HASAN KANBOLAT

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HASAN KANBOLAT
April 27, 2010, Tuesday

Armenian Relocation and Turkish forgetfulness

On April 24 more than 100 people marked the 95th anniversary of the forced migration of Armenians by sitting around a poster that read “This pain is our pain, this sorrow is all of ours,” in İstanbul upon the appeal of 67 intellectuals.
This incident was presented to the world as a first in Turkey. However, this isn’t the first time this kind of event has occurred in Turkey. Just last year on April 24, the Human Rights Association (İHD) was recognized for an activity organized by its İstanbul branch titled “Armenian intellectuals and April 24, 1915: They were arrested, exiled and left without tombstones.”

For years, the only topic on Turkey’s agenda in April has been the Armenian relocation. People are split into those who defend the Armenians and those who oppose them, those who accept it and those who deny it. Is it right to have to choose a side?

Why are the defenders and resisters of the Armenian tragedy forgetting the tragedy of people who comprise nearly 50 percent of the population in Turkey today and who were forced to emigrate to Anatolia during the course of the last 150 years? Aren’t non-Christians allowed to have tragedies? Of course Turkish intellectuals need to be concerned about the pains of their neighbors, but they also need to be concerned with the tragedy that exists within their own country.

Armenians were relocated; they were not deported. That is because they were displaced within the Ottoman territories out of necessity. Due to the conditions of World War I, they were forced to move from Anatolia to the Middle East. They were not deported. However, Turkish and Muslim migrants were deported. So Armenians cannot be said to have been deported.

On Aug. 7, 1982, two terrorists from the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) carried out an attack at Esenboğa Airport. The attack led to the deaths of two security officers and six passengers, two of whom were foreigners, and an additional 72 people were wounded. The Esenboğa attack was the first act by ASALA in Turkey. Attacks carried out by Armenian terrorists against Turkish diplomats started in 1973. During the period between 1973 and 1994, the bodies of Turkish diplomats arrived in coffins covered with Turkish flags from 13 countries and 17 cities (Rome, Marseilles, Lisbon, Burgas, Belgrade, Brussels, Athens, Lyon, Paris, Sydney, Copenhagen, Geneva, Los Angeles, Ottawa, Boston, Vienna and Tehran.) What did we do to commemorate the memory of the martyrs killed by Armenian terrorists at Esenboğa Airport on Aug. 7, 1982? Nothing. There is not even a plaque anywhere in the airport to remember those who were killed. We have not dedicated a corner to them. We have not placed a photo of them anywhere in the airport. Not even a small statute has been erected. No sirens have ever been sounded on Aug. 7 to mark a moment of silence in their memory.

There were continuous forced migrations from Crimea, the Balkans and the North and South Caucasus to Anatolian territories after the annexation of Crimea in 1783, the Caucasus-Russian War in 1864, the 93 War (1877-1878), the Balkan War (1912-13), World War I (1914-18) and during the republican era. These forced migrations shaped Turkey’s demographics, economy, history and cultural formation. Turkish society -- which is unaware of the events of 1783, 1864, the 93 War and 1913 -- knows those of 1915 because of the Armenian genocide claims.

More than half the people of the Turkish Republic are the children and grandchildren of people who were subjected to ethnic cleansing, genocide and deportation.

Nations and groups that were subjected to such merciless campaigns and subsequently had to migrate to Turkey in the last 150 years include Adiges, Wubihs, Karaçay-Balkars and Kosaks; Abkhazs from the northwest Caucasus; Chechens, Dagestanis and Ossetians from the northeast Caucasus; Karabakhs, Azeris, Ahıskans, Terekemes, Kalpaks, Acaras and Georgians from the South Caucasus; Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians and Belarusians from north of the Black Sea; Balkan Turks, Albanians, Bosnians, Pomaks, Ulahs, Torbeşs and Macedonians from the Balkans; Arabs and Jews from Spain; Turks from Crete, Rhodes and other Aegean islands; Cypriot Turks from Cyprus; Turks, Palestinians and Kurds from the Middle East; Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs and Tajiks from Central Asia; and Uighurs from the Far East.

In fact, Anatolia has become the home of those migrants subjected to injustice and deportation in their native lands.

So why does Turkey fail to address these facts?

Why does it fail to erect a monument in remembrance of those who were murdered in these vicious events? Why does it not make any attempt to do this?

Even if the public’s memory is poor, the state and intellectuals need to have a much sharper memory. Intellectuals, whether they accept or refuse to apologize to the Armenians, should be aware of the pains their ancestors suffered.

Armenians are close neighbors of Turkey. They are like part of a family that has been divided due to disagreements. For this reason, the acts of terrorist organizations and radicals cannot be attributed to the Armenian people. However, we should remember that not only Armenians but also Turks have suffered in the last century.