Yavuz Baydar is founding member of the Platform for Independent Journalism, P24, former columnist in the (English language) Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman, blogger at the Huffington Post, and contributing commentator to Al Jazeera. This interview (now updated) was included in a longer feature posted on the news website REDE ANGOLA. (Read more…)
The “deportation” of Armenians in 1915 “was inhumane”, and Turkey has never supported the move,Ahmet Davutoğlu said while visiting Armenia in 2013, when he was Foreign Minister. “We will present the year 2015 to the entire world, not as the anniversary of an alleged genocide slander, but as the anniversary of the glorious resistance of a nation, the anniversary of Gallipoli resistance”, he later added. What happened in between these two statements? Can you explain this “state of ambiguity”?
Davutoğlu went back to same mode, of 2013, again some days ago. This tells us a complex story about current state of mind in Ankara. Former president Abdullah Gül, and Ahmet Davutoğlu have always been aware of the Armenian issue and its blocking element on Turkey’s progress.
Gül was the engine behind Turkey’s rapprochement with Armenia, the protocols that aimed at normalisation and reconciliation, in 2009. Davutoğlu was part of that process. Both believed they would succeed in this and enhance Turkey’s soft power in Caucasus, as well as bringing Turkish Republic closer to EU. But Erdoğan, who at heart is a staunch nationalist, demolished the process by at the last minute adding Nagorno-Karabakhconflict into the picture, that derailed the process.
Now, eclipsed by Azerbaijani interests, and diplomatically sidelined by Russia that saw danger in the reconciliation process, Turkey is stuck in the old rhetoric. Having failed in diplomacy, and dragged into the path of one-man rule, Ankara is now back to factory settings, because Erdoğan sees his political survival by appeasing the nationalist vote, thus keeping in denial.
The way he sees is to create an equation between the World War 1 suffering and the one by Armenians. Davutoğlu, stuck in the upcoming election campaign, feels trapped in that rhetoric. Meanwhile, civilian society continues to raise the issue higher, albeit slowly.
This is Turley of 2015: A government which somehow helped to let the genie out of the bottle, helped break taboos, is now passed by the civilian society, being left behind. This ‘state’ has a danger, because the process falls out of control, and rattles.
Have you details of the most significant progress and setbacks of the historical process regarding the “great catastrophe” that have been involving Turkish and Armenian scholars? Is a common ground nearer or even more far away?
Right now, it is on its own dynamics. The shift towards autocracy in Turkey will not help advance it, since Erdoğan also displays overtures to military, whose approach to 1915 events remain unchanged. But, the books on genocide research are published more intensely, and people read them.
Another dynamic is the Kurdish party HDP, which refused to join AKP and two other main opposition parties to counter the genocide resolutions issues by other parliaments. Kurds admit a role in Armenian annihilation, and they are hoping to be represented more visibly.
One more phenomenon is the rebirth of identity. Many people in Turkish Republic are now searching and finding their hidden roots and feel encouraged to express them. Many people for example realize that they are Armenians converted to Islam. This is a waking up era from mass hypnosis and it will help healing the wounds. It should be welcomed.
But the ground is not near. Turkish political stage needs a radical shift, away from Erdoğan’s political line, to embrace the issue differently.
One of the most widespread ideas is that it is much more difficult to find a common ground with the Armenian diaspora than it will be between the Turkish and the Armenian states. How do you explain these apparently different attitudes and what kind of “solution” do you consider feasible in the near future?
The solution lies in reviving the normalisation of Turkish Republic-Armenian ties and protocols. Borders should be opened, immediately. This will bring peoples closer. But, given the Russian expansion, and its possessivenes in Caucasus, its close ties with Iran as well, Turkey seems to have lost a grand opportunity five years ago. It demands a courage to do so, and a lot of western backing. It is a rather bleak prospect at the moment.
What is the most accepted definition of “genocide”, and why is the Armenian genocide still “proscribed” (mainly in Turkey)?
Current definition, dating back to 1948, is a loose one. It paves way to judgments of events even small in scale as genocide. This causes problems but also have a deterrent effect. Of course the acts against Nama and Herero were the first genocides of last century.
Before that, American acts against Philippinos, and so were the acts by the Tzar Russia against Circassians. It’s a shame that Turkish Republic does not recogniSe it as such, by a regime preceding its republic and Herero event is not recognised with a widespread publicity.