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Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group Publishes Final Report

YEREVAN—The Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group (AGRSG) has just completed its final report, “Resolution with Justice – Reparations for the Armenian Genocide.” The report offers an unprecedented comprehensive analysis of the legal, historical, political, and ethical dimensions of the question of reparations for the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923, including specific recommendations for the components of a complete reparations package.

Prior to formation of the AGRSG in 2007, the limited discourse on reparations for the 1915-1923 Armenian Genocide included abstract notions of territorial return, consideration of particular aspects such as insurance lawsuits, academic and other works focused on a specific part of the overall topic, and sometimes valuable short works treating the issue but without comprehensive or detailed analysis.

The AGRSG was formed in 2007 by four experts in different areas of reparations theory and practice. Their mission was to produce the first systematic, comprehensive, in-depth analysis of the reparations issues raised by the Armenian Genocide. Funded initially by a grant from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun, the AGRSG members are Alfred de Zayas, Jermaine O. McCalpin, Ara Papian, and Henry C. Theriault (Chair). George Aghjayan has served as a special consultant.

After early agreement that some form of repair is an appropriate remedy for the legacy of the Armenian Genocide as it stands today, the AGRSG prepared a preliminary report, which was released for limited distribution in 2009. Completion of the draft was followed by three symposia. The first was a panel discussion featuring three of the report authors, held on May 15, 2010 at George Mason University in the United States, in conjunction with the university’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. The second was a major day-long symposium featuring the four co-authors and a number of other experts on reparations for the Armenian Genocide, conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law through its International Human Rights Law Association, on October 23, 2010. The third was a panel by two of the report authors held in Yerevan, Armenia, on December 11, 2010. The AGRSG is now issuing for broad distribution its final report, an extensive revision and updating of the 2009 preliminary report.

The AGRSG final report remains the only systematic, all-encompassing, in-depth approach to Armenian Genocide Reparations. The report examines the case for reparations from legal, historical, and ethical perspectives (Parts 4, 5, and 6, respectively), offers a plan for a productive reparative process drawing on transitional justice theory and practice (Part 7), and proposes a concrete reparations package (Parts 3 and 8). The report also includes background on the Armenian Genocide (Part 1) and the damages inflicted by it and their impacts today (Part 2). Through its broad dissemination, this report fills a crucial gap in the scholarly work and policy discourse on the Armenian Genocide. It will give Turkish and Armenian individuals as well as civil society and political institutions the information, analysis, and tools to engage the Armenian Genocide issue in a systematic manner that supports meaningful resolution.

The present time is optimal for release of the report. The 100th anniversary year of the beginning of the Genocide, 2015, will see greatly heightened international political, academic, media, artistic, and public interest in the Genocide. In addition, in the past few years, reparations for the Genocide have gone from a marginal concern to a central focus in popular and academic circles. Much of that focus has been on piecemeal individual reparation legal cases. This report represents a decisive step toward a much broader and all-embracing process of repair that is adequate to resolve the extensive outstanding damages of the Genocide. Furthermore, genuine, non-denialist engagement with the legacy of the Genocide is growing in Turkey. Finally, in the past decade, there has emerged a global reparations movement involving numerous victim groups across an array of mass human rights violations. The Armenian case has a place within that movement.

The complete final report will be available in PDF format online. The Executive Summary and Introduction of the final report are already available on the site.

Inquiries about the AGRSG and its report can be directed to Henry Theriault at, +1 (508) 929-8612, or Department of Philosophy, Worcester State University, 486 Chandler Street, Worcester, MA 01602, U.S.A.

1. The positions taken and perspectives expressed in the report are those of the AGRSG members alone, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.

New Book Recounts Son’s Struggle to Understand Father’s Life after Genocide

( Author Douglas Kalajian believes the title of his new book conveys a dilemma that will be familiar to many Armenian Americans born after the tumult that dislodged their parents and grandparents from their homeland. Stories My Father Never Finished Telling Me: Living with the Armenian Legacy of Loss and Silence, recounts Kalajian’s attempts to draw out his father’s story as a survivor of the Armenian Genocide.

The author’s father, Nishan Kalajian, was born in Dikranagerd (Diyarbakir) in 1912. For him, the genocide was not a distant, historic event but the defining reality of his life. He lost his mother, his home, and everything familiar before being cast into the world alone.

“I knew that much from an early age,” Douglas Kalajian said. “But I desperately wanted to know more: How he survived, how he kept his wits and his faith, how he moved forward without being consumed by bitterness and hate.”

His father volunteered none of it. “He dealt with his most painful memories in a most Armenian way, by pushing them aside,” Kalajian said. “My mother warned me never to ask him about any of it, and I never did—at least, not directly.”

But whenever an opportunity presented itself, he’d approach the topic obliquely and with great caution. The results were often frustrating but occasionally fascinating.

“When he responded at all, my father often shared only a scrap or two before changing the subject or retreating to his books,” Kalajian said. “It was left to me to figure out the importance of each scrap, and to connect it to whatever had come before or that came after.”

This is how the life-long conversation between father and son continued, in fits and starts, yielding scattered pieces of a puzzle that the author is still trying to complete more than 20 years after his father’s death.

“As a writer, I felt compelled to tell as much of my father’s story as I could because I believe it holds important lessons,” Kalajian said. “But I also wanted to tell my own story about growing up in the shadow of a great cataclysm with a father who would not speak about what he had experienced.”

The book’s subtitle “conveys my challenge in learning to appreciate a complex cultural inheritance that is rich and wondrous but also dark and painful to contemplate.”

Most important, Kalajian stressed that he wrote the book for his daughter and her generation, in hopes that they’ll figure out “how to celebrate the best parts of that inheritance while finally vanquishing the pain.”

A retired journalist, Kalajian worked as an editor and writer for the Palm Beach Post, the Miami Herald, and the New York Daily News. He lives in Boynton Beach, Fla., with his wife, Robyn. They produce, a website devoted to Armenian cooking. Kalajian is also the author of the non-fiction book Snow Blind, and co-author of They Had No Voice: My Fight For Alabama’s Forgotten Children.

Stories My Father Never Finished Telling Me is his first book with an Armenian theme, and also the first book Kalajian has published independently. It is available from and other online book vendors, or can be ordered from any bookstore.

Genocide Memoirs of Aram and Dirouhi Avedian Published in LA

( LOS ANGELES—Defying Fate, the memoirs of Aram and Dirouhi Avedian and the fifth volume of the Genocide Library, was published recently in Los Angeles.

Dirouhi Cheomlekjian (later Avedian) was born circa 1907 in Izmit. In 1915, she and her family were deported by the Turkish government and marched to the Der Zor desert in Syria, “the mass grave of the Armenian people.” The only one to survive her family’s massacre in Al-Shaddadeh, Dirouhi was adopted by local Arabs. She grew up in the Syrian desert, where years later she met Aram Avedian, her future husband. After spending 13 years in near captivity, she escaped to Aleppo.

The Avedian family in 1938, Aleppo.
The Avedian family in 1938, Aleppo.

Aram Avedian was also born circa 1907, in the Armenian village of Tsitogh, near Erzurum. In 1914, his father froze to death while serving in the Turkish army. At the onset of the genocide, Aram and his family were exiled to the Syrian desert. After being marched for almost a year and witnessing the horrors of the deportation and massacres, Aram and his family reached Al-Raqqah, Syria, where the young boy was kidnapped by an Arab horseman. Aram, too, spent the next 13 years in the Syrian desert, among various Arab families, and he, too, ended up escaping to Aleppo.

Aram and Dirouhi Avedian eventually moved to Los Angeles, where, in the late 1970’s, they wrote down their individual memoirs, wishing to document their experiences of the genocide and survival as testaments for future generations. The couple died within less than three months of each other: Dirouhi passed away in 1987, Aram in 1988.

The Avedians’ handwritten memoirs were later collected and edited by their daughter, Knar Manjikian, who also annotated the resulting volume, Defying Fate, and wrote its introduction. The text was translated into English by Ishkhan Jinbashian. “Whenever my mother spoke of the family members she had lost, she said all she wished was to see them in her dreams,” Manjikian writes.

She adds that after having lived among Arabs for so long and all but forgotten how to speak and write in Armenian, her parents relearned their mother tongue after the age of 20. They achieved this, she writes, by becoming avid readers of Armenian literature and Aleppo’s Arevelk Daily. Her mother further honed her Armenian by corresponding with her brother, who lived in Istanbul, and through public service, as she went on to become a lifelong member of the Armenian Relief Society.

In the foreword to Defying Fate, Hagop Manjikian writes: “Despite the sparseness of [the Avedians’] writings and their humble designation by the authors as a ‘notebook’ and a ‘journal,’ respectively, we had no doubt that they deserved to be published as a full-fledged book, in keeping with our principle of favoring quality over quantity, substance over size, and depth over appearance.”

Copies of Defying Fate can be ordered in the United States by mailing a check to H. and K. Manjikian, 10844 Wrightwood Lane, Studio City, CA 91604. The price of each copy, including shipping, is $15.

A project of H. and K. Manjikian Publications, the Genocide Library was established in 2005 by Mr. and Mrs. Hagop and Knar Manjikian with the goal of publishing key chronicles of the Armenian Genocide. Titles published to date include Passage through Hell by Armen Anush (first and second editions), The Fatal Night by Mikayel Shamtanchian, Death March by Shahen Derderian, The Crime of the Ages by Sebuh Aguni, and Defying Fate by Aram and Dirouhi Avedian. The Genocide Library’s next title is Our Cross, by M. Salpi (Aram Sahakian), slated to be published this year.

Genocide Encyclopedias and the Armenian Genocide

by Alan Whitehorn*

Special for the Armenian Weekly

The two key human rights concepts of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” have their roots in the response to the Young Turk mass deportations and massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Following the April 24, 1915 mass arrests of hundreds of Armenian political, religious, and community leaders in Constantinople and their subsequent exile and deaths, and the massacres of multitudes of other Armenian civilians, the Entente allied powers of England, France, and Russia on May 24, 1915 warned that the Young Turk dictatorship would be held accountable for the massacres and the “new crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization.”

In 1921, Soghomon Tehlirian was put on trial in Germany for having assassinated Mehmet Talat, one of the key Young Turk triumvirate responsible for the deportations and massacres of the Armenians. Raphael Lemkin, a young Polish university student, who would later become a lawyer, wondered why there existed domestic laws to deal with the murder of one person, but no international law to punish those responsible for the mass killing of a million or more persons. During the 1930’s, Lemkin suggested the twin concepts of “vandalism” and “barbarism” to deal with such crimes. The former dealt with the destruction of cultural artifacts, while the latter related to acts of violence against defenseless groups. By 1944, these twin concepts had merged into his proposed international term: “genocide.” The new concept, along with “crimes against humanity,” would become a key pillar of international law.

With the introduction of the two crucial legal concepts of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide,” it remained for scholars and prosecutors alike to apply these principles to specific cases. Over time, there emerged the need to compare different historical and contemporary examples. Pioneering analytical and comparative books, such as Irving Horowitz’s Genocide (New Brunswick, Transaction Books, 1976) and Leo Kuper’s Genocide (Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1981), were penned in this regard. Before long, the field of genocide studies emerged and was formalized with the birth of the International Association of Genocide Studies (IAGS) in 1994. However, a challenge familiar to many in comparative politics arose; given that most individuals and scholars lack the global expertise to know sufficient details about all of the major case studies, there was an urgent need for encyclopedias and dictionaries on genocide.

Drawing intellectual inspiration and editorial guidance from Israel Charny, a pioneering project was launched. In 1999, the two-volume Encyclopedia of Genocide, (Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 1999) was published. With substantial input by Rouben Adalian, the encyclopedia included two-dozen entries about the Armenian Genocide and the Ottoman Young Turk regime. The encyclopedia also contained several thematic entries that cited reference to the Armenian case. Adalian led the way with 17 entries that he penned on such such as the Hamidian Massacres, Adana, Musa Dagh, the Young Turks, Woodrow Wilson, and Henry Morgenthau, Sr. Other prominent authors included Vahakn Dadrian (Armenian Genocide documentation and courts martial), Roger Smith (Armenian Genocide denial), Robert Melson (comparison of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust), Samuel Totten (genocide films and literature), Peter Balakian (poetry on the Armenian Genocide), Sybil Milton (Armin T. Wegner), and Steve Jacobs (Raphael Lemkin). The two volumes were not only pioneering, but remain quite useful even today. This is a testament to their strong scholarship and the continued importance of the topic.

Soon after the appearance of the English-language two volume Encyclopedia of Genocide, a French-language one-volume version appeared: Israel Charny, ed., Le Livre noir de l’humanite: Encyclopedie mondiale des genocides (Toulouse, Editions Privat, 2001). For the most part in the French edition, the entries on the Armenian Genocide and other genocides were the same, but there were a few additions and deletions. Overall, students of the Armenian Genocide were exceptionally well served by the two editions.

The three-volume set edited by Dinah Shelton, titled Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity (Detroit, Thomson Gale, 2005), provided extensive material on the Holocaust and attempted to be more inclusive of other genocides. However, the coverage on the Armenian Genocide (with under 10 full entries) was less in this 3-volume account than in the earlier and smaller English and French Encyclopedia of Genocide. Nevertheless, the entries were written by prominent figures: Vahakn Dadrian (Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Talat), Dennis Papazian (Armenians in Russia and the USSR), Michael Hagopian (Armenian Genocide documentary films), Atom Egoyan (Armenian Genocide feature films), and Peter Balakian (poetry, including a section on the Armenian Genocide).

The cluster of entries was stronger on the arts angle of the Armenian Genocide than the history or sociology. For example, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. addressing the Holocaust was listed, but not Henry Morgenthau, Sr. on the Armenian Genocide. The entry on Benjamin Whitaker was an important one, but remained silent on the Turkish government’s powerful efforts to thwart the UN’s Whitaker Report, which contained an important historical reference to the Armenian Genocide. The encyclopedia did, however, include an entry by Christopher Simpson on German missionary Johannes Lepsius and his brave report during World War I on the Armenian massacres. On another positive note, some of the thematic entries provided references to the Armenian Genocide.

The one-volume account edited by Leslie Horvitz and Christopher Catherwood, Encyclopedia of War Crimes and Genocide (New York, Facts on File, 2006), contained only one main entry on the Armenian Genocide and one partial reference in the entry on “crimes against humanity.” This was inadequate coverage of one of the major genocides of the 20th century. It seemed that the pattern had become one of declining coverage. But that was about to change.

The two-volume collection co-edited and co-authored by Samuel Totten and Paul Bartrop (with some assistance from Steve Jacobs), titled Dictionary of Genocide (Westport, Greenwood, 2008), saw a return to more comprehensive coverage. While no Armenian Genocide specialist authors were listed as contributors, the volumes included at least 40 entries on the Armenian Genocide and covered a wide range of topics. Entries dealt with the key perpetrators (Abdul Hamid II, Committee of Union and Progress/CUP, Ahmed Djemal, Ismail Enver, Mehemet Talat, Mehemed Nazim), famous places and incidents (Adana, Deir ez Zor, Forty Days of Musa Dagh), key humanitarian figures (Johannes Lepsius, British Viscount James Bryce, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, German military medic Armin T. Wegner), international reaction (British and the Bryce Report on the “Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire,” American on the formation of the “Armenian Atrocities Committee”), films (“Ararat,” “Voices from the Lake,” “Armenia: The Betrayed”), genocide centers (Armenian Genocide Institute Museum, Zoryan Institute), Armenian Genocide denialist authors (Bernard Lewis, Justin McCarthy), links to related Ottoman genocides (Assyrians, Pontic Greeks), and the Holocaust. It is a highly readable set of volumes that provides useful summary information about the Armenian Genocide. However, some readers would want more detailed entries, and that was about to appear.

In the internet age, it was inevitable that an online encyclopedia of genocide would emerge. The American educational publisher ABC-CLIO recently created a large database on genocide that was primarily intended for high school students and teachers, but would also be valuable to university students and professors. Entitled “Modern Genocide: Understanding Causes and Consequences,” it is available for an annual subscription fee. Developed in consultation with an advisory board comprised of Paul Bartrop, Steven Jacobs, and Suzanne Ransleben, the database continues to grow and be updated. At the current time, it contains seven main entries on the Armenian Genocide (Overview, Causes, Consequences, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders, International Reaction) by Alan Whitehorn. There are also several discussion essays by various authors (including Colin Tatz and Henry Theriault) on Armenian Genocide recognition and how well the genocide has been known, and about 70 individual subject entries. Entries include pieces done by Rouben Adalian, Paul Bartrop, Zaven Khatchaturian, Robert Melson, Khatchig Mouradian, Rubina Peroomian, George Shirinian, Roger Smith, and others. However, not as many Armenian Genocide specialists have contributed as one might have expected. In addition to the encyclopedia entries and genocide timeline, there are some primary source documents and photos. The online database provides useful insight on the Armenian Genocide. It also suggests what might be possible if all of the entries were to be gathered together into a separate encyclopedic volume that is focused on the genocide. Unfortunately, this is something that has not yet been done, but that one hopes will occur before 2015.

Quite significantly, all of the genocide encyclopedias together show that the Armenian Genocide constitutes an important case study, as it is included in each and every genocide encyclopedia from the first to the most recent. This reflects academic consensus among genocide scholars that the mass deportations and killings of Armenians constitute genocide. These important scholarly reference works thus provide significant academic documentation that can serve to repudiate the Turkish state’s repeated polemical denials of the Armenian Genocide. Accordingly, these genocide encyclopedias ought to be cited by scholars, jurists, and citizens alike. The European Court of Human Rights, in its recent (Dec. 17, 2013) flawed decision on Armenian Genocide denial, should have been aware of such key academic reference works. If they had, their reasoning, in all likelihood, would have been different. Without a doubt, these encyclopedias’ coverage of the Armenian Genocide remind us that time is long overdue for the Turkish government and its citizens to face the dark pages of their history.

*Alan Whitehorn is an emeritus professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada and author of a several books on the Armenian Genocide, including Just Poems: Reflections on the Armenian Genocide.

Photo caption: Drawing intellectual inspiration and editorial guidance from Israel Charny, a pioneering project was launched. In 1999, the two-volume Encyclopedia of Genocide, (Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 1999) was published.

Turkish version of “Ravished Armenia” by Arshaluys Mardiganian published in Turkey

( – The Turkish version of “Ravished Armenia” by Armenian Genocide survivor Arshaluys Mardiganian has been published in Turkey.

Arshaluys Mardiganian’s “Ravished Armenia” has been translated into Turkish language by the former worker of Istanbul-based “Agos” periodical Tiran Lokmagyozyan. The book was publishrd by Turkish Pencere Yayınları publishing house.

Taraf’s columnist Özlem Ertan reflected upon the Turkish version of the book and stated that this is a must read book. Among other things Özlem Ertan underscored: “One must read Arshaluys Mardiganian’s book to get in touch with the painful phantoms of the past and to listen to the voice of conscience.”

Aurora (Arshaluys) Mardiganian

Aurora (Arshaluys) Mardiganian (January 12, 1901, Çemişgezek, Mamuret-ül Aziz, Ottoman Empire – February 6, 1994, Los Angeles, California, USA) was an Armenian American author, actress and a survivor of the Armenian Genocide.

Aurora Mardiganian was the daughter of a prosperous Armenian family living in Chmshgatsak (Çemişgezek), twenty miles north of Harput, Ottoman Turkey. Witnessing the deaths of her family members and being forced to march over 1,400 miles, during which she was kidnapped and sold into the slave markets of Anatolia, Mardiganian escaped to Tiflis (modern Tbilisi, Georgia), then to St. Petersburg, from where she traveled to Oslo and finally, with the help of Near East Relief, to New York.

In New York, she was approached by Harvey Gates, a young screenwriter, who helped her write and publish a narrative that is often described as a memoir titled Ravished Armenia (full title Ravished Armenia; the Story of Aurora Mardiganian, the Christian Girl, Who Survived the Great Massacres (1918).[1]

The narrative Ravished Armenia was used for writing a film script that was produced in 1919, Mardiganian playing herself, and first screened in London as the Auction of Souls. The first New York performance of the silent film, entitled Ravished Armeniatook place on February 16, 1919, in the ballroom of the Plaza Hotel, with society leaders, Mrs. Oliver Harriman and Mrs. George W. Vanderbilt, serving as co-hostesses on behalf of the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief.

Mardiganian was referred to in the press as the Joan of Arc of Armenia, describing her role as the spokesperson for the victims of the horrors that were then taking place in Turkey and the catalyst for the humanist movement in America. In the 1920s Mardiganian married and lived in Los Angeles until her death on February 6, 1994.

New book provides shocking evidence of German co-responsibility in Armenian Genocide

The Zoryan Institute

“Keep Turkey on our side …
whether as a result Armenians do perish or not.”
The German ambassador in Constantinople, Count Paul Wolff-Metternich, wrote to the Imperial Chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, in Berlin on December 7, 1915:

… Our displeasure over the persecution of the Armenians should be clearly expressed in our press and an end be put to our gushing over the Turks. Whatever they are accomplishing is due to our doing; those are our officers, our cannons, our money… In order to achieve any success in the Armenian question, we will have to inspire fear in the Turkish government regarding the consequences. If, for military considerations, we do not dare to confront it with a firmer stance, then we will have no choice but… to stand back and watch how our ally continues to massacre.

The Chancellor’s response:

The proposed public reprimand of an ally in the course of a war would be an act which is unprecedented in history. Our only aim is to keep Turkey on our side until the end of the war, no matter whether as a result Armenians do perish or not.

Toronto—The Zoryan Institute is pleased to announce that the long-awaited English edition of The Armenian Genocide: Evidence from the German Foreign Office Archives, 1915-1916, compiled and edited by Wolfgang Gust, has just been released by Berghahn Books. It contains hundreds of telegrams, letters and reports from German consular officials in the Ottoman Empire to the Foreign Office in Berlin which describe in graphic and shocking detail the unfolding genocide of the Armenians. The documents provide unequivocal evidence of the genocidal intent of the Young Turks and the German government’s official acquiescence and complicity.

Upon the earlier release of the German and Turkish editions of the book, the media reacted emphatically:

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [Germany]—“The documents collected here illustrate clearly the shared responsibility of the Kaiserreich, the most important ally of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War… They are therefore largely undisguised and so vivid that the reader often shudders when reading them.”
Forum Wissenschaft [Germany]—“Wolfgang Gust documents, in this excellent political-historical edition from contemporary German sources and the Foreign Office of the Reich government, the murderous events themselves…as well as the political co-responsibility of the German state.
Hurriyet Daily News [Turkey]—“If you read the book and look at the documents, if you are a person who is introduced to the subject through this book, then there is no way that you would not believe in the genocide and justify the Armenians.”

The exceptional importance of these documents is underscored by the fact that only German diplomats and military officials were able to send uncensored reports out of Turkey during World War I. Apart from the Americans, who remained neutral in the war until April 6, 1917, German diplomats and their informants from the missions or employees of the Baghdad Railway were the most important non-Armenian eyewitnesses of the Genocide. These documents, meant strictly for internal use and never intended for publication, are remarkable for their candid revelations. Even as allies of the Ottoman Empire, German officials still felt compelled for moral and political reasons to report and complain about the atrocities being committed against the Armenians by their Ottoman ally.

In describing how he came to undertake this massive project, Gust writes,
…….I was shocked to see the Germans again playing an important role in mass murder at the edge of Europe. This genocide was neither initiated nor committed by Germans, but was widely accepted by them. Imperial Germany was the closest ally of the Young Turks and had a formal military alliance with them. Was there a link between these two most important genocides in Europe? Did the Nazis copy the methods of the Young Turks, who had committed the Armenian Genocide? Were the two World Wars in reality one historical event, as some historians believe?
Questions upon questions. Was Imperial Germany a driving force in the genocide of the Armenians, or possibly even the source of the idea, as some non-German historians have suspected…. Did Imperial Germany view the Armenian Genocide with indifference or with sympathy? Did some Germans or part of the leading class resist the deportations and mass killings? And finally, did Germany have the power to stop the Armenian Genocide, and if they were able to so, why did they not make use of this power?

The answers to these questions are found in this prodigious 800-page collection. For more information about the book, please contact the Zoryan Institute or telephone 416-250-9807.

The Armenian Genocide: Evidence from the German Foreign Office Archives, 1915-1916, compiled and edited by Wolfgang Gust. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2014. $89.95US, $95.50CDN.

The Zoryan Institute is a non-profit, international center devoted to the research and documentation of contemporary issues with a focus on Genocide, Diaspora and Homeland. The Zoryan Institute through its division, the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, runs an annual course in comparative genocide studies in partnership with the University of Toronto and is co-publisher of Genocide Studies International in partnership with the University of Toronto Press. For more information please contact the Institute by email or telephone 416-250-9807.

Interview with Katia Peltekian – author of ‘’The Times of the Armenian Genocide: Reports in the British Press (1914-192)’’

By Vahakn Karakachian

( – Q- You are a staunch researcher of the Armenian Genocide archives in the foreign press. How did you start this mission?
A-I am not sure if I should be called a staunch researcher since this is not my field of study. I am perhaps an avid reader of news, which then turned into a mission. Now as a volunteer, I do daily compilations for the Armenian News Network Groong and post the latest news on Armenia and Armenians printed in the foreign press. Whenever I am on “holiday” from teaching, I read the old newspapers.
This interest with archival news started years ago when I was doing my graduate studies in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The province’s Archives library was very near Dalhousie University where I was studying. On a cold April afternoon, after submitting a draft of my thesis to my professor, I just went into the library to check if any Canadian newspaper had printed anything about the massacres. What also raised my curiosity was the New York Times compilation by the late Richard Kloian. I was first surprised that nothing was printed in April 1915, but I didn’t give up. My research with one Nova Scotian newspaper, The Halifax Herald, compiled over 250 items from the mid-1890s, 1909 and then from 1915-1922.

Q- You have just published a new book, The Times of the Armenian Genocide: Reports in the British Press (1914-1923), how did you manage to collect all the archival information?
A- For this book, I collected material from the following British newspaper: The Times , The Sunday Times, and The Manchester Guardian [currently known as The Guardian]. I read page by page the microfilm images of the old newspapers at different libraries, depending on where I would be at the time. This was a 12-year project and I’ve used the Reference Library in Toronto, the British Library in London (UK), and the American University of Beirut Library in Lebanon. All three libraries have the microfilms of The Times, so it was easy to keep going without much interruption during those 12 years. However, only the British library carried The Guardian microfilms; therefore, my trips to London were specifically to work on that paper.Of course there are many more British newspapers which were printed in the late 19th centure and early 20th century; it would take decades for one person to find and collect all. The British Library’s newspaper branch at Colindale, north of London, has over 30,000 newspapers, including the hundreds of newspapers printed in the British Empire as well as thousands from around the world in almost all languages. But it will need a large group of dedicated people to collect most, if not all.
The reason I chose those two major papers is that The Times had the widest circulation at the time, in and out of Britain. It was the paper that officials referred to most, and it recorded parliament debates and sessions; on the other hand, after much examination into a number of British papers, The Guardian was chosen because, in a number of cases, it filled some gaps with more news from the stricken regions, perhaps because a substantial Armenian community lived in Manchester at the time due to Armenian traders.
Each month took me 2 to 3 hours to skim through every page. Once an item was found on the microfilm, which was in many cases not very legible due to scratches from over-use, I made hard copies. Only in the past couple of years did the Toronto Reference Library install computerized microfilm readers, so it was easy to save the images of the pages or articles on a USB flash. And because these micorfilms were not clear enough to the untrained eyes, I re-typed each.

Q- Is this the first time those archives have been come to light?
A- I believe this book is the first to compile the British newspaper items completely & chronologically. There are those who have written about the British response to the on-going massacres, but their sources were different.
What is interesting in this book is that the reader is transported to those days, reads a newspaper article which is written in a very straightforward manner and which describes events and expresses opinions without much convoluted analysis as many history books do; with this book, the reader lives the day-to-day events of that region. There are many details that historians might skip as they would deem it unrelated to their main thesis. Not this book. The reader of these newspaper items will read names of small villages that were wiped out, instead of only the names of the major towns, cities or vilayets. Many times these articles mention names of regular individuals, not necessarily officials. The opinions of the editors regarding events or parliament debates or even the peace negotiations shed interesting light to the reader. In addition, letters to the editor written by some Armenians, but mostly by British citizens and officials, also shed some light on the British response to the massacres and condition of the refugees and orphans; these items would not be included by historians.

Q- Please tell us about your parental ancestral history.
A- Both my grandparents Peltekian & Malatjalian as well as one grandmother Panikian were from the town of Chork Marzban (or DortYöl) along the shores of the gulf of Iskenderoun. The Peltekians owned acres of orange groves in DortYöl , and my great grandfather owned a mill. Although most of the Peltekian family were massacred or died along the deportation route to the Syrian desert, my grandfather survived because he was forced into military service, but as a tailor, and was transferred first to Constantinople and then to Nablus in Palestine. After the end of WW1, those who survived returned to DortYöl in 1919. My paternal grandparents married and lived in the neighborhood of Özerli. But with the French withdrawal from most of Cilicia and the renewal of the massacres, my paternal grandparents as well as many compatriots decided to leave again and go to Iskenderoun. When living conditions again became difficult, my grandparents again left for Damascus (Syria) and then to Amman (Jordan) and Jerusalem.
Of my maternal grandfather Malatjalian, we do not know much. He and two siblings were left orphans, then transported to Cyprus and from there to Jerusalem. Along this route, he was separated from his younger siblings and until the day he died, he did not know what had become of them. He was told they died along the way.
After finishing school, my father also learned tailoring, opened his own shop in Amman where he became the tailor to the kings and prime ministers of Jordan, in addition to many princes of the Arab gulf, including the father of the billionaire Prince Waleed bin Talal. [note: Prince Talal, a brother of the king of Saudi Arabia, had told my father that he, the prince, was proud of having an Armenian mother. One of King Saud’s wives was a young Armenian girl who had reached the deserts of the kingdom.] When my parents married, they decided to move to Lebanon where my three brothers and I were born.

Q- Do you intend to publish your research book ‘’Heralding of the Armenian Genocide: Reports in the Halifax Herald 1894-1922’’ online?
A- Before I embark on any project, I need to recoup my life savings. Both books were published with personal funds, without any financial or moral support from any Armenian or non-Armenian sources. I would first like to print the over 2,500 articles from The Times of 1875-1913 before I re-print the Heralding book. If anything has to be published soon, it needs a full-time commitment, a commitment I cannot make for the time being. For now, it remains just a hobby to read and collect. I do not know when or if the remainder will be put in print for others to read and learn.

“Belge” Publishes Svazlian’s Book In Turkish

Presentation of Verjine Svazlian’s book “The Armenian Genocide: Testimonies of the Eye-witness Survivors” at the National Library of Armenia
Presentation of Verjine Svazlian’s book “The Armenian Genocide: Testimonies of the Eye-witness Survivors” at the National Library of Armenia

by Alisa Gevorgyan

YEREVAN (ArmRadio)—The Turkish-language version of Verzhine Svazlian’s book, Armenian Genocide: Testimonies of Eye-Witness Survivors, has been published by Begle publishing house, headed by Ragip Zarakolu. The Turkish publisher was in Yerevan Tuesday to participate in the book’s Turkish-language release.

The Armenian and English publications of the book were released earlier. The book includes at least 700 testimonies of eye-witness survivors and historic songs.

Starting in 1955, Verzhine Svazlian has been writing down, recording and publishing the testimonies of genocide survivors from Armenia and the diaspora from more than 150 settlements of historic Armenia. She has dedicated 55 years to save the tragic and heroic excerpts in the history of the Armenian people.

Zarakolu was the first to decide to break the wall of denial in Turkey. He founded his own Begle publishing house in Istanbul in 1976, where he published a number of books on the harassment against national minorities in Turkey, as well as the Armenian Genocide.

Zarakolu has often been persecuted in Turkey for his activity, but it has not prevented him from publishing Verzhine Svazlian’s book. Asked whether he’s not afraid to return to Turkey, the publisher said: “I cannot go against my conscience. At the same time I don’t think the Turkish authorities will launch a criminal case against me this time. Experience has shown that these attempts never succeed.”

“Verzhine Svazlian’s name is known to many in Turkey as a ‘pedestal of irrefutable truth.’ This book could become the statue standing on that pedestal. In Turkey the ice is starting to melt and the number of people seeking truth is increasing,” Ragip Zarakolu said.

Director of the Oriental Studies Institute Ruben Safrastyan is confident that Verzhine Svazlian’s book will have a great influence on Turkish society.

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.