1915-2015: History Repeats Itself

 Raffi Bedrosyan, Toronto, 1 January 2016

One hundred years ago the Ottoman government leaders were paranoid that Armenians' demand for reform, improved legislation, civil rights, protection of life and property in historic Armenian provinces would lead to Armenian independence and breakup of the state. Their response to "solve" the Armenian problem was to attempt eliminating the Armenians. The civilian population of the Armenians that disappeared was about 10 percent of the state's population.

One hundred years later, the Turkish government leaders are paranoid that the demands of another minority population, for education in their own language, self rule and local autonomy would lead to independence and the breakup of the state. Their response to the Kurdish demands is almost similar to that of the Ottomans, but not quite. It is not easy to eliminate the Kurdish problem by eliminating the Kurds, as they make up a third of Turkey's population, as well as form the majority of the population in the eastern and southeastern provinces. So, the government employs tactics to break the will of the Kurdish general population and by 'cleansing the area from Kurdish militants' by isolating them town by town, street by street, house by house. The result is  huge suffering and loss of the civilian population.

 Raffi Bedrosyan, Toronto, 1 January 2016

One hundred years ago the Ottoman government leaders were paranoid that Armenians' demand for reform, improved legislation, civil rights, protection of life and property in historic Armenian provinces would lead to Armenian independence and breakup of the state. Their response to "solve" the Armenian problem was to attempt eliminating the Armenians. The civilian population of the Armenians that disappeared was about 10 percent of the state's population.

One hundred years later, the Turkish government leaders are paranoid that the demands of another minority population, for education in their own language, self rule and local autonomy would lead to independence and the breakup of the state. Their response to the Kurdish demands is almost similar to that of the Ottomans, but not quite. It is not easy to eliminate the Kurdish problem by eliminating the Kurds, as they make up a third of Turkey's population, as well as form the majority of the population in the eastern and southeastern provinces. So, the government employs tactics to break the will of the Kurdish general population and by 'cleansing the area from Kurdish militants' by isolating them town by town, street by street, house by house. The result is  huge suffering and loss of the civilian population.

There is an ongoing curfew imposed in seven southeastern provinces for the past several weeks. The electricity, water and essential services have been cut off. Schools are closed and Turkish teachers are removed from the area before the 'cleansing operations' by police and army forces start. There are only one or two bakeries allowed to open but people get shot when they venture out of their homes to get bread. Police and troops shoot anyone they see in the streets. Civilian losses are in the hundreds if not thousands–mainly children, the elderly and women. The state and the state-controlled media do not report these civilian killings, or if they do, they merely report them as 'killed terrorists'. The government uses the cryptic term 'terrorists made ineffective' for these killings. There are five-month-old babies, pregnant women and 80-year-old civilians indiscriminately shot as terrorists. Bodies of civilians shot in the streets lie there for several days as it is impossible to remove them under the barrage of gunfire from the police and the army. Bodies of people shot in their own houses cannot be removed for burial as the family cannot go out, and dead bodies are kept in freezers hooked to generators or wrapped in nylon bags. The morgues at the hospitals are so full that hospital kitchen freezers are used to store dead bodies, with stench spreading all over the building. Wounded people just wait to die wherever they are shot, in the street or at their house, as ambulances are not allowed into the neighborhood.
 
One of the worst areas of suffering is the historic central municipality of Sur in Diyarbakir, where the recently reconstructed Armenian Surp Giragos Church is located. This municipality is recognized as a cultural heritage site, with many historic buildings, churches and mosques. It is now mostly in ruins. Most of the buildings in Sur are destroyed by rockets and cannon fire from army tanks. The Surp Giragos Church has escaped relatively unscathed so far, with only broken windows and some bullet holes. But the Armenian Catholic Church had its doors broken and suffered damage to its interior. The most important mosque in Sur, the historic Kursunlu Mosque, which was originally the St. Theodoros or Toros Armenian Church, converted to a mosque in the 16th century, is burnt out. The population of Sur has shrunk from 24,000 to 2,000 in the past month. None of the shops and restaurants is open in the lively, bustling centre of Diyarbakir, now completely deserted. Several shops which were recently returned to the ownership of Surp Giragos Church after successful negotiations and court cases, are shuttered, with loss of revenue to the church. Ironically, the government has just announced that most of the bullet-ridden and burnt historic buildings of Sur will be expropriated and demolished, to be replaced by modern housing to be constructed by the government urban renewal agency.
 
Besides the Surp Giragos Church connection, why are these events critical to the Armenians?
 
Firstly, there are untold numbers of hidden Armenians among the suffering Kurdish civilian population in these eastern and southeastern provinces. Whatever hell their grandparents went through a hundred years ago, these hidden Islamized Armenians are suffering the same fate now. The ones who 'came out' and revealed their Armenian identities recently, are perhaps suffering even more.
 
Secondly, the hatred toward Armenians among the Turkish population, and especially in the Turkish security forces, has come out in the open during these blockades and attacks on the Kurdish population. The brainwashing, discrimination and hatred against Armenians in the media, in the educational system and in government circles are apparent in announcements from Turkish police loudspeakers when they taunt the Kurdish public and the militants: 'You are all Armenians, you are all Armenian bastards', or 'You will all die, seeds of Armenians…'
 
Thirdly, and more ominously, the possibility of a proxy war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is increasing greatly, linked to these events. The war on Kurds in Turkey is connected to preventing Kurdish moves for autonomy in Syria and Iraq. Increasing evidence of connections, cooperation or at a minimum complicity between Turkey and ISIS has resulted in increasingly dangerous steps being taken by the Turkish leaders to hide the evidence. Journalists who uncovered evidence of arms flowing from Turkey to ISIS are now jailed or even killed. Russian, Norwegian and international evidence of oil flowing from ISIS to Turkey has resulted in a downed Russian jet. One of the retaliatory moves by Russia was installation of the most advanced anti-aircraft weaponry in Armenia, with instructions to shoot down any Turkish jet that crosses the Turkish-Armenian border. Potential for war involving any or all of Russia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Azerbaijan and Armenia keeps increasing as we come to the end of the centenary year of the Armenian Genocide.

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