"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Turkey, Armenia, and Genocide

The question of the Armenian genocide continues to haunt not merely historians and other scholars, but also the politics of Europe. The genocide remains a hugely controversial notion in Turkey, where the very discussion of it is actually a criminal offense. Turkey continues to deny responsibility for any wrong-doing. And yet Turkey is also interested in joining the European Union: the prospects of the latter happening are diminished while the former denial remains in place. This November sees another book set to review all these issues: Vahakn N. Dadrian and Taner Akçam, Judgment at Istanbul: The American Genocide Trials (Berghahn, 2011), 372pp. 

About this book the publisher tells us:
Turkey’s bid to join the European Union has lent new urgency to the issue of the Armenian Genocide as differing interpretations of the genocide are proving to be a major reason for the delay of the ratification. This book provides vital background information and is a prime source of legal evidence and eye-witness testimony of the intent and the crime of genocide against the Armenians. After a long and painstaking effort, the authors, one an Armenian, the other a Turk, generally recognized as the foremost experts on the Armenian Genocide, have prepared a new, authoritative translation and detailed analysis of the Takvim-i Vekâyi, the official Ottoman Government record of the Turkish Military Tribunals concerning the crimes committed against the Armenians during World War I. The authors have compiled the first-known English-language documentation of the trial proceedings and situated them within their historical and legal context. These documents show that Wartime Cabinet ministers, Young Turk party leaders, and a number of other parties inculpated in these crimes were court-martialed by the Turkish Military Tribunals in the years immediately following World War I. Most were found guilty and received sentences ranging from prison with hard labor to death. In remarkable contrast to Nuremberg, the Turkish Military Tribunals prosecuted solely on the basis of existing Ottoman domestic penal codes. This substitution of a national for an international criminal court stands in history as a unique initiative of national self-condemnation. This compilation is significantly enhanced by an extensive analysis of the historical origins, political nature and legal implications of the criminal prosecution of the twentieth century’s first state-sponsored crime of genocide. For a better understanding of one of key controversies in Genocide Studies, this book is essential for historians, political scientists, sociologists, legal scholars, and policy makers. 

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