BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, in an academic paper published in the Turkish Policy Quarterly, urges Armenians to take “bold steps” to usher in a “new era” of relations with Turkey and Turks predicated on the infamous “condolence” statement made by Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The “bold steps” Davutoglu is advocating is for Armenians to deny the Armenian Genocide and adopt Turkey’s version of history, which has recently been rebranded to included phrases such as “shared pain,” which in Davutoglu’s mind will foster a concept he calls “just memory.”
The more than 10-page article, entitled “Turkish-Armenian Relations In The Process Of De-Ottomanization Or “Dehistoricization”: Is A“Just Memory” Possible?” squarely puts the blame on the Armenian Diaspora for what he calls perpetuating the status quo, which he says hinges on recalling tragedy and thus creating “unjust memories,” and urges a resolution of the Turkish-Armenian issue via a new understanding of history that will promote “just memory.”
[Ironically, this piece was published one day before the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a measure which would hold Turkey accountable for destroying Christian–among them Armenian–religious sites].
“The greatest injustice that has been visited on both history and the peoples in question is setting aside the shared history of the two peoples and the previous rich centuries, and beginning instead only with traumatic events like war and conflict, or reconstructing the previous centuries by making these traumatic events the center of everything,” Davutoglu argued.
“The ‘unjust memory’ created around the events of 1915 constitutes the most important example of this phenomenon as it mortgages the shared past and future of the Turks and Armenians,” Davutoglu wrote, urging open and continuous dialogue between the two sides.
“The ‘just memory’ concept that we have frequently employed during this process is critically important. In order for Turks and Armenians to understand what each of them has experienced, it is essential that they respect one another’s memory. For the Armenians, 1915 was a year of relocation during which exceedingly great tragedies took place. The years prior to and after 1915 were also a time of tremendous tragedy for the Turks in Anatolia. It was at this time that Turks fought for their very survival in the Balkan Wars, at Çanakkale, and in the War of Independence. Actually, this was a time of ‘shared pain,’” Davutoğlu explained.
The Turkish leader argues that Erdogan’s April 23 “condolence” statement should serve as the foundation for further steps.
“Erdoğan’s message of condolence should not be seen as a conjunctural step. It should be seen as a prelude for transformation of minds and memories because this is not only an offer of condolence but also a sincere invitation to all parties to ensure a common future based on lasting peace,” he wrote.
Davutoglu’s recipe for this “new era” of understanding is for Armenians to collectively deny their own history–including the Armenian Genocide–so that Turkey can continue its criminal policies of oppression and state-sponsored murder without impunity.
Essentially, what Davutoglu is suggesting is that we all hold hands and sigh and collective “oops” and move forward.
From this writing one can also conclude that Turkey’s intentions in entering the dangerous protocols process was not to establish relations without pre-conditions, but rather to perpetuate the almost century-old denialist policies and to ensure that Azerbaijan’s rights were protected.
“The aim of the Protocol process between Turkey and Armenia in 2009 has been to establish good neighborly relations between Turkey and Armenia, to eliminate exploitation between the two peoples based on past suffering, and to resolve the problems between the two countries by preserving Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity,” wrote Davutoglu.
This should serve as proof that Turkey was not in the protocols process as a “good neighbor” but one who architected this plan to advance its own agenda. The Armenian government must immediately and unequivocally remove its signature from the doomed protocols and not parrot the US’s “ball is in Turkey’s court” line to score nebulous points with US leaders. Hilary Clinton’s memoir “Hard Choices” clearly asserts that the protocol process was conceived to advance Azerbaijan’s energy interests as way to weaken Russia’s influence over Europe.
While our immediate reaction to this might be that Davutoglu is perpetuating Turkey’s state policy of denial–which he is–this and Erdogan’s “condolence” statement are dangerous steps by official Ankara ahead of the Genocide centennial.
As Harut Sassounian wrote in his column, which was published in Asbarez several weeks ago, US and Turkey have been colluding on their respective April 24 statements. So, the State Department’s immediate embrace of Erdogan’s announcement as a positive step should be viewed dubiously as the US is doing it utmost to refrain from recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
This, coupled with Davutoglu’s reiteration of a position he articulated two years ago, that Ankara looks at and treats all ethnic groups that once lived in Anatolia as the Turkish Diaspora should sound an alarm that that the Turkish state is systematically attempting to whitewash the Genocide ahead of the Centennial.
Davutoglu also reiterates his intention to dialogue with Armenian Diaspora representatives, who he asserts are part of the Turkish Diaspora to establish dialogue. In a column last month, I, once again, alerted our readers about the dangers of falling prey to such efforts, the most recent of which took place at the University of California in Irvine.
While we can reject Davutoglu’s policy statement as delusional and an extension of Turkish denialist propaganda, there are other forces at play who seek to undermine the efforts of the Armenian Nation in its pursuit for recognition of and justice for the Armenian Genocide.
It is high time for the government of Armenia to step in and with concrete points counter this policy, instead of uttering asides such as inviting the Turkish president to Armenia on April 24. That cannot be the policy of a government that is bound by the Constitution to advance the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the just aspiration of the Armenian nation.