Armenia's reparations claim against Turkey: illusion or reality?

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Baku, 28 August 2013 –

It was not until late 1990s that in line with nearly 100 years old propaganda of the so-called Armenian "genocide” the Armenians brought the issue of reparations into the agenda. Indeed, the issue being left out of discussions did not imply that Armenians would not seek reparations. This is the third, yet to be officially initiated phase of the "4T Plan” – a well-calculated and centrally administered action plan. Once in a while, however, media in the U.S., Armenia and Europe provide information on reparations issue aiming to prepare the public opinion in Turkey and within the international community.

Officially, Armenia forwards no claims with respect to the reparations for the alleged "genocide”s victims. Such claims are usually introduced into the agenda by the nationalist parties and diaspora organizations spearheaded by the Dashnaktsutsyun Party. Government considers the reparations claims of the heirs-at-law of the "genocide” victims and diaspora Armenians legitimate; a position presuming that government would endorse their claims.

While serving as a Foreign Minister, Vardan Oskanyan said that reparations issue was not on the agenda but would be brought into the international spotlight at the earliest convenience. Hay Dat’s (Armenian Court) Central Office Director Kiro Manoyan expressed his views on the reparations issue in the following fashion: "Ottoman Turkey must not go unpunished for the genocide against the Armenians. Since Ankara is Ottoman Turkey’s successor, it must pay out the reparations”.

In the meantime, it was in the early XX century that in order to provide a legal framework for their claims that the Armenians demanded deliberations on the issue in the League of Nations and identified following categories of Armenians eligible for compensation:

- Holders of the Ottoman passport or those who fled without it, in pursuit of justice against the perpetrators of terror, massacre and murder of the Armenians in the 1878-1915;

- Armenians without a passport (including deported) who escaped "massacres” in the 1915-1920;

- Armenians that fled the Ottoman Empire based on a state-issued passport in the 1915-1920;

- Armenians who fled the country based on a document issued by the occupational authorities upon the invasion of the Ottoman Empire;

- Armenians that forsook the Cilicia (Adana region) after the French surrendered it to the Turks;

- Armenians compelled to abandon Izmir threatened by a massacre at the hands of the Turks;

- Armenians who fled the region in the wake of the Ottoman army’s incursion into Kars in 1918, attacks on the Republic of Armenia by the Ottoman troops in the 1920 and signing of the Moscow Treaty of the 1921;

- Armenians expelled from the region in the wake of incursion of Turkish troops to Nakhichevan, Shakhtaxti and Surmeli and subsequent "massacres” by Turkish and Azerbaijani forces, and cession of those regions to Azerbaijan under the Moscow Treaty;

- Armenians that left the area after the "massacres” in Baku and Ganja, as well Azerbaijani SSR in the 1918-1920;

- Armenians subjected to murder by the Turks in the Akhalkalaki province, later to be annexed to Georgia.

After the introduction of the issue by Spain, Italy and Sweden, League of Nations commenced the investigations on the subject of illegal confiscation of property and bank assets of the Armenians that fled the Ottoman Empire prior to the WWI. Armenians that resided in Russia and then within Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia’s borders were neglected by the investigation, later to be entirely dismissed due to Turkey’s objections. On 20 October, 1925 Turkish government sent a letter to the Secretary-General of the League of Nations. According to the letter, the plight of the Armenians that fled Turkey prior to the Lausanne Treaty was regulated by the statement of Ismet Pasha delivered at Lausanne Conference on 17 July, 1923. Turks having proved the groundlessness of the claims compelled Armenians to search for different ways of legal justification of reparations demands.

Until recently, Armenia and the diaspora failed to mention the amount of reparations but the issue is starting to be deliberated upon. According to Stepan Stepanyan with the Institute of History of the Armenia’s Academy of Sciences, successors of the Armenian "genocide” must pay out 60 billion USD in compensation. Stepanyan reiterated demands that successors must surrender Turkish-occupied "Western Armenia”, recognize "genocide” of the 1915 and pay out the reparations.

It was at the very press-conference that Stepanyan slammed the U.S. Administration for failing to recognize the Armenian "genocide” while 15 other countries have already done so, and claimed that the U.S. backs Turkey. Stepanyan went on to say that it was not just the Ottoman Empire but also the Republic of Turkey that bear the responsibility for the "genocide” and mentioned that Turkey was obliged to pay reparations to the heirs-at-law of the "genocide” victims.

Armenians in France and the U.S. seeing their claims upheld with respect to obtaining life insurance policies of the "genocide” victims in the capacity of their successors was seen as a first step on the way towards demanding reparations from Turkey, thereby evoking greater enthusiasm. California Court heard a case of the heirs-at-law of the Armenian "genocide” victims that had their claims against the "New York Life Insurance Company” upheld on 30 July, 2004 with the term "genocide” used in the proceedings.

That had truly emboldened Armenians. Nevertheless, it was after lengthy discussions that the insurance company agreed to the payout of just 20 million USD to heirs-at-law of the "genocide” victims. Armenians hailed the court’s ruling as the right step towards the recognition of the Armenian "genocide”. Another company that was due to pay the heirs-at-law of the "genocide” victims was the French "AXA Insurance Company”. According to the arrangements of the 2005, the company set the deadline of 1 October, 2007 for the submission of applications for compensation and announced the payout of 12.7 million Euros to 7 thousand Armenians.

Although the insurance payouts to the Armenians are not specifically highlighted today, it may still be viewed as a starting point of the genocide propaganda phase. Hindsight of the last 100 years of various stages of the Armenian "genocide” propaganda would demonstrate that it was viable.

Dr. Hatem Jabbarli

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