Repackaging Denial: Erdogan Issues Statement on ‘Events of 1915’

Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan

ANKARA—Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a statement Wednesday on what he termed “the events of 1915,” a day before the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

The statement, which also appears on the prime minister’s web page translated in several languages, including Armenian, comes in a period of intense pressure on Ankara, and is seen as an effort to preempt international recognition of the Armenian Genocide on the threshold of the centennial.

Employing euphemisms and the age-old “everyone suffered” denialist refrain, Erdogan concludes his statement by wishing that “the Armenians who lost their lives in the context of the early twentieth century rest in peace, and we convey our condolences to their grandchildren.”

Armenian National Committee of America’s Executive Director Aram Hamparian called the statement “denial repackaged.”

“Increasingly isolated internationally, Ankara is repackaging its genocide denials,” said Hamparian.

“Prime Minister Erdogan, in his statement today, attempts, in vain, to escape responsibility for the Armenian Genocide, by somehow downgrading this still unpunished international crime to the level of a simple, unresolved bilateral conflict. Neither the facts nor any of the world’s commonly accepted codes of law or morality support this twisted view,” added Hamparian.

“The fact remains that, as this cold-hearted and cynical ploy so plainly demonstrates, Turkey is, today, escalating its denial of truth and obstruction of justice for the Armenian Genocide,” concluded Hamparian.

The State Department commented on Erdogan’s statement on Wednesday, expressing hope that it would advance “reconciliation between Turks and Armenians.”

“We believe that this is a positive indication that there can be full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts which we hope will advance the cause of reconciliation between Turks and Armenians,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Speaking to Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, UCLA Armenian studies professor Dr. Richard Hovannisian expressed disappointment at Erdogan’s statement as simply a diplomatic exercise.

“On the surface, it may look to be a step forward, but if one analyzes the statement carefully, it becomes evident that it is a diplomatic way of repeating what has been said by the Turkish state many times; that is, placing Armenian suffering within the context of general, shared suffering, thereby minimizing and relativizing Armenian victimization without addressing the enormity of the crime, the responsibility to face up to it, and the necessity to take measures to alleviate the enduring pain and losses of the victims and their descendants,” Hovannisian said.

Below is the full text of the statement, in English, as posted on the prime minister’s website.

The Message Of The Prime Minister Of The Republic Of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan On The Events Of 1915

“The 24th of April carries a particular significance for our Armenian citizens and for all Armenians around the world, and provides a valuable opportunity to share opinions freely on a historical matter.

It is indisputable that the last years of the Ottoman Empire were a difficult period, full of suffering for Turkish, Kurdish, Arab, Armenian and millions of other Ottoman citizens, regardless of their religion or ethnic origin.

Any conscientious, fair and humanistic approach to these issues requires an understanding of all the sufferings endured in this period, without discriminating as to religion or ethnicity.

Certainly, neither constructing hierarchies of pain nor comparing and contrasting suffering carries any meaning for those who experienced this pain themselves.

As a Turkish proverb goes, “fire burns the place where it falls.”

It is a duty of humanity to acknowledge that Armenians remember the suffering experienced in that period, just like every other citizen of the Ottoman Empire.

In Turkey, expressing different opinions and thoughts freely on the events of 1915 is the requirement of a pluralistic perspective as well as of a culture of democracy and modernity.

Some may perceive this climate of freedom in Turkey as an opportunity to express accusatory, offensive and even provocative assertions and allegations.

Even so, if this will enable us to better understand historical issues with their legal aspects and to transform resentment to friendship again, it is natural to approach different discourses with empathy and tolerance and expect a similar attitude from all sides.

The Republic of Turkey will continue to approach every idea with dignity in line with the universal values of law.

Nevertheless, using the events of 1915 as an excuse for hostility against Turkey and turning this issue into a matter of political conflict is inadmissible.

The incidents of the First World War are our shared pain. To evaluate this painful period of history through a perspective of just memory is a humane and scholarly responsibility.

Millions of people of all religions and ethnicities lost their lives in the First World War. Having experienced events which had inhumane consequences – such as relocation – during the First World War, should not prevent Turks and Armenians from establishing compassion and mutually humane attitudes among towards one another.

In today’s world, deriving enmity from history and creating new antagonisms are neither acceptable nor useful for building a common future.

The spirit of the age necessitates dialogue despite differences, understanding by heeding others, evaluating means for compromise, denouncing hatred, and praising respect and tolerance.

With this understanding, we, as the Turkish Republic, have called for the establishment of a joint historical commission in order to study the events of 1915 in a scholarly manner. This call remains valid. Scholarly research to be carried out by Turkish, Armenian and international historians would play a significant role in shedding light on the events of 1915 and an accurate understanding of history.

It is with this understanding that we have opened our archives to all researchers. Today, hundreds of thousands of documents in our archives are at the service of historians.

Looking to the future with confidence, Turkey has always supported scholarly and comprehensive studies for an accurate understanding of history. The people of Anatolia, who lived together for centuries regardless of their different ethnic and religious origins, have established common values in every field from art to diplomacy, from state administration to commerce. Today they continue to have the same ability to create a new future.

It is our hope and belief that the peoples of an ancient and unique geography, who share similar customs and manners will be able to talk to each other about the past with maturity and to remember together their losses in a decent manner. And it is with this hope and belief that we wish that the Armenians who lost their lives in the context of the early twentieth century rest in peace, and we convey our condolences to their grandchildren.

Regardless of their ethnic or religious origins, we pay tribute, with compassion and respect, to all Ottoman citizens who lost their lives in the same period and under similar conditions.”

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29 Comments

  1. Krikor Sarkissian said:

    So full of BS. Should follow the saying “Better keep the mouth shut, let people wonder;than open mouth and let people know for sure”. He is as big a liar and stupid as they come.Denialist bastard !

  2. Ari said:

    How very considerate and sensitive of Turkey’s popular prime minister. Thank you Mr. Erdogan for keeping the pain and suffering of the Armenian Nation alive and for continuing the Armenian Genocide by denying this tragedy.

  3. amb said:

    One makes peace with one’s enemies.

    Turkey is willing to play and so should we.

    Talking, negotiating, step-by-step, a messy process is how things get done in the real world. Armenians should abandon their blunt, fairy tale, all-or-nothing version of how things must unfold in relations with Turkey and adopt a more realistic one. Armenians must face the real world.

    The ultimate goal is to live with Turks in peace so both people can thrive and prosper. The ultimate goal is not the annihilation of Turks and Turkey. That’s not going to happen. Turks and Turkey are here to stay. So we have to reconcile with the idea that we have to live along and with Turks.

    What we need is a strategic, nuanced, smart approach to the resolution of the issue
    of Genocide with Turkey. Erdogan’s announcement could obviously be another ploy and politicking effort
    on part of Turkey to muddle the issue of the Genocide and ultimately deny us our demands
    but we are adults also, and smart too so we should be aware of that and stay alert to that.

    But we too can (and must) play strategic, politicking games. We too must manipulate, cajole, appease and do all the political game-playing and maneuvering that are necessary to achieve our goals. We can not stay rigid, un-moving without the willingness to participate in the give-and-take.

    And if this offer from Turkey creates that opportunity, we should be wise enough to take advantage of it.

  4. Berge Jololian said:

    Genocide Acknowledgment without Accountability is hollow and meaningless.

    Acknowledgment must be accompanied with accountability; otherwise, the acknowledgment is worse than the denial.

    The word “Genocide” was coined by the Jurist Raphael Lemkin in 1943 to describe the 1915 genocide of the Armenians. When Dr. Lemkin was asked how he became interested in the Armenian genocide, he explained: “I became interested in genocide because it happened to the Armenians”. – (Source: CBS News Interview, 1948 on the occasion of the United Nations adopting the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide – which cites the Armenian Genocide as an example).

    Why then others attempt to call the Armenian Genocide by a different word?
    – > To remove the genocidal criminal element of “Intent”, a key component that constitutes genocide.

    The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) refers to the events as the Armenian Genocide

    Why then refer to it by different label?
    –> To free genocidal-Turkey from Accountability: land, reparation and restitution.

    What matters is the *accountability* and specifically Armenian owned lands, assets, wealth of Armenians confiscated, not to mention the lives of 2 million people brutally murdered, reparation and restitution.

    Turkey remains genocidal and a lethal threat to Armenia and Armenians. No amount of apology or acknowledgment will ever be sincere or enough – it is Genocide Acknowledgment with *Accountability* that matters.

  5. Hratch said:

    Why don’t we take up their offer to establish a joint historical commission in order to study the events of 1915. What do we have to lose?

  6. Dr.Hermon Mihranian said:

    This not enough, Mr.Erdogan must officialy recognize the Armeniaqn Genocide and endorse alaw saying that the deniel of the Armenian Genocide is a crime and must be punished.

  7. Hratch said:

    Perhaps their attempt at establishing a commission is to save face. Who knows, maybe it’s their roadmap to take responsibility based on the commission’s findings.

    If we’re suspicion of their motives and adamant in requesting a verdict without a trial, we’re only prolonging the stubborn denial stand.

  8. Michael Sarian said:

    Mr Erdogan, you are right “fire burns the place where it falls” it fall on us the Armenians of Ottoman Empire.
    Our families and our people paid with their lives for the fire which was started by the Turks. Mr. Prime Minister do the right thing and go down in history as the man stood up and recognized the Genocide and pay tribute to 1.5 Armenians who lost their lives including members of my family in Adana, Turkey.

  9. Dino said:

    If the Germans were in denial they would say this about the Holocaust: “We suffered also. The Germans lost twice as many people compared to the Jews in the tragedy called World War II. The Jews should recognize the suffering of the German people during those terrible times.” The turks stole Armenian land, Armenian lives, Armenian material culture and the Armenian cultural legacy in eastern turkey. Eastern turkey is Western Armenia. It is the wellspring of Armenian Civilization. The turks sit like pigs in a wallow with big grins and left Western Armenia undeveloped.The crime of genocide has no statute of limitations! The treaties of Kars and Moscow are null ab initio! The Wilson Arbitral Award is still valid! The turks will ratify the Protocols as a “gift” to the Armenian people to save their sorry asses. For Armenia to also ratify the Protocols will be akin to signing her own death warrant. My ancestral village will be Armenian again and my progeny will live there in peace and security. The barbarians who hail from Central Asia have to leave. That is justice.

  10. Zorik said:

    He will continue his (BS) denial as long as Obama and David Cameron back him up.

  11. Kevork Abazajian said:

    Erdogan seals is position as a state leader that is complicit in the Armenian Genocide.

    From the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide:* Article 3. The following acts shall be punishable: … Complicity in genocide.

    In criminal law, an individual is complicit in a crime if he/she is aware of its occurrence and has the ability to report the crime, but fails to do so.

    *Adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948.

  12. Bedros A. said:

    “Fire burns the place where it falls.”
    MP Erdogan, understands very well, that the indication of pain and sufferings is a neutral start.
    Justice needs historians but obstruction of facts and denial of the truth is an escape from all kind of responsibilities and it’s not considered a political game.
    Clear and High level diplomacy is still needed.
    Walk but don’t Run Mr. Erdogan.

  13. GB said:

    A good Turkish sermon by a political denialist, Rajab Ogloo, for the 99-th anniversary of Armenian Genocide!

    Polish famous idiom justify for the words of Mr. Erdoghan:

    “Siedzieć jak na tureckim kazaniu. To sit like in a Turkish sermon. (To not make head or tail of things, to not understand a thing”.)

  14. cahit said:

    I think we should understand the changes in turkey better… year by year more people are talking and writing about Armenian Genocide… we should encourge even Erdogan to speak more clearly about Genocide… it is a good start to talk about all the unjustice and unpunishment stories in Turkey done by IT towards armenian greeks kurds laz assurian and even muslims…
    it is told 100 years a wrong stories to public in turkey where many journalist also punishhed. (Remember Aysenur Zaraoklu), I also learn about genocide by a book published by Aysenur Zarakolu in Turkey…. These lies that told to people can not be changed in one night… we should struggle together to teach everybody about genocide then ask about justice which is our all willings…

  15. cahit said:

    Also please check the BDP President Demirtas’s speech about Armenian Genocide.

  16. Gaidzag said:

    Since 1894 and even before Armenian Genocide started. What kind of excuses do you have, erdogan afendi?

  17. Alex said:

    Mr. Erdogan,
    The world has no problem understanding that genocide occurred in 1915. It is now for you and your government to do the same and recognize that the murder of 1.5 million Armenians was the result of Ottoman state policy. Systematically planned and executed. Genocide.

    There is no need for you to create a new historical commission, the Armenian Genocide has already been studied, proven and accepted by historians the world over. You are the only ones who still deny it.

    Mr. Erdogan, who are you trying to appeal to? Your words are empty until such time that you fully recognize the Armenian Genocide, you wil never become part of the civilized world. Turkey is a democracy? Your citizens are affraid to utter the word “genocide” for fear of facing three-years of imprisonment.

    Your words made me cringe. There is not one ounce of sincerity in them.

  18. Arto said:

    Erdogan is right, it was a “shared pain”. The only difference was that the Turks were applying the “pain’ and Armenians were feeling it.

  19. Ary Ofakim said:

    Turkey boxed itself by being so hung-up on the “insulting Turkishness” law, that over the years it grew into a very conceded & overly proud nation –which is making it impossible for any politician to pull a “Michael Gorbachov” .. but this excuse cannot be used in this case.

    Most people are actually surprised that Erdogan actually mentioned anything about the 1915 Christian Minority Genocide. Not I !.. This Leader is just getting nervous about the upcoming elections. We need the powerful countries behind us….

  20. hovik nersissian said:

    Whatever he said is what should be said by any of that same nation; it’s a mere political diplomacy…
    However, I would have prefered if he never got involved in so much “unnecessary & lying” details because the forthcoming responses will show the public how irrelevant were the concepts announced and worldwhile Armenian feedback will come soon to highlight the so-called “criminal self-defence”…..
    Myself, in person, will be with you all soon.
    tks

  21. Chuck McCoy said:

    My deepest sympathies extend to those who suffered before, during, and after the event of April 24, 1915. The pain and suffering then must surely continue to have its consequences on the Armenians living today. Though they can not be equated, In many ways this is not unlike the effects that slavery had and still has on African-Americans in the United States. These horrific tragedies and their consequences can never be undone nor truly mitigated. Everyone is powerless to change the past even in the slightest way, yet we all increase the suffering in our lives by expecting that anything can be done to right such heinous wrongs done to our ancestors. The ancestors of those who perpetrated such crimes cannot atone for them nor are they guilty of having committed them, but to deny that their ancestors actually committed such evils is equally horrible in its own right.

  22. Maras said:

    My dear armenian friends.i am a turkish from maras in which lots of armenians have lived before 1915.my grand grandmother was an armenian and konverted.you cannot imagine how brave erdogans message is.i am watching the turkish news he is under fire and critisized like hell. It is disappointing to realize that the history is blocking the future of a peacefull life.wish to share a maras icecream with some of you guys in maras. My deep condolences to you guys (for sure without any political plans)

    • Dino said:

      Erdogan is not brave nor honest. History is history, it is not blocking a peaceful life. You steal my house, you steal my daughter and convert her to islam, you steal my church and convert it to a mosque, you take my life and you take my land and say there was never an Armenia in turkey. There can be no peace without justice. Just like the Germans had to lose their eastern lands, and how the Ukrainians will lose their eastern lands to the Russians this year, so to the turks will lose their eastern lands. Your loss of the eastern 20% of turkey will be based lawfully. The treaties of Kars and Moscow concerning the borders of Armenia and turkey are null ab initio. The Wilson Arbitral Award is still legal. You my dear Turkish friend are in the Turkish political and historical bubble. If you read some of the books in your country about the genocide, you will come to realize the enormity of the crime and how hollow and lying padishah erdogan is in his Armenian statement.

  23. Garo Yeghichian said:

    It was a shared pain?
    Can you Mr. Erdogan the smart, name one Turkish woman (husbend killed) with children relocated to the desert (derzor) to die, without no food no water and no protection.And you call this a shared pain.
    Mr. Erdogan why you insisting for establishment of a joint commission, every body knows what you aiming for. Every thing is clear as crystal,And do not need clarification.

  24. Armen Chalian said:

    That’s concilliatory???
    Follow the speech’s interpretation by experts like Dr Hovannisian.
    It’s RECOGNITION (real not false), REPARATIONS, REPATRIATION, & JUSTICE!!

    ….condescending statements like Erdogans incite revolution, retribution, &
    revenge not reconiiation

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