BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Reading the phrase “hell-bent on Armenian-Turkish reconciliation” at the end of Harut Sasounian’s most recent column triggered a profound revulsion coupled with a realization.
Harut’s done nothing wrong. He was just referring to the losers who have raised the “reconciliation” flag and parade it around in Armenian settings every chance they get. This plays right into Turks’ hands. How?
“Reconciliation” is such a “good thing”, right? Who could be against something that Nelson Mandela (cited in Hrant Apovian’s “What Will the Armenian Genocide Centennial Accomplish?”) defined as “… working together to correct the legacy of past injustice”— note this is from the guy who practically invented the whole notion of socio-political reconciliation. But that takes two willing, non-duplicitous, equitably motivated, sides— not one sincere side and another side cynically abusing the opportunity to get out of its obligations to humanity and its victims.
I realized that much of the push is coming from U.S. sources, with the Turks availing themselves of the escape route provided by “reCONciliation”. And that’s what it is in our case, a con, a scam, a flimflam, a deceit, a ruse, etc. ad nauseam. Those whose experience is defined by life in the Americas, especially the U.S., are used to thinking in terms of “we must all get along, we’re all different, but we’re in this together” because all but the Native Americans are recent arrivals to the those continents. In the Armenian case, you have a native population, essentially totally extirpated from its home, and the murderous invader wanting to escape responsibility. That’s reCONciliation as conceived by the Turkish government.
This approach is evident in Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s recent characterization of the deportation portion of the Genocide as “inhumane” and attributing it to the Ottoman Empire. He’s doing two things. He’s playing “decent” by recognizing the fundamentally wrong nature of the deportations. Yet, he does not recognize that deportation happened in the context of committing genocide. Thus, he strengthens Turkey’s position in arguing that reCONciliation should happen without recognition of the Genocide, reparations, or restoration of Wilsonian Armenia to its rightful owners.
In this, he’s supported by sectors of society in Turkey. One Aybars Görgülü, program officer at the Foreign Policy Program of the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), a Turkish think-tank, asserts, “Armenian diaspora needs to see the change in Turks’ approach to 1915.” Great, so, we see the change, then what? If the terminus of the Armeno-Turkish relationship is a journey of a million miles, then we’ve advanced maybe ten miles. That’s better than the one mile of just a decade ago, BUT IT IS STILL INSIGNIFICANT in the overall scheme of things. By the way TESEV, on its own website reports it “organized a study trip in the Armenian capital Yerevan on 4-6 June, 2012… [for] academics, students, media and civil society representatives who have been actively involved in … discussing Turkish-Armenian relations since 2010 but never been to Armenia before.” Without having the benefit of following, personally, the participants’ activities in Yerevan, my instinctive reaction is that this just provided grist for the reCONciliation mill.
The fact that we have made some progress is a testament to the value of the pressure we have applied to Turkey. Much more is needed. This does not mean, and I say this emphatically, that we should not engage our adversaries. Quite the contrary, we should speak with them, and openly, this way neither side can accuse the other of misrepresenting the content of any contacts. Interestingly, my article from two weeks ago, “Turks Must Be Smoking Their Own Poppies” has inadvertently followed this two-step approach. It was the “pressure”— pointing out the flaws in a Turkish academician’s article. The “engage” part arose with that author wanting to meet when next she’s in the Los Angeles area. Engagement is not of the sort that Davutoğlu revealed during his trip to Yerevan— that he had been meeting with Armenians on the sly wherever he traveled. That’s just a tactic to enable reCONciliation.
Please, from now on, whenever we hear “reCONciliation” being brandished as the ultimate good and goal in relations with our denialist neighbor, let’s recognize it for the vacuous blather it represents at this point in our million-mile journey.