Apr. 7th, 2006

rfmcdonald: (Default)
It's raining today in Toronto. It's been raining in proper springlike fashion for most of the day, at least since 10 o'clock when I looked out my window to see everything soaked. It was raining when I left work at quarter past four, so much so that I could only squeeze myself onto a subway car at the very last minute, lower back twisted against the door, smelling the damp and the sweat in the air.

Yeserday in Toronto, it was a beautiful day, in springlike fashion with light wind and a bright, nearly cloudless, blue sky. Walking down Bloor Street east of St. George, I saw a woman taking advantage of this. She was dressed in white--blouse, pants--and well-tended, with short hair, perhaps a clerk at one of the posh stores in that area. She had a lit cigarette in her mouth, cheeks sucked hollow as she breathed, and her eyes were closed as she let the sun shine down on her. In the moment that I saw her, I imagined her photograph, something taken in the visual idiom of Nan Goldin that I'd seen in a 2003 exhibition at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal. That one scene of fragile endurance and beauty would have been worthy of her.
rfmcdonald: (Default)
There's an interesting article regarding a conference hosted by the Czech parliament on the subject of the Armenian Genocide.

The dissonance between the high baroque hallways of the Czech parliament building and the horror depicted in the black and white images that hung from their walls this week could scarcely have been more stark.

The faded photographs showed a nation in flight, charred bodies by the side of the road, severed heads on pikes held by grinning guards, clusters of skeletal figures abandoned in the Mesopotamian desert, orphaned children wide-eyed with fear. In short, a people tormented, slaughtered, humiliated, and starved.

Call it what you will: genocide, mass murder or, as the Turkish government would have it, plain simple deportation, the deaths of so many Armenians in 1915-16 have come to be seen as one of the defining horrors of 20th century history.


Post-Ottoman Turkey is finding it more difficult than ever to maintain its official position that the Armenian genocide was not a genocide at all, simply a wartime population relocation that--perhaps--went awry. Official Turkey retaliated against France following the recognition, in 2001, of the genocide by that country's parliament, but France is no longer alone in the context of growing international recognition of the Armenian genocide. The Armenian genocide was the first modern genocide in 20th century Europe, arguably even the prototype for the Holocaust in the Second World War.

The Turkish reaction, in Turkey and in the Turkish diaspora, has been rather less than productive. French of Turkish background protested against the construction of a monument to the Armenian genocide in Lyons, while in Germany Turkish nationalists organized a demonstration of their own, though it was ordered to "take place under strict conditions, includ[ing] not characterizing the Armenian massacre as a lie in either speech or on placards." The New Anatolian has recently covered this latter demonstration in glowing terms.

A mass demonstration aimed at denouncing Armenian genocide claims, to be held in Berlin under the slogan "Take your flag and come to Berlin," has caused tension between Turkey and Germany. Flyers announcing the movement read, "If Western capitals don't want to be burned like Paris, unjust treatment towards Turkey must end."

IP leader Dogu Perincek and former Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) President Rauf Denktas will lead the planned demonstration with the participation of many representatives from Turkish political parties and European non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within the framework of the Talat Pasha Movement. The main aim of the group is to put pressure on the German Parliament to remove official recognition of the Armenian genocide claims. The movement also aims to attract some 5 million supporters, including some 1,000 from Turkey.

Denktas is expected to lay flowers at the place in Berlin where Talat Pasha was assassinated on March 15, 1921 by an Armenian, and an assembly will gather in a memorial for Talat Pasha on Sunday.


Mehmed Talat Pasha, incidentally, was the Ottoman minister of the interior who ordered the deportation of Armenians into the Syrian desert in the first place. By means of comparison, imagine German nationalists making a pilgrimage to place flowers near the prison where Eichmann was executed, a memorial for that man cruelly murdered by the Jews.

All this is a crime against historical memory. More to the point, it's rather stupid. As The New Anatolian has already noted, those Europeans who want to admit Turkey into the European Union wish to do so on Turkey's own merits. A Turkey that is rather obsessively propagating genocide denial doesn't exactly present itself in the best light.
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