Confronting a Pre-Genocidal Turkey

In modern Turkey, Hrant Dink's killer is treated like a hero, and those guilty of his assassination are let free


It’s sometimes said that the obstruction of truth and justice for the Armenian Genocide is the result of actions by the Turkish state, not a reflection of the values of Turkish society.

On the surface, this explanation might have some superficial appeal.

But upon any meaningful examination, this formulation falls apart. It dramatically oversimplifies the complex reality on the ground in Turkey, at so many levels, and ignores the deep historical and societal roots of anti-Armenian racism and violence in modern Turkish culture.

An imperfect (but perhaps useful) analogy may help shed some light on this issue: America’s brutal treatment of African Americans and Native Americans was not simply the function of governmental policy driven from above, but rather a reflection and a direct result, sadly, of very toxic and hateful cultural attitudes on race. Attitudes that created the very basis for the horrors of slavery and the genocidal massacres and ethnic-cleansing of American Indian tribes from their ancient homelands. Reading our Declaration of Independence (and its reference to “merciless Indian Savages”) or our Constitution (and its inhuman description of African Americans as three-fifths of a human being) just scratches the surface of the untold terror visited upon these peoples.

Add to this intolerance the vast American wealth drawn from centuries of slave labor and the massive theft of native lands—a parallel to the foundation of the modern Turkish economy, built upon the wealth and properties of literally hundreds of thousands of Armenian families and businesses stolen during the Armenian Genocide era—and you compound racial discrimination with deeply rooted and highly influential economic interests. A powerful combination. Hard, but not impossible, to challenge.

To our credit, as Americans—after decades of denial, demonstrations and, eventually, dialogue—we are today openly struggling with these deeply intense issues that are so closely tied to our very foundation, growth, and future as a nation. In Turkey, it is still illegal to talk about them.

Imagine Birmingham or Montgomery, Ala., at the height of Jim Crow.

Imagine a time in American history, thankfully behind us now, when segregationists openly celebrated Klan lynchings, and school children were raised to revel in old-school Westerns that demonized American Indians and glorified their destruction.

Well, sadly, that is where Turkey stands today.

In modern Turkey, Hrant Dink’s killer is treated like a hero, and those guilty of his assassination are let free. Armenians are regularly threatened with renewed deportations, the remaining Christian heritage of Anatolia is being systematically erased, and the country’s most popular films and books are about scapegoating and striking down treasonous minorities.

There are, of course, Turks who line up on the side of the angels. Unfortunately, however, U.S. policy toward Ankara has long been to play to the lowest common denominator, backing demagogues who appeal to their population’s basest instincts, at the expense of the small but growing number of brave souls who are struggling and sacrificing for the simple freedom to speak and act in pursuit of their country’s highest aspirations.

Turkey today is not a post-genocidal state, but a pre-genocidal society, angrily lashing out at its imagined enemies and, it would seem, seeking out its next target. The remaining Armenians on the soil of present-day Turkey – reminders of the unfinished work of Turkey’s last genocide – are high on this list, as, of course, are the Kurds, the most likely victim of its next.

The bottom line is that what is needed is not simply a change in Turkey’s policies, but rather a profound, long-term movement driven by both international and domestic pressure to rehabilitate Turkey into a modern, tolerant, and pluralist society that—as proof of its reform—willingly forfeits the fruits of its genocidal crimes.

Any less would be a disservice to Turkey’s victims, to Turkey’s neighbors, and to Turkey’s own citizens.

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  1. Edward Demian said:

    When the issue of selling and giving Turkey some US helicopters, I fired a message to my congresswoman. I wrote that Turkey does not need more armaments, but less. Turkey is too genocidal, too islamic, and too big. Turkey needs to break up into several countries.

  2. zareh said:

    miayn zenkove gah hayotz pergoutyoun.
    Turkey, U.S. and Israel will never recognize the Armenian Genocide.
    Armenians should stop wasting their energy year after year demanding recognition. Armenians should concentrate on improving the standard of living in Armenia to stop emigration. Armenians should create a strong economy in Armenia to stop emigration. Armenia should create a military industrial complex in Armenia to defend the motherland. Armenia should get closer to Russia and Iran. Armenia should start enriching uranium. Armenia should invade Georgia to have access to the Black Sea. Armenia should liberate the upper Garabagh all the way to the Georgia border and have the Kur river in its control. Armenia should blow up the Baku-Tiblisi-Jeyhan pipeline every week. Armenia should deny the Jewish Holocaust. Armenia should encourage five children per family policy. Armenia should get rid of the oligarchs by eliminating them overnight. Armenia should throw away the protocols. Armenia should release all prisoners and resettle them in Karabagh. Armenia should have a financial mutual fund. Armenia Central bank should open banks in large Armenian diasporas. Armenia should kick out all Armenians doing business with Turkey. Armenia should give citizenship to every diaspora Armenian. Armenia should have zero fees for visas for Armenians visiting their homeland. Armenia should have the statue of Soghomon Tehlirian in Republic Square. You want more…………

    • Narek said:

      Zareh jan, I couldn’t agree more on your points. Many like you and I share the same strategies that Armenia should pursue, the only problem is power to change all this is not in our hands because we like-minded individuals need proper funding and strategizing to actually plan out all those you list.

      The time will come soon though, when individuals like us will rise up and topple all who oppress true Armenian intellect and nationality. I myself will place my own life on the line if necessary to achieve the autonomy of my people and nation.

  3. Albert Nercessian said:

    What we need is a second Armenian republic. This did exist in the past. There was Armenia and the Cilician Republic. The Greek economy is a disaster and this is a ripe time for Armenian diasporans to put money together to buy a large Greek Island which could be named the New Cilicia republic.This republic could be in confederation with the Republic of Armenia and could be a positive role model for change. Being an island would offer open access to the ocean