Turkey pays the price for denying the Armenian genocide


Ergun Babahan-Ahval

Turkey’s release of American evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson after a u-turn by the Ankara government provides another example of Turkish society’s high tolerance for hypocrisy and fabrication by the media and political leaders.

However, this pattern of denial of wrongdoing by the Turkish state and state-controlled media goes all the way back to the cover-up of the Armenian genocide in eastern Anatolia in 1915. The planning, execution, cover-up, and continued denial of this grave crime has set the tone for the rhetoric of the Turkish state and its media organs when faced with issues such as the Kurdish question, the disappearance of activists and intellectuals, and bombings and assassinations.

The auditorium at McGill University, nestled in the foothills of Mt. Royal in Montreal, was filled to the brim last week. The crowd mostly consisted of young members of the Armenian community. They have assembled to hear Turkish academic Taner Akçam, in Montreal to present his book “Killing Orders: Talat Pasha’s Telegrams and the Armenian Genocide”.

Talat Pasha was one of a triumvirate that ruled the Ottoman Empire during World War One and ordered the mass killing and deportations of Armenian in Anatolia.

The subject at hand was not whether or not what the Armenians went through constitutes genocide. Anyone who has kept a close eye on Turkey over the last ten years knows that one does not have to do archival research day in and day out as Akçam has in order to prove that it was.

That is because the murders and crimes of today that we see covered up by the state, committed before the public’s very eyes, bear witness as a poor imitation of what was done to the Armenians. We see false testimony produced in order to ensure the continuity of the state, and this very same testimony retracted when international pressure mounts. We are not the only ones who can see this. As the Brunson case shows, the United States and the rest of the world are watching.

It is enough to look at the actions of those with such a blatantly dishonest mentality. It is no longer necessary to search the archives to understand what was done in 1915.

It is enough to look to those who killed university student Kemal Kurkut in the middle of the street in Diyarbakır in 2017; or Uğur Kurt, who was killed while attending a funeral in Istanbul in 2014; the 33 youths killed in the bombing at Suruç in 2015; or the 109 people murdered in Ankara that same year.

It is enough to remember the Armenian politicians and intellectuals rounded up on April 24, 1915, and murdered that July on Talat Pasha’s orders, or to look to the Kurdish politicians and intellectuals in prison over a century later.

The only difference is that today’s world will not allow a final solution like genocide, at least it is hard right under Europe’s nose and the price is steep.

Returning to Akçam’s book and his presentation.

The Armenian genocide is a fact that has been officially accepted by many countries, but Turkey remains in denial. Those who say that Turkey’s judicial system is independent are the same people who deny the Armenian genocide.

Turkish society has no laymen’s view of the Armenian genocide; the official view is accepted without question. The official view is simple and can be summarised as: The independent Turkish judiciary has set Brunson free, no one can pressure Turkey, and those who fight for the nation are honourable. For that reason, there was no organised plan to kill Armenians. Their deaths were merely the coincidental results of wartime.

Those who create and expound this official view call any proof fabricated, while at the same time fabricating their own evidence. One of the most important pieces of evidence is that published by Aram Andonian in 1921. It is an official telegraph from the memoirs of Naim Efendi, an Ottoman civil servant.

Turkey’s government and those in academia who support them have claimed for years that this memoir was falsified or produced by Armenians.

Akçam’s meticulous research proves there was indeed an Ottoman bureaucrat named Naim Efendi and provides the relevant sources. It also proves that Naim Efendi wrote and published his memoir. Through his research, Akçam offers positive proof that in 1915, while Talat Pasha was planning the Armenian Genocide, he had also begun to try to cover up its traces.

Akçam presents Ottoman documents that show those who have offered critiques of the documents as false, or wrote their theses on the cryptographic techniques therein were wrong or purely speculative. Akçam has done this with documents from the many volumes found in the archives of the military general staff.

Those who stand against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) cannot see that the lawlessness they are experiencing in Turkey today has its roots in the Armenian genocide. They do not seem to understand that true democracy and rule of law cannot be founded on lies and denial.

They take delight in the fact that the Brunson case showed the supposedly independent judiciary was not independent and that Erdoğan was unable to stand up to the United States. They are enraged by the lies that the pro-government media publishes today, but they never consider that these newspapers, which have always been connected to the government, have told even graver lies; beginning with the Armenian genocide, continuing with the Kurdish question, all the way up to the July 2016 coup attempt.

When Erdoğan says that Turkey is a state ruled by law and that the judiciary is independent, they laugh. But when he says his ancestors never committed genocide and the Armenian genocide never happened, they applaud.

I don’t know what name psychology would call this phenomenon, but it is clearly not a healthy state of mind. Not confronting the truth corrodes democracy, the law and morality.

It is enough to look at the German government and society, which confronted the Holocaust, with Turkey, which was founded on denial, to see the consequences.



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