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Gunaysu: Silenced but Resilient: A Groundbreaking Panel Discussion in Istanbul

It was an unusually hot and very exciting day. It would be the first time that critics of Turkish intellectuals’ discourse about the “Armenian issue” would voice their arguments at a public meeting in Turkey, that a face-to-face, open discussion would take place around topics hitherto hotly debated mainly in email groups and other social media channels.

(L-R) Kentel, Adanir, Ayata, Erbal, and Bayraktar. (Photo by Silvina Der Meguerditchian)

As part of the two-day Hrant Dink Memorial Workshop titled “Silenced but Resilient: Language and Memory in Anatolia and Neighboring Regions,” organized jointly by Sabanci University in collaboration with Anadolu Kultur on May 27-28, a panel discussion was held on the Apology Campaign. The panel was moderated by historian Fikret Adanir, with the participation of Ferhat Kentel, and three resolute critics of mainstream Turkish intelligentsia on the Armenian issue: Ayda Erbal from New York University, Seyhan Bayraktar from the University of Zurich, and Bilgin Ayata from John Hopkins University.

In recent years I have found myself developing a mental picture of certain high-profile Turkish critics of the official thesis on the Armenian issue as a community communicating and interacting within a closed micro-cosmos. The main characteristics of this micro-cosmos appear to be self-complacency—naturally resulting in a lack of receptiveness to the signals coming from the outer world—intolerance to criticism, and when faced with any criticism, a strong reaction of indignation. Their reaction has reminded me of the outrage of those who feel themselves victimized by the ungratefulness of those for whom they put themselves at risk “in a country like Turkey”—referring to the backwardness of Turkish society and the risks in the face of overwhelming ultra-nationalism. (That’s not to say that these Turkish intellectuals who criticize the official Turkish thesis on 1915 do face risks: Some of them are being prosecuted and some are continuously receiving death threats. But this should not grant anybody immunity from criticism.)

So, this was the first time critics of certain Turkish intellectuals would speak in a public gathering in Turkey. Word was circulating that there had been an attempt by Prof. Baskin Oran to prevent the participation of the above-mentioned three academics in the workshop. Then came the news that the organizers had rebuffed the attempt. Therefore the mere fact that the panel would take place was in itself a declaration of the commitment by the organizers to a sound academic stance.

Bayraktar: ‘Reproduction of the nationalist discourse’

When the time came for the panel discussion, the room was already packed with an audience eager to listen to what the three voices had to say.

Seyhan Bayraktar spoke first. Her presentation, titled “Politics, Memory, Language: Changes, Continuities, and Breaks in the Discourse about the Armenian Genocide in Turkey,” was a critical review of how the political and public discourse about the annihilation of Armenians developed from the 1970’s until 2005. Her main argument was that despite the increased visibility of the Armenian issue in Turkey, which indicated a liberalization of the public sphere, a critical discourse about the nation’s past had not replaced the denial of the systematic extermination of the Anatolian Armenians. “In contrast,” she said, “I argue that the former denial discourse has turned much more sophisticated today. The state has adopted new strategies to block genocide acknowledgments while discourse patterns that served denial purposes have turned out particularly pervasive and resistant even under different political and social contexts.”

Based on an empirical analysis of media texts, Bayraktar noted that despite relative liberalization, dominant nationalistic discourse frames have survived over time and are carried by a broader range of social and political actors than they were in the 1970’s and 1980’s. “This robustness of discourse frames under different political contexts has led to the paradoxical outcome that even critics of the Turkish state’s politics of the past use discourse frames that have originally been invented by state actors as argumentative tools to relativize and deny the genocidal character of 1915 in Turkey’s foreign relations.”

Bayraktar gave as an example the alternative Armenian conference organized in 2005 at Bilgi University, which was “the first attempt in its kind to critically address the Armenian issue within Turkey.” The conference, reminded Bayraktar, coincided with a change in the Turkish government’s Armenian policy. While the traditional approach was reactive, developing a strategy in reaction to international genocide resolutions or other events, the official policy has, in the past decade, become proactive, mainly due to pressure from Europe. In anticipation of the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government started to take steps to counter outside pressure. The Turkish government’s direct contact with Armenia to set up a joint historical committee and the Turkish National Assembly’s letter to the British Parliament to denounce the “Blue Book” as a collection of fake documents, were the two milestones in this process.

Giving a brief account of the heated debate over the conference, Bayraktar referred to the most common accusation used by the right-wing conservative front, namely “backstabbing” and “treason”—accusations that were most vehemently rejected by the accused party, the left and liberals. However, while strongly reacting against the accusations as a manifestation of excluding everyone questioning the dominant discourse, the accused used the same “national interest” discourse to defend themselves. They mainly argued that they, in fact, were the ones who upheld the interests of the nation. Said Bayraktar, “Although the counter-discourse blamed the nationalist and exclusivist approach of traditional elites using ‘traitorship,’ it was itself very much built on a deeply nationalist logic and rhetoric. The attempt was to turn the table round and claim that it was the sympathizers of the conference who were seeking for the ‘real’ good of the nation. Thus the alternative and liberals voices did not challenge the nationalist approach to the history of 1915 in essence and its fundamentals. Instead, liberals, who criticized the state and state actors for not confronting the Armenian issue as openly as necessary, themselves reproduced and legitimized the central points of the nationalist discourse.”

Although Bayraktar explicitly acknowledged the significant progress in Turkey regarding public discussion on the topic, her presentation was an impressive warning to Turkish intellectuals against the use of the same discursive patterns while objecting to the dominant official ideology about what happened in 1915. “Despite the immense dynamics of the Armenian issue in the public arena of Turkey, the examples above have tentatively shown the deficits of the developments: Turkish public intellectuals have not been able to set up a counter-discourse stressing the need for coming to terms with the past and reconciliation as such. Instead, by giving in and using the same rhetoric strategies, they have reproduced and legitimized nationalist discourse frames,” she concluded.

Erbal: An apology?

Ayda Erbal started her presentation by acknowledging that the intellectuals’ attempt at an apology was a remarkable but at the same time problematic process. Reminding the current meaning of an apology (“an encounter between two parties, offender/offended,” where the offender acknowledges responsibility for an offense or grievance and expresses regret or remorse to the aggrieved party), she gave a brief account of how the “apology” concept had been dealt with by scholars, making references to various writers such as Nicholas Tavuchis, Aaron Lazare, and Nick Smith. She said the general tendency in the literature in this field was to make a binary distinction based on certain established criteria between apologies and non-apologies. In the case of the Turkish apology campaign, following Nick Smith’s work, Erbal said she is also interested in meanings transferred, notwithstanding whether Turkish intellectuals’ apology satisfies the requirements of a categorical apology. Referring to the criteria suggested by Aaron Lazare, which are (i) explanation of the offense; (ii) expression of shame/guilt/humility/sincerity; (iii) intention not to commit the offense again; and (iv) reparations to the offended party, she said of the Turkish apology campaign: “This one would not be an apology even if it were formulated to solve a personal problem between two individuals, as it meets none of the criteria of a categorical apology, even failing short in correctly identifying the offense itself and the offender,” explaining that in order for it to be a categorical apology it had to satisfy all requirements, in addition to what was needed/asked for by the aggrieved party. Moreover, she noted that the lack of clarity in language, lack of agency (the drafters had not mentioned who perpetrated the crime, nor its deniers), and finally the usage of the passive voice reminded her what Haaretz journalist Amira Haas called “language laundromat,” when language becomes a means to white-wash institutional crimes and responsibilities. She also added the usage of the “G-word” did not matter in this case; that even if the intellectuals had used the word (genocide), the text would still not have satisfied a categorical apology. She did, however, emphasize that the choice of the Armenian term “Medz Yeghern” was significant regardless of whether the text could be regarded as an apology or not, because among many Armenian words describing the 1915 events, its Turkish “translation,” Buyuk Felaket, was a term thatwas the most vague and ambiguous—a term that conveniently left the agency (the entity who committed the crime) out.

Erbal also maintained that the campaign was Jacobinist in nature and in its approach to both the offended and the offender party. In the case of Turks, the Jacobinism lied in the fact that it was dictated from above without any attempt to broaden the base of participants in drafting or pre-apology deliberation, and that it didn’t care for inclusiveness and involvement of as many people as possible—unlike the very horizontal experience of “Sorry Books” in Australia where many took part in an apology campaign personally by writing their own apologies in empty notebooks. These were ordinary Australians who wanted to do something in response to the federal government’s refusal to formally apologize to the Stolen Generations. Regarding Jacobinism towards Armenians, which Erbal said was worse, the organizers didn’t make any effort to get in touch with representative bodies of the Armenians, to gain an insight into what they really want or need from an apology, or whether they need an apology from individual Turkish citizens. Instead, by mandating the term, hence normalizing the discourse, freezing it around the term “Medz Yeghern,” they left no space for any input from the offended party. By preempting an apology on whose terms the offended and the “offender” did not agree, the campaign organizers created a de facto setting where if the offended party (Armenians) rejects the “apology,” they would look bad and end up being portrayed as the hostile and aggressive party, despite the fact that the preemption of this kind is a symbolically violent endeavor to begin with.

Erbal also discussed the organizers’ justification of the choice of the word. One argument was that the word “genocide” had been overly politicized, and the other was that the Turkish public felt threatened by the term. She said the first was in fact a “non-argument” in that the politicization of the term was irrelevant, as the genocide was itself a political phenomenon and over-politicization or over-usage would not necessarily mean it would lose meaning. Certainly instrumentalizing a very dear, very private term people use to express their pain also means politicizing it, so in that sense, it’s not politics or politicization that’s the problem here; the problem is rather a particular politics of genocide recognition. The second, she commented, was what they call “non-sequitur” in logic—which means lack of any connection between the assumption and the conclusion. “Even if the assumption that the ‘G-word’ frightens Turkish citizens was correct, this cannot be used as the reason to chose the term ‘Medz Yeghern‘ amongst numerous words used by Armenians to describe what happened in 1915,” she said.

Erbal made one passing comment that I value and attach great importance to. She said that sincerity, good intentions, emotions (which, many believed, was an important reason to support the campaign) were all irrelevant for her work as a political scientist. She said that despite the fact that she understood people’s sincere attachment to the issue and their feelings, and that she did not feel herself in a position to question the sincerity of 30,000 people, friendship and brotherhood/sisterhood discourse did not mean much in terms of citizens’ demand for institutional commitments. She added that she had been hearing these since her childhood and nothing had changed in the institutional mindset of the state in terms of its perception of minorities. She still doesn’t feel herself equal and her actual condition as a non-equal citizen is the reason why we should talk about truth and justice in equal terms, preferably not adding insult to injury by dictating the terms of an apology from above. Hence without justice, on whose terms parties should agree, no one can be equal since the Armenian is still ingrained as the fifth column in the state’s institutional mindset because of the exact same painful history.

Ayata: ‘Absolute denial replaced by a policy of regulation’

Ayata started with the argument that the discourses on reconciliation occur as separate and isolated themes for the Armenian, Kurdish, Alevi, Dersim issues, arguing that this compartmentalization is a central weakness of the reconciliation process. According to Ayata, this compartmentalization was not accidental but reflected a continuation of a divide and rule mentality, which effectively contributed to an existing power asymmetry by consolidating Turkish intellectuals and interlocutors as the main reference point while the marginalized/excluded groups’ position remained precarious single cases.

Looking into the case of “compartmentalization” closer by giving examples to how the Kurdish, Alevi and Dersim issues were dealt with, Ayata drew attention to the fact that the politics of total/absolute denial in Turkey was “crumbling.” She continued by saying: “Because the costs of crude denial have become too much for the state in the course of the increased internationalization of politics. However, this shift away from crude denial has not lead to a politics of acknowledgement. Instead there is a shift from a politics of denial to a policy of regulation.”

As for some intellectuals in Turkey, Ayata argued that they had chosen a role to navigate the state out of the mess that denial had caused. Instead of problematizing the solutions and the regulatory approach of the state, she commented, their actions were in compliance with the regulatory approach that were often justified with the argument that “Turkey was not ready for more”. “Their concern with nation’s least collateral damage prevails over the quest for justice, acknowledgement and truth seeking,” she said.

Ayata acknowledged that now it was more possible to talk about not only the Armenian genocide, but also on the displacement of Kurds than 10 years ago, and this was without doubt an important improvement. “Yet at the same time,” she continued, “there are strict limits to the discourse: for instance, it is possible to talk about the Kurdish issue, but the term Kurdistan can hardly be used, except it relates to the Kurdish regional government in Iraq. Similarly the term genocide continues to be a highly controversial term, that can be used without restriction when talking about Palestine, but is to be circumvented at all costs when talking about 1915, or 1938.”

Criticizing the apology campaign, Ayata said the choice of the term “Great Catastrophe” was a “great ignorance” towards those to whom the apology is extended to. “After all, what was the one political claim that united Armenians around the world if it was not the recognition of the Genocide?” she asked and continued: “The reason often given by progressive intellectuals for this discursive limitation when talking about the events of 1915, is that the Turkish society and politics are apparently not ready for more at this point. This marginalizes and delegitimizes those who already have been using this term.”

Ayata questioned the reason for the mainstream Turkish intellectuals to systematically refuse the use of the term Genocide. “It is worthwhile to remember that since the Jewish genocide, the entire development of German and European philosophy more or less evolved around questions how and why the Holocaust was possible, and what its responsibility entails for mankind,” she went on. “On a political level, it entailed for German intellectuals and politicians almost an unconditional commitment and feeling of responsibility for the Jewish Diaspora. In Turkey, instead, some intellectuals have even actively participated in Diaspora bashing, in which the Armenian community in Turkey are portrayed as ‘good Armenians, our Armenians’ as they are perceived harmless, while the Diaspora Armenians with their claims for justice and recognition of the genocide are ousted as hawks and ultra-nationalists. This is not too different when targeting some Kurdish politicians also as hawks. One should not forget that the line between sahin [Turkish word for “hawk”] and hain [Turkish word for “traitor”] is highly thin.”

An explosion of indignation in the face of criticism

While listening to them I was also observing the audience, how they listened to these criticisms and how they took it, as nearly half of them were the ones who either initiated, or actively supported the apology campaign and some took part in the organization of the alternative Armenian conference at Bilgi University. I could see only half of the room applauded the three women academics. When it was time for the question and answer session, the first to speak was Prof. Selim Deringil, a prominent Turkish historian highly appreciated by many because of his questioning the official theses, one of the organisers of the alternative Armenian conference in the Bilgi University and also one of the first supporters of the apology campaign. He sounded deeply offended and agitated, spoke indignantly, and said Seyhan Bayraktar had insulted them, the intellectuals who were criticized in her talk, by portraying them as the “state intellectuals.” He said she was unfair and offensive towards them, completing his intervention with an incredible comment: You were writing your papers abroad while we did everything here by taking all the risks!

But, for me, one of the most striking moments of the whole event was when a high-volume exclamation of reproach rose from the audience across the room. That moment was a consolation for me after the embarrassing statement by Deringil. My consolation was consolidated by Prof. Fikret Adanir’s reproach to Deringil. Adanir said that this was a scholarly meeting where such subjective comments should not be tolerated. Deringil’s words were a very good example of what I said above about the connection between the indignation and ungratefulness.

Others asking questions and expressing their own views on the topic during the question and answer session were by no means as aggressive, but many expressed disappointment at what they viewed as a lack of appreciation of their efforts.

It was a significant experience not only for me and for those who agree with Bayraktar, Ayata and Erbal, but, I believe, also for many others who disagree with them. I know—based on my post-conference encounters—that even many of those who felt offended by their criticism were impressed, or at least felt themselves in a position to take into account a very different perspective. Mine was a fulfillment of hearing in a public discussion arguments which until then had been suppressed because of various concerns—concerns such as seeing it a duty to support every attempt, even the slightest ones, that would hopefully undermine the official ideology.

There is a lot to discuss as the matter needs a much greater mental freedom on the part of us, those who live and work here in Turkey to elaborate in greater depth on how to fight back the powerful denial mechanism in Turkey. Furthermore, truth is not monolithic, on the contrary, it is very fragmented, many times, paradoxical. There may be truth in opposing arguments and more than one opposing argument can carry truth in itself. For example I believe the mainstream Turkish intelligentsia whom we criticize most do play a part in the sluggish change that Turkey has been undergoing (in fact the part they play is much greater than that of the marginal elements such as myself and our Human Rights Association). When we think of the terrible ignorance and deeply rooted commonplace nationalism of millions of people in Turkey, we can better see the dialectics of life, I mean, how even the most inadequate and poorly formulated attempts contribute to the change we long for.

My confused thoughts in a very confused environment of Turkey often come to a conclusion that the laws of life will have their own say in the historical process of change. On the one hand, there will be the timid and conciliatory criticisms aiming to trigger question marks in the minds of onlookers and bystanders, but at the same time reproducing the official discourses, hence slowing down the process. On the other hand, quite simultaneously—and thankfully—there will be Bayraktars, Erbals, and Ayatas who will ask for more, and pave the way for an uncompromising fight against lies and denial. I feel that it will be these contesting forces that will turn the wheels of change.

31 Comments on Gunaysu: Silenced but Resilient: A Groundbreaking Panel Discussion in Istanbul

  1. First, thank you for the excellent article. Kudos to Ayata for perceiving and saying ‘the choice of the term “Great Catastrophe” was a “great ignorance” towards those to whom the apology is extended to.’  I suspect there was design as well as ignorance in the choice of the term. Erbal said, ” the choice of Mezd Yeghern was altogether significant . . . .because among many Armenian words describing the 1915 events, its Turkish equivalent, buyuk feleket, was a term which was the most vague and most ambiguous one. A term that conveniently left the agency—the entity who committed the crime—out.” The statement wrongly assumes that ‘buyuk feleket’ is the correct translation of Medz Yeghern. It is not. It is precisely because the term is mistranslated that the agent of the crime gets lost.  Medz Yeghern means Great Crime or Great Atrocity and as such clearly asserts that there was agency for the crime, great catastrophe does not. That is undoubtedly the point.
    This is a question far more importance than the renaming of place names, animals and plants.

  2.  Thank you Ms. Gunaysu for a very thorough and informative report of an important step toward honest Turkish self-criticism.

  3. @ Diran, indeed I also problematized the translation of the Medz Yeghern as Buyuk Felaket since I said it can’t be translated as such and I also talked about Medz Yeghern (Yeghernel) containing agency in it. I had a whole segment where I also talked about the problematic nature of using Medz Yeghern instead of the G-word, because instrumentalized this way, Medz Yeghern ceases to be Medz Yeghern and becomes something else anyway, anyhow.  Unfortunately not everything we said could be covered given the word limits.
    But you are right, equivalent should be in quotation marks at least to indicate my distance to what they think is equivalent to buyuk felaket… Thank you for bringing the misunderstanding to our attention. Best…

  4. Well, well, well…rather an “unbiased” group, eh! But, consider the source! It would be the same as me going to the main university in Yerevan, putting on one of these dog and pony shows, with a panel including people like Ohanus Appressian, Armenia’s first president, etc. Of course, the only difference would be that unlike the panelists in Turkey, such a panel would never make it out alive from the university, let alone make it out of Yerevan or Armenia proper! We’re not impressed.

  5. avatar one lost Armenian // August 6, 2010 at 3:03 am // Reply

    Impressive to me … Well , the problem is that every Turk knows what is the problem and yet need to be guided to the right understanding and meaning of the words , deeds , intentions and every relevant or irrelevant issue of the Crime . It doesn’t matter how to call a Crime , all what matters , that one does not lie to his/her own self . Are Turks there yet ? Obviously not . Why ? Because all what matters to “them” is a material gains that is suppose to slip away from their hands . Maybe I’m wrong , but my major conclusion to all question is a simple jealousy , which was long before , at the time of the Metz Eghern and after it was done – the main force for Turks to get rid of Armenians and privatize Armenia , goods , furniture , kids , wives , cities etc. etc.
    Maybe not so very academic view , but see : somehow , Armenian should not be scientist or academician , to understand why Turk committed the Crime and does not want to admit it …
    Anyway , thank You , dear author of this article , for being so sincere and so much above most of the “intellectuals” in Turkey (don’t want to use word “modern”) , that find any reason to deny/get angry/upset when the right time comes and distance themselves from one and only one – ultimate Truth . That is why , I do not believe to apologetic companies or websites , even though , see that everything starts from somewhere .
    Thank’s again , You did corrected minds and toughs of those , who could not even imagined that everything is more visible than it seems and they can lie , but nobody will believe it …

  6. A paraphrase of a noteworthy point in the article: [according to Erbal] the organizers didn’t make any effort to get in touch with representative bodies of the Armenians to gain insight. . . .  Instead, by mandating the term [great catastrophe], they froze the discourse around the term Medz Yeghern.

    Yes, that is exactly what they did. But that freezing didn’t only relate to their internal discourse, it made a significant contribution to stopping the whole international dialogue concerning the Genocide at ‘great catastrophe’. Bayrakdar observes, “The state has adopted new strategies to block genocide acknowledgements”. So true, and one of those  strategies is the crucial redefinition and reinvention of the terms of discourse in a way that will serve the long-term interests of the state.

  7. avatar ragnar naess // August 8, 2010 at 3:38 am // Reply

    Hi one lost Armenian,
    you write:  It doesn’t matter how to call a Crime , all what matters , that one does not lie to his/her own self .
    I guess you mean that from the moral point of view it does not matter how to call a crime. In the actual discourse one postitions oneself very clearly by using or not using the G-word. But then it seems that you think otherwise
    Interesting. Could you say more about that?

  8. One lost Armenian,

    From the moral point of view you perhaps may be right: “it doesn’t matter how to call a Crime, all what matters is that one does not lie to his/her own self.” However, from the legal point of view the name for the crime that the Turks have committed have been scrupulously examined, researched and given a definition by the U.S. international lawyer, a Polish Jew Raphael Lemkin back in 1943. Based on his research the crime has come to be known as genocide and the UN Convention of Genocide has incorporated the term in its resolution in 1948. Turkey must be punished for the crime of committing a deliberate, premeditated, government-planned and executed crime targeted against a particular ethnic, racial, and religious group. This crime totally falls under the definition of genocide, which has been already acknowledged by almost 30 foreign governments, dozens of provincial governments, many reputable international organizations, the European Parliament and the European Union, 44 state legislatures of the United States of America, the Vatican, dozens of non-governmental professional associations, advocacy groups, human rights groups, dozens of Nobel Prize winning scholars, etc.
     
    Legal retributions from the Turkish state, unfortunately, cannot be based on solely moral demands because (1)we’re dealing with the Turks and morality is hardly applicable to their murderer-state, and (2)because the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide particularly states that punishment for the genocide is not subject to the limitations of place and time.
     
    Things must be called by their names especially when they fully comply with a definition.

  9. avatar armenian4ever // August 8, 2010 at 12:05 pm // Reply

    The Armenian equivalent to ‘genocide’ is ‘ceghaspanutyun,’ meaning ‘annihilation of race.’ ‘Metz Yeghern’ is used by Armenians to refer to the tragedy that’s befallen the nation in its moral and psychological, not legal sense. It’s similar to the Jews using ‘the Shoah’ when typifying what has befallen them, but in legal sense they use term ‘the Holocaust’ or ‘the Genocide.’ Semantic buffoonery by the U.S. administration in calling things by their names is so cheap and disgraceful… Where are your moral values, America “the Beautiful,” America “the Great”? How can a president-to be or a secretary of state-to be acknowledge that there was no doubt in their minds that the Turkish mass extermination of the Armenians constituted genocide, but shamelessly vacillate from their conviction when becoming high-level government officials? It once again proves that there’s no doubt in the minds of the whole civilized world that historically, legally, and factually the Turkish crime was indeed a premeditated genocide, but they choose not to use the word solely for political considerations. Check your moral values as human beings, Mr. President and Madam Secretary, if you have any such values…

  10. arm k is entirely right. We are not talking about personal morality. We are talking about a crime against humanity. As he says, this has all been exhaustively dealt with and clearly stated by Raphael Lemkin. In the case of this topic, which is the use to which Medz Yeghern has been put by Turkey and the apology campaign, it is deeply disturbing to see how some of the leading thinkers and spokespersons of the Armenian community promptly walked into the trap set for them and latched onto the ‘great catastrophe’  translation of Medz Yeghern, turning it into an unexamined convention. With leadership like that it is very doubtful that Armenians will have the intellectual and moral tenacity to reach the goal offull and irreversible recognition of the Genocide. Crime may be a less interesting word than catastrophe, but it says and does a lot more. It is a shame to disown it and the name of which it is a part when that name is the product of so much suffering and so much careful thought.

  11. avatar ragnar naess // August 11, 2010 at 1:27 am // Reply

    To all:
    Of course it is important to appraise the apology movement, and nobody should be immune to critique.
    Arm K
    Is the legal situation really as clearcut as you say? If it was that clearcut why hasnt ANCA and the republic of Armenia long ago brought the case of the genocide in for one of the international juridical bodies to have the matter settled? 

  12. avatar ragnar naess // August 11, 2010 at 3:34 am // Reply

    ….and also remember the many innocent Turks who were killed in the last century of the Ottoman Empire for no other reason than their Turtkishness….that would give the movement a genuine universalist message, a call for justice irrespective of race, creed and national affiliation

  13. Ragnar Naess: For many central and provincial governments, international organizations and professional associations, the European Parliament, 44 state legislatures of the US, the Vatican, dozens of advocacy and human rights groups, and scores of Nobel Prize winners the legal situation around the Armenian genocide really has been as clearcut as I say. Do you object to what these reputable bodies and individuals have come to believe? As for why ‘hasn’t ANCA and the Republic of Armenia long ago brought the case of the genocide in for one of the international juridical bodies to have the matter settled,’ ANCA is not a subject of international law to bring in such cases and the Republic of Armenia, i.e. the the remnant of what was once greater Armenia that included Western Armenia wiped out by the Turks, it was non-existent as a subject of intenrational law up until 1991. After 1991 the new republic undergoes the ineviatable hardships associated with the emergence of a new state. You don’t have to worry: when the time is right the matte will be brought in an international juridical body. Armenians will never forget the deliberate extermination of the millions of their ancestors and incorporation of Western Armenia in the Republic of Turkey by means of genocide. As for remembering the many innocent Turks who were killed in the last century of the Ottoman Empire for no other reason than their Turtkishness, Armenian can understand their pain, too, but Armenian were not in any way the casue of the Turks’ suffering. Besides, cases of wars with other states in which the Turks suffered losses and the deliberate mass murder of co-citizens must be differentiated. Don’t you think? Remember this…

  14. avatar ragnar naess // August 12, 2010 at 3:08 pm // Reply

    Arm K
    thank you for your answer. My question on remembering the innocent Turks that were killed was related to the proposal to include the commemoration of suffering of other Ottoman christian groups. If this is done withouth also including Turkish suffering I believe ones stance gets morally ambiguous.

    That Armenians had no role in the Turkish suffering for instance in the Balkans is to my mind not relevant here. We should to my mind commemorate the suffering of people undergoing traumas of this or that period whether the group we ourselves belong to had any role in it or not.

    However, I feel there is a point in rasing the relationship between the legal issue and the moral issue. The moral responsibility of the CUP for the enormous mortality of Ottoman Armenians is to my mind beryond doubt, and Turks at large and the Turkish government should acknowledge this, something which clearly is not done. But legal questions are mainly resolved through actual cases determined by actual courts, so I will not pretend to be able to say what they would say.

    I understand that the decision to bring the case of the genocide of 1915-23 to an international court is not a task that can just be done on the spur of the moment. However, I feel that the question of “when..?” naturally arises from your views on the lack of ambiguity of the legal question.

    About my views on the Genocide, I refer you to the discussion  in “The Armenian weekly” regarding the article “What Davutoglu fails to understand” by Akcam. It contains some 500 entries. I hope the discussion still is available on the web.

    But my aim in participating here now is mainly to discuss Ayse gunaysu’s article on the apologize movement which of course is important. I have some points I would like to make

  15. avatar ragnar naess // August 13, 2010 at 2:19 am // Reply

    If you permit me to start with what Gunaysu writes on Baraktar’s input, I see some of the assertions as problematic. While I look forward to read her dissertation on the official Turkish response since the 1970-ies to the Armenian question, I find the following assertions problematical:

    “Although the counter-discourse blamed the nationalist and exclusivist approach of traditional elites using ‘traitorship,’ it was itself very much built on a deeply nationalist logic and rhetoric”.

    “they” (the intellectuals officially critizicing the state version on the fate of the Armenians, RN) have not been able to set up a counter-discourse stressing the need for coming to terms with the past and reconciliation as such. Instead, by giving-in and using the same rhetoric strategies they have reproduced and legitimized nationalist discourse frames”.

    As we all know there are two types of nationalism, the one which implies loving one’s country, and on the other hand the one which glorifies and defends one’s own country uncritically.

    When the rightwingers accused the human rights defenders of “backstabbing” and the defenders answered that it was they, and not the right wingers, who represented true Turkish interests, was this a case of reprehensible nationalism, nationalism of the second type? Is a Turkish discourse – furthered by Turks – which wants Turkey – a nation – to become more democratic, and to go into the black spots of its history, is this discourse a discourse which “reproduce and legitimize nationalist discourse frames”?

    Maybe some of the intellectuals in question, in their eagerness to defend themselves as loyal to Turkey, formulated themselves in a way which would warrant Bayraktar’s characterization, but as the text stands Bayraktar’s assertions appear as unfounded, indeed very unreasonable.  
      

  16. Ragnar Naess: We can remember the innocent Turks that were killed as a result of interstate wars and liberation struggle, predominantly in the Balkan and Arab parts of the Ottoman empire. Although I must add here that no one asked the Turks to invade, colonize, and enslave the indigenous nations inhabiting those and other parts. Turks endured suffering as a result of freedom fighting to kick them out from where they never belonged history- and geography-wise.
     
    I don’t believe one’s stance gets morally ambiguous when the stance clearly differentiates human suffering as a result of war and national liberation movement, on the one hand, and a deliberate, premeditated forced expulsion, mass killing, faith conversions, and desecration of cultural heritage of co-citizens by the central government, on the other. In the case of suffering associated with, say, the Balkan wars, I can equally remember innocent Russians, as well as the Turks. In the case of suffering associated with the national liberation struggle, I can equally remember Greeks, Arabs, Bulgarians, Romanians, Cypriots, Serbs fighting for their freedom from the Turkish yoke, as well as the Turks. But in the case of suffering associated with the annihilation of humans belonging to a particular race by the central government, I can only remember the Assyrians, the Greeks, and the Armenians. I don’t think I’m being morally ambiguous by not remembering the Turks in this particular instance, because the Turks haven’t suffered from the centrally-planned race annihilation. I’m afraid attempts at juxtaposition of different cases and consequences of suffering may be morally ambiguous. Assyrians, Greeks, and to the largest extent of suffering, the Armenians did not represent warring sides, their national liberation movements have not gained momentum; they did not represent a threat to the regime as a well-armed, tidily-mobilized, highly-organized all-national movements or a fifth column. These three Christian nations fell victim of a concentrated Ottoman government-backed effort to eliminate them as a race. Mass extermination of the Armenians was the ugliest demonstration of Turkish barbarism.
     
    It is VERY relevant that Armenians had no role in the Turkish suffering, for instance, in the Balkans, because their consecutive fate essentially explains that millions of them were wiped out not as a result of wars or organized all-national revolts, as Turkish propaganda absurdly portrays, but as a result of a CUP inner circle’s policy of extermination of this particular national group with the aim of homogenizing their state and preserving as much territory as possible of the crumbling empire. If what you say is true, namely: “We should commemorate the suffering of people undergoing traumas whether the group we ourselves belong to had any role in it or not,” then why wouldn’t the Turks repent and acknowledge their forefathers’ crime for 95 years? Armenians were the victims of their heinous crime and Armenians are expected to commemorate the suffering of people undergoing traumas, such as executioner Ottoman Turks? Don’t you think that the other way round would be more appropriate?

  17. avatar ragnar naess // August 14, 2010 at 1:13 am // Reply

    Arm G – I see your point, but I believe you overdo it. I have in mind the Turks who simply tilled the soil and were killed and ousted because of their Turkishness. I am not against differentiation between different historical situations and outcomes. Evidently the Armenian fate is much worse than the fate of the other groups, but evidently you and I look very differently at the status of the Turks living in these areas. You write:
    “Turks endured suffering as a result of freedom fighting to kick them out from where they never belonged history- and geography-wise”.
    To my mind yours is a very cruel perspective regarding people who had been in these areas for several hundred years. Moreover it is a perspective not in line with human rights because people born in a certain place should be allowed to stay. Many Greeks are ashamed of the indiscriminate killings of women, children and elderly, as well of any Turk they could reach, in the Morea in the spring of 1821. The Bulgarians adopted a constitution guaranteeing equal rights for Turks shortly after the terrible massacres and ethnic cleansings of 1877-78. So I disagree with you. Please, read again what you yourself have written and reconsider.
    Now this is a subordinate perspective because our main point now, as I understand it, is the article of Gunaysu. Discussion about the Balkan Turks is not the theme. I plead guilty in introducing the theme. My aim was to point to the problematic situation one comes into if more and more groups are commemorated but not Turks who evidently were victims in a number of instances simply because of their Turkishness. 

    Back to ther apologize movement:
    Now it is said that Medz Yeghern cannot be translated as Great Catastrophe or “Büyük felaket”. I have no knowledge of Armenian, but I have no reason to doubt that this is not an accurate translation, and that the aspect of crime disappears. This is then a shortcoming of the text, because to my mind there can be no doubt that the ittihadists committed a great crime against the Ottoman Armenians, but of course I would like to hear what those who made the text have said regarding this  matter. 

  18. Ragnar Naess: I don’t feel you see my point regardless whether or not I overdo it, as you think. I believe Turks “tilled the soil and were killed and ousted” not because of their “turkishness,” but first and foremost because of their “otherness” in the lands that never in the history of indigenous nations inhabiting them were Ottoman Turkish per se. I have a hard time understanding why this reasoning of mine sounds “very cruel perspective regarding people who had been in these areas for several hundred years?” If you’re so humanistic, how about peoples who had been in these areas for several thousand years? They would, I’m pretty sure, find your reasoning “very cruel.” Several hundred years of the Turks’ domicile in those areas were the result of colonial expansion of the Ottomans with fire, sword, forced expulsions, and faith conversions. I should like to think that you know all this. Then why would late 19th-early20th century national liberation movements of the Serbs, Bulgarians, Romanians, Arabs, and the Greeks be considered “very cruel”? Didn’t these indigenous peoples fight to liberate their ancestral lands from the Turkish yoke imposed on them in the 15th century onward? Turks suffered because they were invaders settled in the lands of others. Armenians suffered because, among other reasons, they were found scapegoats for Turkish suffering elsewhere.
     
    Again, if what you say is true in every situation and with every nation, namely: “…people born in a certain place should be allowed to stay,” then a question arises as to why the Armenians, who are known to have inhabited Asia Minor for more than 3000 years, were not allowed to stay in their ancestral lands? Balkan Turks born in these areas were viewed, and rightfully so, as colonizers and enslavers, and this was the major reason for indiscriminate killings of women, children and elderly. Do I support or in any way sympathize with such methods? I don’t think I do. But at the same I understand better than you (only because I’m a victim of genocide) as to what motives could have driven the Greeks and Bulgarians to get rid of alien settlers who treated them for centuries as second-class citizens deprived of elementary civil rights. Whether or not you find my writings “very cruel,” no historical evidence suggests that national liberation struggles or freedom fighting proceed in the bloodless manner. An invader nation simply wouldn’t go if they’re just asked to leave. If you disagree, prove me wrong starting with Gandhi’s India or even earlier.
     
    Discussion about the Balkan Turks is not the theme here indeed, but you appear to attempt to somehow explain Turkish barbarism in regard to the Assyrians, Greeks, and Armenians with Turkish sufferings elsewhere, the major reason of which was the Ottomans’ colonization of native peoples or wars waged by the Turks with other nation states. This is one of the denialist points used by the Turks in denying the Armenian genocide. Your thoughts are very similar to it, I’m afraid; that’s why I reacted to the theme that’s irrelevant to Gunaysu’s article. “More and more groups are commemorated but not Turks” because those groups were victims of Ottoman Turkish invasion, colonization, enslavement, and gross mistreatment. Again, not because of their Turkishness, but because of their otherness in the lands of native peoples as a result of Ottoman enslavement.
     
    As for “Medz Yeghern,” Armenians use the term in a way the Jews use the term “Shoah” to describe the national tragedy, the national calamity. But both in semantic and legal terms, there’s a term “ceghaspanutyun,” i.e. “annihilation of race” that is, obviously, used as the Armenian equivalent of “genocide” just as the Jews would use “holocaust” instead of “the Shoah” when semantic or legal terms are required to be used.

  19. Ragnar Naess: Since you touched upon the semantics issue in describing genocide, I’d also like to make brief comment on the following clause of yours: “…Ittihadists committed a great crime against the Ottoman Armenians.” Beginning 1943 this crime has its lawful name that’s widely accepted by the civilized world, “the genocide.” Great crime is a vague definition and could bear—or nor bear at all—various legal repercussions, whereas “genocide” stands separate from regular crimes and even from crimes against humanity and the whole UN Convention is dedicated to this particular crime and the punishment that a perpetrator-state needs to bear. Therefore, “…Ittihadists committed genocide against the Ottoman Armenians” would be more appropriate. Bear in mind that foreign governments and parliaments, international organizations, provincial legislatures, professional associations, advocacy and human rights groups, most of the scholars and hundreds of Nobel prize laureates acknowledge precisely the genocide, and not the “great crime” against the Armenians.

  20. avatar ragnar naess // August 15, 2010 at 2:50 am // Reply

    Arm K – What sense does it make to substitute “otherness” for “Turkishness”?  Today people are concerned that the Germans in Romania, the Baltics and Zhekoslovakia were thrown out in 1945 after the war, those whose forbears had settled as a result of German expansion several hundred years ago. It is even being called a genocide. In Norway, the sami people has rights as an indigenous people, they even have their own parliamen, but no sami leader has suggested that Norwegians inhabiting these areas should be killed or forced to leave. But apparently you condone the killing and expulsion of the “others” when they are descendants of invaders? You say that this is “what usually happens in history”? Is this the view of ANCA, ARF, the Ramgavar or other Armenian groupings? If you are a citizen of the USA, whose territory was taken from the indigenous people in a most cruel way, profiting from the cruel expansion of the British, what should be the logical answer to this situation? What will you have do to remain a person who upholds the ethical standards of your own reasoning?
    If this is the frame of mind you have when you think of the Armenian claims on Western Armenia I will ask you to rethink the question very seriously. Try to think how a future Armenian jurisdiction will handle the situation in the six vilayets in actual practice.

    You write: “Great crime” is a vague definition”. It is not a definition at all. It is one way to describe the events of  1915. other possible words are Medz Yeghern, genocide mass killing and starvation, holocaust, tragedy, or other labels. Is it not so that you in an indirect way are asking me about my views on what happened in 1915-23? But is the right way to do this to start talking about what expressions I use?

  21. It is indisputable that genocide is the best word to use in reference to the extermination of its Armenian population by the Ottoman government. However, this does not render the term Great Crime vague, especially in comparison with the term the apology movement and others have put forth, “Great Catastrophe”, a term that serious efforts are being made as we speak to graft into the international diplomatic lexicon for good.

    Armenians knew that they were being exterminated because of their national identity. They didn’t need to be told that by anyone. They gave that horrible reality a very good name, one which accused their overlords of a great crime. As I see it, that name was a noble precursor to Raphael Lemkin’s coining of a term for the “crime of crimes”.

    Furthermore,  I have to question the equating of “Shoah” with “Medz Yeghern”. The term “Medz Yeghern” came first, well before the use of “Shoah”, and it has its own character, as it should be expected to have, being the expression of a different people, in a different time and situation. The meanings of the two terms are quite different, even though they both designate genocide. “Aghet” is the Armenian equivalent of ‘Shoah’, and is one of the names that have been used  to indicate the genocide, but it was not the principal name Armenians used for their genocide before 1943, “Medz Yeghern” was, and for a reason. “Medz Yeghern” focused on the heinous criminality at the core of the catastrophe unleashed on them. That is the strength of the term, and that is why there is such a determined effort to bury its true meaning, to emasculate it and freeze all consideration of the Armenian Genocide at the concept of an amorphous catastrophe for which there was no definable responsibility.

  22. Ragnar Naess: I’d like to state at the outset that my views have nothing to do with those of “ANCA, ARF, the Ramgavar or other Armenian groupings.” I don’t belong to any Armenian or non-Armenian groups, not am I a citizen of the U.S. The views I express here are strictly my personal.
     
    You brought up the issue of “innocent Turks’ suffering” that need to be commemorated at the same level and to the same extent as the suffering of all those native peoples whom the Turks have conquered, colonized, enslaved, maltreated for centuries, and exterminated en masse. I tried to explain that although I don’t support indiscriminate killings of women, children and the elderly, I can understand the motives behind freedom fighting of various indigenous peoples against the Turkish yoke. I never suggested that I condone the killings of humans, I said I don’t think I support such methods because, as a Christian, I believe that the life of a human being can be given or taken by God not another human being, and because after all I’m an Armenian not a bloodthirsty Ottoman Turk.
     
    Apparently you advocate not to attempt to restore justice for the indigenous peoples but accept conquer, enslavement, and mass extermination of colonizers as fete accompli? Is this what you advocate for? Then all the national liberation movements in Asia, Africa, and Latin America must be scratched off from the history of human civilization according to you? You brought the cases of the Germans in Romania, the Baltics, and Czechoslovakia, but were these Germans enslaved by the Romanians, the Balts, and the Czechs? Were the lands they occupied for millennia made a part of some greater European empire and then stolen from them? Were those Germans citizens of that empire? Were they treated as second-class millet deprived of elementary civil rights? You also brought the example of Norway and given your name (if it’s not a pen name) you appear to be a Norwegian. Would you wholeheartedly accept and live with the Nazi occupation and the Quisling regime in your own country? Would you advise your countrymen to shut the h*** up, admit the reality of occupation as fete accompli, uphold the ethical standards of reasoning in this situation, and never even think of organizing the resistance or liberation movement because it may inevitably lead to indiscriminate killings of the German women, children and the elderly?
     
    The territory taken from the indigenous people in the U.S. belonged to Indian tribes and there’s no need for me to deny the fact. But the territory was largely uninhabited, with Indians dispersed throughout of it. While the British or early Americans treated them ruthlessly, they nevertheless didn’t perpetrate a wholesale massacre of the Indian aborigines. Most importantly, The U.S. Congress adopted the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 that applied to the Indian tribes of the United States and made many of the guarantees of the U.S. Bill of Rights applicable within the tribes. Recently, the Obama Administration issued the Native American Apology Resolution that reads in part that Congress “apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States.” At least the U.S. could find the courage to apologize, in contrast to the Turks.
     
    About “great crime.” It is not a definition, I agree. But neither is it a “label,” as you put it. It’s one of the ways to describe the tragedy that’s befallen the Armenians, but it shouldn’t be used as legal term to describe the events. Diran, by “vagueness” I meant that crimes can be any evil deeds, a burglary, for instance, is also a crime. We can also differ in our views of equating “Medz Yeghern” and “the Shoah,” but all I wanted to say is that both terms seem to be used to express the national tragedy in its psychological, moral denomination, but not as terms equivalent to genocide in its legal sense. Ragnar Naess, I meant no “indirect way of asking you about your views on what happened in 1915-23.” I simply stated that in the Armenian language there is a proper equivalent of the “Medz Yeghern” to describe the events in legal not just psychological and moral sense: “ceghaspanutyun,” meaning “Annihilation of Race” is the proper term in this particular sense. I also invited your attention to the fact that starting 1943 when Lemkin coined the term based on his research of the mass extermination of the Armenians and starting 1948 when the UN adopted the Genocide Convention most of the civilized world has been using “genocide” and not “great crime” in describing the horrible events of 1915-1923 in the six Ottoman Armenian vilayets and beyond.

  23. Criticizing the term “Great Crime” for vagueness because it might be mistaken for burglary is taking literal thinking  too far. To understand any of the terms under discussion here one has to have a minimal acquaintance with history. Without that acquaintance, one cannot even get from Shoah, or Holocaust to the genocide of European Jewry. You have to know something to begin with. The definition of ‘crime’ that applies to Medz Yeghern is the following: a grave offense especially against morality [Merriam-Webster], any serious wrongdoing or offense; an unjust or senseless act [American Heritage].
    It is fine to single-mindedly advocate for genocide to be the only term used for what happened to the Armenians of Turkey. It is clearly the best term. But a problem arose when denialists kidnapped the term “Medz Yeghern” from Armenians and began giving it their own meaning in order to circumvent and ultimately sink the Genocide as an issue on the world stage. Until then it had never been translated into any other language and was used strictly among Armenians to commemorate what had happened. It has therefore become necessary for the first time in Armenian history to translate the term. That being the case, it must be given the most accurate translation possible, one that cannot easily be used to bury the reality of what happened in 1915 and beyond. I and many other Armenians feel that “Great Crime” is the best translation.

  24. Hi again Ragnar!  It seems that the previous discussion with almost 500 comments that you referred to above had very little impact on you.   Your campaign to dilute the Armenian Cause by equating the suffering of Turks in the Balkans with the Armenian losses of the 1890’s and 1915-23 is unacceptable and Arm K does a good job of explaining why.  I still can’t understand why a self described human rights worker finds it so easy to empathize with Turkish suffering but so difficult to understand the Armenian desire for acknowledgment of the great crime of genocide which was perpetrated against their nation and the consequent desire for reparation of all that was lost.  Your empathy is far from balanced.
     
    You write….“and also remember the many innocent Turks who were killed in the last century of the Ottoman Empire for no other reason than their Turtkishness….that would give the movement a genuine universalist message, a call for justice irrespective of race, creed and national affiliation.”
    It is a bit bizarre, to my mind, to suggest that Armenians express empathy for the Turkish suffering that occurred as a result of other people’s liberation struggles to throw off the oppressive yoke of Ottoman domination when Turkey continues to be unrepentant regarding the Armenian Genocide.  First Turkey should acknowledge its responsibility and remorse, than perhaps Armenians and Turks can enter into a dialogue about mutual pain.
     
    Armenian Christians do not wish suffering on Turks, only justice for their own.  Civilized people who accept the tenet of accountability and mutual respect should be able to negotiate the complex issues involved in the struggle for reconciliation and compensation while minimizing the suffering of all parties involved.  Instead, Turkey continues to behave as “the bully on the block” denying and distorting history, maintaining closed borders with Armenia, playing an antagonistic, racially-fueled role in the the Armenian-Azeri conflict over Karabagh and throwing its weight around geopolitically to impede the Armenian Cause wherever it can.
     
    None of what I write here is news to you, Ragnar.  How are your efforts to hold open dialogue among Turks regarding the Armenian Genocide coming?

  25. Diran – No need to make a remark about having “a minimal acquaintance with history” because we essentially do not disagree on the subject. My only addition is that knowing that the “denialists kidnapped the term ‘Medz Yeghern’ from Armenians and began giving it their own meaning in order to circumvent and ultimately sink the Genocide as an issue on the world stage,’ usage of the term “ceghaspanutyun” in Armenian or equivalent “genocide” in English seems to me more expedient and appropriate in the legal sense of the term. Bear in mind that the term is given a definition in an international document the significance of which supersedes dictionaries like Merriam-Webster or American Heritage. The 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as follows:
     
    “…genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
     
    There are commentators in these pages who play semantics games with “Great Crime” (Arm: “Medz Yeghern”) in an attempt to substitute “genocide” with it. Thus my reaction. Minimal acquaintance with history has nothing to do with it.

  26. arm K: I think we are going a bit in circles. For the third time, I will agree with you that genocide/tseghaspanutiun is the best term. But while we are pushing for it, we should not allow Medz Yeghern to be mistranslated and misused.That is my central point.

  27. avatar ragnar naess // August 16, 2010 at 2:36 am // Reply

    Boyajian, nice to meet you again!!
    our previous conversation made an impact in so far as I better realize how Armenians still live with the experience of the genocide. This has made a deep impression on me. Further it made an impact in that I believe i now better realize the dynamics of discussions like this.
    But I am not convinced by the arguments of you and other Armenians on the list regarding my main points:  for instance about the status of the proofs for genocidal intent among the upper echelons of the CUP. For me it suffices that the CUP had an obviuous responsibility for mass death  and massacres of  Armenians by not lifting a finger to stop them. This is a heavy moral responsibility and the Turkish governments and Turks at large have never admitted it. I have been arguing this with Turks for more than 20 years. 

    Arm K. Thank you for your clarification. I believe we are less in disagreement than I thought. Yes, atrocities against innocents are UNDERSTANDABLE at certain historical junctions, but we disapprove of them.

    Note that I actually see a problem in the fact that so little is known in the west about Turkish suffering. This is part of the context of any description of the late Ottoman violence. Even if all informed must admit that the Armenian catastrophe was by far greater  than the ones befalling the other groups, the lack of mentioning of the similar fate of many Turks is an hindrance in obtaining mutual understanding. It makes it easier for the nationalist Turks to mobilize ordinary Turks to ignore Armenian claims. As long as Armenians commemorate thir own fate, this is OK to my mind but when commemorations of the Armenian fate is coupled with reference to Assyrians, Greeks, Darfurians, jews, cambodeans and so on, the absence of any reference to the Turkish fate of 1877-78 or the Cherkez fate of 1864 is unacceptable to my mind.

    It is thus a misunderstanding that I do not see the necessity of Armenian claims to recognition of what happened and the need of reparations.

    But my aim here was to discuss the apology movement, and you must have me excused in the following.  To compose adequate answers is very time consuming. I will restrict myself to sending a note now and then if you continue the discussion. I try to develop discussions in Turkish fora, which to me is more important.

  28. Ragnar, obviously I disagree with your assessment of the evidence as lacking proof of genocidal intent among the upper echelons of the CUP, but I accept your right to your opinion.   I see that we at minimum agree “that the CUP had an obvious responsibility for mass death and massacres of  Armenians by not lifting a finger to stop them.” I wish you luck in your arguments with Turks that their government as well as individual Turks must admit this responsibility.
     
    With all due respect, Ragnar, I believe you fail to understand the impact that Turkey’s and Turks’ failure to acknowledge the genocide of the Armenians (whether or not you believe it was centrally planned and executed, the genocidal results are obvious!) has on Armenian empathy for Turkish suffering.  Armenians by far suffered the worst loss, but are not the only group that was devastated by Ottoman and CUP panturanism (Pontic Greeks, Assyrians, Kurds, etc.,).  You speak of Western ignorance of Turkish suffering.  I don’t think this is true ignorance but a kind of “turning a blind eye” to an unrepentant perpetrator.  This may be morally questionable, but certainly understandable in the realm of human relations.  If one is unwilling to acknowledge when we injure another, can we really expect others to show concern for our injuries?  I think you should concern yourself more with the Turkish ignorance and neglect of the suffering caused by the Ottoman Empire, CUP leaders and the modern Turkish State.  Turkey has earned this lack of empathy through its own callous disregard for the destruction it wrought on others as well as for its active distortion of history and political bullying.
     
     

  29. Ragnar Naess: I by no means intend to have the last word in this discussion, nor do I intend to take an advantage of your preoccupation with the Turkish fora. But I feel I must respond to your last post in a hope that you’ll read it at some point. I’m particularly saddened by the following statement: “Even if all informed must admit that the Armenian catastrophe was by far greater than the ones befalling the other groups, the lack of mentioning of the similar fate of many Turks is an hindrance in obtaining mutual understanding.” Similar fate of many Turks? You mean other ethnic groups, being a central Ottoman government or inner party circles, gave orders at mass annihilation of the Turks? You mean other ethnic groups possessed the ability in military, economic, and infrastructural sense to commit mass murder and forced expulsions of the Turks? You mean Turks were not waging wars or have colonized vast territory earlier and other ethnic groups came up with an idea to wipe them out just for the fun of it? You mean hundreds of thousands of Turks were forcibly converted to Christianity; their women served as slaves in the Christian households; their children underwent the operation of implanting foreskin on genitals to become Christians? What was it there for the Turks that could qualify their fate as “similar fate” with the millions of other ethnic groups whom they exterminated as part of centrally-planned pan-Turkic policy?
     
    Next: you appear to be a leftist humanitarian. As such you’re expected to understand the grief of many peoples who fell victims of genocide. You’re expected to condemn crimes against humanity. You’re expected to understand that the Armenian genocide was not acknowledged and properly condemned, that is why the humanity faced repetition of the crime afterwards in other parts of the globe. If you accept all the above, how can you find it unacceptable that “the Armenian fate is coupled with reference to Assyrians, Greeks, Darfurians, Jews, Cambodians and so on?” Yes, we, the victims of genocide associate ourselves with the victims of other genocides. This is a natural human compassionate reaction to an ugly crime that the humanity still needs to condemn and put behind. The absence of any reference to the Turkish fate of 1877-78 or the Cherkez fate of 1864 is irrelevant: these groups were not victims of a centrally-planned, government-executed or at least government-instigated policy of extermination of an ethnic group. What do interstate Russo-Turkish wars of 1877-78 have to do with the annihilation of co-citizens within one state? If you’re so anxious about the absence of any reference to the Turks as one warring side in that war, why aren’t you equally anxious about the fate of the other warring side: the Russians? What kind of mentality is this? Why should there be a need to juxtapose instances that are incomparable by definition: war victims and victims of genocide? National liberation movement victims and victims of genocide? Auto crash victims and victims of genocide? There is a unique UN Convention that defines genocide, meaning the UN differentiates genocide from other crimes or even crimes against humanity, such as wars, etc. It means genocides stand out as the ugliest forms of human barbarism, their victims being a particular ethnic groups that’s subjected to mass annihilation as a result of inner government policy or hesitation to stop the massacres, not external wars or freedom fighting for de-colonization. Why is it so hard to see?

  30. avatar ragnar naess // August 16, 2010 at 11:51 am // Reply

    Arm K – the answers to many of these questions on my position you will find in the dialogue on the article “What Davutoglu fails to understand” in “The Armenian Weekly”.
    However, I will remind you that genocide is defined in different ways and the definition of the term in the 1948 Convention does not presuppose that the actor is a state actor. Also take a look at the reasoning of ICTJ to TARC when giving reasons why it is reasonable to say that the Armenians were victims of genocide. To my mind the rationale and definition  would also work for the Bulgarian Turks in 1877-78 and the Chechens in 1864. So there is good reason to inclkude Turks in the commemorations.

    Boyacian – yes, and you have a right to your opinion.  I hope that we at some junction can continue our dialogue.

  31. avatar ragnar naess // August 17, 2010 at 3:06 am // Reply

    Boyajian
    Sorry for misspelling your name again. I am unconsciously misled by Turkish influences. I believe your name means something like the painters son. “Boya” is “paint” in Turkish, and “Boyaci” (the “i” should be without a dot) means “painter”. So I sometimes write “boyacian” instead of “Boyajian” which is a better rendering of the actual sound in English.

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