ABC 7.30 airs feature on Turkish Gallipoli ban threat against Australians

(, SYDNEY) – Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), aired a powerful feature on Australia’s connection to the Armenian Genocide, and the recent threats made by the Turkey’s Foreign Ministry to ban Australian politicians from attending ANZAC Day centenary commemorations in Gallipoli.

The feature was part of the prime-time “7.30” program (WATCH THE FEATURE BY CLICKING HERE), and was prepared by the ABC’s Chief Defence Correspondent, Michael Brissenden.

The threat to ban Australian politicians was initially made after the country’s largest state’s parliament (New South Wales) adopted a unanimous motion to recognise and condemn the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian genocides perpetrated by the Ottoman-Turkish Empire.

In the 7.30 program, Turkey’s Consul General in New South Wales, Ms Gulseren Celik, confirmed the threat. Since the threats were made, politicians including NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, Rev. Fred Nile and Marie Ficarra have condemned them as an attempt by Turkey to muzzle allies from recognising a dark chapter in the country’s history.

During World War I, countless numbers of Australian Prisoners of War recorded witnessing the mass deportations and massacres of the Armenian people. Turkish Consul General Celik also claimed that these testimonies are fabrications of history; a claim denied by some of Australia’s leading historians, including Dr. Peter Stanley, the pre-eminent expert on Australian WWI history.

This intertwining of Australian and Armenian histories was covered in the 7.30 feature, which included direct quotes from prominent Australian ANZACs, one of whom ended up a Minister in government.

The Armenian National Committee of Australia’s Executive Director, Vache Kahramanian, remarked: “The 7.30 feature provides a powerful insight into the extent that the Turkish Government is willing to go to deny the Armenian Genocide.”

“We thank Michael Brissenden and the ABC for covering an important part of Australian and Armenian history, which will set the foundations for continued education of mainstream society,” he added.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 21/08/2013

Reporter: Michael Brissenden

The Turkish government uses the centenary celebrations at Gallipoli to try to shut down criticism of the Armenian genocide.

Transcript of the broadcast

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The Turkish Government is threatening to ban a group of Australian politicians from the centenary celebrations at Gallipoli in 2015 in what some see as a bald attempt to rewrite its own World War I history.

It goes back to May this year when the New South Wales Parliament passed a motion recognising the Armenian genocide, carried out by the Ottoman Turk regime, in which an estimated million and a half people died.

The move infuriated Turkish authorities, who are now threatening retaliation.

National security correspondent Michael Brissenden has this exclusive report.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN, REPORTER: Every April, Australians in their thousands make the pilgrimage to Gallipoli to commemorate the national mythology forged on the beaches of Anzac Cove. What few Australians realise is that the day coincides with another anniversary of an even more tragic episode in history.

PETER STANLEY, MILITARY HISTORIAN: So as well as the myths that we seem to find ourselves unable to escape from, we also want to embrace the truth of Gallipoli, and the fact is is that the Armenian genocide happened almost within days of the invasion of Gallipoli.

COLIN TATZ, VISITING FELLOW, ANU: In my view, it’s both. It’s the 100th anniversary of the genocidal events and the 100th anniversary of the famous Gallipoli landings.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: On the eve of what Australians call Anzac Day, Armenians around the world hold their own day of remembrance to mark the wholesale annihilation of Armenian Christians in the dying days of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

FRED NILE, NSW LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: And they just eliminated people systematically, community by community, village by village. And in fact it’s interesting when Adolf Hitler planned to have the genocide of the Jews, there were some questions asked, and he said himself, “Don’t worry, who remembers the Armenian genocide?”

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Fred Nile has just returned from a tour of Armenia with a cross-party delegation.

FRED NILE: Well I think we have to deal with the truth and I hope Australia is mature enough to do that.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But the response from the Turks to the motions passed by both houses of the NSW Parliament recognising and condemning the Armenian genocide has been blistering.

GULSEREN CELIK, TURKISH CONSUL-GENERAL, NSW: These people want to hijack this very special bond, the Turkish ANZAC spirit, this is their target.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Turkish Consul-General has written a lengthy and angry response to the NSW Parliament, condemning what she describes as the baseless allegations of genocide.

GULSEREN CELIK: There certainly is no scholarly consensus on the events of 1915. There are quite a few number of non-Turkish historians who do not accept the genocide thesis.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The genocide debate has long inflamed passions on both sides. The description “genocide” has consistently been dismissed by the Turks as a one-sided representation of history.

Despite reports at the time of mass evacuations of Armenian villages far from conflict zones, evidence of forced marches, eyewitness testimony and countless academic investigations.

COLIN TATZ: There is categorical evidence from scholarship around the world that what happened between 1915 and 1922 was a genocide of the Armenians, the Pontian Greeks and the Assyrian community to the extent of roughly one half of their total population.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Colin Tatz is one of the world’s most prominent genocide scholars. He’s vilified by Turkish nationalists and his research has been challenged by the Turkish Government.

COLIN TATZ: Never in history has a nation state been so dedicated to the eradication of what they call a lie.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And the Turkish state has hit back with a threat to the one event that has for decades now underpinned our close diplomatic relations. A Foreign Ministry statement says the proponents of this motion will no longer be welcome at the Gallipoli commemorations.

TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTRY STATEMENT (male voiceover): “These persons who try to damage the spirit of Canakkale/Gallipoli will also not have their place in the Canakkale ceremonies where we commemorate our sons lying side by side in our soil.”

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The local council at Gallipoli has also made it clear that critics will not be welcome at the centenary celebrations in 2015.

GALLIPOLI LOCAL COUNCIL (male voiceover): “We announce to the public that we will not forgive those who are behind these decisions and that we do not want to see them in Canakkale anymore.”

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: So the Premier and members of the Parliament will not be welcome at the 2015 celebrations?

GULSEREN CELIK: Well, I think one should read the press statement of our ministry carefully.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well the press statement says they won’t be welcome, so one would assume that they won’t be given the visas to go.


FRED NILE: I’m not gonna have a heart attack if I can’t go there, but I think it’s unfair to have some blanket ban on all members of the NSW Parliament.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But the motion passed by the NSW Parliament is a moment the Australian, Armenian, Greek and Syrian communities have been waiting for for some time.

Panayiotis Diamadis has been collating evidence and eyewitness accounts of the genocide written by Australian POWs captured by the Turks. Most were held in empty Armenian churches in emptied out Armenian villages.

PANAYIOTIS DIAMADIS, UTS: “Turkish soldiers armed with whips were driving the women and children into the sheep trucks. It was evidently intended to transport them to some distant concentration camp.”

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: That’s one of many accounts written by POWs who returned. Another one of them was Colonel Thomas White, who later became a politician and a minister in the Lyons Government. His eyewitness account describes passing columns of Armenians being marched to certain death in the desert. Dead bodies littered the side of the road.

The Turkish Consul-General describes the claims that Australian POWs witnessed genocide as a fabrication.

GULSEREN CELIK: They were imprisoned in western part of Anatolia, so they could not witness the so-called genocides.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And even here at the Australian War Memorial, there’s almost no mention of the Armenian genocide.

The link between the ANZACs, Gallipoli and the Armenian genocide is a sensitive area for all, wrapped as it is in the legend of two nations who cling to the significance that this one military campaign has had on their national identities. Turkish officials are frequent visitors here and Armenian Australians have long been critical of the influence they believe the Turks have had on how the memorial has depicted Australia’s First World War experience.

PETER STANLEY: I think the Turks are expecting that the friendship that we forged through Gallipoli, which is genuine, is enough to paper over our knowledge of the Armenian genocide. But the fact is it isn’t, because Australians want to know the truth about the First World War, and the truth about the Great War is is that 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

LEIGH SALES: Michael Brissenden reporting.

Turkey’s “race codes” and the Ottoman legacy


The revelation that modern Turkey continues secretly to classify its citizens according to religious criteria reflects the weight of the Ottoman past. It also has implications for those in the middle east seeking a state based on equality before law, says Vicken Cheterian.

Only days before the verdict in the latest “Ergenekon” trials in Turkey, an equally important but far less publicised scandal was revealed by a small-circulation newspaper: the Armenian-Turkish weekly Agos. The paper, which established its reputation under the editorship of Hrant Dink, who was assassinated in January 2007, revealed on 1 August 2013 that the Turkish state was using “race codes” in official statistics to codify the religious belonging of its citizens.

The newspaper made the discovery after a family had applied to register its children with an Armenian school in Istanbul, and were then asked to prove that they had the so-called “2 code”. Agos went on to claim that the Turkish government codified its minority citizens  according to numbered categories: “1” for Greeks, “2” for Armenians, and “3” for Jews. Some Turkish newspapers, picking up the story, added that Assyrians were filed under “4”, and “others” under “5”.

A week after Agos’s revelations, Turkey’s interior ministry confirmed the practice. In a communiqué it declared: “A minority citizen’s race status is given to the education ministry depending on the nationality or race information taken from the state register of the Ottoman period.” Turkish official sources confirm that the practice has continued since 1923: that is, since the establishment of the modern Turkish republic. Although there have been rumours and allegations, this is the first time Turkish state officials have openly admitted to it.

At first glance it is surprising that for nine decades the Turkish state has been operating “race codes” that enable it to collect information about the religious identity of its citizens. After all, the state still pretends to be secular: that is, to upholding the separation of political institutions (and especially the practice of justice) from influence by individual and collective religious beliefs. But the revelation also draws renewed attention to the continued power of the Ottoman legacy in modern Turkey, and is too important to be buried under the media’s never-ending stream of headline news.

The Ottoman contradiction

At its heart, what Agos has exposed highlights the internal contradictions of the Ottoman empire, and thus its failure to reform itself in the 19th-century – a tragedy that has left its marks on post-Ottoman political systems. Indeed, the failure is freshly relevant today with regard to political battles both in Turkey and across the entire middle east. The outcome of these battles – whetherbuilding the rule of law, or allowing the “Arab spring” to decay and ultimately collapse – will depend to a great extent on how far the post-Ottoman inheritance is understood.

The decline and fall of the Ottoman empire is a long story, but two key points stand out. The first is the the empire’s incapacity to create conditions of equality to its subjects. The Ottoman state was constructed as theocratic. The majority, ruling religion was Sunni Muslim, but the “millet system” also recognised confessional communities (mainly Rum [i.e. Orthodox Greeks], Armenians and Jews as well as Muslims); these were guaranteed religious freedom and self-rule in exchange for loyalty.

The power of the empire weakened throughout the 19th century, and the theocratic nature of its political system became increasingly pronounced. Around 40% of the population of the empire was then non-Muslim, mainly belonging to various Christian denominations, yet they were not admitted to be equal under the Ottoman juridical system. For example, Muslims but not Christians had the right to bear arms, a rule that reflected a division of labour whereby the former served in the army and state bureaucracy while the latter were mainly artisans, traders, and farmers.

The empire’s growing crisis, including its financial problems, led to increased taxes being imposed on the Christian population, igniting successive revolts that were met by outright massacres. Any struggle between Muslims and Christians, for example between Armenians and Kurds over land in eastern Anatolia, tended to remain unequal, for only the former group was armed and supported by the state bureaucracy. This formed the background of European powers’ intervention in Ottoman internal affairs, where they both demanded reforms and advanced their own imperial interests.

The Ottoman state made various reform attempts. The most important was the “tanzimat” that began in 1839, which aimed at guaranteeing all Ottoman subjects civil rights. The declaration of Hatt-i Humayun in 1856 affirmedequality of treatment regardless of religion or creed. Yet neither equality nor guarantees of security resulted, for both the Sultan himself and powerful religious networks sabotaged the reforms’ application. It was often the case that a formal declaration of reform was the prelude to great violence against minorities.

Here is the second important point about Ottoman decline: legal reform had no impact in practice, in fact it could even have the opposite effect. In the end, the inability of the Ottoman state to reform led to its demise. The Balkan peoples revolted one after the other, and by then continuous Ottoman massacres and threats could not save the empire.

The political failure

What happened after collapse? What is most striking about the post-Ottoman political systems is that amid much talk of “modernism”  and “secularism”, the old practice – of regimes considering their people as subjects who were part of a millet, rather than as citizens enjoying legal rights – continued.

The legacy was powerful. In 1908, with the Ittihadist (Young Turk) revolution in Turkey, the first “modernising” party had come to power in Istanbul, and planned a new political order. Most Ittihadist leaders were avowed atheists, but nevertheless they denied equality in law between Muslims and gavur(infidels), and launched a campaign of annihilation against religious minorities (Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks).

The Turkey led after 1923 by Kemal Ataturk – hailed by many in the west as a model of authoritarian modernism – declared itself to be secular even as it discriminated against – and secretly “coded” – religious minorities (which after war, genocide and expulsion collapsed). In the 1927 census, non-Muslim minorities constituted 2.5% of the Turkish population, down from 20% in 1906. In a country of 75 million today, the proportion is not more than 0.1%). The number of Armenians in Turkey is estimated at 60,000, Jews at 5,000, Assyrians at 3,000, and Greeks at 2,000.

The coding of the minorities has consequences. There is anecdotal evidence that even grandchildren of converts from Christianity to Islam (which often happens under duress) are not only “filed” by state officials, but also regarded with suspicion: descendants of converts have been barred from accessing certain jobs, such as within the military, diplomatic service, or even as civilian pilots.

The policy of discrimination against minorities was also exercised collectively. This is shown by the controversy around the (Greek) Haghia Triada monasteryon Heybeliada island with its theological school, confiscated by the Turkish authorities – along with 1,410 other properties belonging to minority foundations – in 1971. The confiscation of half the lands of the (Assyrian) Mor Gabriel monastery in 2008 is a more recent example, an act that is threatening the viability of this 1,700-year-old foundation.

This practice has not ended, despite continuous official claims. On 5 July 2013, the Mufti of Trabzon entered the Haghia Sophia church in the city with a group of believers, both to pray and to “reconvert” this former Byzantine church (it was turned into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest, then in 1964 into a museum). There is increasing pressure to change Istanbul’s Haghia Sophia, now a museum, into a mosque.

When Caliph Omar ibn Al-Khattab entered Jerusalem he visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to receive the keys of the city from the Patriarch Sophronius. When he heard the call for prayer he hurried to leave the church and pray outside. When the priests invited him to pray inside the church he declined, saying that if he prayed inside the church Muslims after him would take that an excuse to convert the church into a mosque.

Yet, the example given by such companions was soon forgotten. Politics is the art of balancing power relations and making compromises, while religion is supposed to provide people with guidance of a “higher”, moral type. The constant mixing of religion with politics has both failed to alleviate politics and corrupted religion by involving it in the daily practice of power and the crimes associated with it. In the 19th-century Ottoman world the major division of inequality was between the ruling Muslim majority and the Christian millet; in the middle east today it is upheaval and chaos caused by the disintegration of the political space on confessional lines, pitting Sunni and Shi’a Islam against each other, as a veil behind the developing power-struggle.

The next Arab model

This new Turkish scandal is relevant in two ways to the current debate over the Arab upheaval. The first is the much-discussed issue of whether Turkey can provide a role model for the future Arab political system. Both before and after the Arab spring, many argued that Turkey represented a harmonious synthesis between Islam and democracy, and suggested that Arab political currents should learn from it. Now, a series of events – the violent treatment of the Gezi park demonstrations, the latest Ergenekon episode and its attention to Turkey’s “deep state”, the record numbers of imprisoned journalists, followed by the scandal of the race codes – shows that Turkey itself is moving further away from the rule of law, and is hardly in a position to suggest solutions for others.

The second area where Turkey is relevant is the revived debate about secularism. Many in the middle east associate secularism with political systems such as Ba’athism in Iraq and Syria, and Nasserism in Egypt. It’s true that Lebanon continues to be a classic post-Ottoman system, in which the millet system survived and prospered; but the other three states also operated the millet system while pretending to be secular and modern – much like Kemalist Turkey. The Kemalist model also failed in other ways; although it managed to eliminate its Christian millet, it could not assimilate Turkey’s Kurdish population in spite of several decades of imposed “Turkification”.

Just like the nationalist regimes of the past, the Arab political movements that have emerged since 2011 continue to be ambivalent when it comes to the rule of law. Although they demand freedom, it is not clear what kind of institutional set-up many of those movements are seeking.

If the rule of law is the aim, then every citizen in that system should be treated equally in face of the justice system. It s not possible to have the rule of law for only one section of society, while other sections are treated as second-degree based on their religious beliefs (or lack of belief). In this domain, the question of race codes is a reminder that Turkey is still living under the long shadow of the Ottoman empire. For their part, the Arab political movements have still a long journey to make before they evolve from members of a milletinto citizens.

Diyarbakir Exodus Chronicles Memories of Three Families

( – By Gabriella Gage

The late Josephine Mangasarian’s Diyarbakir Exodus is more than the story of a singular life; the memoir is an extensive family history — the interconnected stories of Mangasarian’s mother’s, father’s and husband’s families — between the years 1895 and 1927. In April, the Mangasarian family published her unfinished memoir.

The Achod Amassian family in Aleppo, circa 1913, young Josephine Mangasarian pictured fifth from left

In 1905, Josephine Mangasarian’s father, Achod Amassian, accepted a transfer from his post at the Diyarbakir telegraph office at the mysterious urging of the telegraph office’s director and relocated his young family there — roughly a 15-day journey. Her family was in Aleppo at the time of the Genocide and deportations and she watched as countless relatives came to Aleppo seeking refuge and rebuilding. At one time, 20 people were living in her family home, many of whom were friends and family who had fled the massacres.

Josephine Mangasarian wrote of how she collected these stories, saying, “The events that I have described in this family memoir are all true. The account of these incidents was related to me by the survivors who took refuge in my family’s home in Aleppo.” Her father’s position at the telegraph office afforded her access to secret messages that he decoded corroborating the mass killings and much of what she learned was confirmed by eyewitness accounts from family members.

The publication of Diyarbakir Exodus itself was a family endeavor. Josephine Mangasarian began the work with three detailed genealogical charts completed in her late 80s. From there, she wrote 270 pages by hand about her family and the events during this time period.

Josephine Mangasarian died in 2002 before she could complete the section on the 35 years of her life spent in Baghdad, Iraq after they left Syria. Her son, John Mangasarian, had already begun aiding his mother in her endeavor by transcribing and typing her handwritten pages. Upon her death, he continued editing and assembling the materials for the book until he passed the torch to his sister-in-law, Claire Mangasarian, in 2010. In 2011, John Mangasarian died and she continued editing and assembling the manuscript. Claire Mangasarian, a painter, had experience assembling memoirs after she had put together and published her own grandfather’s memoir, Farewell Kharpert: The Autobiography of Boghos Jafarian, years prior to her work as editor on the Mangasarian text.

Josephine Amassian Mangasarian

Claire Mangasarian described her mother-in-law as a “very generous and very confident in her own ability,” who had spent years of her life working with charitable organizations in Baghdad. According to Claire Mangasarian, Josephine was known for her “sharp mind” and spoke five languages.

Unlike many memoirs centered on Genocide survival, “hers shows the day-to-day life and situation of a young Armenian woman and the experiences of these families that fled during turbulent times and started to rebuild,” said Claire Mangasarian.

In addition to the three family histories — that of the Amassians, Kurkgys and Mangasarians — Diyarbakir Exodus includes several rare photographs offering a visual perspective into these stories.

Copies of Diyarbakir Exodus are available at the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) and the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA), with further copies available upon request.

– See more at:

The Father of Genocide

( The Father of Genocide – Outraged by the Ottomans’ massacres of Armenians, a young Polish lawyer pushed to have the crime of genocide enshrined in law –


During World War I, Soghomon Tehlirian, an Armenian civilian, looked on helplessly as Ottoman troops shot his mother, raped his sisters and hacked his brother to death. Six years later, on a Berlin street, Tehlirian approached Talaat Pasha, a grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire who had coordinated the killing of Armenians. “This is for my mother,” he told Pasha as he shot him dead.

The press hailed Tehlirian as a hero. But legally his situation was a disaster. Whereas Pasha never had to face a court, Tehlirian was put on trial as a common murderer. In the event, he was set free, but only because a Berlin court was willing to pretend that he had acted under “psychological compulsion.”

Raphael Lemkin, then a young law student at the University of Lwow, wasn’t satisfied with that subterfuge. He was revolted that somebody who had “upheld the moral order of mankind” should be “classified as insane.” And so Lemkin set out to persuade the world to adopt a law against the kind of “racial or religious murder” that had claimed the lives of Tehlirian’s relatives.

Against the odds, he succeeded.

“Totally Unofficial,” Lemkin’s posthumous autobiography, tells the story of his remarkable achievements. Born in 1900 to Polish-Jewish parents of modest means in a remote corner of Western Ukraine, his rise was meteoric. In short succession, he established himself as a prominent lawyer in Warsaw, escaped the Nazi invasion of Poland, coined the term “genocide,” served as an adviser to the U.S. War Department and became a law professor at Yale.

Totally Unofficial – By Raphael Lemkin, edited by Donna-Lee Frieze

Thanks to Lemkin’s efforts, on Nov. 9, 1948, the 10th anniversary of Kristallnacht , the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.” Cleaving closely to his proposal, it described genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.”

The horrors of the Holocaust had helped sway world opinion in favor of Lemkin’s cause. And yet he emphasized that—from Nero’s persecution of the Christians to the Mongols’ massacres of Eastern Europeans in the 13th century—genocide had occurred many times throughout history. It was at his insistence that the U.N.’s definition covered all cases—past, present or future—in which an ethnic or religious group was marked out for destruction.

Thanks to this adaptability, the term has gained lasting political as well as legal relevance. In the decades since Lemkin died of a heart attack in 1959, the term he invented has become the focus of a strange tug of war: Activists hope that the powerful label of genocide might move reluctant publics to stop atrocities; politicians fear that it could force them into costly foreign adventures or preclude negotiated settlements. In cases like Darfur, the question of whether given atrocities amount to “genocide” now plays a key role in determining how the international community will act.

Unfinished at his death, and published now for the first time, Lemkin’s autobiography gives a detailed account of his tireless advocacy. It will prove useful to generations of historians. But, like most autobiographies by historical figures, it also aims to cast its protagonist in a flattering light. By that metric, it is at best a mixed success.

“Totally Unofficial” suffers from big chronological jumps and uneven prose. While Lemkin is candid in parts, he just as frequently veers into the smug or self-righteous. Most of his contemporaries at the U.N. respected him; few found him winning. His autobiography makes it easy to see why.

In recent years, Lemkin has been lionized as a lone fighter who managed to make the world a better place. (The best example is “A Problem From Hell,” the 2002 best seller that launched the career of Samantha Power, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the U.S. ambassadorship to the U.N.) This is very much the reading Lemkin himself encourages, promising to show his readers “how a private individual almost single-handedly can succeed in imposing a moral law on the world.”

The truth is more complicated. Lemkin was clearly a man of rare talents and single-minded devotion. To further the “lifesaving idea” for which, he believed, providence had chosen him as a “messenger boy,” he remained single, gave up a lucrative legal career and literally worked himself to death. Down to the details—like his poverty and his lifelong impatience with small talk—he makes for an excellent secular saint.

And yet his influence may not have been as transformative as he thought. The genocide convention would never have passed if it hadn’t been conformable to the interests of contemporary superpowers. Locked in a battle for ideological supremacy, the U.S. and the Soviet Union had strong reasons of their own to play to world opinion by condemning genocide. That also explains why Lemkin’s star quickly faded when he began to advocate for an international court to prosecute state officials for war crimes. While the great powers were happy to pay lip service to his lofty ideals, they were unwilling to compromise their sovereignty.

In the end, then, Lemkin doesn’t quite fit the role of the extraordinary individual bending history to his will. His life is interesting in an altogether different way: It is emblematic of both the ample promise and the real disappointment of international law.

In Lemkin’s own words, the point of the genocide convention had been nothing less than to be “a starting point for a new conscience.” Over time, he hoped, “a combination of punishment and prevention” would help to avert atrocities. Today, well-funded NGOs raise the alarm as soon as genocide looms in any part of the globe. Under Mr. Obama, the White House has even instituted an Atrocities Prevention Board. (Its first head: Samantha Power.)

But atrocities persist. Plenty of mass murderers remain at large. In recent years, a number of countries have agreed for the International Criminal Court to prosecute their citizens for war crimes, including genocide. But in reality only the genocidal leaders of small powers need to fear justice. Were Tehlirian alive today, he would have as much reason to become a murderer as he did in 1921.

Mr. Mounk’s “Stranger in My Own Country: A Jewish Family in Modern Germany” will be published in January.

A version of this article appeared July 24, 2013, on page A13 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Father Of Genocide.

( – Dr. Donna-Lee Frieze, a scholar of genocide studies from Deakin University in Australia, recently edited the book “Totally Unofficial: The Autobiography of Raphael Lemkin.”
Lemkin, who coined the term “genocide” using the Armenian case as an example, is considered one of the great early thinkers in the field of human rights.
In the interview below, Frieze talks about her work in genocide research and the different aspects of the crime of genocide.