Festival of Falsehoods

By Marsha Skrypuch, Ontario, 5 February 2014

On Feb. 4  "Hurriyet" daily of Turkey published an article titled "The Armenian Diaspora and the Memory of 205 Turks in Canada" by columnist Barcin Yinanc. The fatuous article was riddled with outright lies, half-truths and distortions. Here's a categorical reply to Yinanc by Marsha Skrypuch, author of five books set in the Genocide of Armenians and two books set in the WWI Canadian internment operations.–Editor

"Three years ago I went skiing in the Banff National Park in Canada. At that time I did not know that Turks who were incarcerated during World War I were perhaps among those who helped build the park!"

MARSHA SKRYPUCH: This is incorrect. There was one person from the Ottoman Empire interned at Banff: J. Camilbeck–an Assyiran, not an ethnic Turk. Assyrians were persecuted by the Ottoman government and the Young Turk government. (Source: Roll Call can be downloaded and searched at http://uccla.ca/sources.htm )

"I just recently discovered that during the First World War, “enemy aliens (nationals of Germany and of the Austro–Hungarian and Turkish Empires)"
MS: There was no such empire as the Turkish Empire in WWI. There was an Ottoman Empire.

"were subject to internment. Of 8,579 men at 24 camps across Canada, 5,954 were of Austro-Hungarian origin, including 5,000 Ukrainians; 2009 were Germans, 205 were Turks.

MS: My count is actually 135 from the Ottoman Empire, but this does not make them ethnic Turks. Virtually all of those interned who came to Canada from the Ottoman Empire were from persecuted minority groups–mostly Alevi Kurds, although there were some Assyrians and a few Armenians.

By Marsha Skrypuch, Ontario, 5 February 2014

On Feb. 4  "Hurriyet" daily of Turkey published an article titled "The Armenian Diaspora and the Memory of 205 Turks in Canada" by columnist Barcin Yinanc. The fatuous article was riddled with outright lies, half-truths and distortions. Here's a categorical reply to Yinanc by Marsha Skrypuch, author of five books set in the Genocide of Armenians and two books set in the WWI Canadian internment operations.–Editor

"Three years ago I went skiing in the Banff National Park in Canada. At that time I did not know that Turks who were incarcerated during World War I were perhaps among those who helped build the park!"

MARSHA SKRYPUCH: This is incorrect. There was one person from the Ottoman Empire interned at Banff: J. Camilbeck–an Assyiran, not an ethnic Turk. Assyrians were persecuted by the Ottoman government and the Young Turk government. (Source: Roll Call can be downloaded and searched at http://uccla.ca/sources.htm )

"I just recently discovered that during the First World War, “enemy aliens (nationals of Germany and of the Austro–Hungarian and Turkish Empires)"
MS: There was no such empire as the Turkish Empire in WWI. There was an Ottoman Empire.

"were subject to internment. Of 8,579 men at 24 camps across Canada, 5,954 were of Austro-Hungarian origin, including 5,000 Ukrainians; 2009 were Germans, 205 were Turks.

MS: My count is actually 135 from the Ottoman Empire, but this does not make them ethnic Turks. Virtually all of those interned who came to Canada from the Ottoman Empire were from persecuted minority groups–mostly Alevi Kurds, although there were some Assyrians and a few Armenians.

"and 99 were Bulgarians. All endured hunger and forced labor, helping to build some of Canada’s best-known landmarks such as the Banff National Park, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia."

MS: Those who were interned from cities were already enduring hunger. those who had stayed in the Ottoman Empire would likely have died not only because of the war but because the Young Turk triumvirate had decided upon the destruction of citizens who were not ethnic Turks.

"These Turks"

MS: They were not Turks. They were immigrants from the Ottoman Empire.

"used to live in Bradford."

MS: Brantford in Ontario.

"All 200"

MS: The correct overall figure is 135, but not all of them lived in Brantford. Approximately 100 lived in Brantford.

"or so were picked up one night"

MS: Arrested because of an unfounded rumor that they had tried to blow up the local post office in an act of treason. This assertion was soon dropped. Those who had citizenship papers were let go. Those who didn't were interned. They were fed and likely ate better than they had in months. Residents from enemy countries who had not become naturalized Canadians were subject to restrictions in time of war. Some were interned while others had to report regularly to the local authorities. Those who were interned did do hard labour but were credited 25 cents a day, which could be redeemed at the camp store. They were fed and housed.

"and sent to a camp north of Ontario."

MS: The camp was not north of Ontario. It was in Northern Ontario–Kapuskasing, Ontario.

"They spent five years there."

MS: Most spent less than two years. Many were paroled and worked in factories, some in the St. Catharines area of Southern Ontario, near Brantford.

"Some died there."

MS: One Ottoman internee died while in Kapuskasing, Ontario. His name was Alex Hassan, an Alevi Kurd, not an ethnic Turk.

"Others came back to Bradford."

MS: Brantford. There is also no documentation that any returned to Brantford.

"There is a burial site in the city where the bodies of some of those who came back are believed to be."

MS: This is inaccurate. In Mount Hope cemetery, close to the Armenian section, is a section where Alevi Kurds are buried. When comparing the names of people buried in this plot, there is no exact match to the names of known internees. There are three similar names but in all three cases, the names are classic Alevi Kurd names. In short: it would be a lie to claim that ethnic Turk internees are buried here.

"This year marks the centenary of the start of World War I. So the Turkish ambassador to Canada, just like his other Italian or German colleagues, decided to start an initiative to commemorate the Turks that suffered in the detention camps."

MS: Except that there is no documentation of any ethnic Turks who were interned in Canada.

"The response of the local municipality to the wish to mark the place with a plaque was positive at first, yet local authorities appear to be hesitating in backing this purely humanitarian initiative."

MS: If this were a humanitarian initiative the Turkish ambassador would have acknowledged the true ethnicity of these people. This is clearly a propaganda effort and it was recognized as such by local (Brantford) authorities.

"No doubt the Armenian community is behind it."

MS: While there is no documentation that ethnic Turks were interned, there is documentation of a few Armenians who were interned. For this reason it would be natural for the Armenian community to be interested in the subject.

I must point out that I am not Armenian. My heritage is Irish/French on my mother's side and Ukrainian on my father's side. My own Ukrainian grandfather was interned in WWI in Jasper Alberta. I find the ambassador's entire charade to be disrespectful of the memory and hardship that the true internees were subjected to. I resent having my own grandfather's tragedy used as a political tool by the Turkish ambassador in his quest to deny the Armenian Genocide.

"They think this is an effort to derail their lobbying activities!"

MS: It is fairly clear that the ambassador wishes to label these non-Turks in order to use them as a propaganda tool.

"Turkish historian Taner Akçam, who claims that the World War I mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman hands was genocide, talks about a “denial industry” in Turkey. I would not contest it, except that the same is also true for the Armenian diaspora. Their industry is about closing all eyes and ears to anything that can question genocide."

MS: The writer is fabricating again. Since there is no documentation of Turks interned in Canada, it is the Turks who are shutting their eyes to the truth.

"But this industry goes as far as “obstructing anything Turks do; hating anything Turkish.”

MS: This is incorrect. There are many stories passed down from survivors of the Genocide of Armenians about Turks who saved their Armenian neighbors from destruction, even risking their own lives to do so. Virtually every survivor heard of at least one of these noble Turks. Why can't the Turkish government acknowledge the Genocide of the past? People alive today did not commit it, but by this continual denial there can never be healing between Turks and Armenians. If the ambassador wants a 100th anniversary story to highlight Turkish history, let him focus on those brave and righteous Turks of the past who stood in the way of tyranny and saved their neighbors. Don't fabricate history. Contemporary Turks deserve to know the truth so the healing process can begin. And Armenians must have the sins perpetrated upon their ancestors acknowledged so that their healing can begin.

"Of course there are moderate Armenians looking for dialogue, but it seems they are being terrorized by the more radicals."

MS: It's not radical to stick to the truth.

"What’s wrong with commemorating a few hundred Turks who had nothing to do with the Armenian tragedy in Anatolia?"

MS: What's wrong? They were not Turks. And there weren't a few hundred. There were approximately 135 Alevi Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians and other minorities who fled the Ottoman Empire for a better life in Canada who were then tragically caught up in war hysteria and interned as enemy aliens.

"It would have been much wiser to come and attend the ceremony and perhaps give messages or letters to the Turkish ambassador, asking the Turkish state to show the same sensitivity to the thousands of dead Armenians."

MS: Thousands? Try a million-and-a-half. What sort of sensitivity is the ambassador showing? Those interned had fled oppression in the Ottoman Empire. They were Ottoman citizens, but they were not ethnic Turks. They were Kurds, Alevis, Assyrians, and Armenians. Why can't the ambassador acknowledge this?

"Another example of the Armenian “industry”: Apparently whenever Turkish representations donate books reflecting the Turkish side of what happened to the local libraries, Armenians take the books, destroy them, and then pay compensation."

The denial industry in Turkey is losing, albeit slowly,

MS: Thank goodness.

"its force; I wonder when this will be the case with the Armenian diaspora."

MS: The Armenian diaspora has amassed an impressive collection of primary documentation about the Genocide of Armenians. It is a pursuit for justice, with hard data to back it up.

"I wonder to what degree they are ready to realize that taboos are being broken in Turkey about the Armenian tragedy.

MS: The correct descriptive is Genocide.

"More and more people are questioning the past. It is imperative that the Armenian diaspora realizes this change in Turkey. Yet without any bridges for dialogue, how can we blame them for not being aware of current developments on the subject?"

MS: The ambassador could demonstrate this development by looking at the facts of WWI internment instead of spinning into propaganda.

"In contrast to the past, the Turkish government is very much willing to enter into a dialogue with the diaspora; in fact Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has called them the “Anatolian diaspora.

"But in view of the resistance that will emanate from the diaspora, countries that are hosting Armenian communities should help initiate this dialogue. After all, several countries, from Europe to the Americas, will come under extreme pressure from both Armenians and Turks in these two years ahead."

 

9 comments
  1. Festival of Falsehoods

    Dear Marsha,

    I am impressed with the degree of detail you have provided for the rebuttal 
    of Barcin Yinanc's article.

    As a son of Genocide survivors, the minimum I expect after a period of almost two lifetimes of denial is humane sincerity.

    All members of the Turkish government are rigorously trained to take advantage of any opportunity available to them, in particular in the media, repeating the ridiculous lies in this revolutionized  information age.

    Thus, at this juncture, as a minimum gesture, the Turkish government must stop its traditional stance and impose a moratorium on its denial machine during the 440 days and 16 hours to the Centennial countdown before any trust is developed between them and the world of truth.

  2. Perfect Explanation

    I can only say to Marsha Skrypuch that I am very grateful for her perfect, correct and complete explanation.

    THANK YOU.

    Thank you and God bless you.

    P.S.
    Regarding the word "Genocide", I see it as a synonym to "the murder of a nation".
    Before Rafael Lemkin coined the word "genocide" in 1943, authorities used synonyms such as the "murder of the Armenian Nation" or the "murder of the Armenian Race", etc. instead of Armenian Genocide.

    Nicolai Romashuk Hairabedian

    The Netherlands

  3. Turkish Plaques

    Reply to Barcin Yinanc:

    "The response of the local municipality to the wish to mark the place with a plaque was positive at first, yet local authorities appear to be hesitating in backing this purely humanitarian initiative."

    My family of 32 women and children were butchered in a caravan of 970 that ended in Diyarbakir. I have a map drawn by a man whose area of expertise is mountain cartography. This map clearly shows the mountain roads, the desert areas, and wild forest this caravan of small children, women, and elderly were forced to travel on. I know which villages were exiled together in this one caravan. I know the names of many of the murdered. I know where women were held all night and gang-raped and then butchered in the morning; their bodies thrown on the side of mountain roads like used toilet paper.

    Since Turkey is so interested in putting up plaques, let's first start with at least a plaque marking this one caravan route, and then move on to the others. I challenge Turkey to engage in "this purely humanitarian initiative," that you are whining about for the Alevis. Don't run around the world looking for places to put up plaques. I can help you. I have a standing offer—I'll show Turkey the road where the bodies from this one caravan of 970 of their own helpless citizens were left. I'll give Turkey a list of names to put on the plaque. No lokum, no dolma, free of charge, anytime.

    Reply to Marsha Skrypuch's comment:                                                                                               

    People who are alive today did not commit it [the Genocide of Armenians], but because of their continual denial there can never be healing between Turks and Armenians.

    Volumes of research are available on the continuing effects of genocide. Consensus was reached long ago by eminent scholars that denial perpetuates the genocide. The summation of research is too lengthy to go into here, but is readily available, and Turkish scholars are well aware of it. Some, like Taner Akcam have contributed to the massive research. The young woman writing this article is just a wanna-be journalist mouthing the official party line. If she says anything differently, she loses her entry-level job. She has no supportive evidence, so is not able to formulate a cohesive argument in defense of the party line.

    Acknowledgment is just a start. The Genocide does not begin to end until we have justice. And justice is much more than a whimpered "sorry."

    Are Turks who are alive today complicit? Yes. Because they continue to eat the proceeds of the confiscated wealth of the Armenians; because they continue to live on confiscated lands; because a civilized world does not accept the denial of the brutal murder of almost two million of your own subjects.

    I remain ready to help with the installation of as many plaques on mountain roads and in deserts as the Turks are willing to put up.

  4. Other Unknown Turkish Projects

    I am glad to see someone has finally revealed that the Turkish internees of WWI built Canada's Banff National Park. 

    When, oh, when will someone reveal that Niagara Falls was dug up by Turkish internees and that the Bay of Fundy was dug up by Turkish explorers who "discovered" Canada long before the arrival of the Vikings?

    For all I know, "Canada" might be an ancient Turkish word for fantasy.

    1. Turkish Projects

      Vahakn,

      You are right on the dot. According to the Turkish  "SUN "  theory, everything and everybody has a Turkish origin.

  5. Cultivated Legend

    Don't know exactly where you are coming from on this issue but thanks for your interest in the legend (maybe-??– cultivated by the present-day Turkish state) that significant numbers of travellers or immigrants from the old Ottoman Empire had found their way to Western Canada by 1914, so became snared into the Canadian government's wartime internment operations, and so played a role in building the National Parks under wartime labour regimes. 

    The ethnic diversity (and also differential treatment) of individuals classed as "Austrians" is by now well-known–my own PHd research, among other sources–has established that literally no Austrians were actually embroiled in Canada's internment operations in Western Canada. Same seems to have been true (in spades) of the "Turks"–wholly imagined participants in, let alone victims of, Western Canada's early development saga.  That said, it is important to note that a slender thread of immigration to Eastern Canada had been established, and that anyone living or travelling under Ottoman documents–for eg,  Armenians–was closely scrutinized. What (if any) security-related criteria were used in managing this group?

    Please send us relevant links.

    AS

  6. Message sent to Barçın Yinanç–“Hurriyet” Contributor

    Dear Ms. Barçın Yinanç,

    Allow me to say that the content of your article is way off the truth. I think a good way to initiate "this dialogue" that you mention at the end of your article between Turkey and Armenians is to examine history in an objective way and not be carried by falsehoods that The Ittihad ve Terakki (CUP) leaders and subsequently Kemalist administrations perpetuated.

    Please check the response to your article of the author Marsha Skrypuch who is not an Armenian. Listen to the enlightened Turkish intellectuals including Cemal Pasha's grandson who recently was in Toronto participating in the commemoration of Hrant Dink's assassination's 7th anniversary.

    You may find many articles related to the subjects that you might be interested in  on http://www.keghart.com website.

    Respectfully,
    Dikran Abrahamian MD

  7. Aware of Books, Research

    The Genocide of Armenians is recognized by twenty-one one countries, and a consensus by the International Association of Genocide Scholars was available long ago. The Turkish archives have been searched and documented by courageous writers like Taner Akcam. Information is available in university libraries and lectures around the world. My family history has been published by an M.A. student in Israel. Marsha Skrypuch and many others have written children's story books about the Genocide. So we can accurately say that one-hundred-years of Armenian Genocide research and documentation is easily available to everyone at any age or educational level.

    Please, let us stop talking about "dialogue" with the perpetrators. It is highly offensive to all of us whose butchered families were discarded like garbage on mountain roads or in deserts. There is nothing left to talk about. The talking is long done. Vahakn's clever response  to this article shows how ridiculous Turkish claims have become. The chatter for more chatter is a delay tactic used by the perpetrator. There is now a need for a stronger demand for justice.
     

  8. Letter to My Colleague Barçın Yinanç

    Dear  Colleague, 

    Allow  me to introduce myself. My  name is Aharon Shekerdemian. My father was a survivor of the Genocide of the Armenians. For many years I was editor-in-chief of the "Ararad" Armenian-language daily in Beirut. After my resignation from that newspaper last August, I established the trilingual "yerepouni-news.com" website.

    As a journalist I follow the news from Turkey. Yesterday, on «Hurriyet»  daily,  I read your "Armenian Diaspora and the Memory of 205 Ottoman Turks in Canada".  There is nothing wrong with commemorating the memory of  people. The problem is Turkey's denial of the Genocide of Armenians. As long as the Turkish government denies the culpability of its predecessor government (the  Ottoman Empire) and refuses to compensate to the heirs of the victims, the Armenians and their friends will continue their commemorations and seek global public support for their just cause. One must not forget the past: to  forget the past is to invite the repetition of past wrongs.

    Dear Colleague, the evidence for the reality of the Genocide is too extensive to compress in a short statement. The vast evidence is overwhelming. Needless to say, we have the testimony of the survivors and the evidence provided by non-Armenian missionaries who witnessed the Genocide in historic Armenia. American diplomats scattered throughout the area where the  Genocide was committed and German consular officials and military attaches (advisors to the Turkish army and  navy) provided documentary evidence [of the Ottoman crime], as well as the archives of Austrian and German governments (allies of the Ottoman  Empire), documents in the Russian, British, French government archives and US State Department.

    Finally, we have the records of the Turkish War Crime Trials, published recently. These records include the court-martial of the leading perpetrators of the Genocide, the evidence and verdicts, as well as a plethora of documentary proof in Turkish government archives and the memoirs of the leading executioners of the Genocide.

    To cap it, consider the "Black Book of Talaat Pasha". The pasha was the Ottoman minister of interior and one of the chief perpatrators of the Genocide. In his diary he kept a minute record of  the progress of the Genocide and the expulsion of the Armenians. What more evidence could you possibly ask? All credible scholars recognize the Genocide. The International  Association of Genocide Scholars passed a resolution a few  years ago reaffirming the reality of the Genocide and called on the governments of the world to acknowledge it. It would be very interesting to hear why Mr. Davutoglu calls Diaspora Armenians "Anatolian diaspora".

    Is it Turkish pride that motivates Turks to continue to deny the Genocide? To admit the  Genocide is to admit that their ancestors committed a wicked deed. It's to concede that the state and the people profited from the vast wealth taken from the Armenian victims and that the mythology maintained by the Turkish government, since 1923, is false. The present-day government in Ankara is the successor government to the Ottoman state and accordingly bears responsibility.

    Dear  Colleague, the real problem is whether Turkey is ready to come to terms with its past. It  would also wake up world opinion which is interested in justice for the victims of injustice and their progeny. There is no question that when a genocide  goes unpunished, it  makes future   perpetrators discount the possibility of being punished for their crimes. Thus genocides will be repeated. I wonder whether post-Genocide perpetrators of such crimes would have occurred if  the executors of the 20th century's first genocide had received their just punishment. Besides, many Turks believe that there was a Genocide of Armenians, and many are very sorry for it. Many Turks are demanding recognition as a first step toward bringing real democracy to  Turkey. Many Turks believe that Armenian Genocide recognition is the first step for an open, multicultural, free and democratic society in Turkey.

    Regards,

    Aharon  Shekerdemian

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