April 24 Analysis: Armenian rhetoric toughens ahead of approaching Genocide Centennial

On April 24 the world marked the 98th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide committed in the Ottoman Empire. Two years from now it will be a century since the massacres in which 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives and a whole people was uprooted from its historical homeland.

Already now experts estimate that the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 2015 may become a point that will have political implications for the entire region.

The Armenian rhetoric in connection with the Genocide has also seen some alternations in this regard. Ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs and now member of the Prosperous Armenia Party Vartan Oskanian writes on his Facebook account: “I have noticed a change in the emphasis of our political, spiritual community and the society as a whole. It is high time we went from recognition of the Genocide to the elimination of its consequences. It means being ambitious in defending our own rights, in claims for compensation for the material, spiritual, intellectual and moral losses.”

For the first time since 1915 two Armenian spiritual leaders have made specific material demands to Turkey.

“The Genocide victims and the internally displaced people who lived under the jurisdiction of the Ottoman Empire in Western Armenia, Cilicia, and other regions of the Ottoman Empire, along with their own personal estates, also lost estates and holdings owned by the church – churches , sanctuaries and monasteries; religious, educational and charitable institutional centers; treasures of cultural and religious value – cross-stones (khachkars), illuminated manuscripts, icons and other items of value… We call on the Republic of Turkey and demand that it… immediately return the Armenian churches, monasteries, church properties, and spiritual and cultural treasures, to the Armenian people as their rightful owner,” Catholicos Karekin II, of Echmiadzin, and Catholicos Aram I, of the Great House of Cilicia, said in a joint statement on April 24.

“The Armenian people has not received even the minimum compensation - not only from Turkey, but also from mankind in general. I would say that it got the opposite - the denial by Turkey, the blockade of Armenia and the indifference of the international community are like a continuation of what happened in 1915,” continues Oskanian.

Before the torchlight procession towards Tsitsernakaberd, a hilltop Genocide Memorial in capital Yerevan, which took place on the eve of the Genocide Remembrance Day, on April 23, Dashnaktsutyun representative Vahan Hovhannisyan stressed that Armenians would not be satisfied with only an apology from Turkey, but they needed compensation. “The blood of our ancestors cannot be washed off with fine words. We must make sure that the government in Armenia is strong enough to make claims [to Turkey].”

Until now, the struggle of the Armenian people has been limited to demanding the recognition by the international community that exterminations and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide. However, Armenian organizations have never filed any suits with the International Court for the recognition of the 1915 massacres as genocide. Such recognition will inevitably entail Armenian territorial and property claims to modern-day Turkey.

The change of accents this year is obvious to many and there is a growing body of opinion that an apology is not enough. Geo-strategists, meanwhile, expect that Genocide recognition by the United States and reaffirmation by the United Nations in 2015 could entail a redrawing of Turkey’s borders that Armenia has not recognized yet.

“I think we have come to a milestone when recognition and condemnation are not enough. One should achieve restitution through courts, by joint efforts of Armenia and its Diaspora,” said the director of the Yerevan-based Institute of Oriental Studies Ruben Safrastyan.

The leading Armenian scholar thinks that geopolitical developments also contribute to this situation. “In the next few years a new state, Kurdistan, will appear in the Middle East. The states that will be redrawn for this purpose will have to revert to the Treaty of Sevres, the only document that mentions Kurdistan. Our diplomacy should remind these states that Armenia is also part of this Treaty,” said Safrastyan.

Under the Treaty of Sevres signed in August 1920 between the defeated Ottoman Empire and Allies at the end of World War I Armenia was to take control of most of Western Armenia that is part of Turkey today.