By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
For 90 years, Turks and Armenians have been at loggerheads over the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish establishment has tried everything in its power to deny and distort the facts of this crime against humanity. Armenians, on the other hand, have used every possible means to ensure that the world does not forget the mass murder of their ancestors.
Gradually, over the past couple of years, a new battlefront has been created in which Turks have been confronting each other on the Armenian Genocide.
For decades, no one discussed the issue of the Armenian Genocide within Turkey for the simple reason that most Turks knew nothing about it. Turkish textbooks did not cover this tragic chapter of their history. And those who were aware of this taboo subject would not dare to whisper a word about it, let alone think of questioning the official denialist position of their government.
Over time, as more and more Turkish students started attending Western universities, they would sometimes run into Armenian students who would angrily accuse Turks of having killed their ancestors in 1915. Such confrontations led some Turkish students, after overcoming their initial shock, to look into these accusations and find out what exactly had happened several decades before they were born.
In the early 1970’s, as some young Armenians started assassinating Turkish diplomats, Ankara could no longer keep the lid on this issue. The international media was widely disseminating the news of these killings and reporting that they were being committed in retaliation for the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish government tried to counter this “negative publicity” by allocating millions of dollars to various Turkish, European and American “scholars,” commissioning them to write books that would publicize “the Turkish side” of the story. These propaganda materials were published in tens of thousands of copies in multiple languages and disseminated to libraries, media outlets and government officials throughout the world.
Rather than convincing anyone that there was no genocide, these Turkish denials ironically served to publicize both within and outside Turkey that there was indeed a grave issue that successive Turkish governments had hidden from their own citizens and world public opinion.
To make matters worse, as a handful of Turkish writers, journalists and human rights activists began to write about the atrocities committed against the Armenians, they were prosecuted and thrown in jail. These despotic actions served to shine the spotlight not only on the Armenian Genocide, but raised serious questions about the suitability and desirability of Turkey becoming a member of the European Union.
Any Turk who dares to challenge the official denialist position of what is known as “the deep state” is immediately accused of being a traitor and prosecuted. Even Turkish professors in the United States are not safe from the long-arm of Turkish fanatics who harass, threaten and terrorize them for expressing their independent scholarly views in an academic setting.
The truth is that Turks who challenge the denialist policies of their state are neither anti-Turkish nor pro-Armenian. They are either trying to learn what really happened in 1915 or believe that facing the facts of history, no matter how unpleasant, would free their homeland from the trauma of lying about its past, making it possible for Turkey to join the ranks of civilized nations and become eligible for EU membership.
Ironically, as more and more scholars, states and the world public opinion are recognizing the Armenian Genocide, Turkish officials continue to remain oblivious to the fact that their draconian and denialist measures are backfiring on Turkey. They blindly persist on setting up think tanks and establishing well-funded lobbies to counter the facts of the Armenian Genocide.
Just last week, a new denialist group was formed consisting of 50 Turkish parliament members, retired generals, former ambassadors, leaders of political parties, university presidents, professors, editors, non-governmental organizations and a former beauty queen! The group calling itself “Great Project – 2006” is headed by Rauf Denktash, the former leader of the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Its members had their first meeting in Istanbul last week and announced that their inaugural activity would be held in Berlin on March 18-19, under the banner of “Operation Talaat Pasha.” They plan to honor Talaat, the mastermind of the Armenian Genocide, on the 85th anniversary of his assassination by Soghomon Tehlirian in Berlin. The honoring of Talaat by Turks is as despicable as the honoring of Hitler by neo-Nazis!
Fanatical Turks do not seem to realize that by their actions, rather than championing the Turkish cause, they are dishonoring their own people and helping to further publicize the Armenian Genocide throughout the world. These Turks are Turkey’s worst enemies!