At the 97th anniversary of April 24th, 1915 Armenian Genocide, we interviewed with the director of Armenian Genocide Museum Institute Hayk Demoyan about the genocide process and the "Anatolians that helped Armenians" partition of the museum.
Demoyan states that more than a million Armenians were killed within 1915-1918 and they were killed on their own territories, however he mentions that "Genocides are not measured by the number of victims" and "Genocide is a process and preplanned policy".
Demoyan says they've been working on the "Anatolian people rescued the Armenians against genocide and dislocation" issue for 4 years and he adds:
"Any documents, photos related to those 'righteous' people will be much welcomed."
First of all, could you please tell us about the history of the museum? How is the interest of people to the museum? What kind of activities you carry out? What are exhibited in the museum regarding 1915?
Our museum was established in 1995 as a part of the Armenian genocide memorial constructed on the Tsitsernakaberd hill in Yerevan in 1967. Since then we had millions of visitors, among them are Presidents, Ministers, political figures, military and religious leaders from all over the world. Visiting to the Tsitsernakaberd memorial and the museum is a part of official protocol visits in Armenia. The museum is also a research institute operating as a separate unit in the system of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia. The museum focuses on collecting anything related to the Armenian Genocide, including oral histories, handwritten memoirs, personal belongings of victims and survivors, books, magazines, newspapers, memorabilia, photographs, films and many other items. We study, preserve and exhibit those items both in permanent and temporary exhibitions of the museum. We also work on identifing victims. This is very important, since everyone out of one and half million victims must be remembered and honored.
The Museum is getting prepared for the Centennial in 2015. We plan to extend the existing building with new blocks and facilities. We have more to show and to tell.
In the permanent exhibition we show only five percent of what we have in our collection. Every year AGMI organizes temporary exhibition, publishes dozens of volumes on the subject of the Armenian Genocide. We have our website which is the richest web resourse on the topic of the Armenian Genocide materials available in Armenian, English, Russian and Turkish.
In the museum you have a project about the Turks that saved Armenians from the genocide in Anatolia. How do you think this project will affect the genocide debates that exist for many years?
The Museum collects data on such cases as part of the overall study of the Armenian Genocide. Yes, many Muslims saved Armenian lives, and this is an inseparable part of the history of the Armenian Genocide. While finding such cases, it gives us confirmation of the situation during the Armenian Genocide. As for affecting "Genocide debates", I do not think it will have any influence on the meaning of Genocide, rather it will reveal important part of the story, which is very common by the way in other Genocidal related occurrences. We call them "Righteous", person who while risking his own and family member's lives try to rescue representatives of the targeted group from inescapable death. The names of such individuals must be remembered. There are special categories for these individuals who saved Armenian lives, depending on their personal motivations: economical, personal interest in terms of forced marriage, labor force. But we consider real rescue those cases those when a person or family hosted, hid, fed and supported the escape from death.
"The rescue stories come to prove the very planned character of the Armenian Genocide"
According to your surveys, how many Armenians are estimated to be saved from the genocide/deportation by both local administrators and the public in Anatolia? Would the size of the genocide change much if there were no such protection/support?
It is very hard to bring any statistical data on this. It could be hundreds or thousands. We know that some of the administrators either were removed from their position or were punished for opposing the Ottoman State policy of Genocide. As for the "Size of Genocide," let's not forget that Genocides are not measured by the number of victims. Genocide is a process and preplanned policy with the clear intention to eliminate targeted group in whole or in part. Armenians were targeted and the Armenian Genocide was a state planned and implemented policy. The intention of the Young Turkish leaders also is proven by numerous testimonies and documents. In case of the number of Armenians, more than a million were killed within 1915-1918 and they were killed on their own territories of their historical homeland known since the ancient periods as Armenia. These events are major reasons the modern Turkish State does not want to face with.
How is the reaction of the Armenians towards your project? Are there any risks of opening such a partition at the Armenian Genocide Museum?
We do our job openly and everyone can check what we do on our website. Many Armenian families had stories of rescue. Actually who were the rescuers? Those who opposed the Government orders not to help Armenians, being under the danger to be punished severely. The Ottoman government ordered to execute those Muslims, in front of their houses, who hid Armenians. Those who opposed to this order, they opposed against the genocide policy of the government. The rescue stories come to prove the very planned character of the Armenian Genocide so we have no fear or reservation concerning those facts.
How was your work about the Anatolian people protected the Armenians against genocide? For how many years does it last?
Four years ago we started to collect more data on the cases of rescue on the territory of Western Armenia and other territories of the Ottoman Empire. I would like to call all those who have such stories to send us their own family stories and to help us enrich the Collection of the Museum, and to preserve the facts of the Armenian Genocide and hopefully, to prevent future Genocides. The photos of the rescuers will be much welcomed.
At one of your interviews you mentioned that Atatürk was also against deportation. He stopped the train when he saw hundreds of people walking on the road and told them to go back home, so saved their lives. Could you please tell us in short Ataturk's approach towards Armenian genocide / relocation?
Actually there is misinterpretation of my words concerning my interview and some comments about the Ataturk case which was published in 2008 in "Economist". After that misrepresentation many Armenian pseudo-patriots began to accuse me in "treachery." They were not aware that I was speaking about the case when in 1932 Ataturk sent some Armenian deportees from the surrounding villages of Istanbul back to their home after witnessing their miserable situation... Ataturk did so in 1932, but not in 1915 as it was reported in that article .We have that Norwegian source in our collection and it was translated and disseminated couple of years ago Let's say... So what if Ataturk did save a few Armenians during his own administration?
Every professional historian knows that Ataturk was a member of the "Union and Progress" party, the leaders of which were responsible for organizing and committing the Armenian Genocide. Moreover he was a member of "Teşkilat i- Mahsusa", a special organization set for implementation of diabolic plan of the genocide. Even if, there are no evidence that he was directly involved in the decision making and implementation of the genocidal plan, by being one of the protectors of the persons directly involved in mass killings and looting of Armenian property Ataturk continued the policy of mass murder of Armenians on the territory of Russian Armenia, tens of thousands returnees who survived horrors of Young Turkish deportation were massacred in Cilicia in 1920-1922. This year we will also remember the Armenian and Greek victims of "Smyrna fire" in September 1922. It was the final stage of the Armenian Genocide in overall genocidal policy that started from Sultan Abdul Hamid's period in 1894-1896, continued in Adana in 1909, and went to its apex in 1915-1918 by the Young Turks and was finalized by Kemalists within 1920-1922. During the last period nearly 200,000 Armenians lost their lives. So having all this data and facts we could claim that Armenian Genocide was on the agenda of three regimes in Turkey: Sultan's, Young Turkish and Kemalist.(EKN)