From 1915-18, the Ottoman Turks killed more than a million Armenians, the first genocide of the 20th century. In a speech to Wehrmacht commanders, Adolf Hitler urged ruthlessness, saying, “Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?” But the Turkish government disputes the historical record (and the Hitler quote), and now there’s a federal lawsuit charging that Massachusetts’ textbooks that teach the fate of the Armenians aren’t balanced. From the LA Times:
Griswold vs. Driscoll was filed last fall by high school senior Ted Griswold, two of his teachers and a Turkish-American advocacy organization. The plaintiffs contend that Department of Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll and other state officials violated the 1st Amendment by removing material from a human rights curriculum that questioned whether the mass killings nearly a century ago constituted genocide . . .
Six years ago, the Massachusetts Legislature mandated that high schools offer a curriculum on genocide and human rights. Topics included the Holocaust, the Irish potato famine, the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the genocide in Armenia.
At first, the syllabus about the Armenian genocide included opposing views from several Turkish scholars and organizations — many of whom dispute whether genocide took place. As recently as this month, when a public television show on the subject was aired, Turkish Ambassador Nab Ensoy called the events of 1915 “an unresolved period of world history.” In a statement from his embassy in Washington, Ensoy said: “Armenian allegations of genocide have never been historically or legally substantiated.”
Several months after the curriculum was introduced, the Turkish interpretation was removed when a state legislator said the dissent opened the door to denial of a historical tragedy.
Estimates of the Armenian population in Turkey before 1915 range from 1.5 million to 2.5 million people. Estimates of the death toll during the forced deportations ranged at the time from 800,000 (the official Turkish number) to 1.5 million, with most scholars in the 1.2 million to 1.5 million range. What should students be taught: It’s not genocide if you don’t kill ’em all? All those Armenians just decided to leave Turkey but ran into a “difficult road and weather conditions during the migration?”
President Bush’s statement on the anniversary of the start of the Armenian holocaust uses “tragedy” rather than “genocide.” We don’t want to annoy the Turkish government, which is our ally.