In my previous column, I pointed out that the conflict on which term is more convenient to explain the 1915 incidents most accurately veils the efforts to understand what it actually is. First of all, as this political context is excluded, I think the incidents of 1915 correspond to the conditions given in the 1948 U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Raphael Lemkin, who endeavors to build a legal ground for the term "genocide," agreed with that, too.
Armenians could barely recover until the 1960s in various corners of the world where they headed from their homeland. During those years, the Eichmann case was being heard. Armenians began lobbying activities in the countries where they were densely populated in due to Turkey's denials. Thus the process to make the events of 1915 recognized as genocide in parliaments was initiated.
As no one can deny, all methods of civil fights without violence are legitimate. However, as the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), an Armenian terrorist organization, began to claim the lives of Turkish diplomats in the 1970s, this rigidity also influenced the civilian sphere. It can be argued that the denialist attitude of Turkey settled on a more legitimate ground with those murders. And the U.S. started to come closer to Turkey's argument upon the start of those deaths after U.S. President Ronald Reagan's terms.
The murders by ASALA fortified this denialist approach by Turkey and silenced the academics and journalists who tried to see 1915 from a more objective perspective. But it would be an over interpretation to argue that Turkey could have adopted a more objective approach at an earlier date if ASALA had not existed since Turkey's position was ideological and already fixed in the state mind. But we could still have found a more positive ground at an earlier date.
One way or another, the parties spent their energies on denial and its legitimacy. Those negative energies that were supporting each other did not allow for different voices.
The fight was addressing Turkey's denialist attitude. As Turkey had not changed its position on the subject for a long time, this situation could be said to have created a status quo, and the anomaly could not be diagnosed because an attitude against denial did not mean an effort to understand and describe the events of 1915. Consequently, the subject shifted from its central focus to the political consequences of the incident in the works on the 1915 incident. Thus, the events of 1915 were attempted to be understood not through its content, but through some of its political consequences.
That might have continued for a long time. However, Turkey is now experiencing a new phase. This phase initiated a process that could introduce leaving denial policies behind. This condition is even reflected in official statements from the state. An official condolence was issued for the 1915 tragedy last year and the prime ministry issued a groundbreaking statement on the eighth-year commemoration of Hrant Dink's assassination this year. More importantly, all of these efforts to leave aside the official arguments and understand the great tragedy in 1915 have a potential to change the rules of the game in terms of its consequences.
If we regard these steps as a temporary strategy to get over the 100th year since the 1915 events without damage, we would be laying our heads in the ground since the Armenian issue is one of the symbolic realms representing Turkey's wish to face its past and make a new beginning. Not a pragmatist decision, but a 12-year process of efforts to confront reality has enabled such progress. As a natural result of the steps taken for 12 years in regard to democratization and separation from the former Kemalist regime, the wish to face the Armenian problem in a more realistic, courageous and conscientious way has come to the forefront in society.
To sum up, this process in Turkey will continue by getting stronger. Behaving as if Turkey is still in its former position might tilt the windmills.
While Turkey is in transformation, Armenia and all Armenians around the world are also required to adopt an up-to-date position accordingly. Otherwise, it would also mean another kind of denial, and change always troubles those who deny it.