Genocide 100Politics

Turkey still being governed by Young Turks mentality, historian says

“The victims of genocide or crimes against humanity are as aggrieved as the ones who died in a war, car crash or natural disaster. Denying this fact is to perpetuate the crime,” historian Yves Ternon said in an interview with Agos. Working especially on Rwanda, Jewish and Armenian genocides, Ternon worked as a physician for year and then devoted himself to historical research.

Asked whether it’s proper to make a comparison between Holocaust and Armenian genocide, he said: “Of course we can and in fact, we should. All genocide studies complement each other. Though there are some differences between these two genocides, there are also a lot of similarities. First of all, both of them were based on an ideology. Holocaust was grounded on racist ideology, which is based on anti-Semitism, or colloquially, on “hate of Jews”. A similar ideology was prevalent among the Young Turks: Turkism, meaning Turkish nationalism and panturkism. At the end, these ideologies went so far that the idea of getting rid of everyone who is not Turk prevailed. I mean, getting rid of Christians, for instance, Armenians.”

“On the other hand, there is an important difference between two genocides. One of them was a pure racist ideology; this is what happened in Holocaust. Comparing the Armenians in Ottoman Empire and Jews in Germany, Jews hadn’t been constituting a problem; I mean, there wasn’t any religious-ethnic problems or territorial issues. However, Armenians had an autonomy problem in Anatolia and they had always been subjected to discrimination, because they are Christians. In this sense, Armenians constituted a “threat” in Anatolia. They had to eliminate it, but how? By annihilating the Armenians. The frameworks of these two genocides is different, but both of them were based on an ideology and resulted in a genocide,” he said.

Soeaking about the denial of the Armenain Genocide, the historian said “it is more than denial, it is an ignoring policy.” “Today, Turkey doesn’t only deny the annihilation of Armenians, but also ignores their existence. As Taner Akçam said, Turkish identity is based on the non-existence of Armenians. If Turkey accepts the genocide, it would also accept their existence. This means that Turkish identity would be harmed in part. This is of course really hard. Thus, I think that the denial will go on for years. Turkey also denies the existence of Kurds. Turkish identity doesn’t accept Kurds with their Kurdish identity; they want to see them as Turkish, which is not true. We have to acknowledge that Turkish identity is problematical and it constitutes the foundations of Turkish Republic. Unsettling these foundations is not easy; it requires efforts that will last for years. Thankfully, there are a lot of scientists who work on this issue and some of them in Turkey, which is a good thing.”

Referring to the perspectives of social transformation in Turkey, Yves Ternon said: “Turkey is still being governed by the Young Turks mentality. Unionist policies remain. I mean, there is change, but it is not enough. In short, there are 3 reasons why I think that the denial of Armenian Genocide will continue. First reason is the impossibility of reconstitution of Turkish identity. Second one is the problem of compensation and the third one is the impossibility of a transformation in Kemalist or İslamist political ideology. Thus, if there is no democracy in Turkey and a radical change, a social transformation is difficult. On the other hand, there are political parties like HDP which are ready to accept the Armenian Genocide. There are minority, but they are there. There might be a change, if the number of such parties increase.”

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