On Dec. 30, 2017, Cengiz Aktar, a prominent Turkish political scientist, journalist, and writer, published a candid and compassionate article about the Armenian Genocide. Aktar’s article, titled “Confronting past violence with more violence,” is posted on Ahvalnews.com, an independent overseas website beyond the reach of the Turkish government’s oppressive regime.
Professor Aktar begins his article with a stern warning to Turkish denialists: “Unless we, as a society confront a massive crime in our past like the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and unless we commit due reparations to the descendants of innocent victims, impunity will haunt us, and even more evil will follow. This is a century-old ethical predicament with remarkably deep roots.” Aktar not only demands recognition of the Armenian Genocide, but more significantly, he demands reparations.
Aktar says the denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government is at the root of all vile events that have occurred in Turkey since 1915: “Considering that genocide is a substantially massive crime than any of the public, individual or collective infractions, or the incessant evils of today, if the public consciousness can stomach genocide, it can easily stomach any lawlessness. And thus, evil begets evil. We as a society have constantly refused to bring up the events of 1915 due to the intensity of the transgressions that followed suit—directly correlated to the impunity of genocide—as well as voluntary or forced dementia.”
Indeed, violence and injustice have become routine in Turkey due to the reluctance of dealing with the mass crimes of the Armenian Genocide: “Collective dementia, collective violence, and collective depravity that were imposed after the transgressions of 1915 became our lifestyle. Now we have unlimited violence and depravity everywhere, inside our homes, barracks, workplaces, hospitals—in every arena, from politics to the media—against everything from humans, to animals, nature, cities, and culture. But lawlessness, impunity, injustice, and indifference are everywhere as well.”
Aktar describes the denial of the Armenian Genocide as an ongoing “curse” upon Turkey that has led to many of today’s evils in Turkish society: “Some kind of schizophrenia that immediately forces one to forget and try to make others forget the violence it just inflicted. This is a collective sickness that transgresses the delusions of banal everyday politics. However, the suppressed memories of the past violence keep themselves alive in the public subconsciousness by creating more violence, testing the confines of our dementia. So much so that while trying to forget an evil, we beget a new one! Maybe this is the curse of a society that refuses to face voluntarily its past violence through involuntary confrontation with daily violence with all its sinister consequences.”
At the end of his graciously humanistic article, Aktar reposts another powerful article he had written just before 2015, on the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, in Taraf newspaper, which was deleted from the website by the Turkish authorities.
In his earlier article, Aktar also blamed all the evils occurring in Turkey today due to the curse inflicted upon Turkish society by the victims of the Armenian Genocide: “Who knows, all the evil haunting us, endless mass killings, and our inability to recover from afflictions may be due to a century-old curse and a century-old lie. What do you think? This is perhaps the malediction uttered by Armenians, children, civilian women and men alike who died moaning, and buried without a coffin. It may be the storms created in our souls by the still agonizing specters of all our ill-fated citizens including Greeks and Syriacs and later Alevis and Kurds. Perhaps, the massacres which have not been accounted for since 1915 and the charge which have remained unpaid are now being paid back in different venues by the grandchildren. The curses uttered in return for the lives taken, the lives stolen, the homes plundered, the churches destroyed, the schools confiscated, and the property extorted…. ‘May God make you pay for it for all your offspring to come…’ Are we paying back the price of all the injustice done so far? Does repayment manifest itself in the form of an audacity of not being able to confront with our past sins or in the form of indecency that has become our habit due to our chronic indulgence in unfairness? It seems as if our society has been decaying for a century, with festering all around.”
When Turkish leaders accept the mass crimes committed by their ancestors and make amends for them, as Aktar suggests, Armenia and Turkey can establish normal diplomatic relations, and only then can they put the past behind them.