It’s time for cognition for Turkey

Voice of Agos about commemoration of 24 April 1915.
The reason why we don’t want to forget the things that happened 97 years ago is not only a matter of paying our tributes to the innocent souls that were lost, but also because of our firm belief in another future. The deeper meaning that lies in the prominent minstrel Hovhannes Tumanyan’s words “Abrek yere?ek, payts mez bes çabrek” (Live long children, but don’t live like us), refers to the responsibility of building a peaceful future. Attaining a firm cognition on how the people, the nature and the civilization were all exterminated in 1915 is a sine qua non for such a responsibility.

While remembering 1915, we take strength not from our desire for punishment or revenge, but from our wish to collectively get rid of the chains of the past. For what will eventually emancipate us, is the truth. They intimidate people by saying “They call our grandfather murderers!”, but those who bear responsibility are not Turks, Muslims or Kurds. For it is not the people that commit genocides, but the mind-set. Just like the Nazis, the ?ttihat mentality, did actually sacrifice both the victim and the perpetrator; the ones who lost their lives were gone, but those who remained became sick. What made the successor governments an accomplice to this deep-rooted crime has been the systematic policy of forgetting and denial.

In fact, we are not any longer debating what happened in 1915 in Turkey. Everyone debating on this subject knows that, in this very dark year and the ensuing years, hundreds of thousands of people were uprooted from their homes and were never able to return, with a great majority of them lying somewhere in some corner of Anatolia or in Syrian deserts without a tombstone. They also know that many people had to convert their religions to be able to survive and sought shelter in Muslim families… Nowadays, these facts are only countered by the obdurate argument “No one can ever dare to say that we committed genocide!” As if, the use of any other word, could lessen all that happened…

As 2015 drawing near, we witness some efforts that are made to drag Turkey to a more nationalistic ground and we are concerned about it. The killing of Sevag Bal?kç? last year on April 24th during his military service, the hatred spread in the Khojaly commemoration, the lectures taught in the schools all across Turkey under the title “the 1915 lie” and the ongoing propaganda preparations for 2015 do all manifest how this ground is paved. It is not difficult to notice that throughout this process, Turkey will face far more pressure from abroad concerning 1915 and that this will be used to escalate the nationalist reactions at home. As long as Turks and Armenians fail to see how the third parties hypocritically exploit this issue and fail to make a collective effort to solve their problems together, we will have to live with all these concerns for a very long time. It’s inevitable.

Turkey remembers the truths about her republican history, though very late and with strings attached. Turkey is settling her accounts with the coup d’etat, massacres and the crimes committed by the state. The Ergenekon trial, the September 12th trial, the February 28th investigation, the inquisition of what happened in Dersim in 1938. Each and every one of those bears historic importance. Should these cases be handled in due process, they all have the potential to take the country on a brand new path. When we take a closer look to these trials and investigations to better understand their significance, we can see that all groups in Turkey – Turks and Kurds, Muslims and Alevis – has fallen victim to the practices of the state. Even though, each group maintains its tendency to put forward its own victimization, a holistic look into politics indicates that it is the founding ideology that lies beneath the root cause of all these victimhood.

One of the main pillars of that founding ideology is the cleansing of Anatolia from its people who lived on these lands for thousands of years. The pre-modern concept of Millet-i Hâkime (the Ruling Nation) coupled with a modernist social engineering wiped out Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians off the map and from their native lands. That’s the reason why, 1915 is not purely a matter of conscience, but beyond that; it is a matter of political choice. Because 1915 is a silence agreement that lies beneath the recent history of Turkey, something that she is trying to come to terms with. Without giving it a proper remembrance, it is not possible to come to terms with the state mentality which sacrificed Muslims, Alevis, Turks and Kurds. That’s exactly the reason why the Armenian question is the question of a new Turkey. Without securing cognition about what happened in 1915, we may get as close to the doorsteps of the new Turkey, but we cannot get through it.