THE G-WORD EXPOSE
Document Reveals Origin Of First Genocide
HUNDRED years later, the genocide by the Ottoman
Empire of its Armenian Christians during the First World War is
a volatile topic. The Turkish government, headed by President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is in vehement denial that any planned,
intentional, systematic killing occurred, part of the definition
of genocide. After all, the world was engaged in a brutal war
where many Ottoman Turks perished.
It was a war with Turkey on the wrong
The European Parliament in 1987 called
on Turkey to deal with its unresolved genocide legacy issue.
Pope Francis in April 2015, on the centennial of this historic
event, referred to it as "the first genocide of the 20th
century." That reference enraged the Turkish government, even
though 22 countries, including Germany, have formally recognized
it as such.
While the White House in April 2015
urged Ankara to openly acknowledge that 1.5 million ethnic
Armenians were wiped out at the hands of the disintegrating
Ottoman Empire, President Barack Hussein Obama deftly avoided
naming it genocide—reneging on a pledge he had made as a
presidential candidate to do so. He called the killings of
Armenian Christians "the first mass atrocity of the 20th
The American president, in tandem with
the Turkish president, refuses to utter the G-word.
Not until I visited Iran seven years
ago did I become aware of the Turkish expulsion and
extermination of its 2,500-year-old Armenian Christian community
in the crumbling Ottoman Empire during the First World War.
It was in the Armenian Quarter, in the
majestic Iranian city of Isfahan, where I learned of this
horrific event in Turkey’s history which this year, on its
centenary, has become a toxic topic.
The Armenian Quarter originated in
1604 when the Persian Shah Abbas I transplanted the entire
Christian population of Jolfa in Azerbaijan to a section of
Isfahan that was renamed New Jolfa. He hoped the skilled
craftsmen, artists, industrialists and merchants would boost the
economy and enhance the society of his capital city. He was
right. At one time 42,000 Armenian Christians lived in New Jolfa
under Muslim rule; today the community numbers 5,000.
Proof of Armenian Christian genocide
on view at museum in Isfahan, Iran
Genocide cable ordering the massacre
The imposing Vank Cathedral
predominates in the district. It was built between 1648 and 1655
It was in the attached Vank Museum
where I discovered evidence of the systematic Armenian massacre
during the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. At the museum’s
entrance stands a bust of Bishop Khachatur Gesaratsi, founder of
the first printing press in Iran. Among the objects in the
two-story museum are 700 illuminated manuscripts, Gospels from
the 9th century, and the first book printed in the
And then it happened. I peered into a
glass showcase of a prominent display of a people’s tragedy. It
was a shock. The official cable that generated the mass murder
of the Armenians unnerved me. Under the cable was a helpful
I saw documents and maps pinpointing
relevant sites of the extermination campaign in the eastern
Anatolia region of Turkey. They showed where thousands of
Armenian men, women and children were deported to Syria to drop
dead in the desert, others to perish in concentration camps set
up for that purpose. A total of 1.5 million Armenians were
killed and their homes, businesses and property confiscated.
Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish
Jewish descent who campaigned at the League of Nations to ban
such "barbarity" and "vandalism" as perpetrated against the
Armenian people, coined the term "genocide" in 1943. That is
what the Armenian people faced in 1915 under Ottoman decree.
Here was proof of the Armenian
genocide. The Ottoman Minister of the Interior (Mehmet Talaat
Pasha) sent this cable on September 29, 1915, to the governor of
As informed earlier than this,
per order of Jamiat, the Government has decided to
exterminate the entire population of Armenians in
Turkey. Those opposing the orders will not be considered
Government servants. Children, women and the sick are
not to be spared. The modes of extermination are not to
be differentiated. Without listening to the voice of
conscious [sic] remove them all and put an end to their
The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Henry
Morgenthau Sr., was moved to inform the State Department of the
Ottoman campaign of race extermination—but was rebuffed. He
resigned in despair. (Reminds me of efforts of Holocaust
eyewitnesses who risked their lives to alert Washington at the
time, to no avail.)
The Armenian National Institute in
Washington identifies Talaat as "the principal architect of the
Armenian genocide." Its website notes that Talaat initiated a
policy of the Young Turks to evict the Armenians from their
homes in an attempt at "the Turkification of the Ottoman
Vank Museum: at left is statue of
Bishop Khachatur Gesaratsi, inventor of
printing press in Iran.
The postwar Ottoman government in 1919
convicted Talaat (and others) for their role in steering the
empire into war. He was sentenced to death in absentia. He was
hunted down by Armenian vigilantes and assassinated in Berlin in
1921. Nazi Germany returned his remains to Istanbul in 1943 for
burial with full honors.
Museum gift shop
I trembled as I read the words:
"Exterminate…Put an end to their existence." Outside I meditated
on the images in my head. The First World War had its genocide
of Turkey’s Armenian Christians. That proved to be the precursor
of the Second World War’s German genocide of Europe’s Jews. The
20th century is notable for its genocidal bloodbaths.
I thought if the world took notice and prevented the first
genocide of Armenian Christians, it might have thwarted the
second of European Jews.
What does the 21st century
portend? A third genocide? A nuclear armed Iran making good on
its threat to wipe the Jews of Israel off the face of the map?
In the Vank courtyard I stood before a
pillar that cautioned never to forget the Armenian catastrophe.
It was erected in 1975 to commemorate the 60th
anniversary of the slaughter.
So far there has been neither a plea
for forgiveness nor an offer for reparations. And the American
president, in tandem with the Turkish president, refuses to
utter the G-word.