Erdogan Admission of Dersim Massacres Viewed in Yerevan as Courting EU

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By Naira Hayrumyan

YEREVAN (ArmeniaNow) — After the surprise announcement by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who apologized for the massacre of Kurds in Dersim in 1937 to 39, when, according to official figures, 13,000 were killed, a question arose about the next step. First of all, will this be limited to an apology, or will there be some reparations to the Kurds for their material losses, and secondly, will the Turkish prime minister also apologize to the Armenians for the 1915 Genocide?

Apparently, Turkey feels very uncomfortable because of international pressure and by taking “preventive” steps, is trying to shift the issue from the material-territorial plane into the moral dimension. Any hope of an apology to Armenia has always been colored by whether Genocide survivors would demand a return of their lands.

Armenia has repeatedly stated that it has no territorial claims against Turkey. At the same time, the government of Armenia does not recognize the current borders of Turkey. And, for decades, the Armenian Diaspora has pushed for international recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the fact that the Turkish Republic was built through the extermination of the indigenous population. And this could call into question the legal basis of Turkey’s territorial integrity.

Presumably, the Turkish government is preparing some kind of gesture timed to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, although it is hard to predict anything now. This opinion was expressed by Turkish historian, professor of the Clark University in the United States, prominent scholar Taner Akçam.

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“I do not know what it might be, but will not be surprised if something happens,” said Akçam. Armenian experts generally comment on this statement in light of Turkey’s intentions to join the European Union. Giro Manoyan, Director of the International Secretariat of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) Bureau in Yerevan, said Erdogan’s apology wasn’t really an apology and that such steps towards Armenians were unlikely.

Earlier, Turkish President Abdullah Gul, visiting from London, stated that problems that exist in the relations between Armenia and Turkey will not be solved by a single step. According to him, the normalization process is so frozen that whole raft of initiatives is needed for a thaw.

In its turn, Turkey’s influential Today’s Zaman newspaper raises deep psychological issues, trying to figure out why Ankara does not recognize the tragedies of the early 20th century. The reason, according to the newspaper, lies in the foundations of the modern Turkish identity.

“There are even more painful factors, some of which have been pointed out by Taner Akçam and other writers. Some of those who played active roles in the massacres of the Armenians were also part of the founding cadres of the Turkish Republic. Thus, facing up to the past also means that we may lose our founding ‘heroes’ and have them turned into a series of ‘murderers’ to be embarrassed about instead. It is now clear that we in Turkey have constructed an identity on top of this whole denial mechanism,” writes the Turkish publication.

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