By Edmond Y. Azadian


Analysts, journalists, statesmen and pundits are still dissecting, digesting and commenting on the impact of the centennial commemorations in Armenia and around the world.

The immediate impressions are that Turkey was further isolated in its denialist policy, as more countries recognized the Armenian Genocide and worldwide media moved from its benign neutral stance toward recognizing and quoting the huge body of historic documentation on the subject.

The other impression is that by staging the Gallipoli anniversary commemoration charade, Ankara became a butt of jokes and mockery. In fact, even in Turkey, the Genocide centennial received more coverage than Gallipoli.

It is a known fact that Turkish leaders do not give in to outside pressure. That, of course, does not mean that outside pressure has to be discounted. On the contrary, it has to be amplified with domestic pressure, which is growing day by day. Turks, Alevis, Kurds and even Armenians no longer are scared to demonstrate in Istanbul and other cities in Turkey commemorating the victims of genocide. That is contributing to more awareness among the Turkish population, which the government has tried to keep ignorant regarding the subject by imposing obstacles and barriers for reaching credible historic sources.

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As the world’s attention focused on Yerevan, the Turkish leadership turned more and more defiant. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu in Ankara churned out a series of protests against some world leaders and governments, inadvertently revealing its growing isolation and exasperation.

The first salvo came from President Erdogan himself, who said, “[Presidents Vladimir] Putin and [François] Hollande should not have gone to Armenia. They had first to think about their own history. The last countries who could talk about genocide are Russia, France and Germany.”

Erdogan, of course, overlooked that Germany has already made amends about its horrific crimes and has faced the dark pages of its history. Germany’s conduct can serve the best lesson to the leaders of modern Turkey.

Although President Barack Obama was forced, once again, to dance around the word “Genocide,” that policy has still angered Ankara, because the description of the Genocide in his message was very graphic and powerful. This was especially true when he endorsed Pope Francis’ statement, in which he had recognized the genocide unequivocally. “We condemn the US President’s one-sided statement and we refuse all charges which have biased motives,” according to a statement by the Turkish government.

Germany, which had been a partner in crime with Turkey during World War I and had compounded its guilt by delivering Talaat’s remains to Turkey and thus far observing a shameful silence, suddenly spoke up this year, surprising and infuriating Ankara. Although speaking in a more religious commemorative setting, Germany’s President Joachim Gauck mentioned the Armenian Genocide. Heated debates at the Bundestag further exacerbated the situation for Turkey.

A Foreign Ministry statement in Ankara blamed the German president for using the word genocide. “Germany’s president has no right to make statements that counter historic facts. He has been accusing Turkish people of a crime that it has not committed.”

It is interesting that the Turkish Foreign Ministry statements made subtle references about “600,000 Turks” in France and the large “Turkish community in Germany” who can be manipulated by Ankara to serve as its fifth column. Turkish leaders do not realize or ignore the fact that many educated Turks in Europe are actively against Ankara’s denialist stand.

The centennial commemoration brought to the surface many facts and realities which we should carefully take into consideration in charting our future activities and policies.

One of those realities is the participation of many activist Kurds, Turks and Alevis in the centennial commemoration in Yerevan. The Kurds especially were genuinely apologetic for the participation of their ancestors in the execution of the Genocide.

“We were used as instruments by the Turkish government,” they admitted.

But one Kurdish leader active in Germany’s Green Party was asked by this writer, “Do Armenians, in principle, have a right to their ancestral homeland?” The answer was an immediate denial: “We have shed so much blood for Kurdistan and we cannot cede any territory to a third party.”

This is not only the view of an individual; it is a pervasive position among most Turks and Kurds who advocate for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey.

Therefore, Armenians must be well advised to recognize the limits of our commiseration with our Turkish and Kurdish brethren who come to Tsitsernakaberd in solidarity with the Armenians. While they stand with us in our quest for recognition, they draw the line at returning lands.

Another factor which emerged was the coalition of genocide victims. The Armenian government properly realized this and staged the forum to place the experience in a universal forum.

Prof. Israel Charny addressed the issue succinctly that other genocides, especially the Rwandan genocide, were placed on the same footing as the Armenian Genocide. He further suggested that Armenia more and more has to become a voice for all genocides.

It is an unfortunate fact of life and politics that ethnic cleansing and mass extermination are still a part of world politics. Indirectly, those tragic developments amplify Armenia’s voice, which thus far has remained a sole cry in the wilderness of the desert.

The last but not least achievement was the massive rallies around the world. The unprecedented march of 130,000 Armenians in California and equally powerful demonstrations in Lebanon and Europe are assets on which we need to capitalize.

If we can turn 130,000 marchers and more into political power, President Obama and his successors will need to think more about their political gymnastics before making a statement on April 24.

After the centennial, many people are pondering and asking “what next.”

Well, many developments and facts have emerged during these events to guide us toward the future by reading correctly the historic and political significance of those trends and charting a more realistic future.

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