German MPs receive threatening emails over plans to recognize Armenian genocide

The German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany © Fabrizio Bensch
Thousands of emails have been reportedly sent out by the Turkish community to German MPs, threatening the politicians and calling them names in connection with Berlin’s latest attempts to recognize the 1915 Armenian genocide.

Berlin is looking to adopt a resolution, titled “Remembrance and commemoration of the genocide of Armenians and other Christian minorities in the years 1915 and 1916” this Thursday.

The legislation, which has strained German-Turkish relations, is largely being supported by the opposition Greens in Germany, Merkel's conservative bloc and Social Democrats.

The document has the word “genocide” in its headline and the text that reads “the fate of the Armenians is exemplary in the history of mass exterminations, ethnic cleansing, deportations and yes, genocide, which marked the 20th century in such a terrible way.”

The document also mentions the “inglorious” role of the German Empire, which was the Ottomans' ally in World War I and did nothing to stop the atrocities.

Over 500 different Turkish organizations in Germany have sent out emails to their local MPs and journalists covering the subject, Germany’s Spiegel Online reported. Turkish citizens have also reached out privately via social media.

Some emails crossed a line, intimidating politicians and threatening the lives of journalists.

Chairman of the German Greens, Cem Ozdemir, who is of Turkish origin, was one of the MPs who received abusive messages via email, Twitter and Facebook.

“It's always the same terms: 'Traitor,' 'Armenia's pig', 'son of a bitch', 'Armenian Terrorist' and even ‘Nazi'," he told ARD.

The most common letter sent out stated: “More than 90 percent of the Turkish population rightly rejects the genocide accusation and interprets it as slander.” It then warns that if the resolution is passed, it will “poison the peaceful coexistence between Germans and Turks in this country, and also in Turkey,” Spiegel reported.

Journalists covering Germany’s attempts to recognize the Armenian genocide also received threats such as: “You will be eliminated,” or “Your end will be like that of Hrant Dink [the Turkish-Armenian journalist who was shot in January 2007 by right-wing extremists in Istanbul].”

Armenians also sent out letters supporting the resolution. “Recognition of the Armenian Genocide is important to prevent other genocides in the future,” the spokesman of the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Tigran Balayan, told AFP.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined the conversation on Tuesday, warning Germany that if it proceeds with its Armenian genocide resolution, it would hurt the bilateral ties between the two nations.

“If Germany is to be deceived by this, then bilateral diplomatic, economic, trade, political, and military ties – we are both NATO countries – will be damaged,” Erdogan told reporters.

The parliamentary vote was originally scheduled to take place a year ago to mark the 100th anniversary of the genocide, but due to concerns over the fallout with Turkey, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s allies postponed the move.

The mass killings began on April 24, 1915, when 250 Armenian intellectuals were detained by Ottoman authorities and later executed in their capital, Constantinople, which is now present-day Istanbul.

Most of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenians were subsequently displaced, deported or placed in concentration camps, ostensibly for rebelling against the Ottomans and siding with the Russians during World War I. This affected up to 1.5 million Armenians.

Earlier this year, thousands of people around the globe took to the streets to commemorate the 1915 massacre.

Turkey – the successor of the Ottoman Empire – agrees that many Armenians were mistreated at the time, but maintains that the number of victims has been grossly exaggerated and that there was no “genocide.”