(AINA) -- It seldom befalls an obscure writer historian to receive mail from an embassy in Canberra, but this occurred after my broadcast on the role of doctors in the Armenian Genocide. In my mailbox arrived a letter on official stationary from His Excellency, the Turkish Ambassador to Australia, Oguz Ozge (related story).
For this, I wish to thank His Excellency (now HE). Until now, I had been under the illusion that the official Turkish Government denial campaign was a slick professional operation, somewhat akin to the way the Apartheid Regime presented itself to the world. As someone engaged in the campaign for recognition of the Anatolian Genocide, I make a point of watching how the Turkish Government rhetoric constantly morphs to a new point of evasion, deception and blustering whenever the previous standpoint becomes overwhelmed by the relentless pressure of historical truth.
HE (or whoever wrote the letter) is not in touch with his government's latest form of evasion. The letter instead is a tissue-thin polemic, written in the resigned style of "Your mind is closed and I expect you to remain irrational." Without boring readers any more than necessary with the turgid prose, I will summarise HE's claims.
(1) Turkey is a pillar of human rights and a light unto other nations.
Response: This may come as a surprise to those minorities in Turkey who have failed to allow themselves to be ethnically cleansed or dare to speak out aloud the unthinkable. The Armenian population of Turkey, constituting easily one third of the people of Anatolia in 1915, today barely makes one-half percent of the population of the entire country; the same proportions apply to the Assyrian community.
A report by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (2006) states: "Turkey continues to practice a policy of `Turkification,' which it adopted in the early 20th century. This policy amounts to a form of cultural assimilation that fails to recognize individuals' rights to ethnic, national, and religious self-identification, and aims at forced assimilation with a Turkish identity. It encompasses several strategies whose rationale violates, in one way or another, internationally guaranteed standards for minority rights. These strategies still include: denying formal recognition of minority groups; hindering their access to the media; limiting their political participation; violating their freedom of expression (especially in their own language); impeding their freedom of religion; refraining from facilitating their freedom of movement and to choose their place of residence; and practicing or tolerating various other forms of direct and indirect discrimination."
(2) Turkey could not be accused of genocide as they have never been indicted by the United Nations.
Response: This is absolutely true -- as true as it is for Germany (genocide of Herero and Nama in German South West Africa, Nazi Holocaust), Japan (mass murder in Manchuria), Soviet Union (mass starvation in Ukraine in 1930's) and Red China (millions killed in decades following 1948).
When the UN Genocide Convention was passed, its architect, Raphael Lemkin, had the Anatolian Genocide in mind when he framed the word genocide. The trial of the assassin of Talaat Pasha in 1923, and the aborted Malta trials convinced him that such a law was necessary.
The reason Turkey has not been indicted by the UN is that the Nuremberg Charter was not passed until 1946 and the Genocide Convention in 1949 -- but surely an ambassador would be aware of this key item of international law?
My advice, admittedly unsolicited, to HE, is that this is not a club one would chose to join.
(3) The 145 detainees held by the British on Malta were not put on trial because of "lack of evidence".
Response: Following the unprecedented mass murders and atrocities in Anatolia in 1915, the British, French and Russian Governments accused the Itihadist government of "crimes against humanity", a term that may not have been used before in this context, and made provisions for trials of the perpetrators after the war under the terms of the Treaty of Sevres. The Turkish Government realised, rather too late, that they had backed the wrong horse in the war and a rather confused process of suing for peace followed in 1918. As a result, 18 alleged offenders were taken to Malta to await trial. After 1921, their detention became subject to the release of British soldiers held as hostages in Erzerum by the Turkish government. Without the support of France or Russia, the British reluctantly agreed to exchange the detainees to obtain the freedom of their soldiers.
No less a figure than Geoffrey Robertson QC does not share HE's acceptance of the official line, pointing out that the release of the detainees was "for reasons of diplomatic expediency", not "lack of evidence".
Under pressure from the victorious allies, the Turkish government reluctantly agreed to a Military Tribunal -- a judicial body of which HE appears to be unaware -- that ran from 1919-1920. By then, many of the leading offenders had escaped to Germany, and of the remainder, most received token sentences or were released; one doctor was hanged.
Nevertheless, the Tribunal hearings provide good evidence of the extermination of the Christian population of Anatolia as a result of a deliberate policy of the Central Committee of the Itihadist Party, whose members were directly involved in organised the slaughter. It is worth noting that the Military Tribunal was a judicial body appointed and run by the Turkish Government.
(4) Allegations on the role of doctors, sworn to preserve life at all costs, in the genocide that never occurred, are nothing less than slanderous.
This list includes two doctors who would easily qualify as the most notorious members of a profession dedicated by a sacred oath to save life, their horrendous mass murders putting Joseph Mengele in the shade. Dr Nazim and Dr Behaeddin Sakir had pivotal roles in the formation, deployment and direction of the Special Organization units, criminals described as 'bloodthirsty murderers' were organized into killer units.
Turkish historian Sevket Sureyya Aydemir described Nazim as 'the wartime Director of Etihad's terror arm', a man belonging to the core of Itihadist power wielders, who was burdened 'with responsibilities on the most bloody stories marking the darkest period of our last Empire', making him one of the architects of the genocide.
Five top Itihadist leaders admitted in cross-examination to Nazim's role in organizing the killer groups. The Tribunal indicted Dr Nazim in absentia on 28 April 1919 on eight charges, seven of which listed him as the principal organizer of the Special Organization killer units, "criminals and outlaws" organized for "massacring and destroying the deportee convoys" of the Armenians.
It is the same law-abiding Dr Nazim whom HE considers to be unfairly slandered, who was then hanged by his government on 26 August 1926 after an attempt to topple Mustafa Kemal. The Times of London stated that Nazim ... has repeatedly caused more atrocious suffering to multitudes of his fellows than professional tyrants or self-seeking politicians.
Nazim's colleague, Dr Resid, equally reluctant to present himself before the Tribunal, was assassinated in Berlin.
HE cites Dr Tevfik Rusdu (Aras), one of the many doctors who played leading roles in the Anatolian Genocide, setting the precedent for the Nazi Holocaust, Tevfik demonstrated his unique interpretation of the Hippocratic Oath by spending six months at massacre sites in his role as Inspector-General of Health services using thousands of kilos of lime to dispose of the dead bodies of Christian victims.
Tevfik managed to keep onside with the Kemalist government and served as Foreign Minister for 15 years. No one should be surprised that a genocidal doctor with blood on his hands could continue to avoid being called to account for these activities.
After World War 2, the medical profession was the only organisation in Germany that was never denazified, aside from the 46 doctors tried at Nuremberg. As late as 1992, Dr Hans Joachim Sewering, who had been involved in transferring children for " euthanasia ", was elected Chairman of the World Medical Association (but had to stand down in the ensuing publicity). Not one of the Japanese doctors, including the notorious Ishi Shiro, who ran a processing centre equivalent to Auschwitz in Manchuria, was ever prosecuted or prevented from practicing.
I regret to say that HE has failed to convince me of the case for the official Turkish Government campaign of denial of the Anatolian Genocide.
Genocide is the worst human crime. It affects not the victims and their families, but their survivors, descendants and the entire people for generations to come. And if genocide is a crime that stretches the capacity of human evil to infinity, then genocide denied perpetuates that crime and is an affront to all decent people.
Robert M Kaplan is a writer, historian and forensic psychiatrist. He is Clinical Associate Professor at the Graduate Medical School, University of Wollongong. He is an advocate for freedom of speech and believes that the official Turkish Government campaign of genocide denial should be widely publicised to allow people to draw their own conclusions. His book “Medical Murder” was published by Allen & Unwin in June. He is currently writing about the Prophet Ezekiel and medical charisma.