As a bridge between Asia and Europe, with its straits connecting The Black Sea with the Mediterranean and its geopolitical situation at a point where the Central Asian, Caucasian and Middle Eastern natural energy sources intersect, Turkey draws the attention of the entire world.
The Ottoman Empire in the past and Turkey at present has always been an arena for which intrigues were incessantly designed. The colonialist superpowers wishing to eradicate the Ottoman Empire from the world by dividing it did not fail to use in their schemes also the Armenians who coexisted in peace with the Turks for so many centuries.
There are today just like in the past, several countries striving to secure themselves political and economic benefits at the expense of Armenian community. Monuments accusing Turks and Turkey of having committed genocide are being erected in some countries; decisions intending to recognise the so called genocide are brought into the parliamentary agenda in several countries and even voted for in some others. Issues that need to be left to historians are turned into means of self interest by the politicians.
The Armenians who were ousted from one place to the other, pushed into wars, and treated as third rate citizens throughout the history by the Romans, Persians and Byzantines. After the advent of Turks into Anatolia, they benefited from the just, humane, tolerant and unifying traditions and beliefs of their new neighbours. The period that lasted until the end of the nineteenth century when the apogee of these developments and relations was attained, was the golden age of Armenians. In fact, the Armenians were by far the greatest beneficiaries of the opportunities offered by the Ottoman Empire to all industrious, capable, honest and straightforward citizens of the non-Moslem communities. Being exempted from the military service and to a large extent from taxation, they had the opportunity to excel themselves in trade, agriculture, craftsmanship and administration and therefore were rightly called the “loyal nation” because of their loyalty and ability to interact with the Ottomans. There were so many Armenians who spoke Turkish, who even conducted their rites in this language , who rose to topmost public service posts such as the Ministries and Under-Secretariats of State for the Public Works, Navy, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Treasury, Posts and Telegraph and Minting. There were some who even wrote books in Turkish and foreign languages on the Problems of the Ottoman Empire .
With the start of the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the European powers began to intervene in its affairs and degeneration became evident in the peaceful Turkish-Armenian relations. Great effort was displayed by the instigators whom the Western powers planted into the Ottoman Empire under clerical guise, to create a schism between Turks and Armenians in the religious, cultural, commercial, political and social fields. Thus, bloody clashes arose, in which the blunt of pain was borne by the Turks, and thousands of Armenians and Turks lost their lives in the revolts that broke out in Eastern Anatolia and spread all the way to Istanbul.
Though there were many Armenians fighting in the Ottoman armies against the enemy or serving in the rear ranks during the World War I, a considerable number had sided with the foes on the battlefronts and launched massacres against the population without distinction of women, children and the aged. Their toll was hundreds of thousands of Moslems and ruin in Eastern Anatolia.
The measures adopted by the Ottoman Empire to stop this violence were presented to the rest of the world under a completely different light and the Armenians, misguided by the promises and instigation of the Western Powers started to undermine the country where they had led a privileged life more than a thousand years.
The Hinchak, Tashnak, Toward Armenia, Young Armenians, Union and Salvation, Ramgavar, Paramilitaries, Black Cross societies and Hinchak Revolutionary Committee, which were established out of Anatolia, formed organisations urging the people for an armed revolt. These activities were the bloody uprisings that cost thousands of Turkish and Armenian lives.
During World War I, the Ottoman Empire was fighting against Russian armies in Eastern Anatolia, where the Armenian revolt was at its peak; and also against Armenian forces which supported the Russians. On the other hand, behind the lines it had to continue to fight against Armenian guerrillas that were burning Turkish villages and towns and attacking military convoys and reinforcements. In spite of this violence, the Ottoman Empire tried to solve the Armenian problem for months by taking local measures. Meanwhile, an operation was made against the Armenian guerillas and 2345 rebels were arrested for high treason. When it became evident that the Armenian community was also in rebellion against the state, the Ottoman Empire proceeded with the last resort of replacing only those Armenians in the region who actively participated in the rebellion. With this measure, the Ottoman Empire also intended to save the lives of the Armenians who were living in a medium of civil war because Turks started to counter-attack the Armenians who had performed bloody atrocities against Turkish communities.
Today, Armenia and some states using Armenians for their economic and political benefits have launched a massive propaganda campaign to present the replacement decision and the 24 April arrests as genocide to the world public opinion.
At the end of the World War I, when the armies of Allied States occupied The Ottoman Empire and the British officials among them arrested 143 Ottoman political and military leaders and intellectuals for “having committed war crimes toward Armenians” and exiled them to Malta where a trial was launched. However, the massive scrutiny made on the Ottoman, British, American archives in order to find evidence to incriminate these 143 persons failed to produce even the least iota of proof against them. In the end, the detainees in Malta were released without trial and even any indictment in 1922.
The United States archives contain an interesting document sent to Lord Curzon on 13 July 1921 by Mr. R.C. Craigie, the British Ambassador in Washington. The message was as follows: “I regret to state that there is nothing that may be used as evidence against the Turkish detainees in Malta. There are no events that may constitute adequate proofs. The said reports do not appear to contain even circumstantial evidence that could be useful to reinforce the information held by His Majesty’s Government against the Turks.”
On 29 July 1921, the legal advisers in London decided that the intended indictments drawn up against the persons on the British Foreign Ministry’s list were semi-political in nature and therefore these individuals should be treated separately from the Turks detained as criminals of war.
They also stated the following: “No statements were hitherto received from the witnesses to the effect that the indictments intended against the detainees are correct. Likewise it does not need to be restated that finding witnesses after so long a time is highly doubtful in a remote country like Armenia which is accessible only with great difficulties.” This statement was made also by none other than the legal advisers in London of His Majesty’s Government.
Yet, the efforts to smear the image of Turks with genocide claims did not come to an end as the British press published certain documents attempting to prove the existence of a massacre claimed to have been perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire while efforts were being made to start a lawsuit in Malta. It was stated that the documents were found by the British occupation forces in Syria, led by General Allenby. The inquiries subsequently made by the British Foreign Office revealed, however, that these documents were fakes prepared by the Armenian Nationalist Delegation in Paris and distributed to the Allied representatives.
The Armenian Diaspora, who left no stone unturned to keep the genocide claims on the agenda despite all these facts, resorted to terrorism in the end. The so-called Armenian issue, which started to attract the attention of the world and Turkish public opinion through the smearing campaign launched by the Armenians against Turkey after 1965, in the ‘70s turned into terrorist attacks directed against the Turkish representations abroad. In Santa Barbara on January 27, 1973, the first individual terrorist attack was launched by an aged Armenian named Gurgen (Karekin) Yanikian. He murdered Mehmet Baydur and Bahadir Demir, the Turkish Consul General and Vice Consul in Los Angeles, and these murders turned into an organised campaign after 1975. The attacks against Turkish embassies, officials and institutions abroad gradually intensified.
A major increase in the attacks was noted after 1979 when an internal unease started in Turkey. The Armenian terrorists staged a total of 110 attacks at 38 cities of 21 countries. 39 of these acts were committed by small arms, 70 of them were realised by bombs and one was an outright occupation. 42 Turkish diplomats and 4 foreigners were killed and 15 Turks and 66 foreigners were wounded in these incidents.
As these actions received a strong reaction from the world public opinion, the Armenian terrorist organisations changed their tactics in 1980 and began to co-operate with the PKK terrorist group which was pushed into the scene by the Eruh and ªemdinli attacks as the ASALA and Armenian operations were stopped. The documents and evidence from Beqaa and Zeli camps show that the PKK and ASALA militants were trained there together.
The success achieved by the Turkish security forces made the Armenian terrorism pursue the so called genocide claims through the Armenian Diaspora and attempt to make the world believe in the existence of such an event by inducing several parliaments to adopt resolutions and laws which recognise it.
The goal of these terrorists is to plant into minds of people the existence of a genocide, to force Turkey to recognise it, to receive indemnity from Turkey and, finally, to snatch from Turkey the land needed for realising the dream of Great Armenia
In the period that followed the Berlin Treaty, the Armenian issue developed in two directions, The first is the interventions made by the Western powers in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire, and the second is the clandestine organisation and rearmament of Anatolian, Syrian and Thracian Armenians in various parts of Anatolia, particularly in Eastern Anatolia and Cilicia.
The initial provocations started coming from Russia. This attitude induced the British and French Governments to display a greater interest toward Armenians. British Consulates mushroomed in Eastern Anatolia and large numbers of Protestant missionaries were dispatched to this region.
As a result of these activities, several Armenian committees were formed in Eastern Anatolia from 1880 onward. These committees that remained at local level failed and withered away in time because the Armenians who lived in welfare and did not have any complaints against the Ottoman Empire were not interested in the committees.
When the plans to make the Ottoman Armenians revolt against the State through the committees failed, the Russian Armenians were encouraged to set up such committees out of the Ottoman Empire. Hinchak was founded in Geneva in 1887, with socialist tendencies and moderately militant ideas and Tashnak was established in Tbilisi in 1887, with extremist, terrorist and revolutionary attitudes favouring armed struggle and full independence. The goal imposed on these committees were the “salvation of Anatolian land and Ottoman Armenians”.
The revolt attempts launched by the Hinchaks that extended its organisation into Istanbul and aimed at provoking the Ottoman Armenians by drawing the Western attentions on the issue, were followed by those of the Tashnaks. The common features of the both groups were the fact that they were planned and oriented by the committees that came to the Ottoman Empire from abroad and that they were largely supported by the missionaries spread all over Anatolia.
The first revolt broke out in Erzurum in 1890, followed by the Kumkapi demonstration in the same year. These revolts were followed by 1892 and 1893 Kayseri, Yozgat, Çorum and Merzifon incidents, 1894 Sasun revolt, 1894 Sublime Porte demonstration and Zeytun mutiny, 1896 Van revolt and the occupation of Ottoman Bank the same year, the second Sasun Revolt in 1903, the 1905 attempt to kill Emperor Abdulhamid and the Adana revolt in 1909.
By far the greatest damage given to Turks by the Armenians were the massacres perpetrated during World War I. During this period, the Armenians acted as spies for the Russians, evaded the mobilisation orders by hiding, and those that were in the Ottoman army collectively committed high treason by joining the Russian forces taking their arms with them.. The Armenian gangs that had already started attacks on the Turkish villages, with the start of the war massacred, among others, the entire women, children and the aged inhabitants of Zeve village of Van Province.
The quelling of these revolts by the Ottoman army was presented to the world as a massacre of Armenians by the Moslems and thus the issue acquired a larger international dimension. In fact, the British and Russian diplomatic reports of the time state that the goals of Armenian revolutionists were to create social chaos against which the Ottoman army would react and to thereby ensure the intervention of Western powers in the situation. It seems that these goals were reached and the diplomatic and consular representations of the Western States, with the assistance of Christian missionaries spread all over Anatolia, played a major role in the transmission of the Armenian propaganda to the Western public opinion.
The racial origins of the Armenians and the geography in which they lived are still debated today. It is certain, however, that they have always been the subjects of other states throughout history.
The encyclopædias state that Yerevan, Lake Sevan, Nahkichevan, north of Rumiah Lake and Maku region were called “Armenia” which meant “ upper lands” and the people living there were named Armenians.
Some of the Armenian historians claim that they are descendants of the Hittites who lived in Cilicia and Northern Syria in the 6th century AD, while some others bring the genealogy to Haig, one of Noah’s sons. There is no certainty about exactly where the community referred today as Armenians settled and lived in the geographical region called Armenia. Their population and the percentage of their population to other groups that lived in the same area are still a mystery.
Thus, even the Armenian historians are not unanimous as to their origin. It may therefore be stated that it is impossible for a community that has never had the privilege of being a nation and founding an independent state, to have claims on a certain geography as “a homeland”. Consequently, the dream of Great Armenia is but the product of an expansionist ideology.
As the history went, the Armenians lived under the Persian, Macedonian, Seleucide, Roman, Partian, Sasanite, Byzantine, Arabian and Turkish hegemonies. In fact, all of the Armenian principalities known to have existed in the region were established by the sovereigns that controlled the region in order to draw this community into their sphere of influence and employ them in a variety of tasks.
The Selchuks saved the Armenians from the Byzantine persecution and offered them the opportunity of leading a decent life when they secured the control of Anatolia in 1071. Under the reign of Mehmed II, freedom of thought and belief was granted to the Armenians and the right to establish a patriarchate of their own for governing the community’s religious and social activities.
The Armenian Patriarch had the power of appointing and dismissing clergy members, banning the religious rites, collecting dues from the community, concluding the marriage formalities and even pronouncing imprisonment decisions.
Until the end of the 19th century, the Armenians lived their golden age under the Ottoman rule, also with the vast tolerance of the Turkish people. Having been exempted from military service and of most of the taxes, they excelled in trade, agriculture, artisanry and rose to major posts in the administration. For the services that they rendered to the Ottoman Empire, the Armenians were allowed to settle in the regions vacated after the Greek rebellion and were given the prestigious title of “the faithful nation”.
It ensues from the foregoing that there was not any Armenian issue until the end of the 19th century nor were any problems that the Armenian citizens could not solve with the assistance of Turkish administration.
Regarding these revolts and massacres, the Ottoman Government merely declared to the Armenian Archbishop, deputies and community leaders that appropriate measures would be implemented if the Armenians did not stop massacring the Moslems. However, the intensification of the events, the increase of attacks against defenseless Turkish women and children and the war that waged on several battlefronts all at the same time necessitated to secure the rear lines.
The first move adopted on April 24, 1915 was to ban all Armenian committees and to arrest 2.345 leaders for crimes against the State. The date of April 24, commemorated by the Armenians abroad as the anniversary of genocide against Armenians, is the date of these arrests and has nothing to do with the replacement.
The Etchmiasin Patriarch, a priest named Kevork, sent the following cable to the United States President upon this move:
Mr. President, according to the latest news received from the Turkish Armenia, a massacre started there and an organised terror has put the Armenian lives in danger. In this precarious moment, I am addressing to the noble sentiments of the great American nation and ask you to intervene immediately through your Great Republic’s diplomatic representation for protecting my people left to the mercy of the violence of Turkish fanaticism, on behalf of humanity and Christian belief.
Kevorg, Ecumenic Patriarch of all Armenians.
This cable was followed by the Washington contacts of the Russian Ambassador.
The incident here was merely the banning of Armenian committees and the arrest of the culprits. Yet, the Armenians endeavoured to display it as a massacre and to rally the United States and Russia into their ranks.