YEREVAN, OCTOBER 14, ARMENPRESS. British the Times periodical has published an article headlined ‘’Turkey’s game is lethal, as Johnson well knows’’ the author of which, Dominic Lawson, saying that Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pursues only political interests by sending thousands of jihadists and using its own warplanes against Nagorno Karabakh.
ARMENPRESS presents the article below.
‘’Try to imagine, if you can, Germany intervening militarily in a dispute between Israel and the Palestinians by sending mercenaries to fight against the Jewish state, using its fighter planes to down Israeli ones, and drones to bomb civilian areas. It is impossible to imagine, because modern Germany is profoundly conscious of its historical record and the associated moral responsibility: Holocaust denial is a criminal offence, and Berlin has many memorials to the Jewish victims.
The exact opposite, in fact, of Turkey, where article 301 of the penal code makes it an offence to refer to the coldly planned and executed mass murder of its Armenian population in 1915 as “genocide” and where even great novelists such as Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak have faced prosecution for allowing their fictional characters to speak in such terms.
And so President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sees only political gain in redirecting thousands of Turkey’s client jihadists from the Syrian civil war to fight alongside Azerbaijan’s army against Armenian forces in the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, operating drones targeting the population in its capital, and using its fighter planes in Armenian airspace, with lethal results.
This territory, which has always had a predominantly Armenian population, was allocated to what was then the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic by Stalin. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, its people voted for independence. This led to a war in which thousands were killed and many more displaced, but a Russian-brokered peace subsequently held — until two weeks ago, when Azerbaijan reopened hostilities. What is entirely new is the direct involvement of an outside power — Turkey — in what had previously been a purely local conflict.
It is the latest example of Erdoğan’s determination to stand as the principal military sponsor of Islamism in any conflict in a former part of the Ottoman empire. He has done so in Syria, in Libya and now in the Caucasus. It is astonishing that this is being done by a member of Nato; yet only the French government is prepared to point this out. It was Nato’s institutional inability to say (let alone do) anything about this Turkish strategy that last November provoked the French president, Emmanuel Macron, to declare the organisation to be “brain dead”. And it was Macron who last week publicly identified Ankara’s importation of thousands of its mercenary Islamists into the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, about which he aptly remarked: “This is a very serious new fact, which changes the situation.”
By contrast, the silence of the British government is shameful. Especially so because the extraordinary Armenian nation — the first to become officially Christian, long before the Roman empire — had always held a fascination for a certain sort of Englishman. Lord Byron declared that “Armenian is the language to speak with God” (and tried to learn it, for that purpose). William Gladstone said that “to serve Armenia is to serve civilisation”. And a later prime minister, Winston Churchill, was clear about what befell this people: “In 1915 the Turkish government began and ruthlessly carried out the infamous general massacre and deportation of Armenians in Asia Minor … There is no reasonable doubt that this crime was planned and executed for political reasons.”
Indeed so: the Ottomans had suffered catastrophic defeat in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, and millions of their Muslim compatriots had been displaced, fleeing east. A plan was conceived to use the Anatolian provinces as a new “homeland”, and to empty of Armenians the historic homeland of what had once been the Armenian kingdom (before it was absorbed into the Ottoman empire). Thus about 1.5 million Armenians were either slaughtered where they lived or (in the cases of the women and children) led on death marches into the desert. Their coveted possessions and properties — the Armenians were traders par excellence — were distributed to and by the organisers of the killings.
It was a prefiguring of Hitler’s policy of Lebensraum. Among the evidence brought by prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials was an account of a speech of reassurance the German dictator gave in Obersalzberg to his generals, immediately before the invasion of Poland, in which Hitler posed the rhetorical question: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
The language of some of the organisers of that genocide also anticipated the depraved biological bilge of the Nazis. Dr Mehmed Resid, the governor of Diyarbakir province, declared: “We will liquidate them before they liquidate us … the Armenian bandits were a load of harmful microbes that had afflicted the body of the fatherland. Was it not the duty of the doctor to kill the microbes?”
In fact the British PM’s family is intimately linked to this episode, and heroically so. Boris Johnson’s paternal great-grandfather, Ali Kemal Bey, was a Turkish journalist and newspaper editor who entered politics and became the Ottoman interior minister. He was, perhaps more than any other Ottoman public figure, determined to bring to justice the thousands of perpetrators of the massacres of the Armenians — and explicit about it. In 1919, he wrote: “Don’t let us try to throw the blame on the Armenians; we must not flatter ourselves that the world is filled with idiots. We have plundered the possessions of the men we have deported and massacred … a historically singular crime has been perpetrated, a crime before which the world shudders.”
It was precisely these expressions (which have something of the prose style of his great-grandson) that led to Kemal’s kidnap from an Istanbul barbershop and, in due course, his stoning and lynching. One account described how “his blood-covered body was subsequently hanged with a scrawl across his chest which read ‘Artin Kemal’.” The point being that “Artin” is an Armenian name: this was, in the view of the killers, the ultimate insult to perpetrate on his corpse.
As far as I know, while Boris Johnson is said to be proud of his Turkish ancestry — and when he became PM, he was acclaimed as “an Ottoman grandson” by the Turkish press — he has never spoken in public about his antecedent’s murder, or the reasons for it. I doubt very much he brought it up during his telephone call with Erdoğan on September 28, which, apparently, did touch on the events in Nagorno-Karabakh. Erdoğan’s office released a statement to the effect that “the two leaders discussed economic steps to reach a $20bn trade volume between the two nations, as well as moves to further co-operation in the defence industry”.
This raises three questions. Is Erdoğan really the person to whom the British government should be increasing arms sales? How will the prime minister feel if they are used to massacre more Armenians? And what would his great-grandfather say?’’.