On April 23, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a historic statement to mark the anniversary of the events of 1915 and offered his "condolences" for the mass killings of Armenians during World War I. The date, April 23, was chosen, as it was a day before the 99th anniversary of the arrest of 250 Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul upon the order of the then-Minister of the Interior Talat Pasha, a member of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), a party with the goal of creating a Pan-Turkish state. It was also the 94th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Parliament in 1920. It was symbolically important and specifically emphasized that "the new Turkey" was becoming far different than the old one every day.
The comments across the world regarding Erdoğan's statement were mixed. Some welcomed his words and accepted them as a start, while some said it was a step forward but not enough. According to the latter, if Erdoğan was so brave, he should use the word "genocide" to make Turkey face its history. Yet the situation was not the same inside Turkey. On the night of the statement, the supposedly democratic, equalitarian, libertarian Turkish folks of Twitter had two trending topics: "Condolences for Armenians, treason against Turkey" and "The spokesman of Yerevan, the frontman of treason -Erdoğan."
That night, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Ali Özgündüz appeared on a TV show and attacked Erdoğan's statement. Denying what happened in 1915, Özgündüz accused Erdoğan of compromising with certain groups and giving them a message for the presidential elections. I assume he was implying the U.S.Reciting the old words, he claimed the Armenians' goal was monetary and land compensation.He angrily said: "The damage is done.There is nothing to do," and there was no going back after Erdoğan's statements.According to Özgündüz, it would be followed by recognition of the genocide and lead to compensation. His CHP coldly and gruffly welcomed the prime minister's statements as a mere formality the day after.Actually, the CHP also welcomed reconciliation efforts at the beginning of the Turkish-Kurdish peace process but started accusing Erdoğan of compromising with the outlawed PKK and its imprisoned leader and never gave whole-hearted support.In terms of the 1915 statement, we can say the CHP has not started yet.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the former party of the CHP's popular but failed Ankara mayoral candidate Mansur Yavaş (I know, their relationship is complicated), harshly criticized Erdoğan and blamed him for sharing the same mentality with the people chanting, "We are all Armenians," referring to the glorious slogan of the protests after the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007.
Only the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) called on Turkey to face its history and apologize to the Armenians. Only the BDP said the statement was not enough and pushed for more. Let's face it: There is only one opposition party to the left of the "conservative" AK Party, but they hardly represent 10 percent of the people.