WELCOME TO THE ASSOCIATION WORKING GROUP RECOGNITION - AGAINST GENOCIDE, FOR INTERNATIONAL UNDERSTANDING (AGA)AGA - that is ALSO:
INFORMATION - GENOCIDE RESEARCH - ACTION
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- Or were you looking for information on human rights activities for the control and prevention of genocide?
This human rights working group (Arbeitsgruppe Anerkennung - AGA) was created in Germany in 1999 as a merger of several independent organizations striving for the official recognition of the genocide against 1.5 million Armenians in 1915/16.
On 13 April 2000, together with the Association of Genocide Opponents, we forwarded a petition to the Petitions Committee of the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag). In this petition we asked the German legislators for official recognition of the crimes against the Armenians as genocide and to call on the legislature and the government of the Turkish Republic to follow suit. The petition of the two organizations had been signed by about 16,000 German residents of different nationalities, of whom about 10,000 were citizens of Turkey and hundreds of supporters residing abroad - in the U.S., Israel, Armenia and other countries. Among them were many prominent representatives of genocide research..
A year later, on 4 April 2001 the Petitions Committee, in its draft resolution, showed a certain understanding of the petitioners’ concerns, but rejected a parliamentary decision:
“The Petitions Committee is aware of the important role that the issue of the tragic events of 1915-1917 plays for the self-awareness and identity of the Armenian people. The study of this history is important in order to reach a lasting, peaceful understanding between the countries of Armenia and Turkey. (...) The Petitions Committee welcomes all initiatives aimed at establishing the history of these events. However, it should be ensured that wounds are not re-opened, but rather healed. (...) ... The Petitions Committee view is that in the course of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Germany, the opinion that is shared by a vast part of the German population should be communicated at a suitable occasion. Furthermore it should be communicated that the Petitions Committee has considered this issue. In this sense, the Petitions Committee recommends the petition to the Federal Government - the Foreign Office - as material to be transferred [to the Turkish government], with the request to report within six months.”
A day later, on 5 April 2001, the German Bundestag took action in accordance with this recommendation. In its letter of 6 September 2001 the Foreign Office reported on the German-Turkish talks held in June 2001 in Ankara:
“During bilateral consultations in Ankara, the Foreign Secretary had (...) meanwhile the opportunity to draw the attention of his Turkish counterpart to the deliberations of the Armenian petition in the German Bundestag”.
We learned also from that report that the German Foreign Ministry forwarded the information, obtained in Ankara, to the Petitions Committee that Armenian-Turkish talks on the issue of genocide were already taking place on a non-governmental level. This was in the beginning of June 2001 and six months after the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) emerged, whose brief existence had served as an excuse to turn down our mass petition.
Four years later, the conservative CDU/CSU opposition party’s parliamentary group forwarded its own motion “Remembering and commemorating the expulsions and massacres of the Armenians in 1915 - Germany must make a contribution to reconciliation between Turks and Armenians” to the Bundestag, which was soon supported by the other groups. On 16 June 2005 this motion was unanimously adopted. Yet this represents only an implicit recognition. The motion’s description of the offenses committed against the Armenians fully coincides with the criminal facts, which the UN Genocide Convention (1948) condemns as genocide, yet the motion’s authors avoided explicitly recognizing the crimes against the Armenian and other Christian ethnic groups in the Ottoman Empire as genocide. This half-heartedness and inconsistency 90 years post factum did not at all meet the legitimate expectations of the descendants of victims and survivors - they reacted with disappointment.
Therefore, we think: This must not be the last word!
After a period of reorganization, on 25 September 2003 we conducted a meeting in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, of the reorganized AGA: From a loose coalition, a permanent human rights NGO emerged as a statutory acting association. On 7 January 2004, the AGA was registered in Germany as a charitable organization.
Who we are now
The founders and subsequent membership of the AGA belong to various nationalities and states. We understand our activities as a practical contribution to combating and preventing genocide according to the UN Genocide Convention.
Derived from its strict human rights orientation, the AGA was set up as a transnational association. We also place importance on political neutrality.
What we do
All the founding members of the AGA experienced the consequences of genocide denial - whether as victims and/or human rights defenders. We know that genocide is the greatest crime that people can commit against fellow human beings and that this crime continues as long as it is denied. Only the academic, social and legal recognition/condemnation of denied genocide(s) can heal this pain and make an effective contribution to preventing further genocides. This is why the AGA members, in their professional and social capacities, attempt to reduce the pain that arises from the continuing suffering, and help justice to prevail.
The name of our association includes our conviction and our program: We want “recognition” of previously denied genocides to prevent further crimes, and we see this as a contribution to international understanding. Nothing affects the relations between peoples and states more than genocide and its denial. We also want to take action against all forms of denial or trivialization of genocide.
What exactly we mean by genocide and its denial or recognition is explained in our answers to the three following questions:
What is genocide?
Our understanding of genocide is based on the definition given in the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. In its Article 2 the following acts are described as genocide, if “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.
„By ‘genocide’ we mean the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group. [...] Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups. Genocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group. [...] Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the oppressed population which is allowed to remain, or upon the territory alone, after removal of the population and the colonization of the area by the oppressor’s own nationals“.
Raphael Lemkin: Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. Washington DC, 1944, p. 79 f.
Because the UN Convention does not contain the category of the destruction of political groups, subsequent genocide definitions attempted to fill this gap, such as the term "democide" introduced by Rudolph Rummel. Moreover, it has been attempted to sub-categorize the crime of genocide, possibly into categories such as "foreign" or "domestic” genocide (by Robert Melson). Related to this extended pattern of categories, the Armenian genocide represents the category of a “wholesale domestic genocide“, because it was committed by the Ottoman state against its own citizens.
What does it mean Denial of Genocide?
“Denial of genocide is generally carried out by denying or minimizing the misdeeds of the perpetrators or their own ethnic group. For instance, Turks may deny the Armenian Genocide of 1915, which the Turks are being accused of by Turkey's beleaguered Kurds, whereas the latter may no less be deniers of the Kurdish share in the same destruction of the Armenians as their current Turkish opponents. A denier of genocide acts in a strange moral paradox. On the one hand, with his denial, he tacitly accepts the general moral consensus of genocide condemnation; on the other hand, by the denial, he tries to protect the murderers and thereby creates impunity for this particular kind of genocide. Scarcely anything else can poison the relationship between a nation of perpetrators and a victim people more than the denial. While the latter mourn their dead, the former allege that these dead do not exist at all and even denounce the sorely afflicted victims as maniacs. Subsequently, this will surely increase their bitterness.”
(Gunnar Heinsohn: Lexikon der Völkermorde [Encyclopedia of the genocides]. Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1998, p. 237
However Turkey has not always denied its state crimes committed against Armenian and other Christian subjects during and after the First World War. The brief period during 1919 and 1920, when those politically responsible for the extermination of the Armenians during the First World War as well as the executors of this state planned destruction were legally prosecuted, was soon followed by the justification of these crimes under the government of the Turkish nationalist leader and subsequent founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal. Like all genocide ideologists, the political elite of the Turkish state justified the annihilation of 3.5 million Christians of Ottoman nationality, including the extermination of two thirds of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire, as an act of national self-assertion. While typically minimizing the scope of the committed crime, a member in the first parliament of the Turkish Republic expressed the following opinion:
“You know that the issue of the deportation caused turmoil in the world and we were all accused of murder. We knew, before this was done, that world public opinion would not accept this and would show us hatred and loathing. Why should we be resigned to being dubbed a murderer? ... These are things which have only happened to protect something which is holy and is worth more than our life: the future of the Fatherland“.
(Quote from: Taner Akçam: Armenien und der Völkermord: Die Istanbuler Prozesse und die türkische Nationalbewegung [Armenia and the Genocide: The Istanbul Proceedings and the Turkish national movement.]. Hamburg, 1996, p. 11)
However, at the same time Mustafa Kemal and his single-party government made every effort to let the genocide that was an integral part of the foundation of the Turkish Republic fall into complete oblivion as quickly as possible.
In its “Statement on the Armenian genocide“ which was issued by the Sixth Plenary Assembly of the World Council of Churches (from the 24th of July to the 10th of August, 1983) in Vancouver, the World Council of Churches stated:
"The silence of the world community and the deliberate efforts to deny even historical facts have been consistent sources of anguish and growing despair to the Armenian people, the Armenian churches and many others.”
(Cited in: Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, World Council of Churches: Armenia, the continuing tragedy. Geneva 1984, p. 5)
When mere silence was no longer effective in view of the Armenian mass movement for an international "recognition" of this genocide, starting in 1965, which was the 50th anniversary of the genocide, and particularly in view of more than 200 assaults of militant underground organizations of the Armenian Diaspora on Turkish facilities and diplomatic representatives of Turkey in the 1973-1985 period, the Turkish government and state-compliant scientific and other institutions of Turkey reacted by attempting with the help of media campaigns to reject the "genocide allegation" of the Armenians and to deny the historical fact of the crime: „We can speak of the fact that there was a Turkish ‘official sector’ as a reaction to this Armenian offensive from the middle of the 1970s, primarily organized around the universities, whose job consisted in disproving the ‘Armenian lie’“.
(Quote from: Taner Akçam: Armenien und der Völkermord: Die Istanbuler Prozesse und die türkische Nationalbewegung [Armenia and the Genocide: The Istanbul Proceedings and the Turkish national movement.]. Hamburg, 1996, p. 11)
Genocide studies agree with the fact that the “aftermath propaganda“, which includes justification for and concealment of genocide as well as denial, forms an integral component of the crime and represents its terminal phase:
“Processing the crime must be considered the important last step to minimize the effects of the crime and also as part of the crime itself. Whoever, being ‘compos mentis’, claims today that there have been no Nazi concentration camps or no Armenian genocide, is objectively participating in the continuation of the dissembling which, in the perpetrators’ view, was already necessary during the crime. In other words: The genocidal logic is still in force. This has nothing to do with the sacrosanct right to general freedom of speech, because complicity in the crime of mass murder does not become a civil virtue by use of constitutional guarantees. Therefore the criminal offence could sound like membership in a genocidal association...“
(Uwe Makino: Leugnung als konstitutiver Bestandteil moderner Genozidverbrechen [Denial as a constituent of modern crimes of genocide]. „Journal of the Institute of Cultural Science, Chuo University, No. 37, 2000, p. 15 f.)
In its propaganda campaign against historical facts and judicial-moral claims by the descendants of the genocide survivors, Turkey obtained and still obtains official support from some US historians and scholars of Turkish studies such as Bernard Lewis, Stanford Shaw, Justin McCarthy and Heath Lowry who have been convicted in court for this denial or have been heavily criticized in academic debates for their pro-Turkish alignment. This judicial or collegial condemnation is justified, because carefulness is mandatory for scholars.
„Where scholars deny genocide, in the face of decisive evidence that it has occurred, they contribute to a false consciousness that can have the direst reverberations. Their message, in effect, is: murderers did not really murder; victims were not really killed; mass murder requires no confrontation, no reflection, but should be ignored, glossed over. In this way scholars lend their considerable authority to the acceptance of this ultimate human crime. More than that, they encourage - indeed invite - a repetition of that crime from virtually any source in the immediate or distant future. By closing their minds to truth such scholars contribute to the deadly psycho-historical dynamic in which unopposed genocide begets new genocides“.
(Roger Smith, Eric Markusen, Robert Jay Lifton: Professional Ethics and the Denial of the Armenian Genocide. In: Hovannisian, Richard G. (Ed.): Remembrance and Denial: The Case of the Armenian Genocide. Detroit, 1998, p. 287)
Denial occurs particularly frequently in cases of genocide, which were committed in the course of brutal colonial extermination campaigns in Africa - Congo (from 1885 to 1907) and Namibia (German Southwest, in 1904-1907) - as well as in the Ottoman Empire. For example, even 100 years after the extermination of 60,000 of a total of 80,000 members of the Herero at that time and 10,000 of 20,000 Nama members, the German Federal Government could not bring itself to a full official apology to the descendants - for fear of subsequent reparation demands. All Turkish governments since 1923 played down, justified or denied the state crimes committed against the Christian ethnicities of the Ottoman Empire, with a total of 3.5 million victims, during the transition from the multinational and multi-religious Ottoman state to the mono-ethnic Turkey of the Turks. All governments have justified, disclaimed or denied everything. Here persists a direct connection between impunity and denial. Only the criminal prosecution of genocide since 1946 has meant that survivors and their descendants are increasingly spared at least from denial as the terminal phase of the crime of genocide.
What does it mean Recognition of Genocide?
The recognition or affirmation of genocide makes this crime an indisputable historical fact and thus a legal offence. Genocide recognition occurs in the form of a public announcement through prominent individuals, through bodies at national or international level and in the form of a parliamentary motion or decision, a resolution or a law. In the case of a long lasting, persistent denial of genocide, such announcements form an essential countermeasure to the politics of silence and negation. Although a formal parliamentary recognition does not fully substitute for a penal condemnation of genocide, it involves a moral punishment for the denier and justifier of the crime. The insistence on a formal recognition of denied genocide as a fact by the affected and by human rights NGOs leads to the effective internationalization of a previously tabooed and denied mega crime and consequently to the opposite of the deniers' deliberate intensions. Furthermore, the recognition of a denied genocide by a national legislator brings about practical and positive impacts such as the construction of public memorial sites and monuments, official publications or cultural and educational events carried out by state institutions. Parliamentary recognition leads also to supportive national jurisdiction.
Since 1965 the following 21 national legislative bodies have acknowledged in resolutions, decisions or acts, the extermination of the Armenians by the Turkish state as a genocide, according to the 1948 UN Convention:
- Argentina (Senate, 05 May 1993; Law, 18 March 2004)
- Belgium (26 March 1998)
- Chile (Senate, 05 June 2007)
- Germany (Bundestag, 16 June 2005)
- France (National Assembly, 28 May 1998; Senate, 07 November 2000; Law signed by the President, 29 January 2001)
- Greece (Parliament, 24 April 1996)
- Italy (Chamber of Deputies, 16 November 2000)
- Canada (House of Commons, 23 April 1996 and 21 April 2004, Senate, 13 June 2002)
- Lebanon (Chamber of Deputies, 03 April 1997, Parliament, 11 May 2000)
- Lithuania (Parliament, 16 December 2005)
- The Netherlands (Parliament, 21 December 2004)
- Poland (Parliament, 19 April 2005)
- Russia (State Duma, 14 April 1995)
- Sweden (Parliament, 29 March 2000)
- Switzerland (National Council, 16 December 2003)
- Slovakia (Parliament, 30 November 2004)
- Uruguay (Senate und the House of Representatives, 20 April 1965; Law, 26 March 2004)
- USA (House of Representatives, 09 April 1975)
- Vatican City (10 November 2000)
- Venezuela (National Assembly, 14 July 2005)
- Cyprus (National Assembly, 29 April 1982)
Also international unions such as the economic coalition of Southern American states (Mercado Común del Sur – Common Market of the Southern Cone; MERCOSUR, 11/7/2007) have condemned in resolutions the Armenian Genocide. The European Parliament has twice raised the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the government of the Turkish Republic to a precondition for Turkey’s membership in the EU (resolutions of the 6/18/1987 and 11/15/2001), while in its decision of 28 February, 2002 the EU has called on Turkey for the compliance of this condition. We share the opinion that Turkey must face up to its past if it wishes to become a full member of the European Union. We understand Europe as a community of shared values. The readiness to critically deal with one’s own national past and to bear responsibility for state crimes committed in this past is part of the values which European nations aim for – although this goal is not yet fully achieved, as the continuing deficits in the processing of European colonial crimes prove. Furthermore we are convinced that the readiness to cope with the past makes an essential contribution to the democratization of Turkey, leads to a reduction of the glorification of violence there, contributes to the enhancement of minority rights and finally, also contributes to an improvement of the relations with Turkey’s neighbors, in particular with the Republic of Armenia.
The present results, with respect to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, have encouraged representatives of Christian ethnic groups, who were also affected by the Ottoman genocide, to confront the world public with recognition claims. In doing so, representatives and organizations of the Pontos Greeks achieved successful recognition in three US Federal states. The German Bundestag decided on the 20th of February 2002, to forward to the Federal Government the mass petition submitted by the Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac Union, as it did in the previous year with the petition of the AGA organization. Already on the 17th of May, 2001 the Committee for constitutional, legal and parliamentary issues of the Bavarian Parliament dealt with an urgent motion “About the condemnation of the genocide against the Armenians and Assyrians” (Drs. 14/6281), forwarded by the representatives Christine Stahl, Elisabeth Köhler and the fraction Bündnis 90 / The Greens, which was followed by a debate in the plenary meeting of the Bavarian Parliament.
The AGA declares its profound solidarity with initiatives that seek to attain official recognition for denied genocide, and we support them within the scope of our possibilities. In this context we reject any notion of a hierarchy of genocides or affected persons, as well as claims to exclusivity and singularity. We point to the fact that the crimes committed against Christian ethnic groups from 1912 to 1922 inside the Ottoman Empire and in Ottoman occupied parts of Iran correspond to the same causes and were committed by the same perpetrators. Hence, the cooperation between the descendants of the survivors seems to us logical and desirable. Our statute outlines accordingly:
„The purpose of this association is the proscription and prevention of the crime of genocide according to the United Nations Convention on Genocide (1948). The association deals in particular with the denial and minimization of genocide as a component of genocide and promotes the reconciliation between nations, on the basis of joint commemorative work as well as processing of history; it also makes efforts to establish the understanding between those whose ancestors committed genocide and such whose dependents were victimized in genocide.”
In particular, the purpose of the statute is fulfilled through publications as well as specific public events in the domain of education and information (seminars, panel discussions, talks, exhibitions) and a possibly wide-ranging cooperation with social organizations, human rights NGOs as well as ecclesiastical associations and institutions with similar objectives.“
Countries, recognized genocide on Armenians.