Monday, 13 April 2015

What do the Pope, Kim Kardashian and the Anzacs have in common?

The answer is that they all have some major form of influence over the upcoming centenary of the Armenian genocide, which began on April 24th 1915 – just one day prior to the famous Gallipoli landings.

Only 22 countries officially recognise the Armenian genocide, which took the lives of at least 1.5 million people. From what I have read this is actually a conservative estimate, and does not take into account the deaths of other Christian minorities. Recognition – or rather the lack of it – is a major political issue for some of the countries which have important relationships with Turkey. New Zealand, along with the US, Australia and Israel all fail to officially recognise the Armenian genocide. Diplomatically making this sort of recognition is a very big deal, and Turkey takes a very hard line against any country which dares to make this sort of statement. With the centenary approaching, and high profile people like the Pope and Kim Kardashian helping to raise the issue, it isn't too surprising that Turkish PM Recep Erdogan is looking for cover. Where exactly will he hide? Well, the Anzac centenary is pretty damn close, so who will notice if he moves it a day behind to coincide with the Armenian genocide centenary?

This blog makes a convincing argument that Erdogan has indeed used the Gallipoli centenary as a foil to distract international attention away from the Armenian issue. Here are some words for John Key, Tony Abbott and the legions of Anzac faithful who will attend dawn ceremonies in Turkey to consider:

by not taking a stronger stance against Erdoğan, the international community shows clear signs of double standards in international policy, which simply erode the notions of “truth” and “fairness” – two central concepts for sustaining a just world order. We have already seen, for example during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, that the threat of boycotting events of landmark importance to a nation can be used to exert pressure (in this case over the issue of homophobia). Given statements from Erdoğan such as his claim that ‘women are not equal to men’, combined with the violations of the principles of human rights and a peaceful world order outlined above, it is reasonable to ask why there are no similar calls for boycotts of the 24 April event to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli landing, given its dubious itinerary and goals. 

I strongly doubt that these issues will trouble the conscience of people like Key and Abbott. The Gallipoli commemoration serves a useful political function for the ruling elites of New Zealand, Australia and Turkey. It's unfortunate that “remembering” one piece of tragic history involves obscuring and forgetting another piece of tragic history. Is all this commemoration business really such a big deal? One hundred years is a long time, and don't we have bigger things to worry about today? Here's another point to contemplate:

But, for Dold, the need for formal, US recognition of the genocide goes far beyond even what it would mean to Armenian Americans. “It’s not just an obligation to the Armenians, it’s an obligation to mankind,” he says. The purpose of federal recognition is to create an official framework to prevent such atrocities from reoccurring. He notes an infamous quote attributed to Adolf Hitler, when briefing his generals before the 1939 invasion of Poland: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

If we really want to believe ‘never again,’” Dold says, recalling the popular slogan for Holocaust remembrance, “We first have to recognize what’s gone on.”

That last quote about 'never again' kind of reminds me of something …. how does it go again? “Lest We Forget” or something like that? Maybe we should send some red poppies to the Pope, or Kim Kardashian ….

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