Armenian Genocide Background Information



In the dying days of the Ottoman Empire, under the cover of World War I, the Young Turk government embarked on a racist strategy of “Turkification” of what had been a multi-ethnic, multi-religious empire. One-and-one-half million Armenians were murdered in the Armenian Genocide, and survivors were exiled from their 3,000-year-old homeland. Rather than acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government directs a sophisticated, multi-million dollar campaign of denial, the final stage of genocide.

The Turks also annihilated the Ottoman Assyrian and Greek communities, thereby eliminating the area’s indigenous populations, whom they had conquered several centuries earlier. Moreover, Turkey’s Kurds have suffered severe repression since the 1920s; thousands of Kurdish villages were destroyed as recently as the 1990s in a brutal pacification campaign.

Today’s relatively homogenous Republic of Turkey was thus methodically created over the past century through genocide, ethnic cleansing, confiscation of wealth, and severe discrimination.



The Armenian Genocide: Settled History


“We want to underscore that it is not just Armenians who are affirming the Armenian Genocide but it is the overwhelming opinion of scholars who study genocide: hundreds of independent scholars, who have no affiliations with governments, and whose work spans many countries and nationalities and the course of decades . . . The scholarly evidence reveals the following: On April 24, 1915, under cover of World War I, the Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire began a systematic genocide of its Armenian citizens – an unarmed Christian minority population. More than a million Armenians were exterminated through direct killing, starvation, torture, and forced death marches. The rest of the Armenian population fled into permanent exile. Thus an ancient civilization was expunged from its homeland of 2,500 years.”


“The Armenian Genocide was the most well-known human rights issue of its time and was reported regularly in newspapers across the United States and Europe. The Armenian Genocide is abundantly documented by thousands of official records of the United States and nations around the world including Turkey’s wartime allies Germany, Austria and Hungary, by Ottoman court-martial records, by eyewitness accounts of missionaries and diplomats, by the testimony of survivors, and by decades of historical scholarship . . . The Armenian Genocide is corroborated by the international scholarly, legal, and human rights community.”

International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 6.13.05

“The abundance of scholarly evidence led to the unanimous resolution of the International Association of Genocide Scholars that the Turkish massacres of over one million Armenians from 1915 to 1918 was a crime of genocide.”

IAGS letter to U.S. Representatives Tom Lantos and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, 10.5.07


“The Armenian Genocide . . . was the template for all modern genocide – Adolph Hitler was so impressed with the Turkish extermination of the Armenians that it figured in his own genocidal plans.”


“Raphael Lemkin, who created the concept of genocide as a crime of international law, did so in large part on the basis of what happened to the Armenians in 1915.”


American foreign service officers risked “their lives rescuing Armenians during the Genocide and compiling the more than 40,000 pages of documentation now housed in the National Archives.”


IAGS letter to President Barack Obama, 3.7.09



Denial of the Armenian Genocide: A Multi-Million Dollar Industry


“We are concerned that Turkey’s lobbying efforts, which are now in full force will lead to a repetition of the H. Res. 106 debacle of late 2007 [when the resolution was] subverted by unethical pressure, coercion, and cajoling by Turkey . . . The intellectual freedom of our country cannot be held hostage by a foreign government, particularly by one with the worst human rights record in NATO.”

IAGS letter to President Barack Obama, 3.7.09


“The tactics of genocide denial are predictable, and the Turkish government has used them all.”

Testimony to Congress by Dr. Gregory Stanton, President, IAGS, 4.23.08


“Despite this clear consensus of experts, Turkey exerts political leverage and spends millions of dollars in the United States to obfuscate the Armenian genocide, with alarming success even at the highest levels of government . . . Revisionist historians who conjure doubt about the Armenian genocide and are paid by the Turkish government provided the politicians with the intellectual cover they needed to claim they were refusing to dictate history rather than caving in to a foreign government's present-day interests.”


“‘Denial is the final stage of genocide,’ says Gregory Stanton, president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars. ‘It is a continuing attempt to destroy the victim group psychologically and culturally, to deny its members even the memory of the murders of their relatives. That is what the Turkish government today is doing to Armenians around the world.’”

“Efforts to kill the memory of the Armenian genocide began while carrion birds were still picking over corpses in their desert boneyards, with Turkey issuing a first official statement assuring the world at large that no atrocities had occurred . . . Turkey began intervening in the U.S. on behalf of denying the genocide in the 1930s.”


“The relationship of Turkey to U.S. scholars promoting Armenian genocide denial is similar to that of the oil industry to fringe climatologists who dispute the reality of global warming.”


“‘Denial of the Armenian genocide has developed over the decades to become a complex and far-reaching machine that rivals the Nazi Germany propaganda ministry,’ says [Professor Taner] Ak├žam. ‘This machine runs on academic dishonesty, fabricated information, political pressure, intimidation and threats, all funded or supported, directly or indirectly, by the Turkish state. It has become a huge industry.’”

State of Denial, Summer 2008, Southern Poverty Law Center

I write to you on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) in order to express our alarm and grave concern over the forced resignation of Professor Donald Quataert from the Chairmanship of the board of governors of the Institute of Turkish Studies (ITS) . . . Dr. Quataert’s relinquishment of his position came after he refused to accede to the request of ITS’s honorary chairman, [Turkish] Ambassador Nebi Sensoy, that he issue a retraction of a scholarly book review he wrote about the killings of Armenians (1915-1918) in the Ottoman Empire . . . The reputation and integrity of the ITS as a non-political institution funding scholarly projects that meet stringent academic criteria is blackened when there is government interference in and blatant disregard for the principle of academic freedom . . . Furthermore the attitude towards Dr. Quataert sharply contrasts with your government’s recent call to leave the debate regarding the events of 1915 to the independent study and judgment of scholars.”

Middle East Studies Association letter to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, 5.27.08



Turkey’s Proposal for a Historical Commission: Latest Denial Tactic


“We represent the major body of scholars who study genocide in North America and Europe. We are concerned that in calling for an impartial study of the Armenian Genocide, you may not be fully aware of the extent of the scholarly and intellectual record on the Armenian Genocide and how this event conforms to the definition of the United Nations Genocide Convention . . . We note that there may be differing interpretations of genocide—how and why the Armenian Genocide happened—but to deny its factual and moral reality as genocide is not to engage in scholarship but in propaganda and efforts to absolve the perpetrator, blame the victims, and erase the ethical meaning of this history . . . We would also note that scholars who advise your government and who are affiliated in other ways with your state-controlled institutions are not impartial. Such so-called “scholars” work to serve the agenda of historical and moral obfuscation when they advise you and the Turkish Parliament on how to deny the Armenian Genocide.

IAGS letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 6.13.05


“It is disingenuous of the government of Turkey to use the red herring of a ‘historians’ commission,’ half of whose members would be appointed by the Turkish government, to ‘study’ the facts of what occurred in 1915 . . . A ‘commission of historians’ would only serve the interests of Turkish genocide deniers.”

IAGS letter to U.S. Representatives Tom Lantos and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, 10.5.07


“Turkey’s call for an ‘historical commission’ to study the events of 1915 is an attempt to put genocide deniers on an equal level with genuine scholars.”

IAGS letter to President Barack Obama, 3.7.09


“There is no more ‘other side’ to the truth about the Armenian genocide than there is about the Holocaust.”

Testimony to Congress by Dr. Gregory Stanton, President, IAGS, 4.23.08


“The government of Turkey has since continued to call for a ‘historian's commission’ of scholars to ‘study the facts of what happened in 1915-1923.’ The proposed committee is marketed as a high-minded quest for truth and reconciliation, a long overdue arbitration of disputed history, and a chance to finally give equal weight to both sides of the story. But as the saying goes, a lie isn't the other side of any story. It's just a lie.”

State of Denial, Summer 2008, Southern Poverty Law Center


“Because Turkey has denied the Armenian Genocide for the past nine decades, and currently under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, public affirmation of the genocide is a crime, it would seem impossible for Turkey to be part of a process that would assess whether or not Turkey committed a genocide against the Armenians in 1915. Outside of your government, there is no doubt about the facts of the Armenian Genocide, therefore our concern is that your demand for a historical commission is a political sleight of hand designed to deny those facts. Turkey has, in fact, shown no willingness to accept impartial judgments made by outside commissions . . . We believe the integrity of scholarship and the ethics of historical memory are at stake.”

Letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan written by seven former presidents of IAGS (Helen Fein, Roger W. Smith, Frank Chalk, Joyce Apsel, Robert Melson, Israel W. Charny, and Gregory Stanton), 11.3.09



Genocide Denial Endangers Us All


“We believe that acknowledgments of the Armenian Genocide are an important step toward ending the final stage of every genocide, denial, which continues to inflict suffering on the group that has been victimized – an inhuman assault on memory perpetrated by the Turkish government for more than 90 years.”


“The 94-year denial of the Armenian Genocide has emboldened perpetrators ever since.”

IAGS letter to President Barack Obama, 3.7.09


“Studies by genocide scholars prove that the single best predictor of future genocide is denial of a past genocide coupled with impunity for its perpetrators. Genocide Deniers are three times more likely to commit genocide again than other governments.”

Testimony to Congress by Dr. Gregory Stanton, President, IAGS, 4.23.08


“Denials of known events of genocide must be treated as acts of bitter and malevolent psychological aggression, certainly against the victims, but really against all of human society, for such denials literally celebrate genocidal violence and in the process suggestively call for renewed massacres – of the same people or of others.”

Dr. Israel Charny, Executive Director, Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide, Jerusalem, 7.17.01


“The black hole of forgetting is the negative force that results in future genocides. When Adolf Hitler was asked if his planned invasion of Poland was a violation of international law, he scoffed, ‘Who ever heard of the extermination of the Armenians?’”

The 8 Stages of Genocide by Dr. Gregory Stanton, President, Genocide Watch, 1996