Armenia criticized for not reciprocating Turkey’s new discourse on 1915 events

Armenia’s recent move to withdraw from its parliament the Zurich
Protocols — which are aimed at normalizing ties between Turkey and
Armenia — has been criticized as a failure to build upon the changing
discourse in Turkey regarding the tragedy Ottoman Armenians suffered
during their deportation in 1915.

[ad id=”1838″]`I don’t see Armenia reaching out to Turkey [in the same way],’ Ronald
Suny, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, said on
Saturday at a conference in The Hague marking the 100-year anniversary
of the deportation titled `The Armenian Genocide Legacy: 100 Years
On.’

In a historic first, Turkey expressed its condolences last year to the
grandchildren of Armenians who lost their lives during the forced
relocation. The gesture was an effort to encourage dialogue with
Armenia and the Armenian diaspora, as well as a sign of sympathy for
what Ottoman Armenians suffered during the relocation.

In comments following presentations on the second day of the
conference, Suny expressed his disappointment, arguing that recalling
the protocols from Armenia’s parliament was not the right thing to do.
`Think about it. ¦ The old [official] discourse was that Armenians
were traitors,’ he said.

The Turkish government’s written statement of condolences, which came
on April 23 last year when current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was
prime minister, did not include the word `genocide.’ The statement was
welcomed by many in the West, as well as Armenians living in Turkey,
but fell short of satisfying Yerevan and the diaspora.

Suny — who delivered the keynote speech on the first day of the
conference and whose book titled `A History of the Armenian Genocide’
is set to be released in April — underlined the importance of the
change in discourse at the government level. Although one might not
expect Turkish officials to describe the events of 1915 as a genocide,
he said, Armenians `should exploit the cracks’ in the Turkish
discourse as a means to get more Turkish people to sympathize with the
suffering Armenians experienced as a result of the deportation under
the Ottoman State.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also recently opened the door for
dialogue by saying the Armenian diaspora can be considered Turkey’s
diaspora as well, which also constituted a first in Turkey’s official
discourse.

`The Armenian diaspora is not an enemy diaspora, but rather our
diaspora. Our initiative toward the diaspora will continue. ¦ We will
settle all of the problems,’ DavutoÄ?lu said last month during a
meeting with representatives of Turkey’s Christian minorities.

Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan in mid-February recalled from the
Armenian parliament protocols on the normalization of ties and the
establishment of diplomatic relations with Turkey. The move came as a
reaction to Turkey’s announcement that on April 24 of this year that
it would commemorate those who fought in the Gallipoli Campaign of
World War I — a first for Turkey.

Every year on April 24, Armenians around the world commemorate those
who died during the forced relocation, which officially began in June
1915. On April 24, 1915, 235 Armenian intellectuals were arrested in
Istanbul and transported to other parts of Anatolia as punishment for
activities that authorities feared might provoke Armenians to defy
Ottoman rule.

A number of Armenian participants expressed concern about the value or
meaningfulness of approaches like Suny’s. Such an approach on the part
of Armenia will not be meaningful until there is truly open discussion
of genocide in Turkey and school children are taught the truth,
according to Susan Karamanian, a professor of international law at
George Washington University in the US.

Levon Chorbajian, one of the panelists on the second day of the
conference, also questioned the sincerity of Turkey’s approach,
claiming that it is not clear what Turkey’s intention is. The
protocols for normalizing ties between Turkey and Armenia were signed
in Zurich on Oct. 10, 2009 with the aim of establishing diplomatic
relations and opening the two countries’ land border. But progress
reached an impasse when Ankara and Yerevan accused each other of
trying to rewrite the protocols and setting new conditions. Neither
country’s parliament has approved the deal yet.

Describing Armenia’s attitude as a step backwards, Suny said: `I worry
about that tremendously.’

President Erdogan has complained about the Armenian diaspora’s
uncooperative attitude on several occasions in the last two months. In
an interview in January with the state-run Turkish Radio and
Television Corporation (TRT), he said Turkey would not acknowledge the
1915 events as `genocide’ just because others are pushing Turkey to
recognize them as such. The issue needs to be handled by historians,
Erdogan said.

Turkey denies claims that the forced relocation of Armenians, which
took place primarily in 1915, qualifies as genocide, arguing that the
relocation was a necessity, as some of the Armenians in eastern
Anatolia had collaborated with Russian forces against the Ottoman army
during fighting that took place several months before the relocation
began.

The two-day conference was held at the Hague Institute for Global
Justice. It was jointly organized by the Centennial Project
Foundation; the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide
Studies; and the University of Southern California Dornsife Institute
of Armenian Studies. [blog_list style=”def” display=”specific” category=”null” specific=”2003″]

Today’s Zaman, Turkey
March 8 2015

Armenia criticized for not reciprocating Turkey’s new discourse on 1915 events

March 08, 2015, Sunday/ 16:44:15/ AYDIN ALBAYRAK / THE HAGUE

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