BY LAURENT LEYLEKIAN
The recent protests and turmoil in Turkey fostered an already existing – though curious – trend among Armenians worldwide. Some members of the Armenian diaspora expressed strong support for the Turkish protesters in their struggle against the more and more authoritarian regime driven by the AKP. This trend has certainly been facilitated by the fact that the Gezi Park events arose just after the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide by some Turkish activists in Istanbul and in other places in Turkey. Therefore, members of the Armenian diaspora who were there on this occasion may have taken part in – or may have at least been witness to – the confrontation between the Turkish regime and its opponents. The unarticulated – and sometimes thoughtless – mentality that drives these Armenians to such an attitude probably comes from the vague belief that the Turkish state is an arch villain, that any opponents of it partake in the longstanding struggle of the Armenian people and could eventually share their fate. Thus, in the minds of these people, an odd connection may have developed, bolstered by some nascent, romantic fraternalism in the teargas: that the non-democratic nature of the Turkish state and its stubbornness in denying the Armenian Genocide are somehow linked and that, conversely, a democratic Turkey would necessarily pave the way to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
In my humble opinion, this representation is deficient, potentially dangerous, and surely confused. In particular, it neglects or bypasses the key issue of what do we want for the Armenian Nation?
Let’s put aside the straightforward contradiction that exists in Armenians supporting the main force opposing the AKP, i.e. the Kemalists who directly bear the legacy of the notorious Young Turks. Let’s even assume that this support stands for Turkish democrats, however dubious some of them may be, and that it could potentially lead to a genuine Turkish democracy. Would it be better? For the Turks, certainly yes, as it is commonplace to consider democracy as the most suitable form of government for an advanced nation. For the Armenians, on the contrary, it could be a worse nightmare.
We should remember that democracy is nothing but the tyranny of the majority. In this regard, it is quite audacious to think that a democratic Turkey would be less reluctant to recognize the Armenian Genocide, not to mention to accept the idea of compensations. It is a sad and maybe a cynical position, but the past and current authoritarian nature of successive Turkish regimes has been a strong incentive that has driven some third parties to support the Armenian Cause and has been an advantage for the Armenian Cause. On the contrary, a democratic Turkey would be considered by many as an appropriate framework to get rid of this old issue and to leave Armenians and Turks alone to “solve” it face-to-face. Armenians were a substantial minority in 1915 and we know how the Turkish government “solved” the issue. Now that the scattered, diminished, and impoverished Armenian Nation is only a negligible fraction of the Turkish one, there is no reason to think that the outcome would be more fair and we could just be glad if this hypothetical democratic Turkey would formally adopt a more acceptable way to proceed.
Turks are not to be blamed for that: they just know what their national interests are and how to defend it. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the Armenians involved in such rapprochement. It seems that – consciously or unconsciously – they are trying to reload the Ottoman Empire and the place that was devoted to Armenians within it: The Sadik-i Millet as the midwife and the ferment of the Turkish Hakim Millet. A kind of technical role that gives up any political claim not to speak about any political role for the greatest benefit of their overlord. With regard to the increasing takeover by Russia of the Republic of Armenia, it seems that we could rapidly go back to the 19th century where Armenians were a useful and educated minority both in the Turkish and Russian empires.
In this respect, whatever the true reasons behind the Armenian government’s current attempt to escape from the Russia-led Eurasian Union, whether it’s a reasonable decision or not and whether it will finally succeed or not, it should be seen as a remarkably courageous act of sovereignty in light of the current geostrategic position of Armenia. We are thus able to consider that if Armenia is able to resist strong Russian “incentives”, Armenians worldwide could far more easily resist Turkey’s teasing belly-dance made of Aghtamar shows, fairy tales of a “common past,” and elusive pledges for border opening. The past criminal record of Turkey against the Armenian Nation and its current criminal denial should forever dismiss any whim of a common future in the minds of cognizant Armenians. It should encourage the government of Armenia to step further along the way recently pioneered by prosecutor general Aghvan Hovsepian. Armenia could, for instance, declare that it is closing the border with Turkey, which would change nothing in practical terms, but would confer another political meaning to the current situation. After all, Armenia has achieved some significant developments without Turkey these last twenty years and if any Turkish extremist group would have blasted Aghtamar, it would just have deprived Turkey from a communication tool, whereas Armenians would not have been more deprived from their already looted assets and territories.
After nearly a hundred years of statehood – including the Soviet period – and centuries under the Ottoman yoke, it is more than time for Armenians to think and act again as a Nation. And, as a politically aware community, a Nation does not necessarily consider that the foe of its foe is a friend. A very old Indo-European legend claims than thousands of years ago, the horse was afraid of wolves and asked the man to climb on his back to hunt and kill wolves. The man proceeded and when he finished, the horse said to him, “It’s fine, now you can get down.” But the man replied that his new position was quite comfortable and useful… And up to now he is still on the horse’s back. Let’s avoid being again the horse of the various foreign factions.