Turkey is trying to close the unionist era with Kurdish and Armenian initiatives, which is good news for the ones who long for peace and confrontation
On April 23, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered his condolences for the 1915 incidents through a historical statement released in nine languages. Among these were Western and Eastern Armenian in addition to Arabic and Russian. For some, this was unexpected and surprising. Those who have maximalist expectations may underestimate the significance of this condolence. However, this means Turkey's biggest taboo was broken by the most powerful leader that has ruled after Atatürk. This stands for the abolishment of Turkey's official thesis which was denialism and unionism. The statement by Erdogan indicates a paradigm shift in that Turkey closed the door on a dark era, which was started by the unionists - a group which foreshadowed many troubles for Turkey - when they conducted the Bab-ı Ali Coup in 1913.
Erdogan did not confine himself to this written statement. He gave wide coverage to the issue also in the AK Party's weekly parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday. This written statement and repeating it verbally signifies its importance in two ways. Erdogan did not parry this condolence with a few botched words. He made it official with an elaborate and permanent document, meaning it has the characteristics of a paradigm shift. He concentrated on 1915 without leaving any room for discussion on whether it was genocide or not.By doing this, he actually submitted his condolences for approval by large public masses. I would like to quote some parts of it:
"Next year we will have reached the 100th anniversary of the 1915 incidents. Dear colleagues, the 10th, 50th and 100th anniversaries of important events are dealt with differently than other ones. These anniversaries are evaluated in a more comprehensive and extensive way. I believe that as nation, we need to approach all these important events in an imperturbable way, refraining from prejudices and political discussions. I believe it is time for us to learn and teach the realities as they are.
I would like to stress that we must approach all these age-old events by leaving aside our fears. What is more sorrowful is that these pains and fears were turned into an ultimate means of exploitation both by some of the Ottoman Empire's and Turkey's administrators and elites.
The fears which this nation experienced were similarly used as intimidation against it and as a means of shaping it.
The Committee of Union and Progress, the March 31 incident, insurrections across the Balkans, Hejaz and Eastern Anatolia as well as the 1915 incidents were not discussed or written on a reasonable basis so far and these were turned into a means of political exploitation.
We have recapitulated many times to discuss all these matters sincerely. In the beginning, we suggested excluding all these matters from being a subject of politics after 100 years and assigning them to masters of these subjects, scholars and historians. I am speaking openly.
Any states that live with 100-year or 200-year fears cannot make reforms and establish a sound and reliable future for itself.
Dear colleagues, for centuries, they are threatening us with division. Remember they impeded freedoms by saying we are all being divided and fallen apart. Which of our reforms in the 12 years have divided Turkey, which legal regulation did cause disintegration of Turkey?
No matter what was experienced in history, any nation cannot be a captive of history. The nations that are the captives of history cannot determine the future. I say clearly that if we linger on the problem of 100 years ago, we will not have healthy relationship with any countries in our region. Actually, physiologies of individuals, states and nations cannot be built upon age-long sorrows. If a country keeps centurial pains alive, aggrandizes them day by day and avoids confronting them, it is impossible for this country and nation to have a balanced psychology. For 12 years now, we say loudly and clearly that we are ready to confront our past and remove never-forgotten fears. As a nation that went through big sorrows, we sympathize with the pains of all nations and individuals. We are ready to shed light on history.
We are ready to understand each other's common pains and share them. We are ready to shake hands instead of punching, with no fear or restraint. As a big state and nation, and as a country that is not afraid of its past and future, we want age-long incidents to be clarified and we are expecting the same thing from the other party. I hope both the Armenian state and diaspora witness our courageous step and respond us in the same way.
We aspire to build a future on hope, peace and amicability and solidarity, not on the painful memories of the past. To this end, we will accompany everyone who wants to move ahead with us in this way. Once again I am offering condolences to all Ottoman citizens who passed away in the 1915 incidents. May God not give such kind of pains to us or any other nation."
Those who view the East and Turkey through a colonial perspective may not appreciate the value of these words or they do not favor understanding them. However, the Armenian diaspora, which hails from Anatolia and expects its sorrows to be respected for a century all across the world, acknowledge the value of this sincerity.
Being isolated with this heartbreak for 99 years, Armenians righteously have a problem of confidence in Turkey. Some may perceive this as a tactical step before 2015. Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu already said, "We are not going to withdraw our condolences if our olive branch is not responded to." This is because Erdogan and his colleagues primarily did this in order to build a bridge with the unionist mentality. It should not be forgotten that politicians would normally not attempt to break Turkey's major taboo in a critical period before two important elections.This is not effective. Moreover, those who consider this condolence as a tactic for the 2015 general elections should know that Erdogan is accused of just the opposite by the unionist opposition.
We cannot expect that this condolence will change suddenly. The perceptions created by sorrows which had been denied and affronted for 99 years. There are some points to be fixed in the discourse of diaspora. In the near future, some further steps will be taken to consolidate this initiative. It will be better if a large majority of the diaspora, who are sensible, conscientious and aspiring for peace, pursue deeper and more serious politics to enable this initiative to flourish.
Turkey is trying to close the unionist era with Kurdish and Armenian initiatives, which is good news for the ones who long for peace and confrontation. This good news should be assessed reasonably and protected from attacks by obscurantist powers that address themselves as seculars. Everyone must take responsibility for this. At this point, it is meaningless to differentiate between Turkey and the diaspora. It is rather between those who favor peace and who do not.