Commentary: President Gul Is Begging for Sympathy

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By Edmond Y. Azadian

Some people believe that with our scattered forces and with a homeland struggling for survival, our efforts toward Genocide recognition are futile against the growing strategic power of Turkey. For many years, we waged our fight for recognition away from Turkey’s territory. Today, the issue of the Armenian Genocide is a topic for national discourse within Turkish society itself, and the question has acquired its own life, sometimes independent of Armenian activism.

Turkey is indeed on the defensive and that is the first step towards victory. The wheels of justice will move at a low pace, but there is no way that it will lose momentum.

Contrary to the adage that justice delayed is justice denied, an inexorable course of perseverance will continue, even after the centennial mark of 2015 for the final victory.

The Turkish government has mobilized its resources domestically and internationally to deny or delay that final victory.

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s erudite foreign minister, has been trying to give a human face to Turkey’s growing international power. His “zero-problem with neighbors” policy proved to be hollow; Armenia’s blockade is still continuing, Ankara is defying NATO to keep Israel out of the organization’s forthcoming meeting in Chicago, and freezing negotiations with the European Union for the duration of Cyprus’ presidency and even threatening war with Cyprus over the latter’s gas explorations in the Mediterranean.

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Now Mr. Davutoglu has concocted another trick to deflect the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. He is talking of the “common pain” between the Armenians and the Turks. He had repeated that mantra on April 23, on the 97th anniversary of Ataturk’s victory in the Gallipoli campaign, where 25,000 Ottoman soldiers perished, including drafted Armenian youth.

Incidentally, it remains one of history’s mysteries why the Australian ANZAC forces, under Winston Churchill’s admiralty, could not win that battle. Historians believe that as the allied Russian forces were advancing on the Eastern front, the British subverted Russian plans to overrun Turkey — a scenario which could have prevented the Armenian Genocide.

Now Davutoglu’s theme of “common pain” has been borrowed and elaborated on by President Abdullah Gul. In an oblique manner, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized to the Kurds for the Dersim massacres of the Kurds in the 1930s (although his AK party’s hands are not clean of Kurdish blood), blaming Ataturk’s party for the crime. In the same way, President Gul has taken the theme of “common pain” because, in line with Turkey’s Genocide policy, he is trying to equate the Ottoman losses in an imperial war with the murder of 1.5 million people of an unarmed subject-nation and he begs for sympathy and understanding from the Armenian side. This cynical policy has another sinister component, which follows below.

During the ceremonies in Chanakkale (Gallipoli), President Gul answered a journalist’s question by stating that he defined the 1915 events as “a common pain,” and then he continued magnanimously: “Pain causes happiness to no one. In my opinion it is not right to convert history into an instrument of animosity. If the pain is passed on to the younger generations as a means of animosity and rancor, there will be no end to it.”

President Gul’s statements have been reported by the journalist Sedat Laciner, who had further discussed the issue the next day on a boat trip with the president. In his comments on the Samanyolu Haber TV network, he elaborated on the issue: “Both sides need solace and understanding. The Turks have to understand that more than a million Armenians were uprooted from their ancestral land, irrespective of the causes. Consequently, the Armenians have to give up the notion that they were the only losing party and they have to understand the pain that the Turks have suffered at the turn of the last century. The Turks fell under the ruins of a crumbling empire. Any Armenian with a human conscience cannot deny the pain the Turks suffered from the end of the 19th century to 1923, especially that Armenian armed gangs were partially responsible for that pain.”

It is not clear whether these comments were made by President Gul or they are the interpretations of the journalist. However, they are in the same line of thought that unless Armenians understand the pain that Turks have endured there

will be no reciprocal recognition. Indeed Armenians seem to be “heartless” people, devoid of

“human conscience.” How can they not understand how much Turks have suffered fighting an imperial war against an equally powerful empire to maintain the Ottoman rule of slavery? Further, how can they not understand how much the Turkish gendarmes, Teshkileti Mahsusa forces, the army and the irregulars have suffered in murdering one-and-a-half million individuals. Their suffering was further aggravated by the fact that under the rules of frugality, they had to save bullets and resort to more primitive methods to slaughter children, women and the elderly.

Now we can understand why we cannot expect any sympathy from the Turkish official quarters, as long as we observe history in such a “heartless” manner!

While the Turkish president is pleading for sympathy from the Armenians, his government has mobilized massive forces to deny the Genocide. In addition to the millions spent in lobbying foreign governments, Turkey has undertaken the huge task of “educating” its youth on this very sensitive issue.

Realizing that a mountain of scholarly works is piling up in world historiography on the question of the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government has undertaken a frontal attack by organizing so-called scholarly seminars. Indeed symposia were held in April in two universities with the participation of 75 historians, including some hired guns from the US, Norway, France, Russia, Tajikestan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran. The first symposium took place at Karatekin University of Changere. We are not sure if the venue was selected intentionally or unintentionally, because Changere happens to be the place where the Turks crushed with rocks the skull of writer and Ottoman Parliament member Krikor Zohrab.

The initiative was undertaken by an organization called The Society of Future Academicians.

In that august gathering, Prof. Galib Chagh made one of the most childish denialist arguments that: “the law of deportations precludes the use of the term ‘genocide’ because that law protected the properties of the deported Armenians.” Never mind that after the Genocide, Talaat Pasha appealed to the foreign banks and insurance companies as the inheritor of those “protected properties.”

Another symposium too place at Ataturk University of Erzerum under the title, “First International conference on Turkish Armenian Relations and the Great Powers.”

Prof. Halouk Selvi from the University of Sakaria has devised an earth-shaking argument about the Genocide. He has stated that “instead of appealing to the courts, Armenians have been appealing to different parliaments because they don’t possess any document that a genocide was perpetrated.”

To add insult to injury, the honorable scholar has further stated that the American missionaries had bad-mouthed the Turks, pleading for the suffering Armenians in Anatolia, because they needed to raise money for their own causes.

We are not sure how much these arguments impressed the participants and aspiring young Turkish scholars, but the dean of Turkish journalists, Ali Birand, head of CNN-Turk, does not seem to be impressed at all. In his April 24 commentary, he made scathing remarks about Turkey’s denialist historiography. He stated that against the barrage of criticisms and scholarly works: “Turkey, as it has done before, will react harshly. It will utter threats, but they will remain ineffective. Do you know why? It is because the Armenians have gotten a significant part of the world to accept their claims of Genocide.”

Then he cites one example and refers to a 1,000-page book compiled by German writer and journalist Wolfgang Gust, published in English, German, Spanish and Portuguese and recently published in Turkey by Belge Publishing House, “in extremely comprehensible and beautiful Turkish.”

Birand continues: “Without going into detail, if you read the book and look at the documents, if you are a person who is introduced to the subject through this book, then there is no way that you would not believe in the Genocide and justify the Armenians.”

His telling conclusion: “Let us not deceive each other; if you can give correct answers to these questions, then you will be able to clarify some very key facts for us. “I know you will remain silent.”

President Gul’s verbal gymnastics and then the “scholarly” charades staged at those universities amount to nothing. Perhaps the most honorable position would indeed be to keep silence.

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