SAN FRANCISCO–The SF-Bay Area Armenian National Committee was honored to host Professor Vahakn Dadrian recently to discuss his new book–Warrant for Genocide–at Vaspouragan Hall in San Francisco.
Despite suffering from the flu–Dadrian–who directs the Genocide Study Project of the Guggenheim Foundation carefully outlined the major themes of the publication to more than 100 assembled community members. He introduced the importance of studying the conflict between Armenia’s and Turks as it developed in the decades before the Genocide. Dadrian explained how religion–demographics and power relations played key roles in allowing the extended conflict to culminate into massive annihilation.
Dadrian discussed Abdul Hamid’s policies leading up to the Young Turk government which included measures to resettle 2 million Kurds into ancient Armenian population centers of Moush–Van–Erzinga–and Kharpert. Demographic gerrymandering was also directed by Sultan Hamid to change the balance of power in the empire’s eastern provinces–said Dadrian–as evidenced by the creation of the district of "Bitlis," which immediately made a mostly Moslem area out of a previously overwhelmingly Armenian territory.
The Ottoman interpretation and teachings of the Koran emphasized the righteousness of "Holy War" and the undertaking of massacres to overcome "infidels," said Dadrian–which he stressed was much less highlighted in other Moslem states. He said that regardless of the Armenian presence in the Ottoman parliament and in business–they were perceived as less deserving of equal rights by virtue of their Christianity. Dadrian also stressed the methods of successive Ottoman governmen’s to render Armenia’s politically impotent and vulnerable by passing laws forbidding Armenia’s the right to bear arms and refusing them access to the judicial system.
To add to the Armenia’s’ highly vulnerable state in the Ottoman Empire–Dadrian outlined the increasingly draconian measures taken by the Hamid–combined with the continued brutal treatment by the Kurds–their confiscation of large tracts of Armenian land and property–and their constant physical assaults on the Armenian community. In this atmosphere–the only obstacle to the Armenia’s’ fate was possible intervention by outside powers. Here–Dadrian cited the disastrous lack of "external deterrence" of the Russia’s–British or French due to political and economic interests.
Dadrian said the Armenian revolutionary movement grew out of frustration and despair because of the lack of action on Armenian reforms proposed in parliament. He called the Armenian fedayees "part of the glory of Armenia" and they displayed "tremendous self sacrifice," noting several key events where Armenia’s fought back impressively–and the skill and bravery of General Antranik and his fighters. Sadly–those brave acts gave the Turks an excuse in carrying out the Genocide.
With sustained applause–the audience expressed their appreciation to Prof. Dadrian for his work. "Prof. Dadrian and those few like him are our precious intellectual soldiers of truth" said ANC spokesperson–Roxanne Makasdjian in her introduction. "The work he has been doing to uncover the circumstances surrounding the Genocide are invaluable to genocide studies in general and to our community’s irrepressible desire for the truth to be known."
Makasdjian stressed the dangerous effects of time in eroding the record of the Genocide–"If we learn anything from the studies of Professor Dadrian–we learn how much factual–documented evidence really does exist to support our now fading memories–as the ‘first genocide of the century’ becomes the ‘first genocide of the LAST century."
Makasdjian reminded those present that promoting awareness of the Armenian Genocide in the political and educational arenas has been a priority on the ANC’s agenda since its inception.