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Oslo, 22-23 May 2008 The Perception of the Armenian Question in Turkey Searching for the Origins of a Taboo in the process of Learning About Each Other’s.

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Presentation on theme: "Oslo, 22-23 May 2008 The Perception of the Armenian Question in Turkey Searching for the Origins of a Taboo in the process of Learning About Each Other’s."— Presentation transcript:

1 Oslo, May 2008 The Perception of the Armenian Question in Turkey Searching for the Origins of a Taboo in the process of Learning About Each Other’s State of Mind Baskin Oran

2 Definition, Purpose, Method, Terminology  1) An operational definition of Taboo: Taboo is a subject you have got to discuss but are scared to because you’ll be declared a Traitor to the State and/or Nation.  2) The Armenian Issue, the last one, is no more a Taboo. It’s been broken since September 2005 (“Ottoman Armenians” Conference in Istanbul). But still continues to be by far the most difficult subject to discuss in Turkey.  3) Purpose of this study: To discover the roots of this strange difficulty.  4) Method: Empathy – Entering the brains of the Turkish people and elites.  5) Note on terminology: “It was genocide” vs. “No it was not genocide”. I will not enter this blind alley. I’ll only study the state of mind of the Turks, and also try to make some proposals.

3 Phases of the Taboo Phases of the Taboo Three Main Phases Last days of the Ottoman Empire (circa ) “National Struggle” ( ) and Early Republican Era Today

4 I) The Roots of the Taboo - Last Days of the Ottoman Empire (circa ): The Siege Mentality  In appearance, there is no taboo perpetrators are being investigated, judged, executed.  We witness: 1) A parliamentary “Commission to Study the Wrongdoings”, 2) A Martial Court to judge the responsibles of the 1915 Massacres (several executions), 3) A “Punitive Article” in the National Pact (January 1920) to investigate those “who harmed the State and the Nation”, referring to the perpetrators of 1915.

5 … The Siege Mentality (cont’d)  But, inside the brains we see a different picture:  In Istanbul, a panic: Siege Mentality “The Empire is being smashed to pieces and dismembered”: “The Empire is being smashed to pieces and dismembered”: “During the last 50 years we lost 85% of our land and 75% of our population”.“During the last 50 years we lost 85% of our land and 75% of our population”. “Only Anatolia has remained, which the Armenians now want to deliver to the Russians”.“Only Anatolia has remained, which the Armenians now want to deliver to the Russians”.  In Eastern Anatolia, another panic: The Armenians are coming back as a part of the French Eastern Legion [1919]. They’ll get their properties back and also take ours’. The Armenians are coming back as a part of the French Eastern Legion [1919]. They’ll get their properties back and also take ours’.

6 II) The Roots of the Taboo - “National Struggle” ( ) and the Early Republican Era II) The Roots of the Taboo - “National Struggle” ( ) and the Early Republican Era  The (lapsed) Sèvres Peace Treaty (1920) changes everything drastically : It serves well the Ankara government: It serves well the Ankara government: The “Greater Armenia” fear  Turks + Kurds = Turkish nation-stateThe “Greater Armenia” fear  Turks + Kurds = Turkish nation-state It’s detrimental to the Armenians: It’s detrimental to the Armenians: Occupation of Izmir and Istanbul + Greater Greece + Greater Armenia  “It’s either them or us”  1915 totally erased from the collective memoryOccupation of Izmir and Istanbul + Greater Greece + Greater Armenia  “It’s either them or us”  1915 totally erased from the collective memory But “Turkish” nation-state will finally be detrimental to the Turks: But “Turkish” nation-state will finally be detrimental to the Turks: Ethno-Religious Cleansing of Rums & Armenians  Delayed industrialization, and Brain Drain (Huguenots).Ethno-Religious Cleansing of Rums & Armenians  Delayed industrialization, and Brain Drain (Huguenots). National identity  Muslim Ethnic Turk  Kurdish alienationNational identity  Muslim Ethnic Turk  Kurdish alienation World Public Opinion vs. Turkey.World Public Opinion vs. Turkey.

7 III) The Taboo Today - Siege Mentality Revisited  The Siege Mentality is back. Stronger:  1930 Mentality + Reaction to Globalization + Chronic Problems  “Sèvres Paranoia”:  1930 Mentality + Reaction to Globalization + Chronic Problems (Kurdish, Cypriot, Armenian, Islamist etc.)  “Sèvres Paranoia”: “The West Is Trying To Disintegrate Us Again”.

8 The Taboo Today (cont’d)  The six boosters of The Taboo: 1) Historical Legacy of the “Millet System” 2)Ignorance 3) ASALA assassinations 4) Occupation of N. Karabagh by Armenia 5)The “Continuum”: The 3 Rs 6)The “G-word”.

9 1) Historical Legacy of the “Millet System”  The “Millet System”: Main basis of denigration of non-Muslims. Very multiculturalist, Very multiculturalist, But very discriminatory (Millet-i Hakime vs. Millet-i Mahkume). But very discriminatory (Millet-i Hakime vs. Millet-i Mahkume). Founded 1454, abolished 1839; but never erased from Muslims’ minds. Founded 1454, abolished 1839; but never erased from Muslims’ minds.  Non-Muslims  Tools of the Europeans (as imperialism starts).  Non-Muslims  “The Other” (as Turkism starts). Today: “White” Turk = Muslim Turk = LAHASÜMÜT.

10 2) Ignorance  No knowledge about 1915  Popular booster for denialism in Turkey. (Denialism: To deny or attenuate the horrors of 1915).  People in the west of Ankara: Never heard of 1915 until after ASALA murders ( ) = Being awakened by a bomb.  People in the east of Ankara: “Armenians killed us” and “They may come back and take [back] OUR houses”.  For instance, nobody knew then/knows now that: Persecution by local Kurds and Circassians (1850s onwards)  Armenian insurrections. (“They revolted, and we defended the unity of our country”) Persecution by local Kurds and Circassians (1850s onwards)  Armenian insurrections. (“They revolted, and we defended the unity of our country”) 1915 Deportation even included Thrace (“We cleaned up the war front (eastern Anatolia) when they stabbed us at the back in WW I”, etc Deportation even included Thrace (“We cleaned up the war front (eastern Anatolia) when they stabbed us at the back in WW I”, etc.  After the military coup of 1980 ignorance turns into “learned ignorance”.

11 4) ASALA Assassinations  In 1973 Turkey woke up from its half-a-century sleep by bullets shot at Turkish diplomats in Los Angeles. 40-odd murders of diplomats followed because the killers went unpunished, or almost.  This impunity fed/feeds denialism, as it had fed the Armenian indignation before.

12 3) Occupation of N. Karabagh by Armenia  A watertight nationalist excuse: “No relation can be established before Armenia evacuates N. Karabagh”  Aid to Armenia between March 1991-April 1994, embargo after the occupation of Kelbajar.

13 5) The “Continuum”: The 3 Rs  Recognition, Reparation, Restitution  2nd strongest booster for denialism in Turkey. Great reaction to “Restitution of land” especially. Reference to Eastern Turkey as “Western Armenia” (August 1990)  Created more reaction than the word “Genocide” in the same document. Reference to Eastern Turkey as “Western Armenia” (August 1990)  Created more reaction than the word “Genocide” in the same document.  Reparation and especially Restitution are voiced by the extremists of the Diaspora.  The Republic of Armenia has no preconditions for normal relations.

14 6) The “G-word” No.1 booster of denialism.  The two sides perceive “Genocide” very differently: For Armenians: For Armenians: Genocide  1915Genocide  1915 For Turks: For Turks: Genocide  NazisGenocide  Nazis “Your grandfather was a Nazi”  Results of the G-word: For Armenians: Satisfaction For Armenians: Satisfaction In Turkey: In Turkey: People: They plug their ears and stop listeningPeople: They plug their ears and stop listening Elites & Institutions :Elites & Institutions : Weakens the democrats, Weakens the democrats, Strengthens the Nationalists / the denial Strengthens the Nationalists / the denial Legitimizes the “Deep State”. Legitimizes the “Deep State”.

15 Conclusion: Turkish-Armenian Vicious Circle 2) ASALA, Genocide Resolutions, etc. 3) Sèvres Paranoia 5) Denial 4) The Taboo 1) Armenian Trauma

16 Conclusion: Turkish-Armenian Vicious Circle in 10 Steps 2) It was a deportation in wartime 3) “It was a genocide!” 5)“It was a genocide!” 6) “It was an intestine war!” 4) “You stabbed us in the back by helping the Russians!” 7) “It was a genocide!” 8) “Why don’t you mention the Muslim dead?” 10) “You are not alone to suffer!” 9) “Can’t we even mourn our deads properly!” 1) “It was a genocide!”

17 How to Jointly Break the Vicious Circle ? DOs and DON’Ts Stop:. Supporting the penalization of discussions in Europe all the while asking Turkey to freely discuss the subject. Stop: Penalization of free discussion of 1915 massacres all the while asking Europe to stop penalizing it as “genocide denial” Avoid using : “Genocide” as a pop-up against “Turkey”. (closes minds, hardens hearts) Avoid using: 1) “Armenian bands killed Muslims”; 2) “The so-called genocide” as a pop-up against “Genocide” (closes minds, hardens hearts) Should: 1) Start discussing the process leading to 1915; 2) Learn to call “negationists” only those denying the horrors of 1915 and not those who don’t use the “G-Word” for Should: 1) Realize that they have been kept completely ignorant about the horrors of 1915; 2) Start learning. ARMENIANSTURKS


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