The public stage play that depicted “the liberation of Askale from invasion” was turned into a hate show, the Turkish Dogan News Agency (DHA) reported.
Askale is a town in the city of Erzurum in Turkey. Indigenous Armenians of the city were either slaughtered or deported in a genocidal campaign in 1915, but a play staged on March 3 in the city not only turned the historical facts regarding the genocide upside down, but converted them into hate-filled propaganda against the Armenians.
Turkey still denies the reality of 1915 genocide and commemorates the date March 3, 1918 as “the day when Askale was liberated from the Russian and Armenian invaders.”
Many state and government authorities – including the mayor, district governor, chief prosecutor and garrison commander of the town – as well as many students and local people attended the play.
The play (see video below of the 2015 play) starts with the “immigration of Turks fleeing from Armenians.” The Armenians begin drinking wine and eating chicken on a table set in the middle of the ceremony area. Upon the call of their commander, they start slaughtering Turks.
The Armenians then burn down a mosque (a model made of cardboard), catch the imam as he is reciting the Azan (the Islamic call to prayer) and attack him in the city center. They force him to enter the mosque and then burn him alive. Afterwards, the Armenians attack a Turkish family, murdering the housewife and her father-in-law in cold-blood.
The play ends with Turkish high school students, playing the role of the Turkish militia, entering the town and killing the Armenian “gangs.”
Following the play, the Turkish national anthem was played as the Turkish flag was raised on a pole.
Enver Basaran, the mayor of Askale, delivered the following speech:
“The Armenians, who had been our ancestors’ neighbors for long years, formed gangs and carried out massacres in our lands with the encouragement and armed support of the Soviet Union following the Russian invasion.
“In your presence, I remember once again with mercy and gratitude our glorious ancestors who extirpated the Armenians whose history is filled with blood and treason from these lands.
“The hostility and hatred of those Armenian gangs that are a network of treason has never ended for these lands and for the noble Turkish nation. Those Armenian gangs that do not know any history, rules or law now carry out separatist activities in our lands through the terrorist organization PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party].
“As we have clearly seen in our recent crisis with Russia as well, the bad intentions of these treacherous gangs and conniving states on our country will never come to an end.”
Fikri Pecen, a retired employee of the Akcale municipality, who has for years voluntarily played the role of a member of the “Armenian gang,”said, “I have been playing the role of Ohannes, the Armenian battalion commander for about 30 years. We would like to portray what Armenians did in this land and make it known to the new generations. Today I will once again betray Mahmut and Sevket Efendi whose bread I have eaten for years and will take their lives.”
Prior to the 1915 genocide, the city Erzurum, or Karin in Armenian, had a vibrant Armenian community with numerous Armenian schools, churches and businesses. The city was also the provincial residence of the Archbishop of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
By 1919, according to the American Committee for Relief in the Near East, Erzurum was left completely devoid of its Armenian population as a result of the Ottoman forces’ genocidal campaign against the Armenians and other Christians in the region. (For a detailed account of the massacres and deportations in the city and the region, see “The History of Armenia”, by Simon Payaslian, Palgrave Macmillan; 2007.)
“The scale of the Armenian genocide is massive,” wrote the scholar Andrew Bernstein. “Estimates of the murder count vary widely, but even by the most conservative accounting, a minimum of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians—men, women, children, infants—were butchered by the most savagely primitive methods imaginable.
“Rudolph Rummel, an American political scientist who coined the term democide—the murder of any person or people by their government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder—devoted his career to studying such horrors. He writes: ‘The size and speed of the [ruling] Young Turks’ ethnic cleansing are unparalleled. . . . They alone most likely murdered no fewer than 300,000 and most probably around 1,400,000—nearly 70 percent—of their Armenians . . . in one year.’”
Objective scholars tell the facts as they are. But Turkish schoolchildren are taught an imaginative and untrue version of history that is marked with hate-filled propaganda.
Professor Taner Akcam wrote a comprehensive article for the Armenian Weekly about how the 1915 genocide is depicted in Turkish history textbooks for the 2014-15 school year. And those books are either prepared by the Ministry of National Education or approved by the Ministry’s Instruction and Education Board.
“The textbooks characterize Armenians as people ‘who are incited by foreigners, who aim to break apart the state and the country, and who murdered Turks and Muslims,’” Akcam wrote.
“The Armenian Genocide—referred to as the ‘Armenian matter’ in textbooks—is described as a lie perpetrated in order to meet these goals, and is defined as the biggest threat to Turkish national security. Another threat to national security is missionaries and their activities.
“The situation is truly desperate,” Akcam noted. “Based upon what’s been written, two questions come to mind: How do Armenians who continue to live in Turkey, and who are its citizens, manage to live in this country? What is it like to live as an Armenian in a country where innocent young minds are taught to be enemies of Armenians, and where Armenians are presented as a threat against national security?”
Sadly, the distortion of facts relating the Armenian genocide and brainwashing schoolchildren with hostility towards Armenians, who are the actual victims of the genocide, has for decades become the norm in Turkey.
Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist formerly based in Ankara. She is presently in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/uzayb