AYF-YOARF’s Official Statement on “The Ottoman Lietenant”
This statement serves to inform the AYF-YOARF and Armenian community as a whole about a Turkish propaganda film that has been recently released called The Ottoman Lieutenant. Set in the Ottoman Empire, the film seems to portray a love story during World War I, but aims to alter the world’s view toward the Armenian Genocide.
The production, primarily funded by Turkey, takes an objective stance on the issue of genocide as it disguises the period of time as a kind of “civil war.” This is one of Turkey’s classic means of denialism: portraying the Genocide as a time of war where casualties were suffered equally on both sides. However, we know that this is completely not the case.
Fortunately, many film critics have picked up on the fact that this film perpetuates the denial of the Armenian Genocide. In his review of the film for Slant Magazine, Keith Watson states “More conspicuous than The Ottoman Lieutenant‘s rote melodrama is the way the film elides the concurrent genocide of ethnic Armenians by Ottoman forces, a historical reality which the Turkish government continues to deny to this day” and that “While it never quite engages in outright genocide denial, the film…is carefully constructed to spin what most historians agree was the systematic extermination of ethnic Armenians as nothing more than an unfortunate overstep in the legitimate battle against Russian-backed Armenian fighters who committed their own atrocities anyway. The Ottoman Lieutenant implies that everyone is guilty, and thus no one is. In so doing, it attempts to hide a genocide behind the fog of war.”
As April 24th and the film, The Promise, approach, it is important to remember that Turkish denialism is still prevalent, and unfortunately does not remain contained in Turkey but spreads to our own country as well. For a century, the Turkish state has worked tirelessly to make the Armenian Genocide disappear. Instead of admitting the truth of the past, Turkey attempts to erase it to justify the present. Their denial project is state-sponsored and embedded in their domestic and foreign policy. With different forms of denialism, Turkey continues to reshape history, re-establish the perpetrators, and demonize the victims. The government has convinced its people that the Armenians were seditious, disloyal members of the Ottoman Empire who threatened their national security. The Ottoman Lieutenant even labels Armenians as “rebels” who pledge their allegiance to the Russian enemy during World War I. Through historical revisionism, The Ottoman Lieutenant glosses over the Armenian Genocide and sends a message of denial that only the Turks will be quick to embrace.
It is imperative for us as members of the Armenian community to not only refrain from seeing this film, but to discourage showings and ensure that this propaganda does not continue to spread in the United States. For this reason, the AYF-YOARF will be contacting theaters who are screening the film to inform them of its fallacies and political agenda. If you are aware of any theaters showing the film or other screenings taking place, please contact the Central Hai Tahd Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.