BY ALINE OZINIAN
Turkish Sabah newspaper, which has come to be considered in recent years as the mouthpiece of the ruling Justice and Development Party, announced the appointment of Etienne Mahchupyan as Chief Advisor to Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on October 25. Sabah “adorned” the news of the appointment with the fact that after Erdogan’s “constructive” April 24 message this was yet another important step, this time taken by Davutoglu, toward the “normalization” of relations between Turkey and Armenia (the term used in Armenia-Turkey protocols), by appointing an Armenian as his Chief Advisor.
This appointment was regarded in Turkish press as an important step which would assist Davutoglu in his policy on minorities and the improvement of Turkey-Armenia relations. At the same time, Mahcupyan denies the Armenian-Turkish orientation of his appointment, giving a wider role to his activities. Mahcupyan said that it was a compelling proposal which he gladly accepted. In the meantime, Turkish media is emphasizing his Armenian roots, underscoring that the AKP managed to bring even an Armenian to the position of chief advisor to the Prime Minister.
Who is Etienne Mahchupyan?
Mahchupyan’s acquaintance with Davutoglu has an old, intellectual past. They met when Davutoglu was a scholar, and those meetings continued even after Davutoglu became Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mahchupyan was part of the “Council of Wise Men” which was created by the government to find a solution to the Kurdish question.
After graduating from Turkey’s prestigious Bogazici and Ankara universities, Mahchupyan also lectured at those universities. He was engaged in his own business until 1996 and worked as consultant for other companies. In 1996 he ended his entrepreneurial life and made the foray into politics, writing columns mainly in the democratic and left democratic-oriented media.
Mahcupyan is also the author of numerous scientific papers, monographs and books mainly about the issues of Turkey’s democratization and Western orientation, liberal democracy, army-state relations, religion and democratization, Turkish-Kurdish relations and so on.
Since 2001, Mahcupyan worked for the Gulenist Islamic-conservative daily Zaman, putting forward the idea that the Islamists have the greatest potential for the creation of a new Turkey.
Mahcupyan was also one of Hrant Dink’s best friends. In addition to being political comrades, they also spent their free time together travelling, making bets at the racetrack and passionately discussing anything related to football. Their possible nomination as AKP deputies was even discussed at the time.
Mahchupyan, who had frequently been writing for Agos, assumed the post of Editor-in-Chief following Hrant’s murder.
Mahchupyan as AKP defender
In 2010, resigning as Editor-in-Chief of Agos, Mahchupyan went to work again in Zaman. In the early years of AKP in power, some Democrats and Liberals, not sharing the party’s conservative and Islamic position, continued to support the party’s policies. Mahcupyan who was considered an intellectual with left Democratic views, was among them.
The party’s slow and reluctant steps towards Turkey’s democratization, which included finding a resolution to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict, caused the above mentioned political forces to stop supporting the government. Immediately afterward, followers of the Gulen movement also pulled back from pro-government positions.
But working for the Gulenist newspaper, Mahchupyan sided with Erdogan and defended the AKP position during the Gulen-Erdogan conflict of about a year ago. This surprised the readers of the scholar, who was highly regarded by the Gulenists.
As an appreciation of his new political views, he received an invitation to collaborate from Aksam, the most pro-government newspaper, which he accepted.
Recently, Mahcupyan even defended Erdogan during the “Sorry, I’ve even been called an Armenian” crisis. Shortly after that, in an interview Mahchupyan linked Erdogan’s conduct to his father’s. No matter how strongly Mahchupyan’s sharp turn and unconditional welcoming of all AKP steps were criticized by the Armenian community and Democratic circles, he kept insisting, that the AKP was a chance to destroy Kemalism and militarism and to create a “New Turkey” where Armenians should also be actively involved.
Mahchupyan’s appointment as a new step in Genocide denial policy
Today the appointment of an Armenian to the position of Chief Advisor to the Prime Minister is important indeed, regardless of whether that Armenian considers himself an Armenian or not, whether he emphasizes his ethnicity or Turkish citizenship, whether he highlights the honest coverage and acceptance of historical issues of ethnic background or Turkey’s democratization, or their coherence. It is hard to expect that even such a talented intellectual as Mahchupyan will be prudent enough to avoid becoming an instrument in Turkey’s anti-Armenian policy and will resign from the “high-ranking” position of Chief Advisor.
Although Mahchupyan stressed that the offer of Chief Advisor did not clarify the possible areas of activity, it is obvious for everyone that Turkey took this step on the threshold of 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in order to demonstrate to the world its generosity and lack of problems with the Armenians. But AKP’s trick for the international community is not even perceived inside Turkey by its own electorate and the supporters of those parties who portray themselves to be democratic, who consider bestowing a high-ranking office to an Armenian as treason.
It is possible that the government will explain Mahchupyan’s appointment to their supporters by the numerous examples of Armenians holding high-ranking offices in the Ottoman Empire. This tradition was continued by the Young Turks, a factor, which did not hinder them from implementing the Armenian Genocide.
What we are witnessing is neither a development nor an attempt at dialogue, but rather the next step in a pointless diplomatic game with the Armenians, in which Armenia is unfortunately involved.
The invitation to participate in the commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide issued personally to Erdogan and resembling a wedding invitation was presented by the Armenian side as the next “brilliant” diplomatic solution, followed by trivial “proud and victorious” statement: “The ball is in the opponent’s field.” However, it is time to realize that the point of the game is not constantly sending the ball to the opponent’s field but scoring a goal.
The same logic implies that the Armenian blow has ricocheted. Mahchupyan’s appointment is one of the more important steps taken by Turkey as it prepares for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Another blow, which can’t be discounted in the near future, might be the candidacy of Armenian Margar Esayan as Member of Parliament.