The Armenian Genocide in Modern Turkey’s Official Denialism: A Hundred Shades of Denial.

By Grigor Boyakhchyan

Foreign Policy Journal

March 2015


The will to truth is cowed by pressure of numerous kinds, reasons of state on the one hand, economic necessities on the other, and, not least, the pure careerism of intellectuals who put their expertise in the service of power as a matter of course. When governments and professional elites find reward in the sophistries of might makes right, truth is bound to suffer.”

–Terrence Des Pres


Repentant or emboldened through a hundred long years of denial, the Turkish statehood stands at a critical juncture of its historical past, present, and future. The Armenian Genocide and the Great National Dispossession of the Armenian people from their homeland will ultimately determine its decent place in the family of civilized nations. Recognition and repentance, along with elimination of dire consequences, is the right way forward for the Turkish government.

Only a month ahead of the April 24 Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, the Republic of Armenia, together with Diaspora Armenians from many far-flung corners of the world, brings together the vestiges of enduring historical memory and remembrance on human suffering, extermination and resurgence to denounce past inhumanities and prevent future ones. Unbroken in spirit against this unprecedented crime, the message they bring to the fore of international agenda stretches far beyond the tragedy of a single nation to embrace the whole humanity.

Against the backdrop of Turkish official denialism, distortion, and propaganda stunt – as the commemoration of Gallipoli landings staged by the Turkish government on April 24 demonstrate – looms the larger decay of a state rooted in organized forgetting and long-enforced oblivion. Not only does the strenuous denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government constitute a form of renewed aggression that should be condemned and outlawed in its own right, but it also forecloses the mere opportunity for many decent men and women in Turkey to come to grips with their own history.

Despite the vast amount of evidence that points to centrally planned and systematically orchestrated genocide against the Armenian people – the testimony of survivors, documentary evidence, official archives, and the reports of diplomats – the denial of Armenian genocide by successive regimes in Turkey has proceeded from 1915 to the present. Among the scores of articles available in the archives of the New York Times, one featured on February 23, 1916 presents the reflections of Lord Bryce, the head of British delegation to the Anglo-French Parliamentary conference, on Turkish atrocities committed against Armenians. It reads in part: “The cause of Armenians is especially dear to me. There is no people in the world which has suffered more. It has been a victim not of religious fanaticism, but of cold-blooded, premeditated hatred on the part of the brigands who term themselves the Turkish Government and who do not intend to permit the existence of any national vitality except in their own element.”

In an attempt to assassinate the entire civilization and culture, the Ottoman Turkish government unleashed the deportation of Armenian people to the arid deserts of Syria that would come to be known as death marches of men, women and children, with many dying along the way of exhaustion and starvation. The American ambassador Henry Morgenthau would later write in his memoirs: “When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact.”

Various perspectives on denial can be brought to bear on the form and content of Turkish attempts to transplant a benign political image around the world; what unites them together, however, is the state-sponsored struggle to diminish, disguise and consign to oblivion the memory of race extermination behind their actions in whatever way possible – a struggle of forgetting against memory.

Regardless of the state of play on the ground in the Middle East or elsewhere and the ensuing geopolitical significance allegedly attributed to Turkey in world affairs, it is crystal clear that the only enduring strength, authority and leadership that a country seeks to obtain in international arena proceeds along the principles of morality and justice. Unwillingness to embrace this route is an attribute of politicians who think in short timelines.

There are no “smart denials” on the face of justice, irrespective of the strategies and techniques the Turkish authorities choose to concoct behind the sealed borders and closed doors. Denials are either short-or long-lived; but they never mature into reality. Nor does the known fade into the unknown – no matter how intensely the hundred shades of distortion and denial envelop the truth – and those who have attempted it have themselves ended up in the dustbin of history. To bind the country to the same path of government-backed denial is an expression of no strategy, no goals, and no vision for its future. It is a sign of moral decay.