On the eve of the commemoration of the 1915 Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire, a Turkish professor is suggesting that Turkish forces had nothing to do with the slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, and that the Armenians disguised themselves as Turks to kill their own people.
Cevdet Kırpık, a social sciences professor at Erciyes University, stated publicly that “our studies” showed the mass murder of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as a product of Armenians themselves attempting to secede from the empire. “According to our studies in the Ottoman archives, Armenians wore the clothing of Kurdish, Laz, Circassian and Turkish peoples in Anatolia and raided their own villages, killing their own people for the sake of winning independence,” claimed Kırpık.
The disguises were intended to turn the tide of public favor against the Ottoman empire, he continued. “Armenians, with the support of the big states, wanted to secede from the Ottoman Empire,” he said. “For this reason, they followed the path taken by other separatist nations [and] resorted to rebellion and terrorism.”
Kırpık was quoted in the Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency news service, whose headlines before the expected worldwide commemorations of the Turkish genocide of Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks in 1915 begin Friday pointedly defend Turkey from the allegations. One story on the front page of Anadolu at press time accuses Armenians of committing genocide against Turks, and not the other way around: “Armenian gangs killed thousands of Muslim civilians, including women and children during World War I in eastern Anatolia, archives of the Erzurum-based Ataturk University’s Turkey-Armenia Relations Research Center have revealed.”
Kırpık himself also has a history of denying the genocide. He penned the foreword of a book by Azerbaijani writer Gafar Chakhmagli, a colleague at Erciyes University, in which he claims the book “successfully exposed the essence of the preparations in Armenia for the 100th anniversary of so-called ‘genocide’ and charges to be directed against Turkey under the pretext of ‘genocide.’”
The Turkish government has denied with increasing enthusiasm the Ottoman government’s role in the deaths of 1.5 million Assyrians during World War I. In addition to entirely disregarding a vote by the European Union urging Turkey to acknowledge the genocide, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attacked Pope Francis for using the word “genocide” to describe those events, and in a speech rebutting the Pope’s urging to call the events what they are, claimed Turkey deserved credit for not “deporting” all Armenians currently in the country.
Turkey also recalled its ambassador to the Vatican over those remarks.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has also condemned acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide, declaring following the EU vote, “We won’t allow our nation to be insulted through history, we won’t allow Turkey to be blackmailed through historic disputes.”
The only official in the Turkish government to have condemned the genocide and denial surrounding it has been Etyen Mahçupyan, a senior aide to Davutoglu of Armenian-Turkish descent. Following his comments, the Turkish government issued at statement claiming that Mahçupyan was no longer in Davutoglu’s service and had “retired.”
American presidents have long been hesitant to describe the 1915 events as a “genocide.” President Barack Obama is not expected to do so during statements commemorating the centennial on Friday, though, as a presidential candidate, Senator Obama promised that he would call the attack on Armenians a “genocide” as president. To date, Ronald Reagan is the only U.S. president to have used the word “genocide” regarding the events.