New Evidence “Smoking Gun” Discovered That Can End Turkey’s Armenian Genocide Denial Policy


On April 24,  NPR’s Ari Shapiro spoke with Taner Akcam, a Turkish historian at Clark University, who uncovered an original telegram as evidence for the Armenian genocide. Taner Akcam has spent his career as a historian documenting the targeted killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at the start of World War I.  Akcam recently found a document he calls “the smoking gun” and “an earthquake in our field.”

Armenian Genocide Archives & A Catholic Priest

As Akcam explains, the main denial strategy of the Turkish government was “show us the originals.” The Turkish government was able to do this because of one very important reason.  All relevant documents regarding the Armenian Genocide were taken out from Ottoman archive or all these materials, the telegrams, eyewitness accounts simply disappeared.

It was already known that some of these telegrams ended up in the archive of the Armenian patriarch in Jerusalem, but for some unknown reason, this archive is closed to those outside of the patriarch and historians are not allowed access.

Luckily, in the end of the 1960’s, one Armenian Catholic priest by the name of Krikor Guerguerian went to this archive and managed to film all the materials there. He was also the owner of a private archive which was saved and secured by his nephew. The priest’s nephew handed the telegram to Akcam.

The “Smoking Gun”

The discovery of the telegram is huge according to Akcam because for the Armenian genocide the so-called smoking gun was missing. Meaning an official document from the Ottoman Empire, specifically given an order to eliminate the Armenian people. All the evidence so far were that of historians’ accounts, eyewitness accounts, and journalists’ accounts.

According to Akcam the telegram in his possession is an original one with an Ottoman letterhead pushed out by a high-level official of the Ottoman Empire in secret code to a colleague in the field, asking for details about the deportations and killings of Armenians in eastern Anatolia. The telegram was sent on July 4, 1915, by Behaeddin Shakir. The same telegram was used as evidence by the Turkish government after the genocide in several indictments and verdicts during the military tribunals in Istanbul.

The telegram reads:

Are the Armenians who were deported from there being liquidated? Are the troublesome individuals whom you have reported as having been exiled and expelled been eliminated or merely sent off and deported? Please report honestly.

Listen to the NPR interview with Taner Akcam here.



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