Armenian Genocide and the Kurdish Involvement

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A family of Armenian deportees is seen in this undated handout photo taken by Armin Wegner, a German 2nd Lieutenant stationed in the Ottoman Empire. Wegner was investigating reports of Armenian massacres by taking photographs of deportation camps, primarily in the Syrian desert. A U.S. congressional panel voted on March 4, 2010 to label as "genocide" the World War One-era massacre of Armenians by Turkish forces, prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador from Washington. Turkey accepts that many Armenians were killed by Ottoman forces but denies that up to 1.5 million died and that it amounted to genocide -- a term employed by many Western historians and some foreign parliaments. BLACK AND WHITE ONLY REUTERS/Armenian National Institute/Courtesy of Sybil Stevens/Wegner Collection/Deutches Literaturarchiv, Marbach & United States Holocaust Memorial Museum/Handout (TURKEY - Tags: CIVIL UNREST) NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS

On the 8th July 2008, the solidarity and cooperation which has been prevalent between Kurdish and Armenian groups prompted them to arrange a meeting to outline clearly some of the main points in respect of the Kurdish involvement in Armenian genocide. This meeting took place at Portcullis House in London (which houses the offices of Members of Parliament). The main speaker was Kurdish historian Professor Kamal Mazhar Ahmad and imminent Kurdish expert and writer Dr Rebwar Fatah. The involvement of Professor Ahmad academically on this issue is well known internationally. He is an architect of Kurdish contemporary history who has a firm grasp of wide ranging issues relevant to the Kurdish history of the past, present and future. His contribution to the case of the Armenian genocide of 1915 is one of the most important contributions he has made through his book ‘Kurdistan during the First World War’ with one chapter devoted to this case. This particular chapter has formed the basis of the research conducted by Kurdish scholar Simand Osman in his Masters degree in France Before we go into further detail of what happened in this period of history I would first like to explain the meaning of genocide as defined by the United Nations.

The definition of genocide

The United Nations 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide legally defines genocide as, ‘any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’ (Article 2).

Kurdish involvement

Armenia is one of the nations in the Middle East which has some similarities and solidarities with Kurdish people. The Armenian and Kurdish nations have been living side by side through the centuries with both nations being without any independent state for a long time and who have been under occupation for considerable time. These good relations go back to the time of the Medes around the 6th Century BC. The Kurdish and Armenian land over this time has been partitioned into Iran, Turkey and some parts of Russia. Both had a great deal of suffering under the hands of occupiers and invaders. For example, in the war between the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Caucasus Army at Sarikamis tens of thousands of Armenians were displaced from the land of their fathers and grandfathers.

The only other main factors differentiating the Kurdish and Armenian nations at present are:

1. Religion – the majority of Armenians are Christian whereas the majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslims.

2. Advancement of nations – Armenian passed through the slavery stages before the Kurds and as a result is a more advanced civilized nation today.

The control of the Ottoman Empire across the regions covering the north, south, east and west of Kurdistan are the main reasons for all the atrocities taking place in those regions. The Ottoman Empire not only bullied non-Turkish nations in that area but also tried to attack other colonies in the region including the British and French. The most vivid example of this was the Treaty of Sevres of 10th August 1920 between France, England and Turkey which promised an independent state to the Kurds but was soon replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 in favour of the Turkish state. To summarise, both the Kurds and Armenians suffered greatly under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

The atrocities taking place when the Turks discovered that Armenian nationalists were seeking an independent state and separation from the Turkish state resulting in the Turks doing everything possible to demolish and demoralise the meaning of nationalism for the Armenians and therefore they used the Kurds as a tool to deliver and convey such atrocities. Kurdish feudalists were hungry for money, land and assets. The Kurdish feudalists and the backwards sections of the Kurds were involved with these atrocities without any attention to nationalism.

As Professor Ahmad elaborated in his book; ‘The injustices perpetrated by the Kurdish aghas against the Armenian farmers were actually much greater that those suffered by the Kurdish Muslim peasant, and weighed heavily on them. Kurdish aghas were helped greatly in this by circumstances, especially as Sultan Abdul Hamid openly encouraged them, connived at their wrongdoing, and even gave them money and material aid to take over the land of others’ (Ahmad, 1994, p.148). This trend not only destroyed the Armenian nationalists’ hopes and dreams for an independent state but also slandered the Kurdish reputation. Other than this, no other conflicts between the Kurdish nationalists and Armenian parties and groups were evident at that time. However, we are not deterred by such comments which exist with regard to the Kurdish involvement in Armenian atrocities for several reasons;

1. The people involved have not represented Kurdish nationalism or the groups of parties. The people involved in those atrocities are people hungry for money, land and state. We can find it in any nationality anywhere in the world.
2. The past two decades have been characterised by the Anfal campaign against Kurds (Kurdish genocide) which have been carried out by the Iraqi nationalist state against the Kurdish people with almost 182,000 killed. Such operations have been carried out by corrupt people in Iraq and by the Iraqi state which has used traitors to carry out the destroying, killing and massacring of Kurdish villages and civilians of these villages, including children, regardless of their sex, age, etc.

To date, the Kurdish people in the south of Kurdistan hold the authorities and the former regimes responsible for these atrocities, not the Arab people who have been living side by side with them for centuries in this region.

3. Not surprisingly, the Kurds and Armenians view this historical event differently and are willing to put aside any doubts or problems in their previous relationship in order to gain more understanding of what happened in the past with the aim to maintain good relations in the future. As my colleague Dr Ara Nahabedian commented, much of Armenian literature indicates that it was too late to restore the harmonious relationship which existed between many Kurds and Armenians regarding this period in history due to the provocation of this relationship by the Turks and the subsequent blaming of the Kurds by the Turks. However, the evidence we have considered indicates that is never too late for changes to take place. We need a clean and robust integration throughout this issue UNCLEAR. How can it be possible for the Kurds to be blamed and to suffer the same fate as the Armenians in the hands of the Turks? I am not trying to undermine any attempt to achieve a coherent and integrated communication.

Finally. as Professor Ahmad indicates at the end of his chapter on this issue, ‘the Armenians were merely victims of the short-sightedness of men in authority and of the machinations and designs of the great powers, which emerged more clearly after the First World War had ended’ (Ahmad, 1994, p.175).


Ahmad, K.M., (1994) ‘Kurdistan during the First World War’, Saqi Books

United Nations (1948) ‘Convention on the Prevention & Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,’ Article 2

By Arian Mufid

Source: Kurdistan Tribune

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