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'Playing baseball on the chessboard - thoughts about genocide'

Published: 11-30-1999

Article by Vahid Gazi, director of Baku's INAM Centre for Pluralism/News.Az

My 10-year-old son congratulated me on 23 February, what's known as 'Men's Day', and gave me a 'cruise missile' he had made out of paper in school. The side of the missile was decorated with an Azerbaijani flag, and had a long staircase at the bottom. It resembled the Soviet long-range missile SS-20. When uranium is added to it, the missile can become a nuclear bomb.

Although I accepted the present, I told my son that 23 February marked the establishment of the Soviet Army which put an end to Azerbaijan's independence in 1920, committed a massacre in Baku in January 1990, and helped the Armenians occupy Karabakh. In other words, the day marks the establishment of an army that was alien and hostile towards Azerbaijan. I asked my son to object to his teacher on my behalf over this long forgotten 'holiday'.

Then I asked why had he decided to make a missile. Here is our conversation verbatim.

'Don’t you like it?,' he asked.

'I do. I am just wondering.'

'When you have a real one, will you drop it on Armenia?'

'Why should I?'

'Then I will.'

'Do you know how many cities and villages would be destroyed?'

'Let them be destroyed! Why did they destroy Agdam? Do you remember the video cassette you brought when granny was still alive? Remember how much she cried?'

'But if you launch this rocket, more people will die; mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, kids will die.'

'Let them die! Was it good when they killed old people, stuck cigarettes in children’s eyes, cut off people’s ears and heads in Khojaly?'

I hadn’t told my son about this. Why would I say such things to a 10-year-old boy? …Home, street, school, radio, TV… The breathing sound of the tragedy is everywhere – on 26 February this year it was 18 years since the Khojalymassacre.

 

'But those who did it are thugs, murderers. Do you want to be another murderer? A  murderer killing children, fathers, mothers?'

I almost choked on the word ''murderers'. Although he didn’t fully understand its meaning, he realized that it was nothing good. As I was explaining, I saw him start to think. He didn’t answer my question. Instead, I asked myself in horror, 'Am I raising a murderer?'

 

Path of memory


I retreated to my room. The most dreadful, horrifying and painful memories which I always tried to hide as far as possible were resurfacing. The road leading me there was a path in an unknown direction.

 

… My eyes seemed to be looking inside me, at my recollections. I was going inside myself. I felt as if I was moving through the jungle, clearing, tramping and breaking my own way and reliving the memories as horror enveloped my face like a spider's web…

 

Agdam, my home town, was 18 km away from Khojaly. In the morning after theKhojaly massacre, on 27 February 1992, I went to Agdam. It wasn’t yet a ghost town then. I had promised to write a story for the newspaper I was working for, but couldn’t. My hand could not write what my eyes had seen. A child with eyes hollowed out, a woman with her stomach incised, men with noses and ears cut off…

 

Never before had the Agdam mosque seen so many bodies at the same time. There wasn’t enough firewood, water, people to wash the bodies or cloth to wrap the corpses in. The town was completely paralysed. The wounded were still coming in, POWs were still being exchanged. Eyes were looking towardsKhojaly, numb hands were digging graves. The town had no tears to cry as fear had dried them out.

 

The hands and feet that eventually became gangrenous … People left their homes wearing only  their night-gowns, walked barefoot along secret paths covered with snow, bypassed mountains and forests. Several days later they reached Agdam in groups of five and 10. They spoke about what they had gone through, not in sentences but in separate words, syllables, as if a doctor were administering medicine in doses.

 

No-one knew how many people were left behind. Local commanders were in talks to recover the bodies left behind and to exchange prisoners, while corpses kept coming in. Those released from captivity spoke about the torture and humiliation they had witnessed. Terror was depicted on the faces of those listening.

Fear paralysed the town. The enemy had achieved what it wanted: widespread fear and panic. Those were the most horrifying moments in the history of the town. A year later, Agdam’s own houses, streets, gardens would be destroyed, razed to the ground, set on fire.

 

Disease of hatred


A similar battle occurred 100 years ago too. I remember my grandmother saying,'When we were kids, Armenians killed a lot of Turks. They called us Turks then. They would kill us everywhere. They would cut off our women’s breasts, run a thread through them and throw them onto our soldiers. Those of us who could not bear that and stood out were killed. They would also attach hot samovars to people’s backs and make them run…''


However, my grandmother never told me to hate Armenians! I know that Armenians raise their children in the spirit of hatred for Turks and Azeris. Hatred is connected with memory. There was no hatred left in our memories. In evidence of that, tens of thousands of Azeri men fell in love with Armenian girls and married them. Hundreds of thousands of fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers accepted these Armenian girls into their families. Thousands of kids were born to these families. After so many people have left our country, it is still home to about 30,000 Armenian women. These are official statistics, while the unofficial figure is even higher. Would a hating nation have done that? But can anyone show me an Armenian family that has made an Azerbaijani girl a woman and still accepts her? Can anyone show me such an Armenian father, mother, grandfather and grandmother? I am not talking about exceptional cases; I am talking of thousands, tens of thousands.

 

Search for justice


The Serbs killed up to 10,000 Bosnians in Srebrenica, just because they were Muslims. I saw Bosnia’s devastated villages in 1997 with my own eyes.

Up to 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda in a matter of 100 days. The rate at which people were slaughtered here exceeds that of Nazi concentration camps.

The town of Khojaly was wiped out from the surface of the Earth in just one night. Armenians killed 613, crippled 487 people, while 1,275 civilians, including the elderly, kids and women, were taken prisoner and exposed to inhuman torture. Just because they were Azeris. The whereabouts of 150 people are still unknown. Of those killed, 106 were women and 63 children. Eight families were destroyed completely, 24 children lost both parents. Only 335 of those killed were buried, the legs of 200 people had to be amputated due to the cold.

This did not occur in ancient times, it took place in the early 1990s, when the UN had been in existence for 50 years and the OSCE for almost 20. It happened right in front of the civilizing and humanizing world.

 

A political assessment was given to the events in Rwanda and Bosnia, those guilty of these massacres faced international tribunals, were searched for and were punished. The perpetrators of the Khojaly carnage got away with it. In fact, the then separatist leader, Robert Kocharyan, first became Armenian prime minister and then president. He was welcomed to foreign countries, spoke of democracy and human rights from the UN rostrum. He portrayed himself as a hero in an address at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The person who was in charge of the Armenian army in Nagorno-Karabakh at the time, Serzh Sargsyan, was also the prime minister before. Now he is the Armenian president. This is what he told British journalist Thomas de Waal, the author of well-known book Black Garden about the genocide unleashed on civilians in Khojaly: “We don’t speak loudly about these things… A lot was exaggerated… But I think the main point is something different. Before Khojaly, the Azerbaijanis thought that they were joking with us, they thought that the Armenians were people who could not raise their hand against the civilian population. We were able to break that [stereotype].”[1]


The crime committed with the intention of sowing panic was not just an offence by a group of thugs, it was a premeditated political decision aimed at intimidating people, ousting them from their homes, conducting ethnic cleansing, eliminating the traces of previous owners of vacated territories and 'restoring' the 'ancient' Armenian land, seizing a lot of land for Armenia and expanding it to cover a territory between three seas. The lands the Armenians laid claims to at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference extended from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. [2]. They still have the same claims today. A country with a population of three million has claims on a territory inhabited by over 300 million people. Wouldn’t it look even more reasonable if three million Mongolians started to lay claims to territory now inhabited by over three billion people but which was once ruled by Genghis Khan?

 

Genocide – a modern political game


On 4 March 2010, the International Relations Committee of the US Congress House of Representatives passed a resolution to officially recognize the policy of the Ottoman Empire in 1915 towards Armenians as 'genocide'. Despite all the efforts of Turkey, the US Congress took this step. The process may be suspended at the next stage, but this will hardly change anything. WhatZbigniew Brzezinski described as the 'chess game' of politics has long been under way.

 

When I last visited Washington, my friend Irena Lasota gave me Guenter Lewy’s book The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: a Disputed Genocide. The author writes that the deportation of Armenians from Eastern Anatolia was not a policy of genocide. It was intended to prevent them from establishing a separatist alliance with the enemy during the war and from committing atrocities against the Turks. The killings were not genocidal because it has never been proved that they were masterminded by the government. 'The argument that the deportations in reality constituted a premeditated program of extermination of the Armenians of Turkey is difficult to square with many aspects and characteristics of the relocations.'

The point is that the Armenians living near the border with Russia, in eastern and central Anatolia were resettled. Armenians were not deported from Istanbul, Izmir and Aleppo. Those who died on their way while walking from the country’s east, which had no railways, cannot be described as victims of genocide. 'The Ottoman government wanted to arrange an orderly process, but did not have the means to do so.''[3]


In another section of the book, the author refers to historians Charles Dowsett and Malcolm E. Yapp, the US Middle East ambassador to the Paris Peace Conference, George Montgomery, and the Armenian National Council in Istanbul, and concludes that the death toll of the said period was not 1.5 million, as is claimed by the Armenians, but 642,000. 'These figures can be only approximate, because no death statistics for this period exist.'


Another important element of the book are letters from Henry Morgenthau who led Woodrow Wilson’s presidential campaign in 1912. He was also the US ambassador to Istanbul from November 1913 to February 1916 and represented the interests of the Entente which was at war with Turkey at the time. In a letter dated 26 November 1917, Morgenthau gave President Wilson his suggestions on how to ensure the success of US military policy. He expressed his hopelessness with the opposition and the war, saying that he could publish a book capable of bringing about change: 'I am considering writing a book in which I would lay bare, not only Germany’s permeation of Turkey and the Balkans, but that system as it appears in every country of the world. For in Turkey we see the evil spirit of Germany at its worst – culminating at last in the greatest crime of all ages, the horrible massacre of helpless Armenians and Syrians. This particular detail of the story and Germany’s abettance of the same, I feel positive will appeal to the mass of Americans in small towns and country districts as no other aspect of the war could, and convince them of the necessity of carrying the war to a victorious conclusion.''[4]


The essence of Armenian suffering is deliberately distorted. The hostile description of Turkey and, especially, Germany is intended to justify the US government’s belligerent policies.

The suggestion was accepted and the main document the Armenians would subsequently refer to in order to substantiate their genocide claims (a book called Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story) was published in 1918. His suggestion was subsequently used as a means of pressure on other countries and became known as 'genocide'.

 

Armenian science


Armenianow.com web-site reports that the Institute of Molecular Biology of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences is conducting research to find out the genetic pool of the Armenians. So far, 2,500 Armenians have participated in the research. The DNA test is free of charge. The government has allocated 31,000 drams (81 dollars) per person for the said research. The author of the idea and professor of the institute, Levon Yepiskoposyan, believes that the research will help restore the often distorted genetic evolution and history of Armenians. 'As a result, we managed to figure out something very important to us: Armenians in Syunik province and Nagorno-Karabakh lived here even 40-50,000 years ago, when Homo Sapiens appeared in this territory. According to him, this research is not held in neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia, because their nations are not homogenous enough.' [5]


The Armenian state is allocating millions for the research in order to prove that Armenians lived on the territories where they unleashed the Khojaly holocaust and the Agdam Hiroshima 40-50 millennia ago. Meanwhile, my genetic memory tells me that people who inhabited this territory 40-50 millennia ago were still learning to straighten their backs.

 

Don’t communicate the Armenian disease to us!


The revenge for Khojaly cannot be exacted by another 'Khojaly' on Armenian territory. Only when those guilty of the carnage are brought before the international tribunal (as was the case with the Nuremberg trial) and when Armenian people sincerely regret and apologize (as Germany did with the Holocaust) can the problem be closed.

 

Justice can be done not through hatred of the enemy, but through love of Karabakh. Hatred and animosity destroy the person cherishing these feelings, not the one they are aimed at, make people less human. Hatred undermines human spirituality and deprives humans of objectivity and rational thinking.

 

I know no other sin as bad as teaching a child to hate someone and raise him as a murderer. And I know no religion which would justify and forgive such a sin.

 

There is a disease called the 'recurrent Armenian disease' (familial Mediterranean fever). Even though sometimes it applies to such Middle Eastern nations as the Arabs, Jews and even Turks, its name relates to Armenia. It is characterized by stomach pains accompanied by a high fever. But I also know a disease called 'Armenian hatred'. This is known only to Armenia’s neighbors. The disease is communicable and I would not want it to infect us. Please keep this virus of hatred as far as possible from us!

 

If the congressmen who voted in the US Congress on 4 March could hear me, I would say to them: 'Don’t believe in the humbug which started with Henry Morgenthau’s policy. Justice is never near politics. Justice is inside the soul. We want justice to be administered both regarding the 1915 massacre and the 1992Khojaly massacre. As long as we have not contracted this hatred, as long as it has not become part of us at the genetic level, let’s establish the justice tribunal! For the sake of the future of mankind! Don’t differentiate us only because we are Turks and don’t distance yourself from us only because Islam is our religion! Stop us from contracting the disease!'

 

***

I returned to my son’s room. I didn’t know what he was thinking about. And I didn’t even ask. I took his present and put it on a bookshelf as a talisman to protect us from the disease of hatred.

Will it?

 


[1] Thomas de Waal: Black Garden, p. 172, New York University, 2003

[3] Guenter Lewy: The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey, pp. 252-253. The University of Utah Press, 2005.

[4] Guenter Lewy: . The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey, p. 140