Minister Celik said that Syriac and some Jewish groups in Europe wrote back to him, after he called for their return last month, that they had intentions to return, but they also had reason to hesitate.
Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik has said Turkey should try to establish tighter dialogue with the descendants of Armenians who left Turkey in 1915 when they were being massacred en masse.
Çelik, who last month called on all minorities who left Turkey to come back, was quoted by the Agos newsweekly as saying that all minorities in Turkey had experienced some sort of a trauma because nation-state building here attempted to homogenize people and produced a sort of nationalism and “Turkism” foreign to even ethnic Turks.
In the establishment of modern Turkey, Çelik said the state wanted to make itself a nation to manage and not the other way around. “Our strongest moments in history were during times when we could retain our cosmopolitan structure. The more we shed our cosmopolitan character, the more vulnerable we made ourselves,” he stated.
He also said that Syriac and some Jewish groups in Europe wrote back to him after his call last month that they had intentions to return, but they also had reason to hesitate. He said people expect to see legal assurances, but noted that a change of mentality is more important than legal assurance.
“Today, the past mentality of Turkey has become marginalized, and it doesn’t give us the opportunity to reproduce our past [diversity].” The minister also said the Interior Ministry was working on programs that will make it easy to return citizenship to members of minority groups who were deported or otherwise forced to leave the country.
“In the past, when the history of the Turks and Armenians could not be spoken about independently of each other, those trying to generate racism in the name of ‘Turkism’ attempted to define the Turkish identity as a reactionary identity in relation to ‘other’ identities, and they presented the Armenian identity and other identities as the ‘other’.”
He said some identities that were “anti-Turkish” were born out of this, such as the “genocide lobby” formed by the Armenian diaspora from Turkey. “The diaspora that is made up of Armenians of Anatolian descent is a diaspora of Turkey,” he said, adding that the genocide lobby has now turned into an economically lucrative sector for some.