Besmirching Armenians21 March 2013 LSE, London. 15 Mar. 2013. The Federation of Turkish Associations UK, an umbrella organization for 16 UK-based Turkish groups, organised a conference on "Turkish Armenian Relations". The meeting comprised of a chairperson and three guest speakers followed by a short Q&A session.
The chairperson of the panel was Andrew Mango, a longstanding supporter of official Turkey, who opened the meeting with a paper titled "Zurich Protocol and Other Endeavours to Normalize Relations Between Turkey and Armenia.” His presentation repeated the views of the Turkish Foreign Ministry in blaming Armenia for the breakdown of the Zurich protocols and left out such details as the Turkish Prime Minister’s declaration of new conditions to the protocols after they had been signed or the Turkish Parliament's refusal to ratify the agreement.
The first guest speaker was Tadeusz Swietochowski, a veteran historian of the South Caucasus, who spoke about "Ethnic Conflict and Political Awakening in Azerbaijan in the 1905-1907 Revolution." His focus was the polarization of Armenian and Tatar [modern day Azerbaijani] communities within the context of imperial Russian policies before World War I. His presentation was generally balanced and interesting. He did not, however, touch on current realities in the Caucasus or Turkish Armenian relations.
The second guest speaker was Dr. Patrick Walsh, who gave a paper titled "The events of 1915 in Eastern Anatolia in the context of Britain's Great War on the Ottoman Empire". A self-styled Irish nationalist, his paper was an occasion for his own vitriolic attacks against Great Britain and Anglo-Saxons. His knowledge of the Ottoman Empire was superficial, and his understanding of the Armenian Genocide was a schoolboy rendition of Turkish denialist paradigms from the 1980s.
The third speaker, Mr. Maxime Gauin, spoke about "Armenian Propaganda Methods since 1972." This presentation was more sophisticated than the previous one. Gauin argued that "terrorism" was part of the political culture of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), the largest Armenian political party in the Diaspora. He stated that such a terrorist culture manifested itself in the 1970s and 1980s, when Armenian terrorists were responsible for dozens of attacks against Turkish diplomats and other targets. Armenian terrorists, he stressed, enjoyed widespread support and popularity amongst Diaspora Armenian communities, as well as other circles. When such terrorists were captured, he argued, they received lights sentences. Gauin did not understand that "Armenian terrorism” was a fringe phenomenon, and that Turkey’s blanket denial of the Armenians Genocide, especially in the 1970s, did much to give the terrorists a moral high ground.
Despite the purpose of the conference, which the chairman explained was the improvement of Turkish Armenian relations, the actual topics were irrelevant to current realities, and the speakers–with one exception–were partisan in the extreme. While Swietochowski's paper was interesting but unrelated to the Caucasus today, Mango’s was tiresome, Walsh’s was absurd, while Gauin’s was a more insidious attempt to besmirch Armenians as terrorists.