NEW YORK – The centenary of the genocide carried out by the Ottoman government against its minority Armenian population in their historic homeland, which lies in present-day Turkey, will be observed on April 24. The commemorations present an opportunity not only to remember the 1.5 million victims, but also to recognize – and challenge – the Turkish government’s continued denial of the atrocities.
Denial, the last bastion of those who commit genocide, disrespects the victims and their communities and lays a foundation of lies for a future that is likely to be characterized by even more conflict and repression. Given this, one must ask: Is acknowledging the Armenian genocide in Turkey’s long-term interest?
Scholars have identified a “template of denial” that perpetrators of such crimes use to maintain the status quo. First and foremost, they do not acknowledge that genocide took place. Instead, they invert the story to portray the victims as perpetrators. They then insist that a larger number of victims came from the perpetrator’s group and downplay the total number of victims. Official documents that might challenge this version of events are destroyed.
Based on this new story, deniers then argue that the crime does not fit the legal definition of genocide in international conventions. Other states are then pressured to accept the revised account and not to call the crime a genocide. The crime is to be relativized in whatever way possible.