AFP – Turkey has lost the battle with truth over its refusal to acknowledge the mass killings of Armenians during World War I as genocide, a Turkish academic who helped break a long-standing taboo on the issue said.
Cengiz Aktar was one of four Turkish intellectuals who in 2008 launched a campaign known as “Ozur Diliyoruz” (“I Apologise”) calling for a collective apology for the “great catastrophe” inflicted on Armenians from 1915.
Armenians in Armenia and the diaspora will on April 24 mark the 100th anniversary of what they see as the start of a campaign of genocide by Ottoman forces in World War I to wipe them out of Anatolia.
But Turkey to this day has vehemently denied any genocide took place and the Turkish state can in theory under the penal code prosecute anyone who dares to do so.
“I think that Turkey has lost its battle with truth,” Aktar, a political scientist at the private Sabanci university in Istanbul told AFP in an interview.
“No-one believes any more in this primitive negationism. The skeleton is so big that it just won’t go back in the cupboard.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year presented Armenians with unprecedented condolences for a shared tragedy but Aktar said it does not seem that the government is prepared to go any further.
“This was better than nothing but it is still very far from what the crimes committed in 1915 requires.”
Aktar credits Erdogan, who has dominated Turkey for over a decade, with ending many of the taboos in Turkey but said that on the Armenian issue “he stopped on the way”.
“What is lacking in Turkey is a visionary person who is prepared to tackle this question head on.
“The sole aim of the government in the year 2015 is to limit its losses,” he said.
Aktar said that one of the main problems was with education, saying many Turks do not know what happened and some use the word “Armenian” as an insult.
“And when there is some education it is so misguided and falsified that it is an insult,” he added.