by Hayk Demoyan
Within the last five years numerous talks could be heard about the Turks who rescued the Armenians during the years of genocide. The expression “the Turks who rescued the Armenians” sounds a bit strange, if not wrathful to an Armenian hearing. But is it true? An affirmative answer is recorded – yes, it is true. There are myriad examples and stories from handwritten and published memoires of the genocide survivors, as well as from oral stories stating about the mercifulness of ordinary Muslims – Turks, Kurds, Arabs and others, who helped Armenian individuals and whole families to survive, even if temporarily.
Yet, at least two challenges should be considered, referring to this topic. The first one is the classification of such cases. In general, human behavior reacts differently to wars, mass atrocities and natural disasters. Speaking about the Armenian genocide, the first and the most important statement is that the crime constituted a state organized and orchestrated genocide. Moreover, in case of the genocide against the Armenians there was an overwhelming consensus among the majority of the Turkish population of the Ottoman Empire. The latter regarded the state-initiated crime as beneficial for the state and for the security of the Ottoman Empire. It was also regarded as a great chance from the Heaven to make a profit while looting and expropriating Armenian property, as well as the chance for the most fanatical part of the Ottoman Muslims to kill the “infidels” and get permission for entering Paradise. Mass participation in the crimes against the Ottoman Christians, including also Turkish and Kurdish women and children, was also associated with the war time propaganda activities of the ‘Committee of Union and Progress’ government, especially with regard to the announcement of Jihad by late November 1914 shortly after the empire went into the war. This became a fatal point for the mobilization of the Ottoman Muslims to back the state planned crime of the genocide against the Armenians and other Christians.
|Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute|
In this regard the question of the mass participation of Turkish population in the crimes against the Armenians is vividly presented in a telegram sent to Paris Peace conference by Admiral Richard Webb, High Commissionaire in Istanbul:
“To punish all persons guilty of Armenian atrocities would necessitate wholesale execution of the Turks, and I therefore suggest retribution both on a national scale by dismembering the late Turkish empire, as well as individually by the trial of high officials, such as those on my list, whose fate will serve as an example.”(A telegram sent to Paris Peace conference by High Commissionaire in Istanbul Admiral Richard Webb at April 13, 1919.)
This means that at the end of the war Allies had already realized the impossibility of full punishment of the Ottoman Turks who were involved in the crimes en mass.
The second challenge is the growing interest towards the topic of Righteous Turks and the need of the classification of rescue cases. Today we observe two hot topics being widely circulated in Turkey and beyond its borders at the threshold of the Armenian genocide centennial. One is about the “Turks who saved Armenians” and the second is about so called “hidden Armenians” still living in Turkey. Plenty of findings are available for research and data collection, as well as several international conferences also dedicated to this topic.
Tsitsernakaberd memorial complexRA, Armenia Yerevan 0028