Commentary: Turkey Rehabilitating ‘Great Assassins’ Of its History


By Edmond Y. Azadian

Turkish nationalism is an inexorable movement derived from the same racist motivations and directed at reaching the goal of the same Turanian dream, regardless the era, rulers and the regimes. And Armenia has been and continues to be a hurdle in Turkey’s march towards that dream.

Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the Young Turk Party, Mustafa Kemal and today’s “moderately” religious party of Erdogan aspire to the same goal and they have been preparing and educating the population with the same ideals. Denial of the Armenian Genocide is part and parcel of that racist policy, espoused by all the leaders of the past and present.

The current prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, contradicts himself by insisting on one hand that genocide was never perpetrated by his ancestors against Armenians and on the other hand proposes to form a joint committee to find out if genocide really took place. If he knows the answer of the inquiry already, then why go through the motions?

It is common knowledge in modern history that Turkey had been cooperating with Nazi Germany, during World War II, hoping to see Hitler victorious. Part of the reward for the Ismet Inonu government at that time was a deal to allow the remains of Talaat Pasha, the architect of the Armenian Genocide, to return from Berlin, where he was assassinated, to Istanbul, where a special monument was erected to honor him, though he is one of the arch criminals of history.

Ever since, a rehabilitation process has begun to clean the bloody hands of that monster. Of course, modern Turkey is indebted to Talaat and the Ittihadist leaders who have bequeathed a 99-percent Muslim country by wiping out the Christian minorities and indigenous inhabitants of the land. As recently as last year, Turkey’s minister of defense paid tribute to the architects of the Genocide, asking the rhetorical question, “would we have this united territory today if the minorities were not expelled during World War I?”

As fully documented by Professors Taner Akçam and Vahakn Dadrian, many minor and major actors in the Ittihadist government, who had played a role in the extermination of the Armenians, changed their hats and joined the milli (nationalist) movement of Ataturk who established modern Republic of Turkey in 1923, after expelling the remnants of Armenian and Greek minorities in Asia minor, mostly with the weapons and resources provided by Lenin.

Thus, the territory of modern day Turkey has been delivered to its current population, free and clear of any “encumbrance.”

It looks like now the time has come to rehabilitate another monster in history, the 34th ruler of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

During recent years, under the tolerant gaze of the “mildly” religious administration of Turkey, some Islamist scholars have published a dozen books trying to redeem the bloody ruler from the harsh judgment of history and rehabilitate him as the last caliph of Islam and a good-hearted Muslim who mercifully got rid of the “infidels” of the Ottoman Empire.

On the heels of those publications, the government itself has taken the initiative of white-washing history from the blood spilled during the reign of Abdul Hamid II.

On March 3, a special movie viewing was organized at Rikous Hotel in Istanbul, presenting a six-part documentary prepared by the government-owned TV station, TRT. The documentary is dedicated to Sultan Abdul Hamid, trying to sanctify and clear him of the mass murders which he ordered. The affair was sponsored and attended by the state minister and deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, who has dispensed a revisionist lesson of history stating: “The reason that today we remember Abdul Hamid in our Friday prayers is because he was able to govern the Ottoman Empire for 33 years in the most difficult times, and shame on those people who label him as the “Red Sultan.”

Mr. Arinc has continued his sanitizing mission, this time addressing the youth: “Abdul Hamid has always been portrayed under a negative light as a despot, spy master, bloodthirsty Red Sultan, whereas we have to honor him as the High Monarch and we have to praise him.”

The vice premier has continued in this vein by making some inadvertent admissions about the gory deeds of the High Monarch, by stating further, “The Ottoman Empire has been an unusually vast empire, dominating over 100 million people, therefore we must be proud of that empire, although that empire is always characterized in negative terms. Thirty Sultans have ruled that empire yet people have labeled them as traitors, as alcoholics, devious and criminal individuals. No other nation has that kind of negative attitude about its kings,” while heaping praise on the producers of the documentary.

When Abdul Hamid ascended to the Ottoman throne in 1876, his empire was already crumbling and was labeled as the “Sick Man of Europe” and his reign was marked by the decline and disintegration of the empire, until he was overthrown by another cabal of celebrated criminals, the Ittihadists, in 1908. Through the massacres, pogroms and wars that he had instigated, he has rightfully won a series of appropriate labels such as the Red Sultan, Red Animal, the Monster of Yildiz (the name of his palace) and Abdul the Damned. The British prime minister of the era, Lord Gladstone, named him “The Great Assassin,” and in 1894, upon learning about the massacres in Armenia, at the instigation of the Supreme Porte, he warned the Sultan that “he was rushing to his own destruction,” although before his “destruction,” he managed to destroy the lives of 300,000 Armenians, during 1894-96. He also grudgingly witnessed the liberation of a number of Balkan nations from the Ottoman yoke. Also he sent a message to Lord Salisbury that ‘you can sever my head from my body but not Armenia from my empire.’”

In a news story featured in the September 11, 1896 issue of the New York Times, Gladstone is reported saying: “My opinions of the Great Assassin and the disgrace the European powers have allowed him to bring upon are all well known to my countrymen.”

The proponent of new Ottomanism is Turkey’s current foreign minister, Ahmed Davutoglu, who has been praising the good old days of the Sultans when subject nations got along “harmoniously.”

One of the sad legacies of the rule of iron, blood and tears of the Sultans is the forced Islamization of some Balkan nations, which has created a political foothold today for Turkey and acts as a fifth column in Europe. A blatant case-in-point is the powerful Turkish minority in Bulgaria, which is obstructing the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, despite the fact that Bulgarians have suffered like Armenians under the Ottoman rule.

Turkey has especially been gaining mileage in the Arab streets because Erdogan has paid lip service to the Palestinians in Gaza, while continuing Turkey’s strategic cooperation with Israel. The Arab world is so desperate for support that it is ready to idolize Erdogan, who has become a hero.

A demonstration of obscene political naiveté took place when Erdogan visited Lebanon recently. The government had placed Erdogan’s picture and welcoming message right in Martyr’s Square, where, in 1915 the Turks hung Lebanese intellectuals and political leaders. Lebanon’s honor was saved when Armenians took down the visitor’s picture.

Armenians have the right to be alarmed and wary of this new Ottomanism, which is making in-roads in the Arab world, where a majority of Middle East Armenians live. Fortunately, Armenia and Greece have an official stand on this new political onslaught. Indeed, when President Serge Sargisian spoke at the Cyprus parliament last month, he warned of the dangers of the new Ottomanism. He said, “we know what Ottomanism means, because we have been at the receiving end of that rule in history.”