No nation is innocent. All nations have some dark pages in their past. The Western history in particular is full of massacres, genocides, human rights abuses and violence. Though the West has always accused the rest of the world of not being civilized enough, no other nations can be compared with the Germans, French or Americans if we are talking about racism, fascism and genocide. The only nation who used the nuclear weapons against civilian targets is the Americans. No nation had destroyed more than 5 million civilian Jews before Nazi Germany. The American Indians vanished under the ‘civilized’ American civilization. The French in
was like a horror film. Thousands of Algerians and other Africans were massacred with no mercy. ‘National interest’ has always been a magical word. It has justified anything in the past and today.
Of course the Turks are not innocents too. However it is impossible to compare the Turkish past with the French past in terms of genocide and civilian massacres. Turks did a lot of wars, they conquered countries, occupied lands. However the Bulgarians, Greeks, Hungarians, Romanians, Arabs or Armenians were not assimilated. When the
was collapsed, the Armenians were speaking Armenian, the Kurds were speaking Kurdish, the Greeks were speaking Greek. The Ottoman Sultans never attempted to destroy a race or a nation. Sultan Mahmud the Second declared “I want to see my Jewish citizens in the Synagogues, my Christian citizens in the Churches and my Muslim citizens in the Mosques”. Under Ottoman legal system, each Ottoman religious community (millets) was responsible for its own institutions, including schools and legal courts. However the Ottomans never isolated the ethnic and religious groups or force them to live in ghettos. The Sultans granted key posts to the Jewish and Christians. Most of the court physicians for instance were Jews. Ottoman diplomacy was often carried out by Jews, Greeks and Armenians. The Jews and Greeks dominated the Ottoman financial system. In the free air of the
, the ethnic and religious groups’ literature flourished, and the
became a safe haven for the oppressed ethnic and religious groups in
. The expulsion of the Jews from is a vivid example: In the spring of 1492, shortly after the Moors were driven out of
, Ferdinand and Isabella of expelled all the Jews from their lands and thus, put an end to the largest and most distinguished Jewish settlement in
. Many Jewish were tortured, raped, wounded or killed in and in many other European countries. The Ottoman Sultan Bayazid II’s offer of refuge gave new hope to the persecuted Sephardim. In 1492, the Sultan ordered the governors of the provinces of the
"not to refuse the Jews entry or cause them difficulties, but to receive them cordially". According to Bernard Lewis, "the Jews were not just permitted to settle in the Ottoman lands, but were encouraged, assisted and sometimes even compelled". Immanual Aboab attributes to Bayazid II the famous remark that "the Catholic monarch Ferdinand was wrongly considered as wise, since he impoverished by the expulsion of the Jews, and enriched ". Over the centuries an increasing number of European Jews, escaping persecution in their native countries, settled in the
. In 1537 the Jews expelled from Italy (Apulla) after the city fell under Papal control, in 1542 those expelled from Bohemia by King Ferdinand found a safe haven in the Ottoman Empire.(1) In March of 1556, Sultan Suleyman "the Magnificent" wrote a letter to Pope Paul IV asking for the immediate release of the Ancona Marranos, which he declared to be Ottoman citizens. The Pope had no other alternative than to release them, the
being the "Super Power" of those days. (2)
Not only the Jews but the Greeks and Armenians were also under the Ottoman protection, and many Christian nations preferred the Turkish rule to the Greek or other Christian rule.
It can be argued that no racist or anti-Semitic attack originated among the Ottoman Turkish people during the Ottoman years. Many communal clashes experienced but none of them was actually racist. Even after the separation of , and other Balkan countries,
was still a multi-national capital. When the
was collapsing, most of its ambassadors were Armenian or Jewish. The Ottoman Ambassador to
during the Great War time for instance was an Ottoman Armenian. The head of the National Stats Office was also an Armenian.
The Ottoman tolerant minority understanding continued during the Republican era. As Shaw put it “just as important as providing a haven for Jews who had lived in the Ottoman Empire for centuries was Turkey’s role in helping rescue many Jewish Turks who were resident in Nazi-occupied western Europe during the Holocaust”(3) The Turkish government not only refused German demands that it turn over the Jewish refugees for internment in the death camps but instead it went out of its way to assist passage into its territory of Jews fleeing from Nazi persecution in Poland, Greece and Yugoslavia as well as in Western and Central Europe.(4) As Kirisci put it “there are no definite figures for the number of Jews that benefited from temporary asylum in Turkey until their resettlement… However, it is estimated that around 100,000 Jews may have used as their first country of asylum.”(5) During the Second World War, Turkey was the only continental European country that refused to turn Jews over to Nazi Germany and understandably prides itself with this heritage.(6)
However the Russian and French separatist encouragements, Armenian terrorism and the economic catastrophe caused Armenian riots in the Eastern provinces of the Empire. First the Armenian terrorists killed many Armenians. The Tashnaks and other terror organizations murdered more Armenians than the Turks. It can be argued that the Armenian terrorism is the father of the modern terrorism. The Tashnak terrorists attacked the banks, tried to assassinate the head of the State and put bombs to the official targets. The beginning of the First World War rocketed the riots and attacks. The Ottomans were now in war against the Russians, French and British. The Allied Forces encouraged and supported the Armenian riots and the Armenian bands captured the Van province by force. Thousands of Muslims were killed, tortured or forced to live the province. Thousands of Turkish people now in do not want to remember those days. The Armenians declared their own state in Van and they invited the Russian forces. When the Russians entered the city, all Muslims had been swept away by the Armenians. The Armenian separatist forces also organized attacks against the Ottoman forces when they were in bloody conflicts against the Russians. Now the Turks were between two enemies: Russians and the Armenian nationalists. The Armenian gangs destroyed the Kurdish and Turkish villages who could help the Ottoman soldiers and they started an endless communal hatred. The Ottoman Archives show that at least 520,000 Turkish and Kurdish people were massacred by the Armenian armed groups. The Ottoman forces recaptured the Van province, yet the Istanbul Government had to do something to prevent the Armenian attacks. The Tehcir (Relocation) Campaign was considered the lesser of two evils. According to the Decision the Armenians who lived in Eastern provinces or near to the War theatres like the Armenians in Canakkale (Gallipoli) were forced to immigrate to another Ottoman province, . The State was not ready for such a great campaign though the law was perfectly written. Many Armenians died during the campaign. Many more were killed by the Kurdish and Turkish bandits. The Kurdish tribes tried to take revenge from the Armenians during the Relocation Campaign. Epidemic diseases and the hunger were other reasons for the mass loses. Some Turkish historians argue that more than 100,000 Armenians died or killed during the First World War. The
was not happy with the Governors’ performance during the Campaign and many officers and governors were put on trial and some of them were sentenced to capital punishment. Some of the Armenian immigrants returned to
or other Western provinces, yet many more immigrated to
. The main motive was economic.
The Ottomans lost the FWW and the country was occupied by the Allied forces. The Armenian separatists were again in collaboration with the French, British, Greek and Russian occupiers. That is why they were accused of betraying their country. Some of the Armenian separatists tortured their Turkish and Kurdish neighbors, even many Muslims were killed by these armed groups. When the
was founded at the end of a bloody national war, most of the Armenians in the Eastern provinces left
with the occupiers. Ten thousands of them immigrated to and organized a strong Armenian diaspora in . About 1 million Armenians from the Ottoman territories formed strong diaspora communities in the , ,
, though the Istanbul Armenians preferred to live in new . Turkish Armenians were well integrated to the rest of the community. There are many famous Armenian names in Turkish art, media, music, architecture, business world and literature. There are many Armenian schools and churches in right now and the number of Armenians in is over 100,000.
After the Jewish example, the Armenian diaspora organizations started to argue that the 1915 Relocation Campaign was actually a genocide campaign. Even the term of ‘genocide’ was first used during the 1960s. The basic aims were 1) to prevent Armenian assimilation and cement all Armenians in diaspora around a common national cause, 2) to enjoy the advantages of being victims of genocide. The ultra-nationalist Armenians aimed to establish a greater from
. Thus millions of Armenians were encouraged to hate from the Turks though most of them had never been to and had never met a Turkish. In fact Genocide Legacy was artificially created by the Armenian Diaspora organizations and the Armenian Church supported the legacy.
On the one hand, the legal Armenian organizations did anything possible to undermine Turkish interests around the world. On the other hand the Armenian terrorist organizations attacked the Turkish diplomats and businessmen in
. More than 40 Turkish diplomats were murdered by the ASALA terrorists. The Western Government did not take enough measures against the Armenians terrorism considering the Armenian votes in the elections. Another reason was religious biases. Armenians were the ‘martyred Christian nation’ for many people in
and US. There was no dialogue between the Turks and Armenians during these years despite of all these hate, violence and terrorism. in particular did not capture the Armenian terrorists and even the French media supported the terrorists by justifying the cause of terrorism. For the French, there were good and bad terrorists. When the Armenian terrorism hit the Western targets as well, the Armenian terrorism ended surprisingly. Many people in now believe in that the Armenian terrorism was created by the Western capitals and it was ended by these countries when they simply did not need it anymore.
Armenian diaspora organization organized anti-Turkish campaigns in the ‘post-terrorism era’. They particularly put pressure on the political parties and governments to recognise the 1915 Campaign as the first genocide of the 20th century. The Armenian organizations said nothing about the genocide French committed in , or about the Bosnia Massacres. When the Armenian Forces committed one of the bloodiest genocides in Hocali (), no Armenian human rights associations issued any condemnation. Politics is a dirty business. Some of the politicians could do anything for a vote in election. And the Armenians have more than 150,000 votes in alone. The Armenians are well organized and they are strong enough to manipulate the French media and politics in specific issues, like the Armenian Problem.
As a result of all these efforts, the French Assembly took a decision to recognize the so-called Armenian genocide. protested and condemned the
. However, the Paris Government was saying that should face with its past. Turkish Primes Minister declared that writing history is not business of a parliament, and no parliament could judge another nation. The decision has not been changed, and the Turkish-French relations entered its most thorny era. has given vivid supports to any side against , including the Greeks, Greek Cypriots, Armenians and Kurdist separatists. Even the PKK’s TV channel MEDYA TV broadcasted from for a while, although the PKK was a terrorist organization according to the French laws.
Last year and in 2005 the Algerians called
to recognise the Algerian Massacres and Genocide committed by the French soldiers. The French occupied and killed ten thousands of Algerian civilians, including men, women, children and old people.
In May 1945 French soldiers killed thousands of Algerians around the eastern town of
, after celebrations to mark the defeat of Nazi Germany turned into pro-independence protests. More than 45,000 Algerian people died, though French historians reduce the number to 15,000. (7)
is not an exception. Genocide, massacre and human rights abuses, unfortunately, one of the oldest Western habits. , and for instance experienced periods of harsh repression in the 1940s, little of which is taught in French schools today. In 1947, for example, French troops massacred thousands of people in in order to quell a rebellion. (8)
Many in Africa believes in that the French rule in Africa has been characterized by brutality and the use of unequal power against those unable to defend themselves; in Rwanda, the Congo, Cameroon, Algeria, Chad; the Ivory Coast; the massacre of the Senegalese riflemen at Thiaroye; the brutal and barbaric repression of the insurrection in Madagascar; the shooting of Dimbokro etc.
‘The forgotten problem’ between and came back to the political agenda with the speech of the Algerian President Bouteflika after the demonstration during the celebration of the end of World War II on May 8, 1945. Bouteflika, in his long speech, asked
“to make a gesture to erase this black stain”. Bouteflika said his country had waited for years for to acknowledge acts committed during its occupation. And he shocked many in when he drew a direct comparison between the burning of thousands of Algerian bodies after the massacres with "the ovens of the Nazis." Another senior official - Mohamed El Korso, president of the May 1945 Foundation - said that French "repentance is seen by the Algerian people as a sine qua non before any Franco-Algerian friendship treaty can be concluded." "French and international public opinion must know that committed a real act of genocide in May 1945," he said.
Facing the past is a really difficult job. It is always easier to examine the others’ mistakes. If it is to be criticized it has been always easiest one. But now time to face the real life.
French President Jacques Chirac, upon harsh reactions to the law encouraging the good sides of the French colonial history, made the statement, "Writing history is the job of the historians, not of the laws." will set up a commission that will include historians, too, in order to overcome the crisis.
Chirac had urged to face the past when was arguing that writing history is job of the historians, not the parliaments. But now Mr Chirac says “writing history is not the job of the laws. Writing history is the job of the historians." According to Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, "speaking about the past or writing history is not the job of the parliament."
No one is innocent, particularly the EU members. No one has forgotten the colonial (exploitation) period, racist years of the Second World War etc. should face with its past, like any other country. However forcing to recognise Armenian allegations is a blackmail to prevent ’s EU membership and to hide
’s racist tendencies. Those who are very keen on discussing the events happened almost a century ago should also discuss the Armenian occupation in 20 percent of territories. French Parliament should also be aware of that the Armenian Constitution does not recognise ’s and ’s national borders. Turkish PM Erdogan made many calls to to open all the archives and to establish a joint history commission to discuss the disputed issues. Erdogan also invited the Armenian President Kocharian to
two year ago. However all of these gestures were refused by
. For the Armenians, all of these peace efforts are simply propaganda tactics, because the Turks cannot be good to want a real peace.
There is no link between ’s EU membership and the Armenian issue in fact. And EU and , both of them will benefit a lot from ’s EU membership. However the biases prevent
from acting justly and wisely.
Remember, Turks are not sinful than the French or Armenians are.
(1) Abraham Danon, in the Review Yossef Daath No. 4; Immanual Aboab, "A Consolacam as Tribulacoes de Israel, III Israel"; H. Graetz, "History of the Jews"