Sunday, October 22, 2006

Who remembers the Armenians?

For many years, the truth about the genocide of the Armenians in 1915 has been actively suppressed in Turkey, and ignored in most other countries. This has started to change in recent weeks, with the collapse of Orhan Pamuk's trial and the attempt by the French Socialist Party to make it a crime to deny that the genocide happened.

This, it strikes me, is a flaw in the argument that laws against Holocaust Denial act to suppress debate or historical investigation. Historical research can be undermined when historians put forward ideas based on distortions of the evidence, aiming not to uncover historical truths but to advance a particular political cause. One of the best examples of this is the historical writings of David Irving, now jailed and proved to have lied about the Holocaust. Yet had it not been for the fact that David Irving chose to take legal action against Deborah Lipstadt, research which finally destroyed his arguments would not have happened, and he would be free to continue to peddle his lies.

The scholarship on Nazi Germany has not been undermined by the laws in Germany and Austria which criminalise Holocaust Denial. Indeed, more is known about the Holocaust than about any other genocide in history. When 'revisionist' historians gather in Iran at the invitation of Ahmedinejad for a conference about Zionist lies about the so-called Holocaust, or histories of twentieth century Turkey are written which do not mention the Armenians, the intent is not to discover more about the past, but is political. Where possible, the aim is to suppress knowledge of past genocides, and where that is impossible, their first step is by sowing doubt about what actually happened - exactly as Irving and others have tried to do.

Remembering past genocides may not prevent genocide from ever happening again. But it is a powerful weapon to resist the advance of the far right, ensuring that people know what happens if they are able to seize power, and for that reason laws which criminalise lying about genocide are hated by fascists.

Historical knowledge and political debate are interlinked. When there are determined movements which aim to undermine historical truth to further their aims, it can be necessary to ban the telling of lies about those events. The evidence suggests that this acts as a stimulus to genuine historical research, and hopefully this will be the case with research into the Ottoman genocide of 1915-17, the ignorance of which prompted Nazi leaders in the 1930's to ask "Who remembers the Armenians?"


At 11:45 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man's name is Ahmedinejad

At 3:56 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan another Pamuk case has come up recently that of Elif Shahak.


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