This is another in the TAFSO (New York based Turkish-American Security Foundation) interview series; German Political Scientist, Dr. Christian Johannes Henrich. It is of specific interest in relation to information concerning the Swiss Historian Professor Hans-Lukas Kieser whose book on Talaat Pasha I recently reviewed.
Dr. Henrich studied Political Science, Sociology and Economics in Siegen, Bonn, Innsbruck and Bursa with his dissertation being in Political Science and International Relations. His dissertation was titled: “Die türkische Außenpolitik 2002-2012 – Die Türkei zwischen regionalem Hegemonieanspruch und Nullproblempolitik am Beispiel der türkisch-armenischen Beziehungen” (En. “Turkish Foreign Policy 2002-2012 – Turkey between Claim of Regional Hegemony and Zero Problem Policy on the Example of the Turkish-Armenian Relations”). Dr. Henrich is currently The Director of the Research Center for Southeast Europe and Caucuses (SOEK), a habilitation student and lecturer at University of Vechta for Political Science, and a lecturer at FOM University of Applied Science for Business Administration, Economics and Sociology.
How did you become interested in the so-called Armenian genocide issue and begin researching on the matter?
It started with finding a topic for my master thesis. I wanted to work on something exciting that people do not know that much about in Germany. I knew the term “genocide of the Armenians” from the collective memory in Germany but had no detailed knowledge on it. I started asking my Turkish friends how they dealt with “their Holocaust”. I discovered that nobody in my circle of friends recognized it. I asked religious and more secular, left, right and apolitical, educated and uneducated Turks. No one accepted the term genocide. Compared to the perception of the Holocaust in Germany, this is a phenomenon. In Germany, only a few extremely right-wing neo-Nazis deny the genocide of Europe’s Jews. This broad social consensus in Turkey, of not accepting the term genocide, aroused my curiosity.
In your opinion, why do the Armenians allege that they have been subjected to a so-called genocide in 1915?
In my view, the allegations of genocide have been an issue in the Armenian diaspora from the very start. I lived in Turkey for three years, including a year in Istanbul in an Armenian neighborhood. Neither my Armenian neighbors nor the representative of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, nor the people in the Armenian Community in Hatay supported these allegations. The voices I heard here coincided with the attestation of the first Armenian Prime Minister Hovhannes Katchaznouni, who acquitted the Turks at a Dashnak Party Conference in 1923 and made references to Armenian massacres against the Muslim civilian population.
In my view, governments and parliaments of other countries should stay away from this topic. And Turkey and Armenia should first discuss these open questions unconditionally and openly with the support of scientists. The topic is being used by the Armenian Disapora and some western politicians to stir up resentments against Turkey. There is structural anti-Islamic racism in western countries, which is cherished and cared for by various people.
There is significant evidence in the Turkish Ottoman Archives to suggest that Armenian gangs have perpetrated unprecedented massacres and massive atrocities against the Turkish and other Muslim peoples in Turkey and in Caucuses in 1915-1923. Why, in your opinion, does the Christian World choose to ignore these atrocities perpetrated by Armenians?
As previously mentioned, the former Dashnak fighter and latter Prime Minister of Armenia (Katchaznouni) confirmed the outrages against Turks, Kurds and Arabs in Eastern Anatolia. He bases it on blind trust in Russia. However, these parts of the story are hidden. You will hardly find a book by a western author that mentions the Muslim victims through Armenian and Russian massacres. Professor Justin McCarthy is an important exception here.
Following a lecture by the Swiss Historian Professor Hans-Lukas Kieser at the University of Bonn, I asked why he did not mention the Muslim victims of this conflict in his text. His answer was short – that it had not been the subject of his research. I find this to be grossly unscientific because I cannot research on a conflict by not examining both sides of it. I could enumerate numerous Western scientists who lack any scientific ethics on this question and conducted only targeted research.
In 2016, German Parliament moved to recognize the so-called Armenian Genocide. What are your opinions on this subject?
When the term genocide was recognized by the German Bundestag in 2016, I quit the CDU after 21 years. I had previously tried several times to visit and inform the CDU parliamentary group in Berlin. Then MP, Erika Steinbach, wrote to me that they did not have to hear my opinion and that they were already sufficiently informed. I think it is fundamentally wrong for historical issues to be decided in the Bundestag. Especially when it comes to a different country. Politicians are not scientists! Politicians do not try to find out the truth but pursue power politics.
When the German Air Force bombed Belgrade in 1999 as part of the NATO Allied Force mission and waged the first war of aggression since World War II, the Bundestag decided with the votes of the CDU / CSU, SPD, FDP and Greens that it was not an aggressive war. Nevertheless, according to most international lawyers, it was a war of aggression contrary to international law and thus a violation of our German constitution.
What value should a politically motivated parliamentary decision have in scientific questions? And if the Bundestag really wants to send a signal, then we should first recognize and deal with the genocide of Herero and Nama by the German Wehrmacht between 1904 and 1908 in what is now Namibia (formerly German South West Africa). But that is not just a German problem. Look at other countries that recognize genocide too: The Netherlands did not recognize the 1947 genocide in Rawagede in Indonesia, the Belgians in the Congo between 1888 and 1908, and the French in Algeria in 1945.