Turkey

Muslim memorial shows cruelty of Armenian gangs: Expert

Mass graves of martyrs are evidence of massacre by Armenian gangs against Muslims in eastern Anatolia, says scholar

Emre Ilikan   | 28.04.2021
Muslim memorial shows cruelty of Armenian gangs: Expert

VAN, Turkey

The Zeve martyrs' cemetery and memorial built in honor of 2,500 Muslims massacred during World War I in present-day eastern Turkey, reveals the extent of the atrocities committed by Armenian gangs, according to a Turkish scholar.

"The Zeve Memorial is home to very painful stories. Incidents that go against human dignity took place here," historian Bekir Koclar told Anadolu Agency in the eastern province of Van, where Zeve is found today.

"The Muslim community of seven villages of the city fled to the village of Zeve. Subject to the attacks of the Armenian gangs, 2,500 Muslim women, elderly and children were massacred here," recounted Koclar, who took part in the 1990s in an excavation near the area that unearthed a mass grave.

"We witnessed very gruesome things when the soil was dug," he said, adding that the remains suggested that the victims had been tortured to death and that the belongings of women and children, as well as Qurans -- Muslim holy books -- had been unearthed at the site as well.

Noting that the massacre was now on the record through the photographs taken at the excavation," Koclar, who heads the History Department at Van Yuzuncu Yil University, underlined that the region's Muslim community suffered greatly at the hands of the Armenian gangs and that this constituted genocide.

Abdulaziz Kardas, a faculty member at the same department, explained that the Armenian gangs in the region occupied Van city on May 20, 1915, with the help of Russian troops.

"They weren't satisfied with just occupying Van. The villages between Van and Ercis had begun to be occupied," said Kardas, referring to the seven villages whose Muslim populations were forced to flee to Zeve.

"The area upon which we stand holds the status of a testament to history. The Zeve Memorial is clear evidence that the Armenian gangs committed genocide," added the historian.

Events of 1915

These events occurred in the runup to the events of 1915, when Turkey says Armenian deaths in eastern Anatolia resulted took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.

On Saturday, US President Joe Biden released a statement characterizing the events of 1915 as a "genocide, which Turkey objects to, instead describing them as a tragedy in which both sides suffered casualties.

Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a history commission to examine the issue.

In 2014, Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- Turkey's then prime minister and now president -- expressed his condolences to the descendants of Armenians who lost their lives in 1915.

Biden's statement is 'criminal'

On the events of 1915, Koclar said that they have ceased to be a scientific historical issue and that they had become politicized.

Stressing that Biden's use of the word "genocide" for the 1915 events had no scientific basis, Koclar said: "When Western states have problems with Turkey, they raise this issue ... Turkey has repeatedly said that historians should discuss the events of 1915 among themselves."

"Our archives are open. Turkey maintains its offer both to Armenia and the countries making these claims: 'Let's set up a platform of historians, let's open all archives, let's discuss this issue.'

"This issue was already tried in the past and the trial concluded that genocide was not committed [against Armenians]. Describing the events of 1915 as 'genocide' despite this is evidence of racism against Muslims and Turks. In a legal sense, this is a crime. Biden has committed a crime," Koclar asserted.

Echoing these sentiments, Kardas said that decisions by the parliaments of countries that the events of 1915 amounted to "genocide" did not agree with historical fact.

"Our archives are open to all. Any researcher who wants to can come and do research. Excavations were conducted here on April 4, 1990. Mass graves were opened in front of the eyes of the Western press and scientists," he said.

"The mass slaughters that the Armenians committed were set forth clearly."

Kardas also asserted that the US president's statement on April 24 had no historical or legal basis. He said that by releasing it, Biden "also denies US documents."

"In 1918, two Americans came to Van, liberated from occupation, on horseback and conducted investigations. In their work, they report that Armenian gangs destroyed 95% of the houses of Muslims and massacred 62% of the population of Van," he stressed,

He accused Biden of releasing the statement on account of other existing problems in Turkish-US relations.

*Writing by Merve Berker in Ankara

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