ANKARA—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has challenged the Armenian diaspora to come up with “documents” to resolve the intractable political issue surrounding the mass killings of Ottoman Armenians 100 years ago.
“O, the Armenian diaspora, our documents are here. Whatever documents you have, bring them,” Erdogan said while inaugurating an exhibition on World War I in the Ottoman Archive Facility in Istanbul on March 19.
The Turkish government to this day refuses to acknowledge that the systematic, state-sponsored murder of 1.5 million Armenians and the exile of Armenians from their historic homelands constitutes a genocide. Instead, the Turkish state claims that it was Armenians who killed Turks and that Armenians were relocated from their homes for their own safety. Writers and public figures in Turkey are arrested regularly for speaking about the Armenian Genocide, which is illegal in Turkey under certain circumstances.
“The Armenian diaspora is trying to instill hatred against Turkey everywhere in the world through campaigns on genocide claims,” Erdogan said, stressing that such efforts had intensified in the centennial anniversary of 1915.
“Like in every era in the history, pains and tragedies were experienced during the years of the great war. Armenians were not the only people affected by them,” Turkey’s president said, employing an often-used denialist talking point.
“The greatest massacres targeting Muslims in the Balkans and in Caucasia happened in the same period. In Anatolia, there were hundreds of thousands of people who were harmed by Armenians, as many as Armenians were harmed,” he said.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution calling for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. A week before that, the European Parliament adopted a similar resolution calling on member states to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Erdogan’s remarks also came a day after more than 40 members of the US House of Representatives introduced a draft resolution at the US Congress, describing the killings of Armenians a century ago as genocide. Parliaments of several countries have already passed resolutions supporting the recognition of the Armenian Genocide over recent years.
“The truth should be sought in archives,” Erdogan insisted, accusing the Armenians of not responding to Turkey’s call to examine the archives and uncover the truth about history.
Armenian leaders have stated in the past that there is no debate over the veracity of the Armenian Genocide, accusing Turkish proposals for a “panel of historians” as being a ploy to create a debate where there is none; a debate which Turkey-backed authorities will be free to derail and stall, giving Turkey another excuse to postpone recognizing the Armenian Genocide.