- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 March 7, 2003 

Step Forward?: New report another argument for genocide recognition

Iskandaryan says the neutrality of authors is significant.It takes two days to make the shortest trip by bus from Yerevan to Istanbul, although the Turkish border can be seen from many Armenians' doorsteps. And the route goes by Batumi, which makes the trip even longer and more distressing since the Georgian roads are half-broken. It might not be the easiest journey in the region but certainly necessary for some Armenians who make a living out of commerce with Turkish merchandise.

Hostility between the two governments is hardly an issue for the merchants, but it is part of what makes their life difficult.

Even though Armenia and Turkey share a common history, contemporary relations are blocked by two issues: Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Genocide.

But the extensive debate over the latter one has raised new hopes for Armenians following the results of a recent legal analysis.

Last month the International Center for Transitional Justice, a foundation assisting countries following liability for human rights abuses, released a report that proves the applicability of the term "genocide" to actions carried out in Turkey at the beginning of last century.

The analysis was conducted at the request of the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) and has a strictly legal, not a historical or factual, character.

It proves that systematic exterminations of most of the male Armenian population and the forced deportation of the remainder from the Ottoman Empire in 1915 meet at least three elements stipulated in the article I of the United Nations Genocide Convention.

That is "(1) one or more persons were killed; (2) such persons belonged to a particular national, ethnic, racial or religious group; and (3) the conduct took place in the context of a manifest pattern of similar conduct directed against that group."

According to the analysis the only area of disagreement was on whether the events took place with the intent to destroy the Armenians as a national, ethnic, or religious group.

However, its authors draw the conclusion that: "at least some of the perpetrators of the events knew that the consequence of their actions would be the destruction, in whole or in part, of the Armenians of eastern Anatolia, as such, or acted purposively towards this goal, and, therefore, possessed the requisite genocidal intent".

Some analysts believe the result of this study is a considerable impulse to the attempt of advancing relations between Turkey and Armenia although numerous other breakdowns were previously achieved.

"Crucial is that this analysis is a political, and not a historical, approval of the genocide, which the outside world acknowledged already years ago", says Alexander Iskandarian, political scientist at the Caucasus Media Institute, who also points out that the neutrality of its authors might also have a significant influence on later debates around the issue.

But more noteworthy is that the request for it came jointly from the Armenian and Turkish members of TARC together, which Iskandarian sees as an unprecedented case in circumstances that Armenia and Turkey have no diplomatic ties at all.

TARC was founded two years ago and includes many former government officials from both countries, such as former foreign ministers and several ambassadors, as well as representatives of both nations' diasporas from Russia and the US.

Commission members themselves admit the genocide issue was never an easy one and that many initiatives to call for an independent research were taken earlier. The TARC request was realized last June and the analysis taken over the following six months.

"In order to reach this point they needed time," says Iskandarian.

Indeed, people cannot expect fast results for such a delicate issue, above all because debates around the genocide started relatively recently in Armenia, as they were a tabu during the Soviet times.

Even now both governments are hindered by different political reasons to take crucial decisions; therefore civil societies try to assume the upper hand.

For some this is a hope. But for many it is yet another theoretical study that may not necessarily be a guarantee that the governments will reach an agreement and start immediately to cooperate.

While Iskandarian considers that the first impediment in the relations between Armenia and Turkey is the genocide factor, officials say this issue has never been a precondition for starting the dialogue.

"I don't know whether this particular analysis will increase the chances of the genocide recognition by the Turkish government", says Dziunik Aghajanian, spokeswoman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "but I know that the more countries accept the realities of the 1915 events as being genocide, the chances for recognition by Turkey increase."

Nor do the theoreticians believe that genocide recognition by Turkey would instantaneously generate railroads and highways or mean that products would start to flow between Armenia and Turkey. But such documents at least bring up new discussions and sooner or later they can also influence the governments to take steps towards improving their relations.


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Step Forward?: New report another argument for genocide recognition

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  Head of State
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Head of State

President Robert Kocharyan was elected to a second term.



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