Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Who remembers the Armenians?

'Who remembers the Armenians?' was supposed to have been Hitler's scornful question to his commanders as he urged them to be pitiless to the people of Poland on the eve of the German invasion in 1939. He was referring to the massacre of the Armenian Christian minority in the Turkish Ottoman Empire 100 years ago.

A century on, the answer to Hitler's question seems to be: 'quite a lot of people.' Over the past week, remembrance ceremonies have been held all over the world, and the French president, Francois Hollande, urged Turkey to recognise the massacre of up to 1.5 million people as genocide.

Turkey's president said his country 'shared the pain' of the Armenians, but rejected the suggestion that the killings were part of a systematic campaign, and said that many innocent Muslims also perished during the horrors of the First World War.

The fate of the Armenians has long been a subject of bitter controversy in Turkey. In 2006, Orhan Pamuk, the first Turk to win the Nobel Prize for literature, was charged with'insulting Turkish identity' when he referred to the massacre, and the following year, a journalist of Armenian descent was shot dead in Istanbul after he described it as 'genocide'.

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