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Politicizing the Armenian tragedy
Today, as the United States and its allies confront critical challenges around the world, there is perhaps no nation more at the forefront of our collective efforts than Turkey. Our strategic partnership spans a wide range of global challenges, from helping secure Iraq and Afghanistan to preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, promoting energy security and fighting terrorism in our region and beyond.
This relationship also has an important bearing on regional and global stability. Yet, such strategic cooperation is jeopardized by a single interest group that solely pursues its own political agenda over national interests. Once again, Armenian lobbying organizations are determined to politicize the past — and impose their view of history — without any regard to the overriding and lasting interests of the United States or Armenia.
The historical period in question centers on 1915, when immense mutual suffering occurred amid the atrocities of World War I. Countless individual stories have been passed from generation to generation among Turks, Armenians and others who then made up the Ottoman Empire. But the complex political history and dynamics of that tumultuous period are yet to be fully grasped. Each life lost is one too many, whether it is Armenian or Turk. It is truly regrettable that there is no mention today of Turkish or Muslim lives lost during the same period.
With regard to the Armenian allegation describing the tragedy that befell them as genocide, the question, from the point of view of international law, is whether the Ottoman government systematically pursued a calculated act of state policy for their destruction in whole or in part. The answer to this question can only be established by scholars who have the ability to evaluate the period objectively, working with the full range of available primary sources. Hence Turkey made a proposal to Armenia in 2005 to establish a joint commission of historians to find out once and for all what really happened, and how it took place.
Turkey has no difficulties in facing its past. All Turkish archives, including the military archives of the period, are open to the entire international academic community. However, important Armenian archives are not.
We eagerly await a positive response from Armenia, agreeing to establish this joint commission and declaring its readiness to accept its conclusions. We are also prepared to work together with other parties to conduct this research. I hereby extend an invitation to any third country, including the United States, to contribute to this commission by appointing scholars who will earnestly work to shed light on this tragedy and open ways for us to come together. The establishment of such a commission will also help shape an atmosphere conducive to the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations.
A recent resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives makes mention of the events of 1915 as “genocide.” Its passage will be tantamount to legislating a skewed version of history, which will be totally unjust and thus deeply offensive to the Turkish people who have expressed their readiness to seek out the truth.
Following the repulsive murder of the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, Turkey invited officials of the Armenian government and representatives from the Armenian diaspora to share the genuine grief of the Turkish people. These guests witnessed the enormous reaction of our citizens, who poured by thousands into the streets. Yet, as we today consider ways to create a much-improved atmosphere with our neighbor, the Armenian government appears to be propagating the fallacious idea that Turks are missing a chance to recognize their genocide claims.
As Mr. Dink himself said in a published interview shortly before his tragic death, “What I want from the Armenian Diaspora is not to make any demands about accepting the genocide, neither from Turkey, from the parliament nor any other governments.”
Today, there are 70,000 Armenian citizens working in Turkey. There are direct flights between Istanbul and Yerevan. Turkish and Armenian organizations are in direct contact with each other, from NGOs to business-people to local authorities. We are determined to save future generations from the hegemony of bitter rhetoric and outright hostility. Yet we are faced with a noncompromising, unmitigated assault not over a political, but over a politicized one.
Self-examination is an inseparable part of any process of comprehension. In this regard, Turkey has been doing its share of soul-searching. It is high time for Armenians to do the same.
As a politician, I fully understand the pressures imposed by narrow interest groups. However, there is also the imperative to rise above such pressures and see the national and international repercussions of one’s choices. After all, the decisions we make return back to us in this globalized world, where the interests of nations — especially neighbors — are intertwined.
Abdullah Gul is the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Turkey.
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