For many decades now, instead of taking the shortest route to settling the Armenian Question fairly and wisely, Turkey has opted for all kinds of deceptive tactics to defraud Armenians of their right to justice regarding the Armenian Genocide; lost homelands in Western Armenia and Cilicia; and illegally confiscated real and personal properties of the victims.
One such practice in deception is the ongoing efforts by Ankara to hold yet another dishonest “dialogue” with “soft” or “sensible” Armenians.
It’s interesting that the timing for the said “outreach” almost always coincides with the days running up to April 24 of a particular year.
This year has been no exception. In a follow-up on the pursuit of this long-standing stratagem, plans for a new “dialogue” were developed in April of 2010. The efforts culminated in forming another Turkish-initiated group on “Armenian-Turkish reconciliation,” launched on April 12th of this year in Washington.
Upon the learning of renewed Turkish ploys, many Diaspora Armenians reacted with condemnations, and resolved to further intensify their quest for justice. This year’s turnout in practically all Armenian Genocide commemorative events, protest marches and rallies was larger than previous years. Many attribute these phenomena to a heightened Armenian anger at Turkey’s obstinate obstruction of justice by way of denial and deception. All three major events in the Greater Los Angeles area registered a notable increase in participation as:
- Little Armenia rose in protest with nearly 100,000 marchers;
- Over 25,000 people gathered around the Armenian Genocide monument in Montebello, CA;
- Nearly 10,000 Armenians held a protest rally in front of Turkish consulate in Los Angeles.
During these events, Armenian survivors and their descendants demanded the return of their ancestral lands. Protesters held a giant size map of present-day Turkey depicting Turkish-occupied Greek Constantinople, Greek Smyrna, Greek Pontus, Western Armenia, parts of Eastern Armenia, Armenian Republic of Cilicia, Syrian Alexandretta, and Northern Cyprus.
The deeply entrenched yet continuously counter-productive Turkish state policy of deception and denial has come under fire not only by Armenians but also by righteous Turks. These include newly self-mobilized Turkish institutions such as BDP, Turkey’s Kurdish party, and notable Turks such as Hilal Kaplan; a sociologist and an influential columnist in Turkish “Yeni Şafak,” a mainstream Turkish daily serving Turkey’s very large Muslim community.
It was also revealed last week that even the late Turkish President Turgut Özal was among lucid Turks vying to find a fair solution for the Armenian Question.
Concerned Turks may question: “Can Turkey benefit or lose by indefinitely postponing a fair solution to the Armenian Question?” An answer comes from none other than late Pres. Özal.
An April 23 article by Mesut Cevikalp in the Turkish daily, “Today’s Zaman,” gives us a rare glimpse into low profile discussions by Pres. Özal with members of his inner circle.
Pres. Özal’s “aim was to solve the [Armenian] problem before it got too late and through few concessions after reaching a deal with the Armenians,” Vehbi Dinçerler, 71, a former education minister and a state minister in Özal’s Cabinet, was quoted as saying in “Today’s Zaman.”
“Özal sought to learn what Armenians wanted from Turkey through Americans. In 1984 he ordered his advisors to work on possible scenarios about the economic and political price Turkey would have to pay if Turkey compromises with the Armenian Diaspora, an early Turkish acceptance of the term “Genocide.” Another scenario was also prepared. This plan sought to gauge the political cost of a Turkish acceptance of genocide within 20 to 30 years if Turkey is forced to accept it one day,” Dinçerler noted.
However, strong opposition from some politicians from his party and from the military led to him delaying the sharing of details of the plan with the public, and he decided to wait for a more appropriate time. During a visit to the US in 1991, Özal had unexpectedly said, in a hotel lobby, in front of a group of diplomats and journalists after a meeting with representatives of the Armenian lobby, “What happens if we compromise with the Armenians and end this issue?” The audience was shocked at that time, as was the Turkish public. The idea of negotiations with the Armenian Diaspora itself was unacceptable and unthinkable in that period. When his statement was publicized in Turkey, it sparked criticism and fury among the public. Even deputies from the Motherland Party (ANAVATAN), which Özal established and led until he was elected president in 1989, reacted harshly to Özal. However, Özal was determined. He pushed the limit to resolve the Armenian issue in order to avoid facing harder challenges such as the possibility that the alleged Armenian genocide would be recognized by state legislatures in the United States, further reported “Today’s Zaman.”
Hasan Celal Güzel, who served in Özal’s government, said the military establishment perceived Özal’s moderate approach and policies on the Armenian and Kurdish issues as concessions. After Özal’s death, his policies of compromising with the Armenians were abandoned. “They [the military] saw Özal as someone who makes too many concessions. They stood against his policies. However, Özal came up with the idea that Turkey could reconcile and make peace with the Armenians, who had earned the title ‘millet-i sadıka’ [loyal nation] during the Ottoman era. He wanted to open the door for a return of Armenians to Turkey. No one has made a move since. Had he not died, he might have solved this issue,” Güzel told Today’s Zaman.
Has Turkey’s future been put on hold with Pres. Özal’s departure? Doesn’t Turkey have a new leader that would successfully fill his shoes, exhibiting similar courage and wisdom to face the past in order to pave the road for a peaceful and harmonious future for all in the region – Turks, Armenians, Greeks, Kurds, Assyrians, Alevis, Cypriots, Syriacs, Arabs, and Jews?
In the absence of a well-thought out foreign and domestic policy of genuine tolerance and acceptance, Turkey’s misguided political maneuvering will always degenerate into new fiascos and exacerbate its international image as a genocidal and occupying state. Any attempts for a new “Dialogue” that doesn’t include restitution will continue to backfire.