11 April 2015

New Zealand's official silence on the Armenian genocide

On 25 April, New Zealanders will commemorate the centenary of the disastrous and ill-conceived Allied invasion of the Ottoman Empire at Anzac Cove. The Turkish government will host NZ officials and visitors at the key sites near Gallipoli. In return for this hospitality, the Turkish government gets New Zealand's official silence on the sensitive matter of the genocide of Armenians that occurred at the same time as the Gallipoli campaign. In Turkey it is a crime to discuss the mass-murder of (an estimated) 1.5 million Armenians in 1915, and Turkey reacts angrily to any foreign country that recognises that these atrocities amounted to genocide. Members of the New South Wales parliament were threatened with a ban from attending the centenary commemorations at Gallipoli due to motions passed unanimously by that parliament in 2013 officially recognising the Armenian genocide.
In contrast, New Zealanders will be welcome at Gallipoli to commemorate the insane invasion that happened there a century ago. But the price we pay is the hypocrisy of refusing to tell the whole story of what was going on in Turkey at the time. The then Ottoman Empire had entered the war in 1914 as an ally of Germany, and had fought without success against the Russians. Those losses and the Allies' invasion of April 1915 gave the Turks reason to see their nation as under an existential threat at that time. The Christian Armenian community was seen as an internal threat, and as potential supporters of the Russians. But this can hardly justify the (now well documented) officially sanctioned campaign to exterminate the Armenians.
New Zealand prides itself on its support for humanitarian actions, for instance in seeking action on the Rwandan genocide in 1994. But the NZ government will never dare use 'the g-word' in any reference to Turkish Armenians, for fear of attracting the ire of the Turkish government, and so being banned from Gallipoli.
How long will this hypocrisy go on? Presumably it will go on for as long as New Zealanders wish to live out a retrospective fantasy of 'national identity' and 'honour and sacrifice' every 25 April. While they remember 2,779 New Zealanders lost at Gallipoli, will they spare a thought for 1.5 million Armenians who were murdered in mass graves or marched through deserts to their deaths? No, they won't. They certainly won't like to think that the Allied invasion of April 1915 played a part in the events that led to the genocide.


At 11:10 PM, Blogger blondewithaniq said...

Thank goodness someone is saying something about the hypocrisy.. You might like to do something on what happened in Iraq in 1920 too bears a resemblance to what some are dropping in barrels in Syria
Lest we forget that too


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