By Florence Avakian
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
TENAFLY, N.J. — Prof. Vahakn Dadrian, renowned historian and scholar of the Armenian Genocide, gave a much-awaited lecture on the significance of the Ottoman trials of the Genocide perpetrators, at the St. Thomas Armenian Church, on Friday, March 9. It also marked the publication of his new book, the first book jointly written by an Armenian and a Turkish scholar, (Prof. Taner Akçam is his collaborator), titled Judgment at Istanbul: The Armenian Genocide Trials.
An 11-year effort, the book is the first complete documentation of the trial proceedings in English, and is based on authentic documentation, including personal, eyewitness testimony of high- ranking Ottoman officials, given under oath, which the Ottoman government was forced to release during the trials which revealed the magnitude of the crimes perpetrated against the Armenians.
Tekeyan Cultural Association New York/New Jersey Chairman Hagop Vartivarian welcomed the more than 100 in attendance and discussed the background of Dadrian, which includes numerous books, his fluency in several languages, his many university degrees and the honors he has received, including the coveted gold medal from the president of the Republic of Armenia.
Speaking in Armenian for an hour-and-a-half, virtually without notes, Dadrian, a walking encyclopedia on the Genocide, began his talk by pointing out that the 1894 to 1896 massacres of 200,000 Armenians — mostly men, in Anatolia and Istanbul — took place on Fridays after Muslim prayers and lasted for three days, emphasizing that the Turkish people killed for Allah. “The Turkish people participated with pleasure in the Genocide, whereas during the Nazi extermination, the German people did not take part. “By killing Armenians, Turks would be eligible to go to heaven. Armenians and Turks who had been friends for centuries became enemies in 24 hours.”
He explained that Sultan Abdul Hamid killed the Armenians at that time because the Ottoman areas of Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria had already been emancipated from the empire, and therefore only the Armenians remained as an entity. “Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria were the hands and feet of the Ottoman Empire, but the Armenians were the stomach and the intestines,” he related. “So the Armenian areas of Van, Erzerum, Bitlis, Kharpert and Diyarbekir became an existential threat.”
When the Armenians asked for reforms, Turkey was afraid they would become part of Armenia. However, the scholar said he blamed the Armenian revolutionary groups for “inadvertently inciting” the Turks.
No Punishment for 1894-96 Massacres Led to 1915 Genocide
“The 1894-1896 massacres of Abdul Hamid, done with impunity, remained unpunished. The West and the rest of the world did not raise a finger because they had vested interests and were not interested in getting involved militarily. Therefore, the Ottomans were encouraged to do even more killing, since the Armenians remained virtually unprotected, helpless and vulnerable,” he stated, adding that Armenians were not allowed to have weapons, not even a knife. Armenians were used to submitting to the Turks. The fact that the Armenians had been unprotected for six centuries was their doom, and they were easily sacrificed like sheep. Ethnic cleansing was the major role of the Ottomans.”