Genocide vs Great Calamity (Մեծ Եղեռն)

Seventy years elapsed since the term 'genocide' was coined by Polish-Jewish jurist Raphael Lemkin. In an interview with the American CBS television network [in the late 1940s] Lemkin clearly stated, "It happened to the Armenians". The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) was adopted by the UNO in 1948,  and it came into force in 1951. Subsequently, Telford Taylor, a principal prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials  wrote, "The word 'genocide' had not yet been coined, but that is what the Armenian massacres were". The United Nations Human Rights Commission, Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities refers to and affirms the the massacres of the Armenians to constitute a "Genocide" (1985), and The International Association of Genocide Scholars has consistently recognized the Armenian "Medz Yeghern" as Genocide.

Seventy years elapsed since the term 'genocide' was coined by Polish-Jewish jurist Raphael Lemkin. In an interview with the American CBS television network [in the late 1940s] Lemkin clearly stated, "It happened to the Armenians". The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) was adopted by the UNO in 1948,  and it came into force in 1951. Subsequently, Telford Taylor, a principal prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials  wrote, "The word 'genocide' had not yet been coined, but that is what the Armenian massacres were". The United Nations Human Rights Commission, Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities refers to and affirms the the massacres of the Armenians to constitute a "Genocide" (1985), and The International Association of Genocide Scholars has consistently recognized the Armenian "Medz Yeghern" as Genocide.

Aren't we, Armenians, late in consistently employing the correct term–genocide– when we use the expression 'Mez Yeghern' and thus provide presidents or others an excuse to engage in legally void doublespeak? Wasn't the CNN anchor's final remark regarding President Obama's see-saw right on the money when the anchor said, "… apparently that is quite deniable"?

Readers are invited to review the below short excerpt from the book "Ցեղասպանագիտութիւն" (Genocidology, Beirut 2006) of the late Prof. Kevork Kherlopian. We hope a reader will volunteer to translate it.–Editor (April 26,2014).

The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials

Լեզուաբանական Խորամանկումներ
Իրաւագիտական ու Դիւանագիտական Խաղերում

Փրոֆ. Դոկտ. Գէորգ Տ. Խրլոպեան

For English version click on Kherlopian

«Մինչեւ 1944 թուականը, մինչեւ Ա.Մ.Ն.-ի Գոլոմպիայի Համալսարանի պրոֆեսոր Ռաֆայէլ Լեմքինի «Առանցքի դերը Գրաւեալ Եւրոպայում, Գրաւման Օրէնքներ, Պետութեան Վերլուծութիւն, Հատուցման Առաջարկներ» մեծածաւալ գրքի հրատարակութիւնը, որտեղ առաջ Էր քաշուել «ցեղասպանութիւն» նոր եզրը, այդ գաղափարը արտայայտելու համար միջազգային իրաւագիտական ու դիւանագիաական փաստաթղթերում օգտագործւում էին Հետեւեալ բառերը, Holocaust (ողջակիզում), Massacre (ջարդ), Carnage (կոտորած), Calamity (աղէտ), Slaughter, Carnage (սպաննել), Murder, Slay (սպաննել), Atrocity, Crime, Nefariuos or Villainous Act (եղեռն)։ Հայերը նախընտրել են ԵՂԵՌՆ ու ՋԱՐԴ եզրերը, հաւանաբար այն պատճառով, որ երկար տարիներ շեշտել են երեւոյթի կապը՝ ողբի, սուգի, լացի, չարչարանքի, աղէտի Հետ: Հրեաները նախընտրել են HOLOCAUST բառը, որ վերցուած է իրենց կրօնական բառապաշարից:

Իրաւագիտական առումով վերոյիշեալ եզրերը ունեն նուազագոյնը երեք թերութիւն.

Ա. Ցոյց չեն տալիս ջարդի, կոտորածի նպատակը։

Բ. Ցոյց չեն տալիս սպանութեան, ջարդի, կոտորածի չափն ու ծաւալը։ Դրա Համար էլ այդ եզրերը օգտագործելիս բառի կողքին դրւում էր զանգուածային, մասսայական որոշիչը:

Գ. Անվիճելի է որ խօսքը վերաբերում է մարդասպանութեան (Homo-cide), բայց այն չի տարբերակւում սովորականից:

Այս թերութիւնների գիտակցութիւնը անհրաժեշտ դարձրեց մի այնպիսի նոր եզրի ստեղծումը, որ վերացնի իրաւագիտական  նշուած թերութիւններն ու անորոշութիւններր։ 1944 թ. Լեմքինր գիտական շրջանարութեան մէջ դրեց «ցեղասպանութիւն-genocide» եզրը, որ աստիճանաբար, մասնագիտական ու ժողովրդական խօսքում տիրապետող ղարձաւ, մասնագիտական ասպարեզից դուրս մղելով նախորդ եզրերը։ «Ցեղասպանութիւն» եզրր արտայայտում է մարդկութեան դէմ կատարուած ոճրագործութեան բարձրագոյն աստիճանր։ Նրա առանձնայատկութիւնը պայմանաւորուած է ոչ թէ սպաննուած մարդկանց քանակով, սպանութեան բարբարոսութեան աստիճանով, այլ բացառապէս տուեալ խմբին, ազգին, ցեղին, համայնքին ոչնչացնելու ցանկութեամբ, վճռակամութեամբ։ Ինչպէս մարդասպանութեան դէմ օրէնքը ենթադրում է ընկերութեան մէջ անհատի ապրելու, գոյատեւելու եւ զարգանալու իրաւունքը, այնպէս էլ ցեղասպանոլթեան դէմ օրէնքը ենթադրում է տուեալ ազգին, ցեղին, կրօնական խմբին մարդկային ընտանիքում հաւասար իրաւունքներով ապրելու, գործելու եւ զարգանալու բնական իրաւունքը։»

 

Linguistic Knavery
In Juridical and Diplomatic Games

Prof. Kevork D. Kherlopian
Translated by Vahe H. Apelian

Until the coining of the word 'genocide' by the University of Columbia Law Professor Raphael Lemkin in his voluminous book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation – Analysis of Government – Proposals for Redress, in which the new word was proposed, international juridical and diplomatic documents used the following words: holocaust, massacre, carnage , calamity , slaughter, murder, slay, atrocity, crime, nefarious or villainous act.  Armenians have preferred to use ԵՂԵՌՆ (Yeghern) and ՋԱՐԴ (Chart),   probably  because for many years they had emphasized the phenomenon’s relation with grief, mourning, crying, suffering and calamity.  The Jews have preferred to use the word HOLOCAUST borrowed from their religious vocabulary.

Juridically the above terms have at least three drawbacks.

a. They do not reveal the purpose of the massacre.
b. They do not reveal the breath and width of the massacre. That’s why while using the terms the qualifier massive was inserted beside the terms.
c. It’s indisputable that they referred to homicide, but they did not differ from the ordinary.

Realization of these shortcomings made it imperative to create a new term which would eliminate aforementioned juridical and diplomatic drawbacks and uncertainties. In 1944 Lemkin circulated the word 'genocide' in the scientific community which in time became the dominant professional and popular word and drove off the other terms. The term 'genocide' expresses the highest degree of crime committed against humanity. Its uniqueness is not conditioned upon the number of people killed, the degree of barbarity, but exclusively by the desire, resolve of annihilation of a given group, nation, race and community. As laws against homicide assume the right of an individual to live, survive and prosper in society, likewise laws against genocide assume the natural right of a given nation, race, religious group to live, function and prosper in the greater family of mankind.

 

3 comments
  1. Medz Yeghern (Cont.), An Apology is Due

    I invite the readers of Keghart.com interested in debate about the merit of our term for Genocide, Medz Yeghern, to search for the articles by Dr. Vartan Matiossian about the subject in the on-line "Armenian Weekly" archives. I quote the following from one of the series of articles he published (“The ‘Exact Translation’: How ‘Medz Yeghern’ Means Genocide”) on May 15, 2013.

    The quote below is from that article and is of particular significance because the Canada-based editorial board of Keghart.com has called the term "Medz Yeghern" that embodied all that the survivors of the Armenian Genocide felt “archaic” and “at least 60 years out of date”. In my view the editorial board needs to offer an apology for belittling our term for Genocide.

    The quote:

    “The Canadian precedent of ‘Medz Yeghern’

    “Ironically, Armenian-Americans have never bothered to look across the border and notice that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had already recognized the genocide with the name Medz Yeghern on April 19, 2006: “I would like to extend my sincere greetings to all of those marking this somber anniversary of the Medz Yeghern. Ninety-one years ago the Armenian people experienced terrible suffering and loss of life. In recent years the Senate of Canada adopted a motion acknowledging this period as ‘the first genocide of the 20th century,’ while the House of Commons adopted a motion that ‘acknowledges the Armenian genocide of 1915 and condemns this act as a crime against humanity.’ My party and I supported those resolutions and continue to recognize them today.”

    He repeated his statement almost literally in 2011. However, we did not find any protest against Harper’s use of Medz Yeghern (without translation) and his reluctance to call it “genocide” as a label of his own. “

  2. Stand by the term…Medz Yeghern

    I am not sure whether in the deliberations during the Nuremberg trials the defendant/s and the plaitiff/s used strictly the word Genocide and not its equivalent in any other language. It would be interesting to know.  Save the need to use the word Genocide in court proceedings, I believe we should unabashedly stand by the term that survivors of the Armenian Genocide coined, Medz Yeghern and not belittle it.

    Vahe

  3. Medz Yehgern vs Tseghasbanutyun

    I believe there is a sentimental perception about the Genocide (Tseghasbanutyun) that has to do with the number of the Armenians killed. Let us bear in mind that from legal standpoint the sheer number of people killed has no relevance to qualify the killing as Genocide.  The intent of the killing is what makes the killing A Genocide. Much less number of Armenians could have  been killed and the perpetrators would have been no less accountable as long as they would have been found to resort to the killing with the intent of wiping the Armenians. Naturally the body count – the choice of words are deliberate –  make the intent ever so more obvious. 

    The term Մեծ Եղեռն (Medz Yehgern) is what the Armenian word Ցեղասպանութիւն (Tseghasbanutyun) is not, although both refer to the same happening. The former embodies all the sentiments of loss, of dispossession, of grief, of mourning etc. that the latter does not and is not intended and meant to.

    In our formative years in Armenian schools we were told about Եղեռամայրեր (Yegheramayrer). These were women who chanted to stir emotions during funerals. The Armenian word Եղեռն (Yeghern), although it means crime, it has an inherent sadness embedded in the word. Մեծ Եղեռն (Medz Yehgern), the Great Crime magnifies this sadness. It's hard to explain the nuances of the feelings that emanate from the term Մեծ Եղեռն (Medz Yehgern) vs. Ցեղասպանութիւն (Tseghasbanutyun)  simply by trying to explain in English. It becomes even harder due to lack of reading in Armenian through no fault of those who do not. It’s one of those things that cannot be adequately translated to convey its deeper meaning. We may be the victim of the richness of our own language and its vocabulary.

    When the President of the United States commemorates Man’s Inhumanity Against Man, it's fitting of him, when it comes to Armenians, to use the word Մեծ Եղեռն (Medz Yehgern) rather than  Ցեղասպանութիւն (Tseghasbanutyun).

    As to why he should or should have used the legal term Genocide instead, that’s an issue for the legal minds to elaborate.

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