By Aram Ananyan
AARON Manoukian, one of two dozen Armenian genocide survivors living in Armenia, celebrated his 101st birthday on March 20, a month before Davutoğlu’s statement offering condolences to the grandchildren of the Ottoman Armenians, who survived systematic murders and death marches a century ago. Aaron’s eyes reveal the qualities of his character, as a look at his hands tells a lifelong story full of turbulence and hardships. Aaron’s passport indicates Turkey as his birthplace, but what he calls home was the American orphanage in Armenia.
Turkey’s prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, following his boss Erdoğan, with almost a year’s interval, made quite a predictable statement ahead of the Genocide Remembrance day, and on April 20 offered condolences to the descendants of the Ottoman Armenians, who had suffered all the horrors of the Armenian genocide in 1915. These condolences come right after Pope Francis boldly called the 1915 massacres a ‘genocide’, the European parliament called Turkey to face its troubled history, and Germany and Austria, once World War I allies of Turkey, moved closer to the full recognition of this crime against humanity.
In reality, it is a misleading indication of Ankara’s readiness for dialogue, and for those who are well aware of this issue, Turkey’s statement runs as another attempt to swap the necessity of recognition of the Armenian genocide from the most important historical, political and legal domains to a debate based on emotional manipulations.
In around 450 words, Davutoğlu advocates to follow his lead, “to relieve the pain of the past century and rebuild our humanitarian bond”. Furthermore, Turkey’s chief diplomat proclaims, that this year, on April 24 a divine liturgy will be organised by the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, to commemorate the tragic events. He fails to mention that this is the first time ever that Armenians in Turkey will do so – fast enough, since the corpses of hundreds of thousands Armenians were left unburied in Asia Minor and the Syrian deserts 100 years ago. In this regard, Turkey’s condolences lacked sincerity and honesty, and were aimed at trivialising the crime to an own interpretation of history. In fact, when talking about the Armenian genocide, Turkey uses an interchangeable vocabulary, depending on the consumers and the occasion. For instance, on one day Turkish officials threaten the Pope and on the next day they talk about the human duties of remembrance.
Davutoğlu recaps what Erdoğan said a year ago, that it could be meaningful for Turkey and Armenia to commemorate the events. What he avoids to mention is the following: Erdogan received an invitation to be in Armenia on April 24, along with the other heads of state, to commemorate together, but instead, on the exact Remembrance day, he preferred to orchestrate a pompous celebration of the Gallipoli battle on that date.
The cause is always more important than the effect and reconciliation in the future takes much bigger effort rather than manipulating with the consequences. Davutoğlu offers not to politicise the history, but does the opposite, by supporting the century-long denial of Turkey. Genocide scholars agree that the Armenian genocide was a masterminded act to solve a number of issues. The Ottoman leadership exterminated the Armenian political, economic and intellectual elites; deported the Armenians from their ancestral homeland, with a reason not only to avoid implementing Ottoman international obligations, but also the comprehensive political and social reforms to protect universal and core human rights and values that Christian minorities were undelivered but deserved in the Ottoman Empire; and, eradicated the Armenian issue by annihilating the Armenian people.
Instead of condoling, Davutoğlu could have offered more reasonable steps, first of all sincere apologies to the handful of survivors, like Aaron Manoukian, who felt the inhumane atrocities right on their skin. And there is the dark side of the reality that the Prime Minister of Turkey wants to avoid when he refers to pain that has never been shared by the absolute majority of the Turkish elite. In moral terms, this approach seems rather cynical, because it equates the suffered pain of the victim with the un-suffered of the perpetrator.
The author, Aram Ananyan, is a historian and Director General of Armenpress News Agency