BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Cem Ozdemir, co-chair of the Green Party, delivered a passionate speech in the German Parliament (Bundestag) on June 2, 2016, in support of the resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide by Ottoman Turkey, while acknowledging Germany’s complicity in this mass crime.
Ozdemir, born in Germany, is son of Turkish-Circassian (Cherkess) migrant parents. He was the first person of Turkish descent elected to the Bundestag (1994-2002). He reentered the German Parliament in 2013, after serving in the European Parliament from 2004 to 2009.
With support from all political parties in the Bundestag, the Armenian Genocide resolution, which Ozdemir had long championed, was adopted by the German Parliament almost unanimously, with one no vote and one abstention.
Below are translated excerpts from the remarkable speech Ozdemir delivered in German in the Bundestag on June 2nd, while wearing on the lapel of his suit the ‘forget-me-not’ button symbolizing the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide:
“There can be no question about the appropriateness of time when talking about unimaginable savagery like genocide. We know that after lengthy and tiresome back and forth, Germany, as an accomplice to the crime, is openly calling the event by its proper name…. This constitutes a chapter of German history.” Ozdemir recalled the callous and cruel words of German Imperial Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg: “Our whole purpose was to keep Turkey on our side during the entire course of the war. Whether Armenians were to be destroyed or not, made no difference.”
In a powerful statement, Ozdemir directly addressed the Armenian guests attending the Bundestag’s session on June 2nd: “Just because we were complicit in this horrible crime in the past does not mean that today we are going to side with the deniers.”
Ozdemir went on to urge the millions of Turkish residents of Germany to be proud of the “heroic Turks” who rescued Armenians during the Genocide, and not “criminals like Talat and Enver.”
The Turkish-German Parliamentarian then declared that the ugliest expression which causes him great pain is that ‘Armenian’ is used as a ‘swear word’ in Turkey. “They ask me if I am Armenian. I don’t view someone being an Armenian as an insult. Being a descendant of a Sunni Muslim family, Eastern Christianity does not make me uncomfortable.”
Ozdemir quoted his Turkish Armenian friend Hrant Dink who was assassinated in Istanbul by an extremist Turk: “If Armenians lived in Van today, that city would be the Paris of the Orient.” During his visit to Armenia in March 2015, Ozdemir elaborated on Dink’s statement in an interview with Civilnet: “I went to the Genocide museum and read the names and professions of the people we have lost. They were the most forward looking and brightest intellectuals of Istanbul and they were killed starting with architects, intellectuals, journalists, writers…. The Ottoman Empire exterminated the most progressive citizens in its history. The Ottoman Empire lost immensely. I think one of the reasons why Turkey isn’t among the most developed countries today is because the Young Turks were not heroes, but traitors. They harmed Armenians, Assyrians and Turks as well.”
The Turkish German Parliament member ended his nine-minute speech, which was repeatedly interrupted by thunderous applause, by stating that “members of Bundestag should not be threatened for expressing their thoughts. I am sure that I will not be arrested on my way home from the Parliament or that my parliamentary immunity will not be lifted; I will not be beaten up or killed. I cannot say the same thing about my colleagues in Turkey!”
Nevertheless, Ozdemir did not anticipate that after Bundestag’s approval of the Armenian Genocide resolution, he and ten of his Turkish colleagues in the German Parliament would be placed under police protection after receiving numerous death threats from Turkish extremists.
In an announcement reminiscent of Hitler-era racial profiling, Pres. Erdogan advocated that the 11 Turkish members of the German Parliament who had supported the Armenian Genocide resolution undergo a blood test to prove their ‘Turkishness.’ Meanwhile, officials of Tokat, Turkey, Ozdemir’s father’s hometown, stripped his name from the list of honored sons of that city.
However, after making bombastic threats of retaliation against Germany, Pres. Erdogan was forced to restrain himself, realizing that such irresponsible steps would only lead to a devastating effect on the faltering Turkish economy!