Armenian Diaspora has been carrying ‘genocide’ campaigns against Turkey for decades. They argue that these campaigns’ main aim is to persuade Turkey to recognise the Armenian allegations. As a matter of fact that the Armenian Diaspora by following such a way is trying to take revenge from Turkey more than imposing anything on it. Second, they protect their Armenian identity via keeping the sorrows and hostilities of the past alive. To analyze the first one, the sincerity of the Armenian Diaspora is questionable in claiming their cause. Modestly speaking, I do not personally believe that Armenian Diaspora aims to impose something on Turkey. If their aim was to pressure Turkey to accept their allegations on 1915 events, they could somehow have achieved this until now. I am not sure if Turkish people or the State would use the word "genocide’ to describe the 1915 events, however, they would have accepted the misdeeds conducted in these events. When you talk to ultra-nationalist Armenians, they say that Turkey’s denial of its misdeeds in 1915 events is what frustrates them most. According to this ultra-nationalist approach, Turkey’s denial of the allegations is a worse crime than its causing the death of many Armenians and sorrow of them. To understand the trauma caused by the sorrow of Armenians and Turks’ ignorance of the issue should not be that hard. Healing the trauma caused by 1915 events is only possible through communicating with Turkish people. Yet, the Armenian side seems like trying to keep the wounds open and intensify the trauma instead of easing the wounds. I am not sure if this stance is intentional or it is a reflexive one. However, it is certain that nationalist Armenian Diaspora neither tries to persuade Turkey to see its "wrongs’, nor it tries to heal the wounds of Armenian nationalism and identity."
Levon Ter-Petrosyan, first president of independent Armenia, described in 2007 how the diaspora and Armenia make a great mistake by insisting on ‘genocide’ issue in relations with Turkey:
“It is time to understand by setting ultimatums and cornering Turkey nobody can force it to recognize the Armenian genocide... I have no doubts that Turkey will sooner or later recognize the Armenian genocide, but that will take place not before a normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations but after the creation of an atmosphere of neighborhood, cooperation and trust between our countries.” (Emil Danielyan,http://www.armenialiberty.org 10 Dec 2007).
The Problematic Aspects of Diaspora’s Turkey Approach?
First of all, the Diaspora is trying to persuade Turkey without communicating with it. Moreover, the Diaspora only targets Turkey. When you just bother one without communication, it is meaningless to wait for mutual understanding. Aggression is commonly followed by the defense and counter-aggression of the targeted one. As long as Armenians keep bothering Turkey like this, Turks will try to defend themselves, and even prepare themselves for a counter-act. Armenians’ excessive aggression towards Turkish State and Turks has somehow created a consciousness of Armenian Issue among Turkish people in Turkey and overseas which did not exist before. Armenians like to make Turks living especially in Europe and in North America a part of the Armenian Issue without making any differentiation between them. For instance, a Turkish worker in Germany, a Turkish art history student in France or a Turkish deputy candidate in Netherlands, who are totally irrelevant persons to the topic, can be target of Armenian lobbies. Armenian Diaspora’s anti-Turkey activities not merely damage the interests of Turkish State, but also harm the interests of people of Turkish origin no matter where they live. For instance, numerous Turkish people have developed a curiosity towards the Armenian Issue just after Armenians’ enduring allegations. Moreover, these people gained more nationalistic views than they had before. Armenians’ efforts to persuade Turkey on the issue have not produce solutions until now. On the contrary, these efforts have somehow marginalized Turkey to an extent which is not favorable for Armenians. Maybe the most significant characteristic of Turkey, which Armenians need to understand, is that Turkey cannot be persuaded on any political matter merely through use of power or threats. Several states have attempted to use this way before, however, they have failed to succeed. For instance, Stalin’s taming policy towards Turkey by threatening and blackmailing resulted in Turkey’s NATO membership. Moreover, US’s and EU’s menacing approaches on Cyprus, Greece and Armenian Issues turned out conversely. Forcing countries like Turkey, Russia or France, which are highly sensitive to their national pride, to accept some policies using threats and blackmailing is not possible. Such an approach even can create unintended negative consequences which are not beneficial for the policy makers as it was in the Armenian Issue. As Armenians’ anti-Turkey campaigns got harsher, Turkey’s attitude became more disagreeable in accordance.
Another mortal wrong in the Armenian strategy regarding the issue is Armenians’ seeking for backing of other countries. This approach is a disease of Armenian nationalism. Armenian nationalists, who witnessed numerous Christian minorities’ gaining of independence with the support of Russia and other Western states in 19th century, planned a similar independence for Armenia. In this perspective, Armenian separatist nationalists were encouraged by France, Russia, England and United States and were mostly backed by these countries as well. Yet, it became very clear by the end of the World War I that the great powers of the age sought their own advantages more than Armenians’, contrary to what was expected. Moreover, in these years Armenians were left alone by these states almost in every uneasy situation. For instance, France promised Armenians for an independent state in Cilicia, thus France could reduce its loses in the World War I with the help of Armenian Legion while debilitating the Ottoman State from inside at the same time. However, when Turks had started to gain significant success against France, France left Armenians alone while being the first occupier to leave the Turkish territory. Likely, Russians had ignored Armenians’ benefits to get along with Turkey and they never considered Armenians unless Armenian interests served to theirs. There are many instances that Armenians were used as a tool for the benefits of great powers in the history. It is a fact that when Armenians and Turks are compared in terms of their economic, political and military possessing, Armenians compose an inconsiderable group for the great powers. If a great power prefers to better its relations with Armenians instead of Turks, it should be noted that this power aims to debilitate Turks and to create instability in Turkish state more than trying to please Armenians. Great powers can sometimes camouflage their easy aims with higher political, religious or humanitarian values. However, almost 200 years old Armenian case presents that Russia and Western powers’ supports of Armenians has never been constant nor this support has considered Armenian benefits directly. Unless Armenians stop dreaming to debilitate Turkey with the help of backings of the other countries, they cannot have a powerful and stable state and strong regional relations. As it is widely known, this simple fact was underlined by the first president of the Armenia Levon Ter-Petrossian as well. Petrossian and his team, who realized that Russia’s backing of Armenia debilitates Armenia instead of solving the regional disputes, tried to enhance Armenia’s own power instead of seeking foreign support. Yet, Petrossian’s approach, which could be considered as the milestone of modern Armenian history, was hampered by Russia and Diaspora radicals unfortunately.
Why Armenian Diaspora Behaves in this Way?
First of all, the Diaspora lives in an imaginary world and it has marginalized from the reality of Armenian Issue as the years passed by. When we focus on the second and third generations, we see that they hate Turks more than the Armenians who witnessed the 1915 events. Moreover, we also know that there are numerous Armenians who still have a deep love of Turkey although they experienced emigration and other conflicts in the Ottoman State. Since young generations neither know Turks personally nor they take the problem rationally, they are angrier of Turks than their ancestors. Moreover, many of them are even full of hatred against Turks. Especially in Diaspora, Armenian generations are imposed with hatred against Turks in churches, schools or camps of radical political parties. 1915 events are written and rewritten more emotionally in the Diaspora every day by being more exaggerated at the same time.
Armenians’ stateless position for long years can be considered as the primary reason of this situation. State means responsibility which prevents masses from being marginalized and from following superficial paths which do not fit reality. Armenians stayed stateless until 1991 and they carried a stateless nationalism in the Diaspora for approximately 70 years. Another negative effect of statelessness is the immature development of the Armenian identity and lack of fulfillment of nationalistic tendencies through legitimate ways. Another threat of statelessness is the assimilation. Even today, greater numbers of Armenians live in Diaspora than the numbers of Armenians live in Armenia. Many of the Armenians scattered around Canada, Latin America, Russia and France. Moreover, Diaspora Armenians come from diverse cultural backgrounds as well. Some of these Diaspora Armenians come from Russia and Armenia, some from Iran and Arab countries, and some from Anatolia. Thus, their cultures and even languages are sometimes differ from each other significantly. Hence, collecting such a scattered society under an umbrella identity is really tough. Church and some Diaspora institutions saw Turkish- Armenian problems as a cure to heal this inefficiency.
In other words, Armenian cause has long been considered as a cement to protect Armenians from assimilation and to keep them together in Diaspora. Approaching the issue from this perspective should not be understood as an underestimation of the problems between Turks and Armenians. There had been major problems between Turks and Armenians and Diaspora’s abuse of these problems -deliberately or not¬" does not reduce the significance of these problems.
Armenian Genocide Industry
We should also note the Armenian genocide industry. Many get political and economic benefits from Armenian cause in Diaspora. Numerous people have become well-known, strong or rich thanks to Armenian cause. Maybe these changes are not even premeditated. As a matter of fact, the most dangerous aspect of the issue is these unintended consequences of the issue. Strong reflexes came about in the process and these reflexes helped to existence of the problem more than solving it.
When a problem is scattered around a century, people, who derive benefit from this handicap, occur in two sides in tandem. In other words, industry over Armenian Issue is not only present in the Armenian party of the dispute but also it is at hand in Turkish side as well. In Turkish side, this industry is composed of less numbers of people and it is much more political than it is in the Armenian side. With the multiparty regime, an ideological group arose as a result of their fear of losing their interests. This group manipulated the governments by speculating upon threats that Turkey was witnessing and it even withdrew the governments via military coups. Since May 27 military coup, there has been an interior conflict between the elected representatives of Turkish people and a militarist group. When Turkish democracy got stronger and economic-social-political pluralism was enhanced, the militarist cadre lost its power before the representatives of the state. Thus, this militarist cadre sought for collaboration with nationalist-right and ultra-nationalist left, moreover, it manipulated the Kurdish Issue, Cyprus Issue, relations with neighbors, European Union process and Armenian Issue mostly. In other words, endurance of Armenian Issue was employed as a tool to hamper democratization in Turkey and some paid efforts to make it unsolvable.
Maybe Turkey’s most significant fault on the issue is the ignorance of Armenian Issue for a long time. Until a Turkish ambassador’s assassination in 1973, even finding a book on the topic was impossible in Turkey. Afterwards, Turkey perceived issue as a state problem and a few number of books appeared with the support of Turkish state. As ASALA and Tashnak terrorists assassinated numerous numbers of Turkish ambassadors, Turkey started to share special budgets for the solution of the disputes over Armenian allegations. However, that date was a bit late for a concrete solution and the state backed studies and researches were weak and skin-deep considering the complexity of the issue. Especially during September 12 period, in which army withdrew the government, numerous studies on the issue was published in Turkey. These books were sent to many libraries in the world as well. However, many of these books were borrowed by fanatic Armenians and were never brought back. Moreover some pro-Turkish books were destroyed as a result of fanatic Armenian readers’ vandalism. Nevertheless, if Turkey could take the issue apart from a state problem and could set universities and civil society into action, it could be much more successful in handling the issue. While approaching the issue from this perspective, I do not mean "Turkey failed in its propaganda. It should have gone further.’ It is certain that Turkey’s approach to the Armenian Issue is ineffective and this is not that favorable for Armenians as it is expected. Turkey’s presentation of its stance modestly would help the solution of the problem in depth."
Turkey’s Possible Contribution
There are basically three significant aspects of the issue to which Turkey can contribute directly. Democratization, full membership to the European Union, and more dialogue with neighbors including Armenia and Armenians are these aspects. When Turkey is more democratized, the militarist groups, who get benefit from the unsolvable situation of the Armenian Issue, will leave the government, EU process will accelerate and the relations with other neighbors including Armenia will better accordingly. Indeed, all three stages will affect and help each other in tandem.
Interestingly enough, Armenians have tried to hamper Turkey’s EU process via manipulating the Armenian Issue. Not only the Diaspora but also Kocharian Government made any efforts to preent Turkey’s membership. As the former Armenian President Petrosyan put it Armenia’s anti-Turkish campaigns in the EU do not help Turkish-Armenian reconciliation:
“Isn’t it clear that Armenia can neither facilitate, nor impede Turkey’s membership in the European Union? ... “So why on earth do we send letters to Brussels demanding that the EU does not start membership talks with Turkey or set genocide recognition as a precondition? Isn’t it obvious that Turkey’s membership in the EU is beneficial for Armenia in the economic, political and security terms?” he added. “What is more dangerous: an EU member Turkey or a Turkey rejected by the West and oriented to the East? Or what is more preferable? An Armenia isolated from the West or an Armenia bordering the EU? Our country’s foreign policy should have clearly answered these questions a long time ago.”
What should Armenians do was analyzed very well by Hrant Dink, Turkish Armenian journalist, who was martyred by the Turkish ‘deep state’. For Dink, first thing that Armenians need to do was to end the hostility towards Turks which moves like a poison in their veins. Armenians’ accusation of Turkey for anything goes bad was not only wrong but also dangerous for Dink. As he assumed, numerous problems of Armenians were shadowed by the excuse of Turkish threat. Hrant Dink’s second suggestion for Armenians was that Armenians needed to focus on maintaining stability in their country instead of keeping the hostility towards Turkish people alive. Dink also used to think that Armenians gained their independence after longing for years thus maintaining stability and gaining power was hard as well as survival of the Armenian State. Moreover, Dink believed that unless Armenians collaborate, keeping the Armenian State alive was not that easy. To sum up, only if Armenians end the hostility towards Turkey, which poisons their blood, they can reach a common ground in Turkish-Armenian relations.
Parties need to build trust between them. They need to communiate first. To do so, both sides should immediately change the communication language that they are using. If you employ a way of communication which is highly offensive, you will possibly receive an offensive expression from whom you address.
Second, if you aim to impress the party who you are addressing, and want to express yourself, you need to talk to him/her. Whenever Turkey demands a communication to talk about the allegations, Armenian side says "There is nothing to talk on, yet, just accept your misdeeds’. I call this stance as "shut up and accept’ mood. To clarify, trying to impose some policies without listening other is not an acceptable approach in international relations. Such a stance would be at least "rude’. Thus, whatever their beliefs and allegations are, the parties should consider each others’ opinions and they also need to follow international relations rhetoric and be polite as well."
25 February 2009
English edit by Kaitlin MacKenzie