muslim dead, (and it’s true there were many), the circumstances around them were different, explained well below.
“Most Muslim civilians died in WWI not at the hands of another ethnicity or government but from starvation. The Ottoman Empire conscripted hundreds of thousands of Muslim men and commandeered food items to feed the war effort. The villages where the men were needed to farm starved to death as men were away for years at a time. Similarly, Muslims fleeing the Russo-Turkish front died due to similar reasons after they were unable to return to their farms.
It’s true and important to acknowledge that the Russian army (and it’s 10–20% Armenian fighters Russia recruited from territory it conquered from Persia in the 1820’s) killed 160k-200k Muslim civilians from 1915–1918. But of the 2–3 million Muslim civilians (also includes Arabs) who died, most of it was due to disease and starvation. There were also a lot more Muslims living in the empire than Christians so number of deaths would be higher even if % percentage was lower.”
So claiming the large number of Muslims dead is due to “the Armenians killing them” is completely unfounded.
Finally “the Armenians have created a genocide industry” this is the only one that is somewhat accurate, but not in the negative, demeaning way it is used in.
The inventor of the word “genocide” specifically referred to the Armenians when using it!
“I became interested in genocide because it happened so many times. It happened to the Armenians, and after the Armenians, Hitler took action.” – Raphael Lemkin.
So in conclusion, there is no way to logically deny the Armenian Genocide.
Thank you President Biden for recognizing the truth.
Alper Bilgin is a Georgian and Anatolian Greek activist for minority rights in Turkey and against Turkish propaganda and Turkification.