Anti-Defamation League Denies the Armenian Genocide?
June 16, 2008 - Raising Sand Radio Host
Susan Galleymore interviews
writer-activist David Boyajian
Interview air date: Monday, June 16, 2008.
The following is the transcript of the interview titled
“ Anti-Defamation League Denies Armenian Genocide?” on
host Susan Galleymore’s weekly Raising Sand program
over radio station KZSU, 90.1FM, Stanford, California.
This interview can be heard at:
Audio Length: 59:24
For general information on the campaign against the Anti-
Defamation League’s denial of the Armenian Genocide,
please see www.NoPlaceforDenial.com.
- “Groups like the ADL, for political reasons, have backed Turkish denials of the Armenian Genocide and have worked with Turkey to try to defeat these Armenian Genocide resolutions in Congress.”
- “Because Turkey felt it did not have enough lobbying power in the United States, it asked Israel if the Jewish American Lobby, the top Jewish lobbying groups, and just some of them and by no means all Jewish American groups, they asked if the Jewish lobbying groups could weigh in on the side of Turkey on all matters, not just the Armenian Genocide. And, unfortunately, those Jewish groups, such as the ADL, agreed to do so.”
- “Turkey is sometimes called a loyal ally. What kind of a loyal ally in NATO, for example, would make threats against the United States like Turkey has?”
- “The European Union, the European Parliament, countries like France, the Netherlands, Argentina, Russia, Lebanon, Greece have all acknowledged the Armenian Genocide, and nothing except token retaliation has taken place by Turkey against those countries or the European Union. So Turkey’s threats are basically bluffs.”
- “[The national ADL] came out with a statement on August 21, 2007 that was a very carefully worded statement that some people think was an acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide, but it wasn’t. It actually was very cleverly worded to actually contravene the official definition of genocide in Article Two of the UN Genocide Treaty of 1948.”
- “You cannot be a human rights group, as ADL claims to be, and deny a genocide and work with Turkey to defeat Armenian Genocide resolutions. And this is an organization whose bread and butter issue is the Holocaust. “
- “It’s been very satisfying to see all the friends, all the good people, all the principled human rights activists, Jewish Americans, many Jewish groups, come out and support us. And, so far in Massachusetts, of the some 60 towns that have been officially designated by the Anti-Defamation League, we’ve had 13 sever ties with No Place for Hate in protest of the ADL’s genocide denial.”
- “Raphael Lemkin, although a survivor of the Holocaust himself who later came to America, actually cited the Armenian Genocide as the reason he became interested in genocide and coined the word. This is in a 1949 CBS television interview.”
- “Though I’ve criticized the ADL and American Jewish Committee here, by no means do they represent the Jewish community in regard to the Armenian Genocide. We have just had so much support from scholars on this issue. The International Association of Genocide Scholars, which has many, many Jewish academicians in it, has also officially recognized the Armenian Genocide. And they’re the preeminent group in the world, experts on genocide.”
- “So the Turkish government knows this is a losing battle, I think. They’re just trying to hold on by their fingernails.”
- “This campaign is continuing not just in Massachusetts. There are ADL programs such as World of Difference and No Place for Hate throughout the country in New York, California, particularly Santa Barbara. And Armenians in Santa Barbara are now targeting the University of California at Santa Barbara because it has a No Place for Hate program. Orange County has schools that are designated as No Place for Hate. Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas, they all have No Place for Hate. And I hope people speak up when they see an ADL program and call the ADL and write their local newspapers and let them know about this issue, that they disapprove of the ADL’s genocide denial.”
ANNOUNCER: You’re in tune to KZSU Stanford. It’s time for another edition of Raising Sand.
GALLEYMORE: Welcome to another edition of Raising Sand Radio. I’m your host, Susan Galleymore. And the music heard is Armenian Duduk by Djivan Gasparyan, “A Cool Wind is Blowing.” Today we’ll talk to David Boyajian about a campaign he started questioning the Anti-Defamation League’s reluctance to call the Armenian Genocide just that, a genocide. We will spend the hour exploring this issue and learn more about Armenia, Armenians and the work to pass a resolution defining massive numbers of Armenian deaths in that region as a genocide. I asked David to describe the campaign.
BOYAJIAN: This campaign that I kind of initiated with a letter, an article and then others joined in is that I’ve long known, and Armenians have known, and even Jewish Americans and Israelis admit that certain top-level Jewish American lobbying groups, some people call it the Jewish lobby, some call it the pro-Israel lobby, Anti-Defamation League, and groups such as American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith, AIPAC and JINSA, they made a deal with Turkey to work on their behalf in the United States because of the close relationship between Israel and Turkey. Armenians have been trying for years to get a detailed Armenian Genocide resolution through the US Congress, and they’ve been stymied. And these groups like the ADL, for political reasons, have backed Turkish denials of the Armenian Genocide and have worked with Turkey to try to defeat these Armenian Genocide resolutions in Congress. So this has been known for a long time what they’ve been doing. What happened last July in Massachusetts was that I noticed that the Anti-Defamation League was sponsoring a program, I read about this in The Boston Globe, a program known as No Place for Hate. It’s an anti-bias program initiated and sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League. Now, No Place for Hate is actually a Federally registered trademark of the ADL - it owns it. No Place for Hate is in many towns in Massachusetts, including Watertown. When I read it was in Watertown, and Watertown is right next to where I live, I wrote a letter to the paper there, the Watertown Tab. And I said to them, you know, the town should not be sponsoring an anti-bias program affiliated with the Anti-Defamation League because the Anti-Defamation League denies the Armenian Genocide. This is a violation of No Place for Hate’s own charter. No Place for Hate is supposed to stand against bias and in favor of human rights, and so is the ADL according to what it says. So what happened from there is things just snowballed. The No Place for Hate group in Watertown started to question the Anti-Defamation League. The Anti-Defamation League weighed in on this, the Armenian community and Jewish Americans weighed in on our side and against the Anti-Defamation League’s genocide denials, and things just took off from there. It became a major issue in Boston papers such as The Boston Globe and Boston Herald and area papers, and soon it became an international issue. The Turkish ambassador to Israel had to fly back to Israel. He was out of the country. He had to fly back for consultations. And things have just snowballed from there.
GALLEYMORE: Now, as I understand it, the regional offices of ADL are willing to negotiate or willing to look at this issue again, but the national tends to be harder core, is that right?
BOYAJIAN: Well, partly. What happened is that there are many regional offices of the ADL all throughout the country. The one out here is the New England Regional ADL. And, when this broke, at first they defended themselves. They said that this was not the stand of the ADL to deny genocide. I think they were either being disingenuous or, perhaps, at the local level they really didn’t know what the National Anti-Defamation League and its head Abe Foxman were up to. So they acknowledged the genocide. However, this was not sufficient for any of us because the National ADL is the one that really lobbies against us in Washington. So what happened is that Abraham Foxman, head of the National ADL, fired the New England regional head. And there was a big furor over that. He got reinstated at some point a couple of weeks later but then he had to, eventually he resigned. The heat was too much. But other regional Anti-Defamation Leagues outside New England, no, as far as I know they have not weighed in on this at all. And that is a disappointment.
GALLEYMORE: OK. Yeah. What benefit is there to deny this genocide?
BOYAJIAN: Well, actually, let me put it this way. There is no real benefit for anyone to deny this genocide. Turkey is nervous over it. Of course, it doesn’t like to be accused of having committed genocide, but it’s a moral issue. It’s a moral issue. And the United States should pass a genocide resolution. Now, what happened between Israel and Turkey is a bit of a long story but, in a nutshell, the relationship between Turkey and Israel actually goes back decades. But it really took off in the 1990s with a series of trade agreements, military agreements, and intelligence agreements between the two countries because they each have a special relationship with the United States. Of course, Turkey being in NATO, Israel being a very favored nation. One of the deals there - and this is admitted to publicly by analysts, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee - the deal there was that because Turkey felt it did not have enough lobbying power in the United States, it asked Israel if the Jewish American Lobby, the top Jewish lobbying groups, and just some of them and by no means all Jewish American groups, they asked if the Jewish lobbying groups could weigh in on the side of Turkey on all matters, not just the Armenian Genocide. And, unfortunately, those Jewish groups, such as the ADL, agreed to do so. And they’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s not a secret. It hasn’t been talked about all that much in the mainstream press, but it has been talked about somewhat. So that’s where we’re at today. And what happened is when I brought this issue up in Watertown, it resonated with people because it was at a very local level and people started questioning - wait a second - what is going on with the Anti-Defamation League? How can it sponsor No Place for Hate, an anti-bias group? So things just took off from there.
GALLEYMORE: So it’s not a question of in Armenia people asking for property back or asking for land back or anything like that. Does this have any relationship to what’s going on in Armenia at this time?
BOYAJIAN: Well, not exactly. Armenia itself has no claims or demands against Turkey except that it asks that Turkey acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. Present day Armenia, independent since 1991 from the Soviet Union, has no land demands and has no demands for reparations because of the genocide. However, I have to say that these demands are in the background. They have been ever since the First World War, ever since the genocide, and ever since a document called the Treaty of Sevres which would have taken what is now part of Eastern Turkey called the Armenia Plateau, it would have made those part of an Armenian state and a Kurdish state, actually. But we see this as a moral issue mainly. Turkey has to come to terms with this because for it not to come to terms is destabilizing in the region and is also a continuing threat to Armenia. Imagine if Germany were located next to Israel and it had never admitted the Holocaust. Would not Germany then be a danger to Israel? Of course it would. So it’s not really much different.
GALLEYMORE: I wanted to start talking about the actual genocide itself, but first you mentioned that the Israeli military and the Turkish military have some work together.
BOYAJIAN: Yes, they definitely work together. They hold naval exercises together with the United States each year in the Mediterranean.
BOYAJIAN: Yes. Israel has large contracts with Turkey, for example, to upgrade Turkish fighter jets. Turkey, in turn, lets Israeli pilots train over the very large land space of Turkey. It is also said that Turkey lets Israel make spy flights, listening flights along Turkey’s southern border with Syria, Iraq and Iran in order to gather intelligence from those countries. I cannot confirm that. I don’t know. That is what is often said, though. But there is a very deep tie there militarily. And, in fact, one could also say that the relationship between Turkey and Israel is defined at a military and intelligence level. An economic one, too, but this is something that the Turkish military holds quite dear to itself, the relationship with Israel.
GALLEYMORE: I know during the era of the Shah in Iran the Israelis were working very closely with Iran at that point. Of course, that’s apparently stopped now. But I didn’t know about the connection with the Turks so that’s very interesting.
BOYAJIAN: Yes. It’s widely admitted, actually. I know that some people think that because Turkey is a Muslim populated country now - of course, it wasn’t always that way - there were millions of Christians there until the Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians, until the early 20th century when Turkey basically wiped them out - but people think that because Turkey is a Muslim country that somehow it wouldn’t be friendly with Israel. But this is not the case, you see, because of the dynamics going on there. Turkey and Israel see the Arab nations and Iran as common adversaries so they’ve kind of joined together in this sense to oppose those countries. They don’t always talk about it openly but, for example, Syria. Now, if Syria tries to make a move against Israel, it’s very hesitant to do that because Syria is more or less boxed in on the north by Israel’s friend, Turkey. So if the Turks try to aid the Israelis then the Syria would have to fight a two-front war there, and that would be very difficult. So that’s one of the subtexts of the relationship, and it’s very important.
GALLEYMORE: The other thing is that there are lots of Armenians in Syria and also in Lebanon. I was in these two areas in 2006 and actually had quite a lot of contact with Armenians in Lebanon. The little town of Anjar, for example, is predominantly Armenian. So when the Diaspora happened during the genocide, people just scattered, those that were not killed just scattered all into the region, didn’t they?
BOYAJIAN: That’s true. Actually, Armenians have lived throughout that area for hundreds of years. But it’s true that after the genocide a lot of them, the survivors did find a home, a very welcome home in places like Lebanon and Syria and Iraq and Iran and then Palestine.
GALLEYMORE: In Palestine, too?
BOYAJIAN: Yes. Absolutely.
GALLEYMORE: I know in the old city of Jerusalem there is an enclave of Armenians. But in Palestine, for example, in the West Bank, is that what you’re suggesting?
BOYAJIAN: I’m not sure about the West Bank but certainly Jerusalem and in Israel proper today.
GALLEYMORE: OK. Interesting. And, yet, let’s go back to Turkey for a moment saying that one of the reasons they don’t want to stir up this hornet’s nest, and that’s my language, is that they don’t want to destabilize the Jewish communities in Turkey.
BOYAJIAN: You mean the pro-Israel lobby here has a fear of that?
GALLEYMORE: That’s what they’re saying, yes, that if they talked about this as a genocide, there’s a possibility of endangering the Jewish communities.
BOYAJIAN: Yes. This has been claimed by the Anti-Defamation League, but it is absolutely untrue. Jewish groups here do not particularly fear that. In fact, Jewish groups here, such as the ADL, have given awards to Turkish leaders over the years for being tolerant, for being democratic, supposedly. Now, if it were true that the pro-Israel groups here such as ADL and American Jewish Committee were fearful of what would happen to the Jews living in Turkey, one would think that they would have spoken out about this before. For example, Abraham Foxman and the ADL always speak out very strongly against anti-Semitism in any country. And they are very critical of those countries. And they don’t seem to fear retaliation about Jews, against Jews, for example, in Iran. The ADL, the United States, all the Jewish groups are very critical of Iran and its alleged development of a nuclear capability. There are many Iranian Jews. And, yet, the ADL doesn’t seem to fear that. No, this is just an excuse. It’s a cover for a political agreement between Turkey, Israel and the pro-Israel lobby here.
GALLEYMORE: And there is also some truth to the notion that genocide itself is such a hot button word. I mean we saw what happened in Rwanda, for example. The Clinton Administration decided they were not going to label what was going on there a genocide simply because it sounded like they didn’t want to send in any troops to quell that aggression.
BOYAJIAN: Right. Well, of course, that was a current genocide. The Armenian Genocide happened years ago, and so there’s no such question of sending in troops or anything like that.
GALLEYMORE: It’s really symbolic, isn’t it, in a lot of ways.
BOYAJIAN: It’s symbolic and it’s a necessary thing, really, because if the United States, which claims to have a very moral foreign policy, does not acknowledge a well-known genocide, what does that do to its credibility? How can it then go out and tell other countries to reform in terms of human rights if the United States is being so hypocritical about the Armenian Genocide? This is not to say that US policy would be perfect just because it acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. No, absolutely not, of course. But it would help. But for the US to not acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, and the last two administrations, Clinton and George Bush have not done so, it’s a political thing. And it really hurts US credibility, even more than it is hurt already.
GALLEYMORE: That’s already down.
BOYAJIAN: So on October 10, 2007, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 27 to 21 to bring the 1915 genocide resolution to a vote on the floor. And at that point Turkey responded with anger. And, in fact, it never came up, did it, never went anywhere?
GALLEYMORE: No, it didn’t. Nancy Pelosi could have brought it up for a vote, but there was so much controversy at the time with Turkish threats that it was decided that it was best to leave it for another time. So it is still pending and it will be brought up again. I don’t know when, perhaps soon. We don’t know. But let me say this about Turkish threats. Turkey is sometimes called a loyal ally. What kind of a loyal ally in NATO, for example, would make threats against the United States like Turkey has? For example, it said it would shut down air bases and it would --
GALLEYMORE: In fact, it actually did at the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, didn’t it, refuse the United States air space?
BOYAJIAN: It did. During the run-up to the war, it actually kept US ships waiting off the coast for weeks or months and then finally decided that it would not allow the US to use it as a transit point. It didn’t actually shut down the bases. It just denied them air space.
GALLEYMORE: And, in fact, the United States went along with it. Turkey subsequently retracted that. And I think the United States is busy in there at this point, isn’t it?
BOYAJIAN: Yes, US aid to Iraq does go through Turkey. Let me say something, though, about the Turkish threats here, Susan, that the US is the super power here and Turkey cannot go through with any of the threats it makes to the United States in terms of shutting down the Incirlik Air Base or closing the border with Iraq. The United States, if it puts its foot down, is simply too powerful to let Turkey do any of those things. Turkey depends so much on the United States for weaponry, military aid, economic aid through the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and US backing for Turkish membership for the European Union. Turkey is massively dependent on the United States.
GALLEYMORE: The United States does this every now and again. It certainly bends backwards for Israel. And it seems like Turkey might be another one of those client states.
BOYAJIAN: Well, it does. I must say, Turkey has a habit of throwing temper tantrums against the United States. But, you know, let me point to the fact that the European Union, the European Parliament, countries like France, the Netherlands, Argentina, Russia, Lebanon, Greece have all acknowledged the Armenian Genocide, and nothing except token retaliation has taken place by Turkey against those countries or the European Union. So Turkey’s threats are basically bluffs. Actually, in many cases, after those countries acknowledged the genocide, trade between Turkey and those countries went up. So Turkey really needs those countries more than those countries need Turkey. And it will not go through with the threats it makes, but other countries have to be firm with Turkey and say, look, we’re going to acknowledge the genocide, and we’re sorry if you don’t like it, but it’s a moral issue, and we’re going to do it and we’re not going to allow you to retaliate.
GALLEYMORE: And is it likely that if they did not acknowledge this genocide they would not be admitted into NATO, in the EU, excuse me?
BOYAJIAN: Well, what I can tell you is that the European Union Parliament voted that, I believe it was in 1987, it was a nonbinding vote, but it did say this: It said that Turkey must admit - must acknowledge - the Armenian Genocide before it can get into the European Union. So, in other words, this is a condition that they have placed. Now, it’s not legally binding. It was advisory on the part of the European Parliament. However, it still stands. And the European Parliament has since passed similar resolutions, so there is pressure on Turkey to do this.
GALLEYMORE: That’s kind of a conundrum for Turkey, in that case, because they desperately want to get into the EU.
BOYAJIAN: What they’re counting on, unfortunately, is European Union weakness in regard to not just the Armenian Genocide issue but the issue of Turkish internal reforms, freedom of speech, not having the military intrude into civilian political affairs, for example.
GALLEYMORE: Let me remind our listeners that we’re talking with David Boyajian about the letter that he wrote to a local newspaper in Watertown, Massachusetts in which he took to task the Anti-Defamation League’s position on No Place for Denial.
BOYAJIAN: No Place for Hate. No Place for Denial, actually, is the activist website, www.NoPlaceForDenial.com. It's a nice website. It gives the whole history of the campaign. I hope people visit it.
GALLEYMORE: So, David, you started this thing that has really grown. And how is that for you? Is this something that you’re pleased with or is it something that you feel overwhelmed by at this point? I mean it’s pretty heavy stuff.
BOYAJIAN: It is because it’s considered, in some circles, in the mainstream media, for example, and among elected officials, they hesitate to critique groups like the ADL. Of course, it’s been very satisfying to see all the friends, all the good people, all the principled human rights activists, Jewish Americans, many Jewish groups, come out and support us. And, so far in Massachusetts, of the some 60 towns that have been officially designated by the Anti-Defamation League and by the town government themselves - that’s a stipulation that the ADL makes, that the government has to approve the placement of No Place for Hate in the city or town - of those 60 towns, we’ve had 13 sever ties with No Place for Hate in protest of the ADL’s genocide denial. So we’re very pleased with that. Also, just recently, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, which is a trade association of all the cities and towns in Massachusetts, itself is a sponsor of No Place for Hate, and it voted to sever ties with No Place for Hate. So this was a big blow to the Anti-Deformation League and genocide denial. And the campaign continues here.
GALLEYMORE: And what are they doing in response to this, the ADL?
BOYAJIAN: Well, the ADL tried to argue at first that it did not do any of the things we said it was doing. It claimed that it did acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and so forth. Actually, it isn’t true that they ever acknowledged it. And they came out with a statement on August 21, 2007 that was a very carefully worded statement that some people think was an acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide, but it wasn’t. It actually was very cleverly worded to actually contravene the official definition of genocide in Article Two of the UN Genocide Treaty of 1948. That article says that in order for an event to be genocide, the perpetrator has to have the intent - that’s the key word - has to have the intent of committing genocide, but the ADL statement did not use the word or even imply the word intent. Rather it said - this is a quote - the consequences of those actions by Turkey were tantamount to genocide. By using the word consequences, they made it seem as if the deaths, the murders of Armenians were simply a consequence of war and not an intentional act by Turkey. Now, this is well-known. I don’t know how the ADL ever thought it could get away with making such a legalistic statement like that. It wasn’t an acknowledgement. I call it an anti-acknowledgement. And it was roundly criticized for that. So, even to this day, it has not acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. In general, Susan, the ADL has been very inarticulate in combating us because we really have the arguments on our side. You cannot be a human rights group, as ADL claims to be, and deny a genocide and work with Turkey to defeat Armenian Genocide resolutions. And this is an organization whose bread and butter issue is the Holocaust. And for it to ask everybody, as is proper, to acknowledge and commemorate The Holocaust and, yet, at the same time deny another genocide that preceded The Holocaust and that many consider was a model for Nazi Germany to kill Jews in The Holocaust, they considered this just, it’s just unacceptable. It’s very hypocritical. And the same goes for the other groups I mentioned, American Jewish Committee, which is almost as bad, if not worse, than the ADL, actually.
GALLEYMORE: David, why do you say that it was almost modeled by the Turkish Genocide against the Armenians?
BOYAJIAN: Yes. Well, there are a few reasons. I would cite two. First of all, Hitler knew about it because Germany and Turkey were allies in World War I. Hitler was in Germany while certain trials were taking place of Armenians who had assassinated former Turkish officials who had conducted the genocide. Hitler also spoke of the Armenian Genocide before he invaded Poland. He referenced that. The other reason, Susan, and this is very interesting, listeners may not know this but the word genocide was coined only in 1944 by a Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin. Lemkin, although a survivor of the Holocaust himself who later came to America, actually cited the Armenian Genocide as the reason he became interested in genocide and coined the word. This is in a 1949 CBS television interview and it’s in a documentary video by Andrew Goldberg. And it’s very revealing. So, yes, if the person who coined the word genocide thinks it’s a genocide and used the Armenian Genocide as a model then, yes, that’s a connection with Nazi Germany.
GALLEYMORE: Interesting. I know that, for example, the Kurds also participated in the deaths of the Armenians, though, didn’t they?
BOYAJIAN: Yes, very much, both the Turks and Kurds did as the Armenian death marches took place. Armenian men, women and children were lead through the mountains under terrible conditions. The Turkish guards would let the villages - Turkish and Kurdish villages - ravage the caravans, carry off the women or murder them or steal from them. I will say this, some Kurdish groups have apologized, in the current day have apologized for what their compatriots did in 1915, and that’s appreciated. And even some individual Turks, some Turkish groups, and now increasingly Turkish historians do recognize that there was a genocide, but the Turkish government will not recognize that.
GALLEYMORE: There’s also another piece to do this for the Armenians which is to, correct me if I’m wrong here, but psychologically to have this recognized as something perpetrated against your people and to acknowledge the suffering of your people is a big thing, too, isn’t it?
BOYAJIAN: Yes. You know, there’s a genocide scholar who lists what he calls, I believe, the eight stages of genocide. One of those stages is denial itself. In other words, he says that it psychologically damages the survivors and their descendents when you tell them that the genocide never occurred. So the Turks are not even really allowing the Armenians the memory of this. They’re trying to kill the memory.
GALLEYMORE: Now, David, your parents, your family is Armenian.
GALLEYMORE: When did they come to the United States?
BOYAJIAN: Actually, my family, both sides of my family, were fortunate enough to arrive in the United States well before the genocide, in the late 19th and early 20th century. My father’s mother did go through the 1890s massacres, however. There were terrible massacres. Up to 300,000 Armenians were killed in the 1890s. This was 20 years before the actual big genocide in 1915. I am told that my grandmother - I was too young to know this at the time - I’m told my grandmother used to wake up here screaming in the middle of the night because of nightmares she would have about what she experienced.
GALLEYMORE: And what stimulated those attacks?
BOYAJIAN: Well, Armenians were very much oppressed in that era. There were periodic massacres, onerous taxation. The Turkish government would let the Kurds come into town and rob and pillage Armenians. So what happened in the 1890s was that there arose Armenian revolutionary movements and self-defense movements, and the Turks came down even harder on Armenians. And there were massive occurrences of massacres at that time. So, in effect, massacres had taken place before the revolution. Then, when Armenians tried to defend themselves, and actually they tried very much through the central government to enact reforms, there was an Armenian Constitution declared in the Turkish Empire. This is what we’re talking about, Armenians within the Turkish Empire, Ottoman Empire. But the Armenian Constitution, the Ottoman Armenian Constitution was never put into effect. So Armenians were subject to massacres. And when they protested and tried to defend themselves there were even more massacres.
GALLEYMORE: But, at that point, they weren’t driven from the land or the towns?
BOYAJIAN: Well, they were. There were deportations. Entire villages would be destroyed and Armenians would have to move out if they survived. In order to decrease the population of Armenians in certain regions where there are a lot of Armenians, what would happen is that the Turks would deport Armenians to other areas because they did not want an Armenian majority anywhere because they were concerned, they knew that the Armenians were indigenous people and that they had a claim to that land. Therefore, the Turks wanted to disperse Armenians as much as possible.
GALLEYMORE: So, when you were growing up, you were aware that you had this history. Did people talk about it?
BOYAJIAN: Well, it was talked about in the family. One would often go to lectures given by academicians about the subject. Many Armenians had, and still have some very old survivors who would relate their stories of what actually happened during the genocide. Yes, it was talked about in my family quite a bit.
GALLEYMORE: What I’m going to do is play some clips from videos where a couple of survivors - now, these must have been very young children at the time - talk about the 1915 to 1923 massacres.
Now, here is audio testimony from survivors of this genocide presented at the Arlington, Massachusetts town meeting in October 2007 when Arlington’s Board of Selectmen met to discuss the town’s association with the ADL. The meeting concluded with the board voting unanimously to sever ties with the Anti-Defamation League citing the ADL’s failure to unambiguously acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. The first clip shares a testimony of an Armenian survivor speaking at the meeting.
NORIAN: My name is Kevork Norian, and I am a survivor of two genocides. But history, if it’s not that great, is fiction. And the value of history is its accuracy. So where do we go to learn the truth of a Turkish general who is blackmailing American Congress for discussing the Armenian Genocide and telling that there will be grave consequences if they recognize - they destroyed two other nations – what several nations recognized. Hitler, in one of his speeches, said, who talks about Armenian Genocide today, meaning that Jewish Genocide also will be forgotten soon. Even Hitler admitted. Henry Morgenthau was an American Ambassador from 1914 to 1916 in Istanbul, and he was an eyewitness and saw everything that happened there. And he wrote a book, and the title of the book is Henry Morgenthau’s Story. In his book he explains what happened, why it happened, how it could be prevented. Now, there were several missionaries working in Turkey with Armenians. They founded seven colleges, a theological seminary, and a missionary hospital. In 1915, when the Turks entered the war, they returned home. On their way, they met the Ambassador and told him what they saw, all those heinous atrocities that were being committed towards Armenians. Mrs. Morgenthau day after day listening to these stories became so nervous she couldn’t take anymore. She left her husband and came to New York. So the Ambassador remained one year away from his wife. In his book, he also mentions that The New York Times was printing daily events what was going on in Turkey. An Armenian historian, Mr. Peter Balakian, goes to the Library of Congress and studies those written about Armenians and writes this book The Burning Tigris. It is about Armenian Genocide and the American reaction. In those days, Americans were very sympathetic to Armenians. The missionaries with Armenians came from Boston, and in Boston Faneuil Hall they founded a relief committee. Then the committee moved to New York City and it was headed by Mr. Franklin Roosevelt, so they get $5 million and saved 6,000 orphans and many Armenians who had lost everything. And in this book also I have a picture, I wish everyone saw it. They gave this picture to the Sunday school children to collect money, and it is right here. I have given a copy of this book, one to Boston Library and the other one to the Robbins Library. Anyone who is interested can read this book and get a good idea what happened to Armenians. Now, the two Jeune [Young] Turks in the military, when they lost the war, they escaped to Germany. And an Army captain named Mustafa Kemal declares himself the president of Turkey. He continued the same policy, ethnic cleansing policy toward the Armenians. In 1918, the war ended and the British came to the Southwestern part of Turkey, which the Armenians called it Giligia. And they remained there eight months. During those eight months, Armenians had prosperity and peace, but it did not last long. During the War, the British and the French were allies. After the War they became enemies, so the British moved out and the French moved in. When the British rule was moving out they gave weapons to the Turks and told them to fight the French, but they couldn’t fight the French. They turned to Armenians who had survived the genocides. I was born in Aintab. Now they changed the name to Gaziantep, which means victorious. Can anyone meet the Turk Ambassador and ask him, why did you change this name? Now, two Armenian heroes in Aintab, they decided they are going to defend the people. So all the Armenians united, and they defended themselves for eleven months. After eleven months, the Turks ran out of ammunition and food so they asked ceasefire. The Turks in turn see this ceasefire as a victory. Armenians were not fighting for victory. Armenians were fighting for self-defense. Armenians were happy that the war ended, but it did not last long. From Paris came order to the French general to move out of Turkey and settle in Syria, so we moved to Syria. We came to the United States, they accepted us, they treated us with respect and dignity, and they saved us from havoc. So, thank you, United States, for saving us. A lot of our relatives are still living in hell. Give a good hand to this noble nation, the United States of America. [APPLAUSE]
GALLEYMORE: The second shorter clip shares Kevork Norian, also of Arlington, Massachusetts recalling escaping the Armenian Genocide.
NORIAN: My father, in 1915, when the Turks entered the War, because he was in manufacturing clothing, and the Turks, having two million soldiers, they needed clothing, they took my father from Aintab and took him to Haleb [Aleppo, Syria] for the production. So, for three years, he worked for the government. And the families of those who were working for the government were exempt from deportation. So that was the first genocide that we were saved. And the second genocide was in Aintab when they were going to kill everyone, Armenians made self-defense. So that’s the second genocide, which was minor compared to the first one. So they saved my life. I owe my life to those two great leaders.
MAN: And then your family was forced, you were forced to move to Syria after that, correct?
NORIAN: Well, Syria, when we came to Syria, Haleb was an old city and a small city. About 100,000 Armenians came there. There was no housing and a lot of people built some of the small shacks. They lived there for 20, 25 years. And about a hundred or more families with one bathroom, and you had to stay in line because there was no sewer. In the bathroom you had to hold your nose, it was so stinky. A lot of Armenians would, when they left Turkey, they came and lived in these conditions.
MAN: What would you tell to someone who doesn’t know what happened?
NORIAN: You know, the world does not understand our pain. We were so hurt. We needed some people to understand us so that you could feel better. But too many people do not care, you know, or they side with the denials. Where did ADL get its information, that they are denying?
GALLEYMORE: Two other Massachusetts towns, Lexington and Westwood, voted on the same day, Monday, October 15th, to break ties with the Anti-Defamation League and its No Place for Hate program due, as we heard from David Boyajian, to the ADL’s failure to unambiguously acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. In addition, two days later, the Medford Human Rights Commission unanimously voted to suspend ties with the ADL. As you heard from David, this has started a chain reason around the country and the No Place for Hate, which you may even have in your neighborhood. I know I do. On another note, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the measure 27 to 21 Wednesday evening, though President Bush and key figures lobbied hard against it. In the end, the resolution was not passed. President Bush reiterated his opposition to the resolution saying its passage would be harmful to US relations with Turkey. David, the issue here is not that the genocide has not been confronted, for it is being confronted.
BOYAJIAN: It is being confronted, actually. For example, I think it was 1997, 126 Holocaust scholars signed a petition affirming the Armenian Genocide. In fact, I have to say, even though I’ve criticized the ADL and American Jewish Committee here, by no means do they represent the Jewish community in regard to the Armenian Genocide. We have just had so much support from scholars on this issue. The International Association of Genocide Scholars, which has many, many Jewish academicians in it, has also officially recognized the Armenian Genocide. And they’re the preeminent group in the world, experts on genocide. So, you know, it’s really silly for Turks and their friends to deny the genocide at this point.
GALLEYMORE: And yet it happens, and it happens with such vehemence.
BOYAJIAN: It does, but they are losing the battle. More and more countries are recognizing it. Scholars are recognizing it. You know, it’s interesting, just very recently a scholar by the name of Donald Quataert who is an expert on Turkish history, he was a top member of the Institute for Turkish studies in Washington funded by the Turkish government. He just acknowledged that the Armenian Genocide occurred. This was in a book review he was doing. Because he acknowledged the genocide the Turkish government fired him. So the Turkish government knows this is a losing battle, I think. They’re just trying to hold on by their fingernails.
GALLEYMORE: And the archives in Turkey must contain some of this history surely.
BOYAJIAN: They do, actually, although we feel that they have probably been cleansed of the most incriminating documents. However, the scholars that have been able to get in there have uncovered very incriminating material. And, in the United States archives, there is plenty of material because the United States had an ambassador there, Henry Morgenthau, and it had also representatives in other parts of the Turkish Empire, including the Armenian part. So it is known in American archives and in other archives exactly what happened.
GALLEYMORE: David, where can people go to find out more online? Do you have a website? You’ve mentioned NoPlaceForDenial.com.
BOYAJIAN: Yes, that’s for the campaign itself against ADL genocide denial. I would also suggest Armenian-genocide.org. That’s Armenian dash genocide dot org. They have lots and lots of documentation on that website. It’s the website of an Armenian-American think-tank and study group in Washington. And if they go, by the way, to the No Place for Denial dot com website, I would also like them to note that this campaign is continuing not just in Massachusetts. There are ADL programs such as World of Difference and No Place for Hate throughout the country in New York, California, particularly Santa Barbara. And Armenians in Santa Barbara are now targeting the University of California at Santa Barbara because it has a No Place for Hate program. Orange County has schools that are designated as No Place for Hate. Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas, they all have No Place for Hate. And I hope people speak up when they see an ADL program and call the ADL and write their local newspapers and let them know about this issue, that they disapprove of the ADL’s genocide denial.
GALLEYMORE: David, I want to thank you for being with us. That’s David Boyajian today. And, again, if you’re listening and you have some comments about this, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if we have people who, in fact, do write in, I’m going to invite you back, David, to see what we have going on, you know, where people’s concerns are, what they have to say for themselves.
BOYAJIAN: Thanks so much, Susan. I really appreciate being on your program.
GALLEYMORE: That was David Boyajian on his campaign to have the Anti-Defamation League unequivocally recognize the Armenian Genocide. On a final but related note, Canadian Prime Minister Steven Hopper apologized June 11, 2008 to Canada’s native people for, as he put it, a sad chapter in our history acknowledging the physical abuses and cultural damage they suffered during a century of forced assimilation at residential schools. Over more than a century, about 150,000 native Canadian children were sent to boarding schools run by churches and the government to, as they put it, civilize and Christianize them. Expressions of native heritage were also outlawed and many children suffered sexual and psychological abuse and grew up with neither traditional roots nor mainstream footing, their ties to family and community unraveled. Steven Hopper said, today we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm and has no place in our country. The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian Residential Schools Policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language. The apology was billed by the government as a chance to redress a dark chapter in Canadian history and to move forward in reconciliation. On February 14, 2008, Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, made a formal apology for a century of taking aboriginal children from their families and forcing them into institutions far from their homes. Reading from a motion that was unanimously accepted Wednesday by lawmakers on behalf of all Australians, Rudd said, we apologize for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments. Australia’s apology was directed at tens of thousands of aborigines who were forcibly taken from their families as children under now abandoned assimilation policies. To the mothers and fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation that’s inflicted onto proud people and a proud culture we say sorry. So apologies are not that far-fetched. And that’s our show for today. Thanks for listening to Raising Sand Radio and KZSU Stanford. And, as always, if you want to listen to any of our archived shows, visit our website at www.raisingsandradio.org. The website and archive presents our shows according to themes and you can search the site for show topics. You can also visit our blog at http://raisingsandradio.blogspot.com where you can comment on our shows. And you’re invited to email me at Susan at Raising Sand Radio and suggest shows you’d like to hear in the future. Again, if you have any comments about today’s show, send me an email, email@example.com. And, if there is enough of a conversation, we can bring David Boyajian back in and continue this conversation. Meanwhile, if you want to know more about the Armenian Genocide, visit the website David mentioned, Armenian Genocide, that is www.armenian-genocide.org or the blog NoPlaceForDenial.com. PBS also created a DVD called the Armenian Genocide that you can find at www.shopPBS.com. Music we’ve heard today is from Life Aid Armenia and the album is called “I Will Not Be Sad In This World.” It’s Duduk music from Armenian Djivan Gasparyan, dedicated to his people killed, injured or made homeless by the December 1998 earthquake in that region. The first piece we heard was “A Cool Wind is Blowing” and we’ll go out with the piece called “I Will Not Be Sad In This World.”