Turkey Commemorates 1.5 Million Armenians Killed in a Terrible Accident in 1915

After a century of denial, the government of Turkey has finally expressed solidarity with what it calls “the Armenian tragedy” of 1915.  “It was a traumatic experience,” acknowledged Turkish spokesperson E. Bulent Sbendokter.  “There’s hardly a family without loss.  We Turks want Armenians to know that we feel their pain.”  I persuaded him to give me an interview.

Barb Weir: Why do you call the death of so many people a tragedy and not a genocide, Mr. Sbendokter?

E. Bulent Sbendokter: Because it was tragic, Ms. Weir.  Is it not appropriate to call something tragic a tragedy?

BW: But why do you avoid describing it as a genocide?  Did you know that the Polish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin created the word in 1943 specifically for the Armenian case?

EBS: We are not afraid of the word genocide, Ms. Weir, but rather its definition.

BW: What is the problem with the definition?

EBS: It’s totally inappropriate, Ms. Weir.  Instead of describing a terrible accident, it sounds more like murder or a crime against humanity.  If the definition is changed, we will be happy to use the word.  Otherwise, we recommend reverting to the pre-1943 situation where the word did not exist.

BW: I think the Armenians are more interested in an admission and an apology.

EBS:   We follow the American lead in such matters, Ms. Weir. We applaud groups like American Muslims for Palestine, which also acknowledges Armenian suffering and pain, and is willing to consider the charges of genocide, if more than a mere century is permitted to study the matter.  We don’t see your people admitting to the genocide of American Indian tribes, but they have provided recognition, and we plan to do the same as part of the centenary year of the Armenian tragedy.

BW: What sort of recognition are you planning?

EBS: We’ve commissioned some wooden statues of Armenians to stand outside tobacco stores and we’ve negotiated with one of our sports teams to call themselves the Armenians.  Give us another century and we’ll catch up.  You’ll see.

Barb Weir is the pseudonym of a writer in Northern California. Read other articles by Barb.