Today, the French parliament will negotiate and most probably pass a bill that criminalizes denial of the Armenian genocide. I think Turkey’s reaction to it will be much bigger than the one shown when France recognized the 1915 incidents as genocide in 2001. Yet Turkey is supposed to act in a more cool-headed manner in the face of a low-caliber politician like French President Nicolas Sarkozy. However, Turkey does not exhibit the self-confidence that is characteristic of big countries. This is because the Armenian issue is our soft spot. It gives us pain and anger...
Actually, it is France’s Socialist Party that has invested greater efforts in the bill that penalizes those who refuse to define the 1915 incidents as genocide, as it had done with respect to the 2001 genocide bill. The Socialist Party brought to the agenda two bills in 2006 and in May 2011, but they were blocked by Sarkozy. Now the bill is about to be enacted, bearing Sarkozy’s signature, just ahead of the elections. So what we see is first-rate hypocrisy.
On the other hand, French intellectuals are currently debating whether all “memory laws,” including the Gayssot Act, which prohibits the Holocaust denial in France, should be abolished. They assert that there are sufficient articles in French legislation that penalize racism, and, therefore, memory laws are redundant. I, too, agree with this argument, which is elegant in principle. But genocides are grave crimes against humanity, and they must be penalized so that they are not repeated. Despite the fact that Germany has properly faced the consequences of its past deeds, there is still a neo-Nazi movement and even a neo-Nazi party that assigns itself the task of killing Turks. And German authorities are unable to shut down this party. A system should not be flawed in such a manner to allow such intrusions of racism.
As for the Armenian issue and Turkey’s position on it...
The last 10 years in Turkey have seen a process by which the country is critically questioning its republican past. The prime minister recently acknowledged that what happened in Dersim (now Tunceli) was not a rebellion but a deliberately conducted ethnic cleansing operation and that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, his friends, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the state were directly in charge of it. The prime minister offered an apology to the Kurdish Alevis of Dersim. This was a turning point.
The unresolved politically motivated murders that targeted our Kurdish citizens in the 1990s are also on our agenda. The probe launched in connection with the confession by former police officer Ayhan Çarkın has revealed that dozens of Kurdish businessmen and leftist youth had been extra-judicially executed by a network that included members of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), the police department and mafias, and in line with official decisions by the National Security Council (MGK). A former high-ranking MİT bureaucrat, Mehmet Eymür, confirmed the murders confessed to by Çarkın. It is now common knowledge that the state learned about these unresolved murders at a summit held in 1996 under the chairmanship of former President Süleyman Demirel.
The social engineering scenarios that were implemented ahead of the Feb. 28, 1997, coup in order to pave the way for the coup by making the general public believe there were efforts to introduce Shariah to Turkey –- as well as numerous provocations that sought to turn Muslims into criminals to justify a military intervention against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) –- are now being brought before the law, as seen in the Sledgehammer (Balyoz) case.
The Council of State attack –- an attack on the Council of State building in İstanbul in 2006 –- of which Muslims were deliberately accused, was merged with the case against Ergenekon, a clandestine organization nested within the state trying to overthrow or manipulate the democratically elected government. The murder of priest Andrea Santoro, the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, and the killing of Christian missionaries in Malatya were all part of this plan.
As a matter of fact, the massacre of Armenians in 1915 was no different from the above-mentioned plans. Just as Muslims, Alevis, Kurds and leftists were chosen as targets in the above-mentioned cases, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), which was the deep state of the time, tried to destroy the entire Armenian community on the grounds that there were several secessionist Armenian movements. It was largely successful in its attempt. Of the non-Muslim population that once made up for almost half the Ottoman population, there is now only a small minority, only one per thousand of the country’s population. The outcome explains the incident.
The biggest potential damage the French bill can make is to disrupt Turkey’s own process of showing interest in the 1915 incidents and looking at them with self-criticism. Turkey should be able to keep away from this trap. Indeed, the biggest prerequisite for creating a new regime in Turkey is to be able to identify and penalize the crimes of the old regime. The massacre of Armenians in 1915 –- call it a massacre or genocide or a forced migration –- is the main component of this need for facing the past and for change.
Kemalist Turkey was built upon the denial of the 1915 incidents, and the mentality of the CUP that conducted the massacre permeated Turkey, establishing the Ergenekon state. That mentality has treated everyone living in Turkey in the same manner during the last 88 years. We must not be distracted by unproductive contentions in order to see this continuity.
This is a moral and conscientious responsibility though it may not make any direct effect on us.