There was a long period of time in Turkey when the Armenian tragedy was considered taboo and not discussed. But with new generations, the issue has been made more accessible and the Turkish government's attitude has changed positively
The centenary of Armenian deportations in 1915 has not given way to the kind of verbal and diplomatic confrontations some expected. The last two years has seen a very significant humane opening up of the Turkish government toward the Armenian population and others who lost their lives during the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. As a huge number of articles and opinions have already been published in Daily Sabah, I am not going to go into the details of the atrocities committed during World War I. I just want to underline a basic fact that has gone mostly unnoticed. Everything that took place before and during the war, and all the fragmentation that occurred after the war, was not planned by the local populations, nor by the two huge multi-ethnic, multi-religious continental empires, namely the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires.
World War I was the child of colonial European powers that dominated the world at that time, and the way they conducted the war and the way they punished and ostracized the losing side afterward led to World War II, which in turn totally devastated Europe and relegated it to a second rank player for years later. So many atrocities have been committed in the name of nationalism, modernity or merely living space, that it would take a whole encyclopedia to enumerate all the ethnic cleansing that took place during the 20th century. Calling them genocide has happened due to the Holocaust. But before the term was coined in 1948, the phrase "crime against humanity" was used to define war atrocities.
There is also a long list of regrets and apologies for what happened in different colonial wars, deportations, atrocities, exiles, concentration camps and final solutions. Almost every country has a number of skeletons in their cupboard. Singling out Turkey for what happened during the terrible demise of the Ottoman Empire is at best unfair, at worst, openly hostile. There was also a long period of time in Turkey when the Armenian tragedy, together with other deportations and exiles, was considered taboo and not discussed. Gradually, with time and new generations replacing the victims, the issues have been made more accessible. Obviously, an official historiography that ostensibly diminished the extent of the forced Armenian deportations and that was very concise did not help Turkish society become fully aware of the extent of the atrocities committed during this period in almost in every part of the empire from the Balkans to the Caucasus and the Black Sea to Palestine.
Turkey has expressed its official position twice, first last year and then recently this year, by deeply regretting the lives lost during World War I. Deeper condolences will certainly be pronounced in the coming years. A huge program for the restitution of all the real estate belonging to the Armenian Church and foundations has commenced. A real and visible effort is being made to restore all the abandoned churches and monuments of the Ottoman Armenian population. This is very strong ground on which to build a common, peaceful existence. How it will be reciprocated by Armenia is altogether a different question. For the time being, Sarkissian and his government have opted for a policy of overbidding, which leads them nowhere, but which undermines the sincere openings in Turkey.