We have been following the unprecedented events in Turkey as an online petition launched by a group of academicians to apologize for the "great catastrophe of 1915" is gaining momentum and sparking a debate not seen before in Turkey about the Armenian Genocide.
In its second day, some 8000 people have joined the more than 200 academicians in expressing the support for the movement and thus apologizing to the Armenian people for the events of 1915.
This is the first public outpouring of support for the acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide since Hrant Dink’s funeral when countless Turkish marched in Istanbul and elsewhere proclaiming "We are all Dink."
The new progressive academic movement, which has earned some indictmen’s by Turkey’s judiciary based on its Article 301 outlawing insults to "Turkishness," is bold in its efforts to turn the tide of denial in a country, whose government invests millions annually to deny the centrally planned and systematically executed genocide against the Armenian people.
While the petition does not use the word Genocide, such a movement can only benefit Turkey by prompting public discourse in the very place where such discussion has been long taboo. Turkey stands to gain from this type of dialogue since an issue that has been shrouded for so long in lies and deception can, once and for all, surface to the foreground and allow a people to move forward by taking responsibility for the past actions of their ancestors.
This new generation of academics, writers and scholars knows full-well the price they might pay for instigating this mass-movement, which has also garnered support from Turks living outside of Turkey.
Is this a blow to the denial mechanism so carefully constructed by the Turkish government? Perhaps.
Does this signal a new page in addressing the Genocide issue in Turkey? Possibly.
Will this prompt governmen’s–especially the US–to adopt policies that properly characterize the events of 1915-1923 as Genocide? Hopefully.
This is where international stakeholders–governmen’s around the world, scholars, writers, anti-genocide activists and, of course Armenian communities–can form an all important nexus to ensure that voices for truth in Turkey are not quashed but instead help lead their nation, and ultimately the Turkish Government, to the logical next step of recognition as part of the ongoing effort to secure justice for this crime against humanity.
International support is critical because many in the Turkish Government have already shown contempt for this effort ‘s calling the initiators and cosigners of the petition betrayers of the Turkish nation. Meanwhile President Gul is trying to capitalize on the initiative, claiming his country is a democracy for allowing people to freely express their minds.
And so, as the signatories increase, all eyes are on the international community now to make a decision. To stand with civil society leaders in Turkey by speaking truthfully about the Armenian Genocide or, through silence, support the Turkish Government’s denial of that crime against humanity