BY HRANT APOVIAN
“Reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice.”
–Nelson Mandela, December 16, 1995
The leader of the association of Turkish Jews in Israel, Zali de Toledo, stated that “Turkey should take into account its interests and should normalize relations with Israel or else the Israeli lobby will likely stay neutral when 2015 comes.” This proves that nothing has changed. The world is oblivious to morality and the reality of the Armenian Genocide is no more than a bargaining chip for some nations.
We are anxiously waiting, with the greatest dread and anticipation, for the year 2015, marking one hundred years of the first genocide of the twentieth century. Expectations are at an all time high. The centennial is set to be commemorated in an unprecedented manner. Finally after ten decades, will the world listen? Will Turkey buckle under pressure? Will justice – delayed for so long– be finally served?
“I am not an optimist, but a great believer of hope” is a quote from the great freedom fighter and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Similar to Mr. Mandela, this writer is pessimistic about what change- if any- the centennial will bring. However, this writer is also hopeful that anticipating the obstacles before us and being cognizant of certain realities, will help us come out of our torpor and define new strategies to make an impact, on the occasion of the commemoration of the horror that befell our grandparents and that almost annihilated our people. Many areas of concern come to mind.
1. Are we ready to shake public consciousness?
That which has taken many years of sacrifice and years of struggle, has been successful in enlisting over twenty countries to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. A short-lived outburst of armed aggression against Turkish interests and diplomats has been successful in bringing the Genocide to the forefront. However, the mere fact that it is the centennial of the Armenian Genocide will not in itself bring the issue to a head and force nations to forgo their interests and pursue what is morally right. How can we expect to elevate public awareness when the world stood silent during other genocides that occurred in the latter part of the twentieth century? Bangladesh, Rwanda, Sudan all happened in our lifetime. We need to elevate the level of our expectations: we need to invite world leaders to publicly chastise Turkey for its conduct; the Vatican should erect a memorial for the million and a half; the European Union should stop talks for Turkey’s admission to its ranks; and the halls of Congress should reverberate with our demands.
2. Are we over-anticipating the potential accomplishments during the centennial?
The results will be directly commensurate to the magnitude of our efforts. The biggest risk and fear is falling short of making enough of an impact to result in serious changes. We need to change our outlook in how we approach this anniversary: no more speeches, no more marches, no vigils, no church services, no demonstrations. We have been there, done that. We need the Government in Armenia to take the lead, Armenian political parties to stop their bickering and activate their members, attorneys to go to high courts around the world, and the United Nations to act. The time to commemorate has long passed.
3. Are we ready for the Turkish onslaught?
We have always underestimated those that committed the genocide. I suspect that Turkey has its own counter offensive planned. All of its “friends” around the world, and the millions spent on its arsenal of public relation firms may overcome our meager preparations. We may not be ready for what Turkey has in store to neutralize what our various commemoration committees are planning. We need to be ready to confront a heightened and more sophisticated level of denial.
4. Is it going to be a replay on a grander scale of a hundred years of commemorative rites?
In this age of globalization, social media and communication advances, it is my sincere hope that our commemoration committees will adopt new methods of challenging Turkish interests worldwide. I urge that they commit to adopting and preparing a propaganda blitz that will expose Turkey for what it is: a failed state based on lies, including a failed “zero problems” policy with its neighbors, a nation that disregards human rights, harbors Al-Qaida affiliates on its soil and that has committed genocide not only on Armenians, but Greeks, Arabs, Poles and Kurds. Turkey’s continued blockade of Armenia should no longer be tolerated by its NATO allies. Our offensive should be brutal. We have to enlist the help of all countries and organizations that espouse human rights and will not succumb to Turkish threats.
5. Have we really passed the threshold from genocide recognition attempts, to the legal challenges of seeking compensation and redress from the Turkish Government?
As it stands, we have just begun to tackle legal challenges. We have yet to do our homework on this and we need to raise the immense financial resources that it would require. It is yet to be seen whether the government in Armenia is ready to drop the medicine pill that it was forced to swallow- the protocols- and to take the lead in bringing our claims to world organizations, starting with the United Nations and the European Union. Turkey has to face the fact that massacring the inhabitants of the land does not absolve it from their descendants’ territorial claims.
6. Finally, what has changed in the equation after so many years of struggle?
It is true that a lot has changed in ten decades. Hopefully, Armenians are wiser and better equipped to wage war against a nation that never seized to dream of its Pan-Turkic aspirations. Armenia is a free country again. Most nations are aware that Turkey committed the first genocide of the twentieth century. Even some intellectuals within Turkey have begun to talk freely about that which was taboo for decades. The many years of a struggle to bring down the wall of silence have not been in vain. The next stage will require even more vigilance from all of us.
One nation committed mass genocide. It has to come to terms with its crime, pay its respects to the dead, return historic Armenian lands, pay compensation and apologize to the civilized world.
One nation’s survivors have truth on their side. They have a just cause. Their sons and daughters must pull together and shake the world with their demands. Time has run out for justice to be served. Let the Jewish Lobby side with Turkey when 2015 comes. This is our responsibility.