"No national security considerations can be an excuse for the annihilation of a population by means of forced displacement and massacres."
~ DTP parliamentarian Selahattin Demirtaş on the Armenian Genocide.
A few updates:
First, Sibel Edmonds, Peter B. Collins, and I have a chat together over at Sibel's place.
Second, at the end of October it was announced that Brent Scowcroft would be stepping down as the chairman of the American Turkish Council (ATC), to be replaced by Richard Armitage.
I have been doing some digging into Armitage's background and will have three posts up at Sibel's Boiling Frogs Post. The first is here and the second is here. The third installment will be up in the very near future.
Finally, there is a very good interview with Taner Akçam at The Armenian Weekly. The focus of the interview is the Turkish protocols with Armenia, but Akçam is also asked quiestions about the wider picture. Akçam compares the Armenian situation of the past with the current Kurdish situation:
VEK: Will any of these developments impact current discussions related to the Kurdish Opening in Turkey?
TA: Definitely. We can only understand the Turkish-Armenian protocols if we consider the big picture. The Kurdish issue certainly is another part of this big picture. The Kurdish Opening is a direct product of the transition we are experiencing in Turkey. In terms of the Armenian issue, the Turkish government should follow the exact same steps that it has pursued regarding the Kurdish issue. If we examine how the Turkish government has been trying to solve the Kurdish issue, we will find ways to solve the Armenian issue. For example, what does it mean when we discuss the concept of acknowledging the truth? Until 2000 or 2002, or even as late as 2007, the Turkish government denied that the Kurdish people even existed. I was put in prison in 1975 because I wrote about the Kurds in Turkey. So acknowledgment of the truth is a central aspect in solving the Kurdish Question. With the reforms introduced after 2002, the Turkish government has acknowledged that there are Kurds living in Turkey. It should be the same for Armenians; something terrible happened and a crime occurred in 1915. By acknowledging the existence of the crime you can solve 1915.
Secondly, in the process of solving the Kurdish Question, the government has tried to establish justice. If you want to solve a problem related to injustices in the past you have to rectify it. There must be a way of compensation for this injustice. There are two possibilities, two ways of establishing justice: One is retributive justice, which is exactly what is going on in the Kurdish areas right now. Some officers have been charged with killing Kurdish civilians in the past, and those officers have been detained or lost their positions. In addition, mass graves have been opened up. This is important for the establishment of justice. In the case of the Armenians, this approach is useless because the killings happened 100 years ago. But there is another way of approaching justice; justice can be achieved through the principles of restorative justice. Restorative justice can also play a role in the Kurdish issue. Many perpetrators are fearful that the crimes they have committed will be disclosed. You can follow the South African model and give amnesty to those who reveal their crimes, for instance.
I see a very strong correlation not only regarding the solution but also regarding the origins of the Kurdish and Armenian issues. If I may put it bluntly, the Armenian issue was the Kurdish issue of the 19th century. Or the Kurdish conflict today is the Armenian conflict of the 19th century because in both cases the same mentality produced similar outcomes. In both centuries, the Turkish and the Ottoman governments considered the democratic demands of minority groups as a security threat. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Armenian demands for social reform and equality were framed as a trap for the Ottoman state’s pursuit of security and territorial integrity. In the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s, and even until very recently, the Turkish state considered the Kurdish demands for cultural rights and equality as a challenge to its national security and territorial integrity. In both cases, the demands of the minority groups were suppressed. This caused the radicalization of both minority groups, and this very radicalization is ironically creating the security problems the governments were most scared of. The separatist movements and the challenges to territorial integrity became a problem as a direct consequence of governmental policies to repress these minorities. The parallels between the two cases are important to consider.
The interview is fairly long but it's definitely an excellent read. And lets remember DTP's position on the Armenian Genocide as stated by Selahattin Demirtaş in the TBMM:
“During the last period of the Ottoman Empire, in 1915-16, the Union and Progress Party systematically pursued a policy of extermination of the Christians who had been the native peoples of the country for centuries.”
[ . . . ]
“No national security considerations can be an excuse for the annihilation of a population by means of forced displacement and massacres,” he said. “Governments, in an effort to clear themselves of the guilt, resorted to denial and to distortion of historical facts to conceal the truth. They rewrote the history. In school books, Armenians are portrayed as hostile figures, exaggerating the incidents of violence by Armenian activists and never telling the truth about the massacred Armenians.”
“The word ‘Armenian’ has been used as an insult in this country,” continued Demirtas. “Even the president of the Republic of Turkey was accused of having secret Armenian ancestors, as if this was a sin. They did this to humiliate him. And what a shame that the president himself answered this ‘accusation’ in such a way as to confirm the humiliating connotation of the word, by trying to prove that this was not true.”
Demirtas suggested the formation of a history committee, consisting of independent historians from both sides, that would aim at revealing historic truths. “Without doing this, no real policy of peace can be pursued in foreign or domestic policy and no real resolution can be reached by ignoring the tragedy, by acting as if the loss of lives was a result of unwanted adverse circumstances. I know that what I say upsets those who remain loyal to the status quo. However for us to avoid recognizing historical truths just for the sake of the status quo would mean betraying our conscience and taking a politically unethical stance. So Turkey should lead the way to uncover the historical facts instead of continuing to carry the burden of a tragedy caused by the Committee of Union and Progress. In order for truly friendly relations between the two countries, it should be acknowledged that this is the only way for mutual trust.”
The author of the piece, Ayşe Günaysu, notes the following:
This was a first for the Turkish Parliament. There may be parts in Demirtas’ speech where one would disagree. But for me, these points of disagreement are less important than the declaration— in the Turkish Grand National Assembly—of the systematic extermination of Armenians in 1915. And it was a Kurdish MP who made this happen. The Kurds, some of whom actively took part in the Armenian Genocide, were also the first in Turkey to talk and write about the genocide of the Armenians and Assyrians.
Again, it's long but is another excellent read. And to Selahattin Demirtaş, I have this to say: You go, heval, you GO!!
Unfortunately, it looks like the Kurdish "opening" that Taner Akçam refers to is about to collapse.