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#1 Yervant1

Yervant1

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Posted 16 March 2014 - 08:08 AM

No More Games
Editorial, 15 March 2014


When Armenians and Turks meet to talk of their differences, the
attitude of the Turks, unless they are enlightened, is at best "we
both suffered during the First World War. Let's forget the past and
become friends" or at worst "there was no Genocide. Armenians died
because of war conditions. Besides, Armenians were also out to
dismantle the Ottoman Empire with the help of the Russians."

Being factual, the Armenian narrative of 1915-'23 differs from the
Turkish version. As well, when Armenians think of the conflict, they
inevitably recall the centuries of oppression they suffered under the
Ottoman Turks. They remember the 1895 Hamidian massacres when more
than 200,000 innocent Armenians were slain by Sultan Abdul Hamid II's
soldiers and the Hamidiyeh irregulars. Armenians also recall the 1909
massacre of 30,000 Armenians in Adana, when the so-called progressive
Young Turks were at the helm of the Ottoman government. Armenians also
remember a century of Turkish government Genocide denial, the
wealth-tax imposed on Armenians during the Second World War and the
September 1955 pogroms in Istanbul. Finally, Armenians sitting down
with Turks are only too aware of Turkey's blockade of Armenia and its
support of the warmongering Baku regime.

Despite the overpowering presence in the Armenian psyche of Turkey's
long history of crimes against the Armenians, the latter have the will
to overcome their woes so as to seek a just peace between the two
peoples. However, their Turkish interlocutors should be aware of
"where Armenians are coming from" and the dilemma Armenians face when
they contemplate peace talks with the Turks.

In turn, Armenians should know how Turks perceives the First World
War. It's the war which saw the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the
loss of all Turkish-occupied lands outside Asia Minor. To Turks this
is a far more important episode than the Genocide of Armenians. Many
Turks grieve, to this day, the death of the Sick Man of Europe. While
the loss that empire was the result of miscalculation, greed (Turkey
expected to occupy even more lands, thanks to the hoped-for victories
of its German and Austrian allies), and military incompetence, many
Turks mourn the loss of lands they had occupied through the sword and
had controlled through the exercise of a hideous military.

Having been promised justice by Turkish authorities and then being
betrayed many times, starting in the 1830s, Armenians have reason to
be cautious about Turkish honeyed words. Armenians are cognizant of
Turkish diplomatic léger de main. Many Armenians wonder whether recent
Turkish government baubles (allowing the repairing of Armenian
churches) are intended to deflate Armenian efforts to obtain justice
during the centennial of the Genocide next year. Once the centennial
is history, Turkey would revert to square one, some Armenian fear.

There's no doubt that hundreds of thousands of Turks are sincere in
their desire to see justice done to the Armenians. The human rights
advocates, the various Turkish NGOs, the intellectuals, the
journalists and authors, who have backed the Armenian cause, are
undoubtedly honest. However, Armenians wonder how representative of
Turkey are these mostly Istanbul Turks. Armenians also wonder whether
righteous Turks are being used by Ankara to burnish its international
image, and that once they have served their purpose, they would be
discarded like a wet rag. The primordial xenophobia, which novelist
Elif Shafak mentioned in her "New York Times" (Feb. 23, 2014) article,
is another justified Armenian fear.

Finally, an Armenian sitting down with a Turk to exchange views have
to consider the future of a turbulent, unpredictable Turkey. Will
Turkey become, as a political analyst recently said, another Pakistan
hamstrung by religious dogma? And where is Turkey headed as the
permanently irate and not obnoxious Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and
Fathullah Gulen of the Hizmet religo-political group continue their
bloodletting? Will the Gulen feud or the recent Erdogan corruption
scandals be an invitation to the military to step in to "save the
nation"? Will the Kemalists and the White Turks get back into the
saddle? As well, Erdogan's recent repressive measures (tightening of
his control over the judiciary, the jailing of writers, intellectuals,
and journalists, the censorship of print and digital media) don't bode
well for a civilized exchange between the Armenians and Turkey.
Turkey's rejection of the rightful demands of the Kurds is another
sore point. Will the Kurdish struggle push Turkey into renewed
military heavy handedness? To say Turkey is in a flux is to say the
obvious.

Armenians are eager to resolve the conflict with Turkey, but Turks
should respect Armenian reservations, if not cynicism. Armenians also
remain particularly cautious in light of reports that Turkish officers
were, as recently as a few months ago, advising Al-Qaida and similar
terrorists to attack Aleppo's Armenian Quarter. Armenians question
Ankara's goodwill when Turkey has renewed its Genocide-denying
campaign with increased vigor. It's also no secret that Turkey is the
guiding hand behind recent Azeri global efforts to have the Khojali
battle during the Nagorno-Karabakh War recognized as genocide.

To gain the confidence of Armenians Ankara should come forward with
significant confidence-building measures. Sly gestures, cheap
propaganda, empty words, Davutoglu-style double talk will not do.
Football diplomacy does not run into overtime.


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