The Armenian ‘G-word’

On April 24th 1915 in the nervous streets of Istanbul, Ottoman officials rounded up scores of Armenian intellectuals and artists. Their killings marked the start of a protracted period of persecution of the empire’s Christian subjects, who were subjected to state-sanctioned murder, rape and huge forced deportations to the Syrian desert. It is believed anywhere between 500 thousand to 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were slaughtered in 1915–16.

“ON ALL the roads we traversed between Yozgat and Kayseri, about 80 per cent of the Muslims we encountered (there were no Christians left in these parts) were wearing European clothes, bearing on their persons proof of the crimes that they had committed. Barefoot peasant boys wore formal clothes; men sported gold chains and watches.” Grigoris Balakian, an Armenian Orthodox priest who witnessed the aftermath.

To Turkey’s pleasure and Armenia’s regret, the leading power — United States of America — is not weighed down by the baggage of the Caucasus. On 24 April 2015, Obama did not mention the word ‘genocide’ at the century commemoration of the massacre of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks. Realistically, this is understandable. Obama is not the pope; he is the President of USA a global hegemon that has expended a great deal of diplomatic energy in wooing Turkey — a strategic countermeasure to Iran and Russia. George Friedmann summarizes ‘the choice is quite simple for the United States: Either Washington can throw its support behind a tiny landlocked satellite of Russia with negligible strategic value, or it can use the opportunity to deepen its relationship with a country that has the potential to influence two highly active geopolitical arenas’.

Turkish official teasing Armenian children with bread.

The term ‘genocide’ came into use with the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crime of Genocide, which 146 countries have signed. t proscribes acts including killing, inflicting physical or mental harm, forced adoption and eugenics, when done “with intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. The above definition definitely resonates with Sikhs who have studied the anti-Sikh pogroms of November, 1984 in India.

Personally, the most moving photo of the 1984 November Sikh Genocide

The recent political events have really made me reconsider the Sikh strategy of legal redress in various countries. I am not reducing the work of lawyers in North America, UK and India who fight tirelessly for justice. If the repetitive elusiveness of Jagdish Tytler and other guilty power-players wasn't disheartening enough, the realpolitik displayed by Barack Obama really have made me question it. Even with the powerful Armenian lobby groups and Oxford ‘Holocaust and Genocide Studies’ Centre, the leader of the new world was unwilling to call a spade a spade. As the West tilts towards Asian nations to check the influence of China, will Obama really have the resolve to criticise a nation that is finally warming up to him?

For more in depth analysis on the Armenian Genocide, be sure to read Thomas de Waal’s ‘The G-word: The Armenian Massacre and the Politics of Genocide’.