By Khatchig Mouradian
The Armenian Weekly
Nov. 10, 2007
WASHINGTON—On Nov. 5, after meeting with President Bush, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, speaking mainly of U.S.-Turkish relations, the Kurdish issue and the Armenian Genocide Resolution, H.Res.106.
In his speech, Erdogan said that “it is sad for us to see” the introduction of a resolution that “renders legitimacy to the so-called Armenian genocide.” He stressed that the resolution “has the potential to deeply damage our strategic relations and it is important to ensure that is not discussed on the floor of Congress.”
“In fact, these Armenian allegations which are being kept constantly on the agenda in various countries have not been proven historically or legally,” Erdogan continued, repeating his call for a joint historical commission to examine what happened to the Armenians in 1915. When Erdogan suggested the idea of a “joint commission” in 2005, the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) sent him an open letter which read: “We are concerned that in calling for an impartial study of the Armenian Genocide you may not be fully aware of the extent of the scholarly and intellectual record on the Armenian Genocide. … We want to underscore that it is not just Armenians who are affirming the Armenian Genocide but it is the overwhelming opinion of scholars who study genocide: hundreds of independent scholars.”
Yet, at the National Press Club this week, Erdogan said he was sure there was never a genocide of the Armenians. “What took place was called deportation,” he said. “That was a very difficult time. It was a time of war.”
The Armenians, he argued, were provoked by other countries to rebel, leading to Ottoman Turkish government’s decision “to start deporting the Armenian citizens to other parts of the Empire.”
To show how well the Armenian deportees were treated, Erdogan—who made no reference to the killing of any Armenian—went so far as to say that the Ottoman government even provided the Armenians with pocket money. “…And we have documents in our archives which attest to this fact,” he said.
“There are all sorts of instructions about how people should be sent from one area to another, how much money is to be paid to them as pocket money as they travel. Those who counter [our thesis] must come up with their own documents, but there are no documents that they can show,” he charged.
A Leading Turkish Historian Responds
The Armenian Weekly contacted Turkish-born historian and sociologist Taner Akcam, professor of history at the University of Minnesota and author of A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility, to comment on Erdogan’s allegation.
“I haven’t seen any single Ottoman document that shows that money was given to Armenians,” Akcam said. “It is, indeed, true that the central government sent money to the regional authorities to cover the expenses of the deportations. Part of the revenues from plundering the possessions of the Armenians and auctioning them was used by the government to finance the deportations.”
Furthermore, Akcam said, “There is ample evidence that in the Eastern Anatolian regions like Eskishehir, Afyon and Konya, Armenians were partially ‘transported’ by train and were made to pay for their own tickets.