May 8, 2015 Special Dispatch No. 6045

Turkey's Angry Reactions To Mounting International Recognition of Armenian Genocide Continue; New Voices in Turkey Demand The Country Face Up To The Past

May 8, 2015
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 6045

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, AKP government officials, and pro-AKP partisan Islamist media continue their attacks against the Vatican, the European Parliament, France, Austria, Germany, and Russia for their official and unofficial recognition of the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 by Ottoman Turks as genocide on the events' centennial,[1] new voices in Turkey's anti-AKP media are advocating for Turkish recognition of the events as genocide.

Also on April 24, 2015, Turkey celebrated the centennial of its victory at the Battle of Gallipoli with grand ceremonies, with the participation of British Crown Prince Charles and Prince Harry, prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand, and dignitaries from a number of Middle Eastern and African countries. The same day, a solemn ceremony in the Armenian capital of Yerevan commemorated the massacred Ottoman Armenians, attended by, inter alia, French President Francois Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Turkish leaders expressed their displeasure at these leaders' attendance in Yerevan; President Erdogan said that at the ceremony they would "get together, play, and dance to their own music"[2] and that he wished that they had not gone there. He also boasted that while two heads of state had gone to Yerevan, "thanks to Allah, 20 came to Turkey" for its Gallipoli centennial.[3]

This year, U.S. President Barack Obama again refrained from using the word "genocide" in his annual statement on the Armenian commemoration of the 1915 events, enraging Armenian-Americans,[4] but that did not stop Turkish criticism of the U.S., as well as of other Western countries.

While anti-West sentiment has risen sharply in Turkey's pro-AKP media, new voices are emerging in the country's non-Islamist media that are criticizing Turkey's official denial that genocide was carried out against the Armenians during WWI.

Following are articles and opinion pieces on the issue from Turkish media:

Turkish Foreign Ministry Issues Statement Condemning Recognition Of "Genocide"

On April 24, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a harsh statement criticizing France, Russia, the U.S., Austria, Germany and Bulgaria for their recognition of the Armenian genocide.[5] It condemned remarks by French President Francois Hollande at the Yerevan ceremony, saying that it had "turned out to be an occasion to slander the Turkish identity, history and society" where Hollande "reiterated his support for the Armenian nationalist narrative." It criticized French Prime Minister Manuel Valls for his "hostility" and for having "distorted historical facts and violated legal principles" in a speech he gave in Paris, and condemned the Austrian parliament, which had recognized the Armenian genocide in a declaration signed by Austrian political parties, saying that Austria had no right to make false accusations against the Turkish people and warning, "It must be known that Turkish nation will never forget this slander against its history." Turkey also recalled its ambassador from Vienna.

The Foreign Ministry statement also targeted German President Joachim Gauck for calling the 1915 events "genocide" in a ceremony in Berlin Cathedral: "Contrary to law and history, President Gauck does not have the right to attribute to the Turkish people a crime they have not committed." It also reminded Gauck of the millions of Turkish citizens of Germany whose views he also must represent, and, condemning the German parliament's resolution to recognize the events as "genocide, added that Germany should be the last country to speak of genocide.

Although President Obama, under Turkish pressure, had refrained from using the term "genocide" in his annual statements, he did not escape the wrath of the Turkish government. The Foreign Ministry statement called Obama's speech a "disappointment" since it was "problematic and disconnected from the fact that what had happened during WWI is as sensitive for the Turkish people as it is for Armenians, [and] reflected a one-sided point of view." It added: "We reject this selective and biased understanding of justice."

With regard to Russian President Vladimir Putin's description of the 1915 events as "genocide," the ministry said in its statement: "We reject and condemn the labeling of the 1915 events as 'genocide' by President Putin, despite all our warnings and calls. Such political statements, which are a flagrant violation of [the] law, are null and void for Turkey." It added: " Considering the mass atrocities and exiles in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe committed by Russia for a century, collective punishment methods such as the Holodomor and its inhumane practices, especially against Turkish and Muslim people in Russia's own history, we consider that Russia is best suited to know what 'genocide' really is."

The statement also attacked Bulgaria for the way its parliament referred to the events of 1915: "The decision adopted by the Bulgarian parliament, initiated by the ultra-nationalist, xenophobic, racist ATAKA party, demonstrates an antagonistic attitude towards Turkey. Turkey rejects this slander."

Turkish Defense Minister: France, England, Russia "Did Most Evil To All Peoples In The World"

Answering journalists' questions on the recognition of the "Armenian genocide" across Europe, Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said that all peoples in the country had suffered, and that the real cause of these tragedies were those countries that had armed and incited the Armenians during WWI. He noted: "France, England, and Russia armed them [the Armenians]. These three countries have done the most evil to all peoples of the world. Now they raise their voices a lot. This is wrong. It is the reflection of their Crusader mentality."[6]

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister On Obama And Putin: "Let Them First Look To Their Own Past"

Reacting to the statements by President Obama and President Putin, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said: "Let them first look to their own pasts. Having committed in their past cruelty, massacres, and genocides of other peoples and of their own citizens, they are trying to attribute crimes to others, as if they had committed them as well. Let them first look to their own past and their own deeds."[7]

Turkish Prime Minister: "Istanbul's Wealthiest Are Armenians"

In a Turkish Channel 24 TV interview, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that "third parties" were stirring up trouble and inciting hostility between the Turks and Armenians, though they have a common past. He said that he had spoken with diaspora Armenians, including recently in New York, and found that they want to talk about their pain but not about the pain of others, and accused them of perpetuating hatred: "Look, they [diaspora Armenians] do not want a rich Armenia. They are rich, but Armenia is poor. [In contrast,] the Israeli diaspora works for Israel. We call on these third parties not to interfere. Without them, we can solve our problems [with Armenia]."

Davutoglu added: "Istanbul's wealthiest are Armenians. They never lived in ghettos in Turkey like they did in Europe."[8]

Responding to Davutoglu's comment about Armenians being "Istanbul's wealthiest," Garo Paylan, an Armenian candidate for parliament for the Kurdish party HDP, said that President Erdogan had made similar statements, and that "they are looking at a few Armenians close to them, who are mostly in the management of minority foundations. Most Armenians live in poverty. I invite PM Davutoglu to come and see the Armenians in [the Istanbul neighborhood of] Dolapdere where people live in tin shacks. This is true for the Jews and the Greeks too. None of them are richer than other segments in society [despite what is often claimed]."[9]

Islamist Columnist: With His Statements, Pope Francis Is Covering Up The Homosexuality, Pedophilia In Vatican, Churches; "The Western World Is Built On 'Blood, Tears, Dead Bodies And Mass Graves'"

Columnist Hasan Karakaya of the pro-AKP Islamist Turkish daily Yeni Akit said of Pope Francis's recognition of the Armenian killings as the "first genocide of the 20th century": "What about the genocide of the Algerian Muslims by the French?" He went on to criticize the entire West, writing:[10] "France occupied Algeria for 132 years and killed 1.7 million Muslims. The man who confessed to the killings, Charles De Gaulle, was not punished and imprisoned, but was made head of state. The 1915 events between the Armenians and Turks is not genocide. It is a mutually fought civil war that killed not only Armenians, but Turks and Kurds as well. What will the Pope, who defined these events as 'genocide,' have to say about the Algerian genocide committed by France? But of course this was not the first genocide of the West, and will not be the last! The Western world is built on 'blood, tears, dead bodies and mass graves' and continues to feed on tears and blood!

"[The pope should] come out like a man and call this [France's killing of Algerian Muslims] genocide too! But he cannot! Because no matter how hard one tries, one cannot find a man in the Vatican! Because the Vatican and most churches are filled with homosexuals! With homosexuals who assault children!

"What Pope Francis is doing is to cover up the disgraces of the Vatican Holding. The previous pope, Benedict, who is a fierce enemy of Muslims and Turks, resigned in February 2013 with the excuse of old age and exhaustion. Or was it because he saw, and couldn't do anything about, the flowing dirt in the Vatican and churches? During his three years, the number of cases of sexual abuse of children exploded to thousands. Mostly, such cases were covered up and swept under the rug, with payments of hundreds of millions of dollars to the victims and their parents.

"Therefore, the Vatican and churches can be defined as a 'Bank of Harassment and Assault.' The churches and the Vatican raised not men of religion, but predators. There is such deep perversion and filth there that even Omo [Turkish laundry detergent] cannot clean the homos!

"What Pope Francis is doing is an attempt, not to clean up these perversions and filth, but to cover it up! He says 'Armenian' and he says 'genocide' to prevent the Vatican's sewage from bursting forth! It is to cover up the harassment, the assaults, the murders, and their bank accounts! Hey, Francis, answer all this!

"The Vatican is not a state! And the Pope is not a man of religion, he is the boss of a holding and a murder base! The Vatican is a global holding [company] run by 600 people who rule 900 million [Catholics]. It markets itself well. Pope Francis is both a holding boss and a politician! Were he a man of religion, he would not meddle in political matters such as genocide, and would have left it to the historians. Were he a man of religion, he would instead fight the dirt and the immorality in churches and the Vatican! Because religion means morality!"

New Voices in Turkey Call For Reckoning With 1915 Events

Major Turkish Daily Headline: "Never Again" In Armenian

The center-left, secular liberal daily Cumhuriyet ("Republic"), named by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk himself, headlined its April 24 edition with "Never Again" in the Armenian language.

Preceding the headline was the caption: "We mourn the shared pain experienced in these lands 100 years ago." The subhead said: "The pain of the disaster experienced during the time of the Ottoman Empire is still fresh. It is time to face up to this wound, that paralyzes the human mind, conscience, and sense of righteousness and justice - so that it will never happen again!"

Cumhuriyet's front page also featured an article by Rakel Dink,[11] titled "I weep With Deep Pain," in which she relates sad stories of her upbringing as an Armenian in Turkey, and about her murdered husband.

Cumhuriyet, April 24, 2015

Another newspaper with an Armenian-language headline on April 24 was the pro-Kurdish Ozgur Gundem ("Free Agenda"), known for its advocacy of Kurdish, Alevi and other minority rights and for human rights in general; it called to "recognize, reckon with, and apologize." Ozgur Gundem marked the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, including the Christian Assyrian genocide, and stated: "In the planned genocide carried out by the [Ottoman] state in 1915, 1.5 million Armenians and 500,000 Assyrians were deported and massacred. The wound remains open... The AKP government claims the genocide as its own by denying it."

Ozgur Gundem, April 24, 2015

"In Memoriam - April 24" Concert

A special "In Memoriam - April 24" concert was held in Istanbul on April 22 in remembrance of the Armenian intellectuals, poets, composers, writers, and artists deported from Istanbul on April 24, 1915 who perished. Armenian artists from around the world performed together with Turkish artists, sang Anatolian songs in both languages, recited poetry, and read letters and writings. A Turkish reporter from Radikal wrote that the concert was attended by 4,000 people, and was accompanied by pain, tears, nostalgia, and sense of shame.[12]

Turkish Intellectuals, Writers Reckon With The Armenian Genocide; What Obama Says Does Not Change The Truth

Radikal columnist Cengiz Candar published a series of columns on the Armenian genocide, blaming his country for not facing up to the calamity that befell its Armenian citizens in 1915. He wrote: "The demand that the events of 1915 be left to the 'judgment of historians' [the Turkish government's official line] creates an easy excuse to evade our societal and individual moral responsibility and facing up to our history. Calling it 'deportation' means changing their place. Did hundreds of thousands of Armenians evaporate because of a change of address? Can this definition describe the historical facts? On the 100th anniversary of 1915, calling the events by their real name with no 'but's or 'conditions' has become the precondition for us to become free. On the centennial of 1915, I bow with respect in front of the great pain of the Armenian Genocide."[13]

In his next column, he wrote: "This kind of disaster happened 100 years ago, in our country, on our soil, next to us, within us. Whether [President] Obama chooses to use this or that word to describe it does not change the necessity for us to face up to our history. Let's say he will once again not utter the word [i.e. genocide]. Will this change what 1915 really is? A Turkish [government] minister said that he does not think Obama will use that word, and added that the use of such a definition would have serious consequences that would adversely affect the peace in the region and the world.

"What does this mean? Why would it have any adverse effect on regional and world peace? [The explanation] must be that Turkey would react so badly to the U.S., and make the burden so great that the regional and international interests of the U.S. would suffer. And that for that reason Obama will calculate all this and decide not to anger the Turks by using the word 'genocide,' and will manage the risk by using [the term] Metz Yeghern ["Great Disaster" in Armenian] instead.

"This proves that what Obama will say has nothing to do with the reality of 1915. It will only demonstrate Obama's yielding to Ankara's blackmail. Obama knows the reality, as he had expressed it before being elected as president. He knows the truth. His use or non-use of the word 'genocide' on this centennial has now become a matter of the limits of his own political morality. His choice of any definition does not change a fact.

"The [Turkish] stories of 'sharing of pain' that begin with 'we all suffered, my grandfather too...' are not enough to cover up the truth. Yes, all Ottoman peoples and the peoples of the world undoubtedly suffered greatly before, during, and after WWI. But there is no other people whose vast majority was eradicated from their fatherland. No other people's children, women, and elderly were annihilated like the Armenians. This is not an academic subject whose material can be found in dusty archives.

"Ankara's decades-long repetition of the clich├®s 'let's leave it to the historians,' and 'here, we are opening our archives, come and look' are meant to reflect [Turkey's] 'self-confidence' in the fact that the 1915 events do not constitute genocide. [But] which archives? It is well known that the relevant archives of the Ottoman government, of the rulers, and of the interior ministry of the time, were entirely burned. The line of defense that states these deportations, the marching of masses of civilians, mothers and children to their deaths happened under 'conditions of war' and as 'military precaution' is reiterated ad infinitum. But the fact is that this forced deportation included [Armenians] from all over Anatolia, and even Thrace. Furthermore, all [Armenian] males had already been conscripted by the military into unarmed worker battalions. These are historical facts that do not need to be found in any archive.

"The [Turkish] state can be pleased at [Obama's] use of the definition 'Great Disaster.' Until the people of Turkey stop being pleased by the 'great disaster' that befell the Armenians in our midst, we will not cease to be the 'prisoners of history'; we will not become free.

"The truth of 1915 is that the Armenian people of Anatolia were annihilated. That is the plain truth."[14]

Grandson Of Cemal Pasha: "I Share The Pain Of The Armenian Genocide'

Prominent Turkish intellectual and writer Hasan Cemal, the grandson of Cemal Pasha who was one of the officials responsible for the massacre of the Armenians, penned multiple columns describing his personal struggles to free himself from the fear, taboos, lies, pressure, and denials of the 'official history' that hid all wrongdoings of the past, the ugliest of which was the Armenian genocide.

On April 21, he wrote: "I used to not know that living with an 'imprisoned mind' means living in a lie. I had thought that surrendering my brain as a prisoner to the totalitarian slogans, and easily accepting the commands of the nationalistic and racist state would allow me to walk through my life towards happiness. I was to learn later that the red lines drawn around our minds, whose roots go back to the dictatorship of Talat, Enver, and [grandfather] Cemal, also defines the Turkish nationalism of today. In order to create a new nation-state, a new Turkish nation, all Muslims in Anatolia had to become Turks, and all non-Muslims had to evaporate. Kurds had to forget their Kurdishness, Alevis their Aleviness. And the Armenians should forget their pain. As a Kurdish intellectual told me in Hakkari [a Kurdish-majority city in southeast Turkey]: 'Throughout all these years, the Kurds have sought to say and to prove that they exist, and the Armenians have sought to say and prove that they were killed and ceased to exist'...

"Our history was a lie, an invented and distorted history. In that history there were no Armenians, no 1915. There were no Kurds. There were no Dersim [massacres]. There were no Alevis in that history. The Thrace pogroms against the Jews in the 1930s are not in this history. The infamous Property Taxes [that decimated most non-Muslims and] the September 6-7 [1955] pogroms [against non-Muslims] were also not in that history. The history of our nation does not trust its citizenry. It wants to keep its own citizens in the dark, living in a lie. This is why dealing with history in Turkey is a difficult and risky endeavor, to this very day. If you dare to research the truth, you will be warned.

"'One day, we will all remember our pasts with pain, but not with hatred. There will come a day when we too will find the 'lost history' of our lands. Only then will our history stop being a burden on us, and, together with our history, we will find freedom.'"[15]

"In the centennial of 1915, I share the pain of the Armenian genocide."[16]

The three Ottoman Turkish officials considered responsible for giving the orders for the mass deportation of the Armenians that led to their deaths: Talat Pasha, Enver Pasha and Cemal Pasha. Source: T24 News Portal (Turkey), April 21, 2015.

In his April 24 column, Cemal wrote: "Even when 100 years pass, the pain is not forgotten. Even when 100 years pass, the history does not become history. Even if 100 years pass, the past does not become past. This is the sad truth. When you do not reckon with the past and face up to history, the pain keeps chasing you. The past refuses to become past. History refuses to be about the past, but becomes your today. In other words, history keeps pulling us back holding on to our pants.

"At the 'In Memoriam - April 24' concert, I feel in my heart the 100 year old pains, told as songs, melodies, poems. Certainly none of my words are for those insensitive individuals [i.e. President Erdogan] who on a day like this, when profound pain is felt, shared, and remembered, were capable of saying: 'What will they do on April 24 [in Yerevan]? They'll play and dance to their own music'...

"[Quoting from the concert program:] 'Together with the Armenians, these lands' most important and powerful layer of culture was annihilated. Had they not been killed, there would have been many more writers, poets, architects, and artists raised in every corner of this land. Had there been a reckoning earlier, there would have been no September 6-7 pogroms [against Greeks and other non-Muslims], and no massacres [of Alevis and Kurds] in Dersim, Kahramanmaras, and Sivas. We, the intellectuals, writers, and artists of this land, live in and feel every day this emptiness left behind by the Armenians. These sentiments and the sense of shame that we feel place more responsibility and strength on us in our pursuit for justice for them, and for our country. We bow with respect in remembering the Armenian intellectuals who tell us our story, and urge us to face up to our past."[17]

Other Turkish Voices

Many other Turkish intellectuals, writers, journalists, academics, and artists have expressed similar sentiments; they include: Emrah Altindis (Radikal), Kadri Gursel (Milliyet), Amberin Zaman (Taraf), Ayse Hur (writer/historian), human rights activists Ayse Gunaysu and Zeynep Taskin, academics Taner Akcam, Halil Berktay, leaders of the Kurdish party HDP, and many more. They have come under attack by the pro-AKP Islamist media, and by ultra-nationalists in Turkey.


[2] Yeni Akit (Turkey), April 22, 2015.

[3] Hurriyet (Turkey), April 25, 2015.

[4] Today's Zaman (Turkey) reported that Armenians were outraged by President Obama's speech. Ken Hatchikian, chairman of ANCA, the umbrella organization of Armenian lobbies in the U.S., said in a statement: "President Obama's surrender to Turkey represents a national disgrace. It is, very simply put, a betrayal of truth." He added that Obama would "use the moral standing of our nation [the U.S.] not to defend the truth, but rather to enforce a foreign power's gag-rule" and that Obama had effectively outsourced America's policy on the Armenian "genocide" to President Erdo─ƒan. April 22, 2015.

[5] Today's Zaman (Turkey), April 26, 2015; Turkish Daily News, (Turkey), April 25, 2015; Yeni Akit (Turkey), Apr. 24, 2015.

[6] Radikal (Turkey), April 25, 2015.

[7] Yeni Akit (Turkey), April 24, 2015.

[8] Hurriyet (Turkey), April 22, 2015.

[9] Hurriyet (Turkey), April 23, 2015.

[10] Yeni Akit (Turkey), April 14, 2015.

[11] Widow of Hrant Dink, the Armenian Turkish journalist murdered on an Istanbul street in broad daylight in January 2007. There have so far been no convictions in the case, due to cover-ups of security authorities' involvement in the crime.   

[12] Radikal (Turkey), April 23, 2015.

[13] Radikal (Turkey), April 22, 2015.

[14] Radikal (Turkey), April 23, 2015.

[15] He is quoting from his book 1915: The Armenian Genocide, published in 2012.

[16] T24 news portal (Turkey), April 21, 2015.

[17] T24 news portal  (Turkey), April 24, 2015.

Share this Report: