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The core purpose of the current study lies in the investigation of different approaches to civil rights in the 1913-1923, represented by Armenians, Turkish, and the United States. Also, the present study aims at investigating how the question of civil rights has become a reason why the Armenian Genocide is not accepted by the Turkish and American Governments.
First and foremost, it is prudent to analyze the position of the Turkish view in respect of civil rights in the 1913-1923. In this sense, it might be appropriate to note that the most basic legal instrument regulating civil right in the country in 1913-1923 was the Ottoman Constitution of 1876. According to the Constitution, all subjects of the Empire were called the Ottomans. It means that the Armenians, being subjugated by the Ottoman rule, were called the Ottomans according to the main law of the Empire.
In this light, article 9 of the Constitution provides for personal liberty on conditions of non-interfering with the liberty of others (The Ottoman Constitution). Also, article 17 of the Constitution prescribes that all Ottomans are equal in the eyes of the law without prejudice to religion. In this connection, it is apparent that the Ottoman Constitution does not contradistinguish between the Muslim population of the Empire and the Christians, such as the Armenians.
To proceed further, it should be noticed that article 120 of the Constitution prescribes the right of assembly in accordance with the conditions “that they obey the law in the subject” (The Ottoman Constitution). However, the most important provision of the Constitution is that “the societies are forbidden which aims at injuring the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire, changing the form of the Constitution or of the government, acting contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, or bringing about a separation between the various Ottoman elements” (The Ottoman Constitution).
Hence, it follows that all forms of separatism or anti-state activities have been prohibited by the Ottoman Constitution of 1876. However, the Ottoman Constitution of 1876 has not manifested itself as an instrument against the multitude of minorities inhabiting the vast territories of the Empire.
In contrast to the Ottoman Constitution, the contemporary penal code of Turkey demonstrates more nationalist approach to the issue of civil rights. Thus, article 301 of the Code prescribes that a person who publicly belittles Turkishness is punishable by imprisonment of between six months and three years (Turkish Penal Code). In this connection, the article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code clarifies that the concept of Turkishness, which originates from the regime of Young Turks, is still adhered by the Turkish authorities. This is one of the reasons why Turkey refuses to recognize the massacres against the Armenians in 1915-1921 as genocide.
As far as the Armenian position is concerned, it should be noted that in late 1800s, the tension between the Turks and the Armenians arose because of the aspirations of the latter to press the political reforms in the Ottoman Empire, calling for a constitutional government. Even the adoption of the Ottoman Constitution could not cease the confrontation between the Turks and Armenians.
As for the American position regarding the issue of civil rights, it might be appropriate to note that, in the USA, the period of 1913-1923 is associated with a stage in a long-term African-American Civil Rights Movement. The fact is that the ideology of the USA in 1913 may be reduced to the concept of the white supremacy (Gilmore 40-70). The aforesaid concept synchronizes with the doctrine of Turkishness, which is propagated by the Young Turk regimes. In like manner, the status of the African Americans in the WWI-era resembles the situation around the civil rights of the Armenian minority in the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, the inequalities between the Whites and the Blacks in the USA, in conjunction with the strategic partnership with Turkey, feasibly prevent the US government from recognizing the massacres against the Armenians as genocide.