The armenian genocide within the framework of a new genealogy
“How we formulate or represent the past models our comprehension and perspective of the present”. Edward Said, palestinian intellectual
A problem to solve…
Approaching the centennial of April 24th 1915, a date that stands for the beginning of the genocide suffered by the Armenian people, executed by the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey, the commemorations of this tragedy will arouse the attention of the public worldwide.
Across all continents, victims, survivors and their descendants will be sincerely honored and accompanied, in particular, in countries where Armenian communities are deeply rooted, having fled and settled as a consequence of their oppression.
Evocations will surely drive us mostly to the Republic of Armenia. The Dzidzernagapert Monument, located in the capital city of Yerevan, will become the destination of countless processions from different parts of the world.
Official delegations from several countries will mingle with representatives of different communities, people and personalities of different nations, survivors and new heirs to the martyrs. All of them will be welcomed by the authorities and the people of the Armenian Nation, in numerous unforgettable meetings.
Emotion will reign in interactions, pushing the essential rational reflections over the facts that bring us together into the background, without necessarily excluding them.
The Mother Country will then receive intellectuals, officials, priests, politicians, businessmen, journalists, artists, teachers, and workers; in short, groups and people from different origins, nationalities and social interests, beholders of different views of the world, complementary or antagonistic, resolvable or incompatible.
In this context, the assertion of these historic events, described as a genocidal process, and the claim for justice will be the common ground for all speakers. Our stand will be challenged by the Turkish state, which will intensify its policy of spreading disapproval as the above mentioned commemorative event gets closer.
Many attendants to these conferences will champion the Armenian Genocide from a hegemonic perspective, that is to say, an interpretation that views the tragic events suffered by the Armenian people through —basically— idealistic principles. We refer specifically to theoretical approaches that assert the supremacy of certain ideas, or even their existence, as independent from socio-economic human relationships. In this case, it does not matter whether they focus on nationalistic xenophobic representations, religious motivations, obsolete racial theories, or a mix of all —our view focuses on the analysis of the Turkish-Ottoman state bearing sole responsibility for the committed crimes.
Thus, from those guidelines, in order to explain the causes of the genocide, limited hermeneutic proposals were created, ignoring the importance of the Western civilizing attempts of subjection in the South-West Asian states.
It is not necessary to state explicitly that this misunderstanding turns to be functional to the dissolution of guilt for the European and US capitalist powers —when these crimes were committed—, the lack of indictment for the people responsible and the continuity of the policy of denial that remains to our days.
In this scenario, we consider it absolutely necessary to present to the Armenian people as a whole, as well as to those who actively support the Just Humanist Cause, an interpretation based on the structural causes that triggered the policy of extermination, holding accountable not only those who put it into practice but also those who made it possible, used it for their own advantage, and hid the real facts.
Presenting this counter-hegemonic perspective —within the framework of the ceremonies to commemorate the centennial— is still a problem to solve for all the descendants of the victims of the genocidal plan, who support humanist, anti-colonialist, and anti-imperialist political stances.
Why should we solve it?
The analysis of the facts prior to the genocide, the events that took place in those years, and everything that happened back to this day dispel further doubts. Aside from the actions taken by well-meaning people, by social civil institutions, and even by adequate temporary state policies in the international sphere, the situation of the Armenian population under the Turkish-Ottoman rule served the imperialist Western interests in the region as an excuse to intervene, legitimated by a fictional story focused on the “protection of suffering minorities.”
The original stimulus of the European powers during the second half of the 19th Century, in relation to the legitimate desire for liberation of the Armenian people and other nationalities under Turkish-Ottoman rule, should be included in the framework of the so-called “Eastern Issue.” This is the way in which British, French, German, and Austro-Hungarian powers would distribute among themselves areas of influence and territories after the imminent fall of the Ottoman Empire.
The subsequent lack of recognition by the triumphant states over the wretched Western Armenians, once the First World War was over, and despite the ongoing massacres, can be seen in the short lapse between the promises of the Treaty of Sèvres (August 1920) and the oblivion of the Treaty of Lausanne (July 1923). The evil circle of manipulation was extended afterwards by means of the strategic alliance with the Genocidal State, and by pursuing the policy of denial it promoted.
In this sense, the Armenian case has been neither the first nor the last to become a “humanitarian stratagem,” i.e., an excuse to meddle in other states’ affairs or in conflicts outside the region —in fact, it was used in different places during the last century, and it is still in use. The same powers unite, now with the US in a leading role, intervene in the domestic affairs of other nations, attack peoples, occupy territories, and plunder natural resources even in the present with similar arguments, supposedly with the aim of protecting minorities or populations oppressed by despotic governments.
For example, and despite their individual differences, these are some of the incidents that have already taken place in this century: the invasions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Ivory Coast, and Haiti; the unstoppable harassment to the governments of Syria, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, and the decades-long oppression of the strong Palestine people.
As a consequence of all that has been explained above, it is mandatory to re-signify the role of Euro-Western countries in the Armenian tragedy, all the more so since it is often used with the aim of strengthening their exculpatory and hypocritical point of view as a means to enlarge the symbolic capital that raises them to the status of advocates of the humanitarian values that they frequently violate. Together with the authorities of the Turkish-Ottoman state, in the commemorations of the centennial of the genocide, those who advised, made alliances with, financed and protected the said state (i.e., firstly, the European imperial bourgeoisie and secondly, the US bourgeoisie) should be placed at the center of the scene. If this is not done —because of ideological reasons or political interests, or a focus on Turkish responsibility, or any other reason whatsoever— we will once again let the representatives of imperial powers and organic intellectuals from their dominant classes continue manipulating the Armenian martyrs’ memory. If we do not take into account the respective historical commitment, they will add some “coins” to the cultural capital that they use to attack the American*, African and Asian peoples in the present. Denouncing this structure, which supports distorted views of the role played by the Euro-Western States, functional to the rapacity of their monopolistic bourgeoisie, means revealing the complicity of these mendacious actors in the Armenian Genocide, and the many other attacks performed over the rest of the human beings. This is the work to be done to honor our martyrs.
Deconstructing these Western wiles requires our involvement in a task that we cannot delegate in terms of our own responsibility. At the same time, it is a contribution to politically and culturally discredit the imperial powers, given that they have been self- awarded “the mission of universal civilization”, imposing their material interests over the wellbeing of the peoples worldwide.
Furthermore, within the context of the commemorative ceremonies, we consider it essential to express our interpretation of the causes of genocide and other crimes against humanity. Created and developed since the dawn of capitalism, they are executed by the State Terrorism of the bourgeoisie, as a means of perpetuating their policy of repression, which will eventually reach outrageous extremes when dominant sectors feel insecure about the application of their policies of subjugation and oppression.
Four convergent attributes make us the ones responsible for this historical re-signification:
1) The fact of being direct descendants of the victims and members of Armenian communities created after the genocide.
2) Our commitment to ideological principles of real humanism, rejecting any organization of human societies based on individual profit, anti-social egoism and the rights of the strongest; in short, men exploiting men. On the contrary, we defend the supremacy of collective interests, the solidarity bonds and the equality of people and nations of the world in terms of their rights. According to these premises, we consider it mandatory to promote peace and friendship among all peoples, creating bridges, in particular, towards Turkish sectors that claim for their social emancipation.
3) Our particular view of the world as inhabitants of South America, a rebellious subcontinent, in the quest for actual Independence after centuries of subordination to foreign powers, endowed with a deep democratic, anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist spirit.
4) The fact of being part of the Argentine people, who has been struggling for more than three decades owing to the work of its moral avant-gardes, conformed by human rights organizations, determined to fight for memory, truth and justice in a completely peaceful way, and providing invaluable achievements that ennoble the human condition.
The feeling of belonging helps explain why it was in our country, Argentina, that a group of outstanding members of the community conceived the possibility of pushing forward the Trials for Truth, imitating the model used in the late 90s, against the heads of State Terrorism, perpetrated in Argentina, who were protected in that decade by the laws of impunity.
From this initiative, the Argentine judicial system pronounced itself in favor of a resolution of the No. 5 Federal Court for Criminal and Correctional Matters, signed by Judge Norberto Oyarbide. Dated April 1st 2011, his unprecedented ruling considers the tragedy of our ancestors, finally stating that the crimes committed against the Armenian people in the events that took place in Anatolia should be categorized as genocide, and that the Turkish state was responsible for its organization and execution.
It is worth to mention as precedents the various resolutions adopted by the Argentine Parliament, which were finally embodied in National Law No 26.199, declaring April 24th the “Day for Tolerance and Respect Among Peoples”, in commemoration of the genocide against the Armenian People.
What is our proposal?
As a consequence of what we have already said, on the occasion of the Armenian Genocide Centennial, we intend to explain and promote our point of view, asserting the existence of both the extermination plan and the crimes committed, and promoting claims for justice and debates about the scope of its due Reparation, in opposition to the policy of denial displayed by the state responsible for the crimes. At the same time, we want to explain the co-responsibilities of the imperial powers of that time, going beyond the partial idealistic views and giving way to structural views of the historical events.
Thus, the Armenian tragedy will be etched in a genealogy of genocides and human crimes, overcoming the narrow and exclusive representations that emphasize particular features out of their creators’ miserable intentions to monopolize the status of victims, in order to be regarded as the only “moral creditors” in the eyes of the rest of Humanity. Furthermore, we have made progress in terms of refusing to accept the widely spread parallelism between Jews and Armenians, deliberately or involuntary serving to legitimize the oppressive policy that Zionist organizations and the State of Israel have implemented against the Palestinian people since the beginnings of colonization in their territory.
The genealogy of this process begins with the processes of European conquest and colonization since the 15th Century. It has been perpetuated through subjugating policies towards dependent nations since the second half of the 19th Century, within the frame of their incorporation to the international capitalist market and the functional setup of national states that oppressed and exterminated their aborigine and subordinate peoples as well. It has been extended through the unleashed criminalization, in the context of the Second World War, over minorities stigmatized within the same European territory. It continued in the strategies of imperial domination and the policy of repression of the national liberal and social movements, which included genocidal social practices, like the ones that took place in our country, in the rest of Latin America, and in the so-called Third World, during the second half of the 20th Century. Finally, it is still present today, in the above mentioned attacks against the harassed and invaded peoples, and through the cynical excuses and humanitarian crisis caused by the insatiable voracity of wealth.
We consider that the fact of accepting differences in historical processes must not imply the legitimization of pretended hierarchies, supported by dissimilar moral valuing in terms of human beings’ suffering. The genealogy proposed is aimed at establishing connections which, while acknowledging historical differences, can still offer an interpretative model of the colonial-imperial display of Euro-Western powers, with their inherent criminality and suffering caused to the subjugated communities.
Echoing the words of an outstanding intellectual devoted to the great tasks of human emancipation, we affirm: “In any field, the connections should not be established inside the mind, but discovered in the actual facts” Friedrich Engels – German Philosopher.
Buenos Aires City, July 22nd 2013 Democratic Space for Reflection over the Armenian Genocide Centennial
Organization Committee: Agaya, Carlos; Dokmedjian, José; Hairabedian, Gregorio; Kangal, Gabriel; Lomlomdjian, Adrián; Sivinian, Gabriel; Tchabrassian, Gabriel N. de T.: *By “American” we mean the peoples of the whole continent, i.e., Northern, Middle, and Southern America.