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Friday, 3 June 2016

Turkey and the Armenian genocide

I suppose that every country has a black page in its history and some countries even more than others. My country - The Netherlands - is still processing its dubious past in Indonesia, shortly after WW2. Over a period of 3 years, some 120,000 young Dutch men were sent to Indonesia to fight the unilateral declaration of independence by Soekarno on 17 August 1945. The atrocities during that period still shock Dutch conscience today (RNW).

Similar to The Netherlands, Turkey has never really processed its atrocities against their Armenian population, shortly after WW1. There is one big difference though: the Dutch continue to research and acknowledge their dubious past while the Turks do not and - worse - mostly deny their role in the Armenian genocide. 

Consequently, others have decided to recognise the Turkish responsibility: UN (1985), France (2012) Pope Francis (2015), European Parliament (2015), and now Germany (2016). Wiki: "As of 2016, governments and parliaments of 29 countries, including Russia, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy and Canada, as well as 45 states of the United States of America, have recognized the events as a genocide. The governments of Turkey and Azerbaijan are the only ones that directly deny the historical factuality of the Armenian Genocide".

The Turkish denial - and the recognition by others - have both sparked my interest in this part of human history. The Turkish denial of this genocide is probably the main reason why this black page in Turkish history will continue to invoke anger at both sides of this debate. 

To be fair, the Turkish government did acknowledge that many Armenians lost their lives in 1915. The Turkish number (ca. 150,000) is much lower than the international number (up to 1.5 million). The Turkish version blames Armenians. The international version blames Turkey.

During March and April 2015, Dutch public TV showed an intriguing 6 episode documentary called "Bloedbroeders" (blood brothers). Two Dutch friends, one from Turkish and one from Armenian descent, were interviewing Turkish people in search of what actually happened in 1915. The answers were either that this massacre never happened (minority view) or that the Armenians started the massacre by killing Turkish people first (majority view). Also see my 15 April 2015 blog

The atrocities that were mentioned in this Dutch documentary were even far beyond my imagination, and especially the one that happened at a steep ravine near Chunkush and Yenikoy where piles of Armenian bodies filled the Dudan Crevasse (eg, Burlington, Huffington, WP). Sometimes the truth is just too much to bear. I suppose the Turkish denial is related to the immense guilt and shame they must still feel about this part of their history.

Hurriyet Daily News, 2014: "Findings of the survey, “Nationalism in Turkey and the World,” revealed that Turks are proud of their country’s accomplishments even though there is no empirical evidence to justify this feeling. The survey suggests Turks are rather self-centered and there is a lack of feeling of international solidarity". 

The Turkish victim role is deeply rooted in one of the most frequently invoked Turkish proverbs: “The Turk has no friend but the Turk.”

Rod Stewart - Young Turks (1981) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Young hearts be free tonight. Time is on your side,
Don't let them put you down, don't let 'em push you around,
don't let 'em ever change your point of view.


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