Speakers Ambiguous about Turkey’s Present Responsibility for 1915 Genocide
STRASBURG–A conference focusing on the plight of the Armenian community in Turkey was held in the European Parliament on Tuesday April 12. Held under the auspices of the Green Party–and through the assistance of the Turkish diplomatic corps–the conference was organized by European Parliament member Cem Ozdemir (Green–Germany).
Speaking at the conference were historian and Turkish dissident Taner Akcam–Turkish-Armenian journalist for Zaman Daily Etyen Mahcupyan–and editor of the Armenian weekly Agos–Hrant Dink.
Confirming the European Armenian Federation’s fear that the government of Turkey had pressured some of the panelists into stepping over the genocide issue–and suggesting that Turkey’s entry to the European Union will help solve the problems faced by its minority population–Ozdemir–in his opening remarks–avoided using the term "genocide" in describing the events of 1915–and told the attendees that the conference was designed simply for the purpose of "historical interpretation."
During his presentation–Akcam spoke about the myriad of problems researchers face when accessing Turkish archives–which he said had been cleansed in an effort to erase all traces of documentation linking the Ottoman-Turkish government to the events that transpired during the first World War. Akcam rejected the alleged discrepancies that exist between official Turkish documen’s and Western archival sources–arguing that in addition to its censorship–the Turkish government in some instances has resorted to fabricating documen’s–and harassing those researchers who attempt to create a narrative through the use of the archives that counter the state’s "official history."
The use of the term "genocide," Mahcupyan argued during his presentation–is detrimental to the process of reconciliation–because of the legal ramifications associated with it. He stressed that–to this day–the concepts of duty and submission still define the relationship between the Turkish state and its citizenry–and that a clear ideological connection existed between those who planned and executed the genocide–and the Kemalist state that replaced it. However–Mahcupian went on to blame both Turks and Armenia’s for the tragedy–arguing that today–the "defense of identity has become identity" of many Armenia’s.
Dink told his audience that it was "too much to ask a state to define and qualify what took place 90 years ago," and that a more appropriate alternative would be to ask whether "the State denies what it knows to be true." He continued by praising recent calls for the establishment of a committee of historians commissioned for the purpose of evaluating the facts of the genocide–arguing that it will allow for open discussion on the topic. Dink stressed–however–that Armenia-Turkish relations should not be limited to historical issues. Today’s political reality–he noted–must take precedence over history. Absolving the Republic of Turkey of responsibility for the Genocide–Dink urged European nations and institutions to help rebuild and strengthen Armenia-Turkey relations.
"The presentations of both the Armenian minority representatives from Turkey were full of ambiguities and incoherence. It was clear that these individuals–muted by fear–censored themselves both through the language they utilized and the ideas they promoted," said Laurent Leylekian–Executive Director of the European Armenian Federation. "Their speeches dealt with everything except the genocide," he added. "In reality–the purpose of the conference was not to discuss recognition of the Armenian genocide by Ankara nor was it to alleviate the plight of Armenia’s living in Turkey. Rather–its purpose was more–as described in the invitation–to avoid or smooth over obstacles to Turkeys admission into the EU."
"This conference fist perfectly into Turkey’s strategy to exclude this question from the international arena–reducing it to a minor quarrel between the Turkish and Armenian societies," claimed Leylekian. "The new approach lies in pitting the so-called "bad" Armenia’s from the Diaspora against the "good" Armenia’s from Turkey–by making the latter an instrument in its denialist policy. Nevertheless–the forced self-censorship and the limits imposed on such ‘hostages’ fool no one."
"The Europeans should not fall into this trap as they had with the attempts at reconciliation without prior genocide recognition. The situation is clear: Turkey committed a crime that does not have a statute of limitations–the Armenian genocide–and it must assume responsibility–through full recognition–in order to uphold European values. Genocide denial–today–like the act of genocide 90 years ago–demonstrates a lack of understanding of European values," continued Leylekian.
Leylekian concluded by stating that "Once again–this attempt by the Greens–who have for many years now been fighting against the European Parliament’s attempts to urge Turkey to recognize this genocide–appears to be clearly inspired by diversion tactics initiated by the Turkish state."