Allegations that 1.5 million Armenians died in a World War I relocation are untrue and do not fit the facts, according to a Turkish researcher on the subject, rebuffing the “genocide” claims.
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Stressing that it was not possible for Turks to kill 1.5 million Armenians in seven months in 1915, author/researcher Mehmet Arif Demirer said: “During World War II, Hitler killed 3 million Jews by establishing six human death camps over the course of four-and-a-half years.”
“With what weapons and ammunition could we have killed 1.5 million Armenians in seven months?” he asked, underlining that at that time of the relocation there were no soldiers in the region, due to battles in Canakkale, on the other side of modern-day Turkey.
He went on to say that there are five documents regarding Armenians who were alive in 1921, including two in US State Department archives, two that are publications of an Armenian-American professor, and one that is a report of the League of Nations.
By looking at these, we can confirm the survival of 1.586 million Armenians, Demirer said.
As many as 486,000 Armenians arrived safely in Syria under the Dispatch and Settlement Law, he said. They started getting help from the American Relief Committee, and the American consul general in Syria wrote a letter to the ambassador in Istanbul on Feb. 8, 1916, he added.
At least 400,000 fled to Russia and sought permission to come back, he said, adding that there were 300,000 Armenians not subject to the Dispatch and Settlement Law and 200,000 Armenians who were Islamized.
“In March 1918, 200,000 Armenians demanded autonomy in Eastern Anatolia. They have certificates. 1.586 million Armenians did not die,” Demirer said.
Russian weapons, supplies left to Armenians
Taking advantage of the fact that almost all of the Turkish army was at war in the west, in Canakkale, the Russian Army entered Van – in present-day eastern Turkey – on May 18, 1915 and took over all of eastern Anatolia, he said.
After the 1917 Russian Revolution, Russian soldiers left behind their weapons and supplies in the lands they occupied, after being told that “the new communist regime would distribute land to everyone,” Demirer added.
These weapons and supplies were left to the Armenians, according to Armenian author Arthur Derounian, who gave this information in a book, he said.
Demirer stressed that there were enough Armenians in eastern Anatolia to take over the occupation from the Russians.
Armenian demands for autonomy in eastern Anatolia and permission for the return of 400,000 Armenians who fled to Russia were not accepted at peace negotiations held in Trabzon, Turkey in 1918 between Ottoman, Georgian, and Armenian delegations, he said.
Citing the 1920 Treaty of Alexandropol (Gyumri Agreement), which laid out a map similar to the border of modern-day Armenia, he said that four months after the pact was signed in December 1920, Armenia was occupied by Bolshevik Russians.
‘Genocide claims are fever swamp’
“On March 18, 1921, Armenia’s prime minister wrote a letter to Mustafa Kemal Pasha, (founder of Republic of Turkey and then-) Turkish parliament speaker, saying, ‘Send me soldiers, weapons and ammunition’,” Demirer related.
“The (Armenian) Dashnaks – who had decided to betray the Turks seven years earlier, colluded with the enemy, and caused the occupation of eastern Anatolia – then seven years later asked the Turks for help against the Russians.”
Calling the genocide allegations a fever swamp, Demirer said today nearly 2 billion out of the world’s approximately 8 billion people live in predominantly Christian counties.
“We have been unable explain to Christian countries the invalidity of the Christian Armenians’ genocide claims against Muslim Turks. Because of this, 31 countries and the Vatican took decisions against us,” he said.
He stressed that Turkey needs to refute the genocide claims by preparing short, simple, proactive theses, rather than take a defensive position, adding that the use of English and Spanish to communicate is important.
Turkish stance on events of 1915
Turkey’s position on the events of 1915 is that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.
Turkey objects to the presentation of these incidents as “genocide,” describing them as a tragedy in which both sides suffered casualties.
Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia as well as international experts to tackle the issue.
In 2014, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – then Turkey’s prime minister, now president – expressed condolences to the descendants of Armenians who lost their lives in the events of 1915.
*Writing by Havva Kara Aydin