Is Genocide Denial the Best Option for Turkey?

Turkey has backed itself into a corner. Years of collective amnesia have created a situation where an entire generation of Turks is truly unaware of its ancestors’ bloody past. Successive Turkish governmen’s have cleansed history books, cultivated special relationships with Western nations, and formulated an entirely different version of what happened during World War I. They have gone so far as to accuse Armenia’s of committing genocide and having provoked and precipitated in events by working with the other sides Then there is Turkish national pride, fueled by the military on one side and Islamic fundamentalists on the other. Turkey has reached a time in history where to come clean and acknowledge committing genocide would devastate national pride. Therefore for Turkey, accepting responsibility is not the best option. But one can wonder if Genocide denial is really the best option for Turkey. Beginning with the 50th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which marked the awakening of the Armenian masses from the deadly blow to the Armenian Nation. The pursuit of truth had gathered momentum; Armenia’s organized and pledged to bring down the "wall of silence" by using every means at their disposal. Mass demonstrations in Soviet Armenia and around the world were followed by the armed struggle and assassinations of Turkish diplomats, which were followed by years of activist demonstrations in various capitals around the world. The world finally found out about the "forgotten Genocide." As for the Turks, they realized that this was the Genocide that wouldn’t go away. They had to respond, and respond forcefully. Their prediction that time would solve the problem, that the world would turn a blind eye, that their special relations with Western Nations would act as leverage against the onslaught by Armenian activists did not materialize. Turkish diplomacy, which is known for its excellence, has the difficult task now of squelching free speech by Turkish intellectuals and blackmailing Western nations to stop the ever-increasing number of legislative bodies around the world from endorsing Genocide resolutions. One can be sure that Turkish diplomats must wonder sometime whether a policy of denial is the only option, as Turkey’s circle of friends is diminishing and Turkey is faced with a situation where denial may preserve Turkish nationalism, whereas acceptance may cleanse collective guilt and present Turkey in a better light around the world. Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk resolved that dilemma for himself by talking about the killings of one million Armenia’s and thirty thousand Kurds. For the Turkish Government, he committed "treason" against Turkishness. For the West, he is admired for his courage and uncompromising views. The Nobel Committee bestowed upon him the Nobel Prize for literature for his writings as well as for being a champion of free speech. Free speech is an elusive phenomenon. In Turkey, telling the truth about the Armenian Genocide is considered a crime punishable by law, whereas, in France, the French Parliament voted to make the denial of the Armenian Genocide a criminal offence. Ironically, in the US, free speech by the American Ambassador to Armenia regarding the Armenian Genocide cost him his diplomatic career. Turkish diplomats have transformed political speech and political writing into an art form. They have the difficult task of defending an idea that is indefensible, representing a country that restricts any kind of free speech. They have the task to persuade Western nations not to endorse Genocide resolutions, cultivating close relations with Arab countries while having close strategic and military ties with Israel, and courting American Congressmen after denying the US military access at the start of the Iraq war. So, is Genocide denial the best option for Turkey? Turkey can gain huge benefits by coming to terms with its past. By now, it realizes that accepting responsibility is the only way out of defending the indefensible. It would also elevate opinion about Turkey around the world and clear the way for normal relations with Armenia and other Nations. On the other hand, denial may hinder and jeopardize Turkey’s membership talks with the European Union. However, Genocide denial remains the only–or best–option for Turkey since it knows that it must be prepared for reparations and restitution, and most importantly territorial concessions in the form of Western Armenia. European Union Members may use the Armenian Genocide as a means to keep Turkey out of Europe, but in the end drop it as a precondition against concessions by Turkey. Orhan Pamuk may win the Nobel Prize for literature and for truthfulness, and yet become the spokesman against the new bill restricting free speech in France and keep silent against similar laws in Turkey. In the end, the best option may be dependant on the vision and the tenacity of the main proponents. It is clear that Turkey does not currently have leaders with the vision and the courage to foretell the future and come to terms with historic responsibility. It has already demonstrated that it is not ready to join the ran’s of mature democracies. It is also clear that Armenia’s will continue to pursue the recognition of the Genocide with ever increasing ferocity for generations to come. After all, the survival of Armenia itself and of the Armenian Nation depends on it.

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