Turkey Stole Insurance Money From Genocide Victims


After killing an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during World War I, the government of Turkey had the nerve to demand the benefits from its victims' insurance policies, the victims' descendants say in a class action against four British insurance companies. The plaintiffs cite contemporary files in which one insurer comments to another that the government of Turkey is not only murdering Armenians, but "then proceeding to collect his policy money!"

Class members Raffi Baghtchedjian and Nisan Papazyan say more than 10,000 of the estimated 1.5 million Armenians killed during the genocide had insurance policies with the defendant companies.

They cite this 1919 letter from the general manager of Norwich Union to New York Life Insurance Co.: "I gather from the advises of your Head Office that in characteristic fashion the Turkish Government have shown some tendency to consider the propriety first of murdering the Armenian and his dependents and then proceeding to collec[ting] his policy money! The brazenness of such an attitude is of course beyond all comment and I should not have been inclined to attach much weight to the rumors were it not that I understand the subject is one which is having your own full attention in conjunction with the French Offices interested in the Levant. We should certainly wish to be associated with the protest which is no doubt contemplated against such a monstrous proposal, should the latter really be serious, and I shall accordingly value a word from you as to the position."

The complaint cites a second letter from Norwich Union mentioning "the remarkable and characteristic attitude which Turkey is understood to be taking in regard to insurance on the lives of those whom she has murdered."

Named as defendants are Aviva, a successor to Norwich Union; Commercial Union; CGNU; and General Accident, all of Great Britain.

The plaintiffs want compensatory and punitive damages, costs and fees. They are represented in Federal Court by Vartkes Yeghiayan.

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