Speaker defines Armenian massacre as genocide

Between 800,000 and 1 million Armenians died during the forced removal.

by Jamie VanGeest

Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political or cultural group.

It is debated if this term applies to the forced removal of Armenians from Turkey in 1915. This order by the Ottoman government resulted in approximately 1 million Armenian deaths.

Paul Boghossian, a New York University philosophy professor, spoke about how the concept of genocide is viewed from a philosopher’s perspective Thursday evening at Nolte Hall.

For 3,000 years, Armenians lived in Turkey, until the Ottoman government had them forcibly removed, said Stephen Feinstein, program director for the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Between 800,000 and 1 million Armenians died in this removal. To this day, the Turkish government says genocide did not occur, which is causing controversy over Turkey’s entry into the European Union, Feinstein said.

“The Turkish government denies that it happened, but how do they explain the disappearance of an entire group of people from an area in three to four months?” Boghossian said.

Boghossian spoke about the definition of genocide and arguments about whether it applies to the Armenian and Turkish situation of 1915.

He said people either were opposed to the concept of genocide in general, or they thought the term did not apply to the situation in 1915, because the term wasn’t defined until the 1940s.

A survivor of the 1915 events donated money for Thursday’s forum. Arsham Ohanessian helped 100 people escape from his Turkish village to Mosul, Iraq.

Ohanessian, who is now dead, donated $1 million to the University for a series of forums, some of which continue Armenian studies.

“He passed away last spring, with his keen intelligence and generosity of spirit,” said Eric Weitz of the Center for German and European Studies at the University.

Ratnendra Sharma, a first-year public health policy graduate student, said he has “interest in the issue because one of my ex-girlfriends was Turkish.”

Sharma said he attended the event “for pure intellectual curiosity.”

Boghossian, Feinstein and Weitz will speak on Minnesota Public Radio’s “Midmorning” program from 10 to 11 a.m. today.