U.S. Document Reveals Turkey Continued Ottoman Empire’s Anti-Armenian Policies
Those who want to shield today’s Turkey from responsibility for the Armenian Genocide have sought to blame the Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire rather than the Republic of Turkey which was not established until 1923.
One wonders then why Turkish officials, who have tried every trick to deny the facts of the Armenian Genocide, have not taken the easy way out by shifting the blame for the Genocide to the long defunct Ottoman Empire.
A frequently advanced explanation is that Turks, as a proud people, cannot accept that their ancestors committed the heinous crime of seeking to eliminate an entire nation. Others have argued that should the Republic of Turkey blame the Ottomans for the Armenian Genocide, it could be held legally liable as the successor state to the Ottoman Empire.
In recent years, however, it has become clear, particularly through the painstaking research conducted by Turkish scholar Taner Akcam, that a key reason why today’s Turkish officials are not prepared to face their history honestly and blame their Ottoman ancestors is that the Republic of Turkey is actually the continuation of the Ottoman state. Indeed, many of the early leaders of the Turkish Republic had been high-ranking Ottoman officials personally involved in the implementation of the Armenian Genocide. Such an unbroken transition in leadership assured the continuity of the Ottomans’ anti-Armenian policies.
In retrospect, it has become apparent that these genocidal policies stretched over a half century, starting with Sultan Abdul Hamid’s massacre of 300,000 Armenians in 1894-96, followed by the killings of 30,000 Armenians in Adana by the Young Turk regime in 1909, culminating in the Genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-23, and the subsequent policies of forced Turkification and deportation of tens of thousands of Armenians by the Republic of Turkey.
An important document from the U.S. archives, known until now to a handful of scholars, was recently posted on an Armenian/Turkish website. It provides incontestable evidence that Armenians continued to be uprooted from their native lands and deported by the Republic of Turkey well into the 1930’s for purely racial reasons.
The document in question is a “Strictly Confidential” cable dated March 2, 1934, sent by U.S. Ambassador Robert P. Skinner from Ankara to the Secretary of State in Washington, reporting the deportation of 600 Armenians from “the interior of Anatolia to Istanbul.”
The Ambassador wrote: “It is assumed by most of the deportees that their expulsion from their homes in Anatolia is a part of the Government’s program of making Anatolia a pure Turkish district. They relate that the Turkish police, in towns and villages where Armenians lived, attempted to instigate local Moslem people to drive the Armenians away. … The Armenians were told that they had to leave at once for Istanbul. They sold their possessions receiving for them ruinous prices. I have been told that cattle worth several hundred liras a head had been sold for as little as five liras a head. My informant stated that the Armenians were permitted to sell their property in order that no one of them could say that they were forced to abandon it. However, the sale under these conditions amounted to a practical abandonment.”
The Ambassador further reported: “The Armenians were obliged to walk from their villages to the railways and then they were shipped by train to Istanbul. … The real reason for the deportations is unknown…. It is likely, though, that their removal is simply one step in the government’s avowed policy of making Anatolia purely Turkish.”
Top be sure, in the 1920’s and 30’s thousands of Armenian survivors of the Genocide were forced out from their homes in Anatolia to other locations in Turkey or neighboring countries. These racist policies were followed in the 1940’s by Varlik Vergisi, the imposition of exorbitant wealth taxes on Armenians, Greeks and Jews, and the 1955 Istanbul pogroms during which many Greeks and some Armenians and Jews were killed and their properties destroyed.
This barbaric continuum of massacre, genocide and deportation highlights the existence of a long-term stratagem implemented by successive Turkish regimes from the 1890’s to recent times in order to solve the Armenian Question with finality.
Consequently, the Republic of Turkey is legally responsible for its own crimes as well as those committed by its Ottoman predecessors.