Taking Grassroots Activism to the Next Level

Civil Society is Speaking, but is the Turkish Government Listening?

December 15th, 2008 by

by Aleek Kahramanian

The definition of an apology is straightforward:

“A written or spoken expression of one’s regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another.”

Everyone has apologized for a wrong doing to someone at one point or another in their lives. But an apology issued on December 15th by members of Turkey’s civil society, caused a lot of controversy.

According to the Associated Press, the apology, issued as an Internet petition which has gathered as many as 2,500 signatories, states :

“My conscience does not attempt that (we) remain insensitive toward and deny the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected in 1915. I reject this injustice, share in the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers, and apologize to them.”

For the record, it should be noted that the statement falls short from properly characterizing the centrally planned and systematically executed annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1923 as genocide. In fact, according to Hetq Online “Aytekin Yıldız, the coordinator of the Confrontation Association (Yüzleşme Derneği), pointed out that the Armenian community was already aware of the fact that there are many people in Turkey of conscience, and the important thing was not to declare what is already known. “It is a good starting point, but not enough. Firstly, what do they mean by ‘great disaster’? Let us name it; it is genocide. Secondly, the state has to apologize,” Yıldız stressed.”

Nevertheless, the effort, spearheaded by scholars Ahmet Insel, Baskin Oran and Cengiz Aktar and journalist Ali Bayramoglu, marks significant progress in Turkish civil society discussion of this issue. Not surprisingly we see similar calls from Armenia, with 300 intellectuals cosigning a public letter to President Gul, which noted that “modern Turkey bears ‘hereditary responsibility’ for what they consider a ‘monumental crime against humanity’ and calls on the Turkish President to finally recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

So, civil society appears to be making great strides in Turkey. But is the Turkish Government listening?

Early indications say no.

Hurriyet Daily News reported, today, that 60 retired ambassadors and diplomats condemned the Turkish scholars’ apology, noting.

“Such an incorrect and one-sided attempt would mean disrespecting our history and betraying our people who lost heir lives in the violent attacks of the terror organizations in the final days of the Ottoman Empire, as well as after, during, the formation of the Republic.”

Top Turkish Parliamentarians are also condemning the statement, calling it an insult to Turkish history. Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Action Party said: “No one has the right to insult our ancestors, to present them as criminals and to ask for an apology.”
Turkey’s civil society is finally catching up to what the international community has been saying all along. The Armenian Genocide, and in fact all genocides, must be recognized to prevent future such atrocities. Some 20 countries have recognized the Armenian Genocide. Forty-one of the fifty U.S. States have issued proclamations or passed resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide. President Reagan recognized the Armenian Genocide, only to have subsequent U.S. presidents succumb to Turkish government threats pending proper U.S. reaffirmation.

And now it is time for the U.S. and rest of the international community to make a decision. Stand with Turkish Government officials continuing a 93-year campaign of Genocide denial? Or support the voices of truth in Turkey, as they struggle toward Armenian Genocide recognition.

The right answer is obvious.

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 15th, 2008 at 4:06 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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