ANKARA (Huliq)–A retired Turkish military judge and a columnist for Turkey’s largest newspaper have added their voices to the small but growing number of influential Turks who are calling on their country to formally acknowledge its responsibility for the Armenian Genocide.
In a detailed historical essay in the May 2 edition of Today’s Zaman, one of Turkey’s largest English-language dailies, retired military judge Umit Kardas suggests that Turks should condemn the Young Turk government for orchestrating the genocide to rid the country of its Armenian population.
Kardas’ essay argues that wholesale annihilation of the country’s Christian populations was a betrayal of the early principles of the Young Turk party, the Committee of Union and Progress, and that Turkey remains a morally stunted country because of its unwillingness to fully acknowledge the wrongs committed in 1915.
“No justification…can be offered for this human tragedy,” he wrote. “No technical term [like genocide] is vast enough to contain these incidents, which are indescribable,” he writes.
Kardas’ essay comes on the heels of a column by Mustafa Akyol in the English-language edition of Hurriyet, Turkey’s largest newspaper, calling on Turkey to express remorse for the Armenian slaughter on grounds of Islamic morality.
Citing some Muslim muftis in Turkish provincial towns who opposed the forced deportations out of fear of the wrath of Allah, he wrote, “Those God-fearing individuals, I believe, were the best of my nation in 1915. And now more of us are remembering their spirit, and even joining them in their tears.”
In a follow-up column responding to widespread criticism of his first essay, he defended his view by first dismissing the standard Turkish explanations of the genocide as a defensive reaction, then saying, “The fact that we Turks also suffered should not make us blind and indifferent to the suffering on the other side, whose proportions are undoubtedly much larger. The fact that we remember and honor our own dead, in other words, should not prevent us from feeling mercy and remorse for the hundreds of thousands of perished Armenians.”
Both writers back recent efforts to normalize relations between modern Turkey and modern Armenia, including reopening the border between the two countries with no preconditions. Official Ankara, however, has required Armenia agree to a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict favoring Azerbaijan before relations can be normalized. Akyol argued that this should not override the need for remembrance and contrition.
As one respondent to the follow-up column wrote, “The debate [on the Armenian genocide] is always twisted in Turkey. But at least it is now opened.”