In recent years, various Western political and religious leaders have apologised for the crimes committed by their people - the French President apologised for the past crimes of the French colonial empires; the Pope apologised for the Crusades, the Inquisition, for the Christians' inherent anti-Semitism; President Clinton to the Native Americans for the massacres of their people, and to African Americans for slavery. Thus, while the West has owned up to, and even exaggerated, its past crimes -slavery, colonialism, racism, genocide - no Islamic country, with its all-pervasive code of sh ame and honour, would dream of apologisng for anything in public.. That would be to bring shame on its people; for in such a code of ethics, shame and honour are more important than truth.
Turkey refuses to acknowledge the Armenian genocide of 1915-23, when 1,5 million Armenians in the eastern Anatolia region were massacred or died in forced marches ordered by the Turkish regime of the declining Ottoman Empire. But soon there will be an Armenian Genocide Museum in Washington D.C. The 50 -million dollar museum and memorial will house mural-sized photos, personal artifacts and interactive exhibits chronicling the history of an atrocity.
Turkey insists that the genocide never happened. At most, it insists, 500, 000 Armenians died, mainly of disease, and only as the tragic consequence of a civil war started by Armenian separatists.
In the West, recognition of the atrocity was slow but the UN recognized it in 1985, now the Belgian Senate and the French Parliament have both passed an Armenian genocide resolution. The French decision, in January 2001, led Turkey to cancel many contracts with French companies.
The museum will ensure that the past will not be forgotten. Turkey will sooner or later have to come to terms with its own atrocious past, like the rest of us. Is it not time to establish a Bangladesh Holocaust Museum, in memory of the genocide in former East Pakistan in 1971?
[Source: Washington Post as reprinted in Guardian Weekly, March 22-28, 2001]