BY HAYK DEMOYAN
On Nov. 29, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke at the Brookings Institute. After his talks, he answered a question related to the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and current Turkey-Armenia relations (see video). Below, we provide the response to Davutoglu’s comments by the director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute in Yerevan, Hayk Demoyan.
Yes, Mr. Davutoglu, I fully agree with you that many things have changed in the Turkish society and the “tragic events” of 1915 are now on the agenda for public debate, but one may ask why those events have been denied, and it is still hard to imagine that all denialist documents and publications on the website of the Foreign Ministry of Turkey will soon be removed. Let me guess: Perhaps Turkey needs another decade to properly confront its own history without new and old taboos, syndromes, and complexes.
Yes, Mr. Davutoglu, while speaking about the causes of implementation of the state-planned and orchestrated policy of genocide against Armenians and other Christian minorities, one can blame the intensification of nationalist movements in the fall of the Ottoman Empire. But let me ask why the killer of Hrant Dink, who was shot dead in January 2007, was treated as a hero in the police station and no one has been sentenced so far? Why are the Armenians living in Anatolia still afraid of expressing their real identity? That’s because of… I believe that you are well aware of the answer since the next question I would like to raise in this regard is the “unknown” nationalism which is responsible for the destruction of more than 3,000 early Christian Armenian monuments dynamited or used as target during the tank exercises in 1960′s and 1970′s—during the period of republican Turkey.
Yes, Mr. Davutoglu, Armenians were holding some high positions in the Ottoman Empire in 1914, but let me quote Talat Pasha’s words directed to Danish orientalist Johannes Ostrup in 1910, before the “tragic war” of 1914: “You see, between us and this people [Armenians] there is an incompatibility which cannot be solved in a peaceful manner; either they will completely undermine us, or we will have to annihilate them. If I ever come to power in this country, I will use all my might to exterminate the Armenians” (Johannes Østrup, Erindringer, Copenhagen: H. Hirschprungs Forlag 1937, p. 118.). I think the quote is self-explanatory.
Yes, Mr. Davutoglu, 1915 is an important date for the Armenians, but it must be an important date for the Turks as well, since the history of the Armenian Genocide is and must be an inseparable part of the Turkish history and memory.
Yes, Mr. Davutoglu, it was a period of war and maybe the political order was weak in Turkey, but let me remind that while making orders for the deportation of the Armenians and appropriation of their property from 1915-24, the Ottoman and Turkish laws and orders were implemented unconditionally.
Yes, Mr. Davutoglu, the Gelipoli/Canakkale battle was the bloodiest in the history of Ottoman Turkey. Ottomans lost a quarter of a million lives, but not only Turks were among the victims in this deadly battle. Hundreds of Armenians, as ordinary Ottoman patriots, joined them in the fight against the enemies. Among those 250,000, there were not only Turks, but Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, and other nationalities as well. Do Turks know the name of Sarkis Torossian, who destroyed the first enemy battleship during Chanakkale in 1915 and was known as the “Armenian hero of the Dardanelles”? Or the names of Avedis Chepechian, Vahram Papazian, and many other Armenian soldiers and officers, who probably were fighting together with your grandfather, and who are unjustly forgotten? Those Armenians, who survived in Canakkale in 1915, later learned that their beloved ones were sent to die in the slaughterhouses of the Arabian deserts.
Yes, Mr. Davutoglu, you are right to say that we have to escape from one-sided representations and interpretations of the past, but I am afraid that with this you just represented the Turkish point of view. Furthermore, I do not really understand the logic of connecting Cannakkale and the Armenian Genocide. If there is any link between both, then it is the very date: April 24, 1915.
Yes, Mr. Davutoglu, nine and half centuries of the coexistence of Turks and Armenians is solid period of time, but let me remind you that except millet-i sadika (i.e. “obedient people”), Armenians were known also as giavurs (i.e. infidels). Being an infidel, I would think, means being a non-equal in the given society. Or when one group says to another “obedient people,” it already means that they are not on the same level in terms of elementary human rights.
Yes, Mr. Davutoglu, I agree with your statement that “if there were mistakes, they should be named,” but it seems to me that within the last nine decades, Turkey has only insisted and justified its past mistakes and made a huge list of new ones.
Yes, Mr. Davutoglu, we should be ready to share our pains in order to move forward, but at the same time we do not need more rhetoric that hides the shameful parts of history.
Yes, Mr. Davutoglu, during the recent failed attempt to ameliorate relations between Armenia and Turkey, a step which was taken by Yerevan, the Constitutional Court of Armenia has adopted a decision on the protocols, but it is a mistake to blame the Armenian court, as you said, for “excluding the establishment of a commission of historians that was important for Turkey.” Do you need the commission of historians to “share our pains”?
Yes, Mr. Davutoglu, it is up to Turkey to keep its border with Armenia open or closed and put a precondition saying that there will not be any progress in the ratification of the protocols unless the Karabakh problem is settled. But with this claim you just crush your previous statements and reaffirm that Turkey is not ready for changes…changes that could possibly be detrimental to saving not only the country’s face, but its future, too.
Yes, Mr. Davutoglu, fundamental approaches are necessary for regional peace and to solve protracted problems. But do Syria, Gaza, and Lebanon make their politics under the banner of “one nation, two, or three states”?
Yes, Mr. Davutoglu, we should address the Karabakh issue, but while speaking about occupations, I have to remind you that your country has occupied a part of Cyprus, an EU member, for 36 years now. Yet, you prefer to only speak about the “Armenian occupation” of Azerbaijani territory.
Yes, sayin Ahmet-bey, we lived together and I believe we have no other choice but to do the same in the future and overcome all burdens. But I am afraid you should take on the responsibility to appear with clear messages to the Turkish society—instead of unclear and cautious statements—over mistakes of the past, in order not to repeat them in our days…