Interview with journalist Arevik Badalyan for the Henaran news agency in Armenia (April 2010)
1, In what stage are the the Armenian-Turkish relations? How you describe them? Frozen, generally interrupted or… ?
I personally (and strongly) believe that these relations are of utmost importance for Turkish foreign policy because Turkey now strives to get rid of the Cold War limitations and concepts and exigencies.
The other day in Oxford, at a breakfast I attended, Foreign Minister Davutoglu has defined these relations as not frozen but “put in the refrigerator”. I believe he is sincere because the main novelty of his mandate is “zero problems with neighbors”, and relations with Armenia is the only exception to this. I also believe that this is not his policy (concerning the protocols) but the policy of Prime Minister Erdogan who, in the midst of constitutional reforms aimed at reducing the overwhelming power of the military-high judiciary coalition, does not dare to alienate the public at large. Let us not forget that the “Armenian issue” is the last and strongest taboo in Turkey. I believe Azerbaijan is less of a stumbling block in the development of Armenian-Turkish relations. I believe Turkey will act at the first sign of an Armenian withdrawal from any of the rayons.
2, What kind of solution do you see today in this development period of the Armenian-Turkish relations?
To wait. This bad time will pass soon.
3,How is the Armenian Genocide problem apprehended in scientific fields of Turkey? And what about the public field? Is there any change regarding the Armenian Genocide?
As I said above, the Armenian issue is the strongest of Turkish taboos. For a multiplicity of reasons, to start with “national education”. Once the philosopher Celal the Bearded said: “That much ignorance can only be due to education”. Turkish people at the west of Ankara knew nothing of what had happened in 1915, and those living at the east of it only knew about what happened when the Armenians revenged their losses during the period 1918-19.
This said, maybe you’ll find it hard to believe, but one single word makes it very hard, if not impossible, for the Turkish intellectuals and people to admit the atrocities of 1915: The G-word. It’s simply because the connotation and meaning of “genocide” in Turkey only refer to the Nazi destruction of the Jews. Intellectuals now have no problem concerning the nature of 1915 but, except a very tiny minority, they abhor to use the G-word to define 1915. Again, you may find it hard to believe me but this is how it is. For instance, in the Apology Statement (I am one of the four initiators) we used the Armenian term used by Armenians of Armenia: “Metz Yeghern”. No problem whatsoever with this albeit it means in essence the same thing.
By the way, let me cite you the Apology Statement: “My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the Great Catastrophe [Metz Yeghern] that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathize with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers and sisters. I apologize to them.”
I personally have never heard of a single word having so much bad influence on human relations. One word destroys two peoples. One side listens no more if it is pronounced, the other side listens no more if it is not pronounced.
To come back to your question “Is there any change regarding the Armenian Genocide?”, the answer is: Definitely yes. Provided that the G-word is not used to define the atrocities of 1915; any other is welcome. You see, we the left intellectuals learned 1915 from you Armenian people. I, for one thing,. I learned it after the age of 45. But we have all the difficulty of the world in teaching it to our people because of this “word” barrier.
This said, I am not referring to the scientific fact that “genocide” is a legal term used politically and sociologically, and that it takes the decision of a competent international tribunal to apply it to the 1915 case. This is not a subject I want to stress. I only care to stress that we, as Turkish intellectuals, perfectly agree on the very regrettable “content” of 1915 but not on its denomination.
I perfectly understand why Armenians so persistently insist on it: The denialism of the Turkish state and of many Turks unavoidably arouses some kind of a revenge feeling, and I find this very normal. What else have they got to get satisfaction concerning such a calamity?
Let me say a last word on this “denomination”: I personally abhor those who call me a denialist just because I don’t use the G-word.
4, For Armenians Genocide issue is important and society hope that one day Turkey will accept it. Do you consider such situation one day, if not, where will lead both countries this situation when Turkey doesnt accept the genocide and Armenia doesnt want to discuss the topic with historians as Turkey proposes. And what is your personal approach to this question.
I think I already answered this question: Turkey will follow (and is following) its intellectuals into admitting the history. But let me reiterate that Turkey will hardly call it as the Diaspora calls. The best solution would be to accept the term Metz Yeghern/Büyük Felaket. As to the Committee of Historians, I’d be interested in it only if it aims to study the before and the after of 1915; not discuss what happened in 1915.
5. Don”t you think that connecting Kharabahk conflict with the normalization process of Armenia-Turkey will lead the whole process to the blind alley?
Definitely. Armenia is 100 per cent right in this, and Turkey is 100 per cent wrong.