US Armenian ‘genocide’ vote a chance for Turkey
US resolution condemning the 1915 Armenian genocide gives Turkey a chance to disavow a grotesque state crime and abandon its hideous charade says Nouritza Matossian
05 Mar 10

Congress’s resolution condemning the 1915 Armenian genocide gives Turkey a chance to disavow a grotesque state crime and abandon its hideous charade of bullying, propaganda and falsified history says Nouritza Matossian

For many Armenians, the news that the US Congress Foreign Affairs Committee has passed a resolution condemning the Armenian genocide is the stuff of dreams. Although the vote condemning the massacres committed by Ottoman government in 1915 only passed by a narrow majority, it is still a moral victory. One that comes after almost a century of denial and despite billions of dollars wasted by the Turkish governments on lobbying against the acknowledgment of this crime. Mass deportations, uprooting of entire towns and villages, torture, rape, murder on a vast scale were carried out officially against the indigenous Armenians civilians to destroy them and their culture from their own provinces. How much money has been spent to suppress one simple word – genocide? A word was coined for this very event, the murder of a people or race. The House Chairman Howard Berman’s words after announcing the vote were:

Nothing justifies Turkey’s turning a blind eye to the reality of the Armenian genocide. It is regrettable that Turkey’s Nobel Prize-winning writer Orhan Pamuk was hounded out of his country for speaking out on this subject.

The Turkish government is so irate that it felt duty bound to flourish a sabre-rattle, withdrawing its ambassador from the US. On a more realistic note, the foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, talked of continuing the peace process with Armenia, saying, “We are determined to press ahead with normalisation of relations with Armenia.”

A long succession of Turkey’s secular governments have maintained a screen of lies and denial about the genocide, despite the fact it was committed in the last century, by the very regime ousted by the Young Turks. Why do they feel obliged to defend it? Germany welcomed the opportunity to shake off all ties with Hitler’s Nazi government and made amends. South Africa examines and deplores apartheid.

In fact many Turks believe that their government should welcome this opportunity – offered to it by a world power and its greatest ally and supporter – to admit that a crime took place in the past and to proclaim that it wishes to make peace with Armenia and with the Armenians living in Turkey today. It should come as a relief after the years of bullying, propaganda and falsified history to abandon this hideous charade. Turkey would gain credit and admiration throughout the world by dissociating itself from a grotesque state crime; instead, it persists in shouldering responsibility by stubbornly defending it. A powerful movement of liberalisation was unleashed by the assassination of Hrant Dink, the Armenian editor who was shot for speaking out. The millions of Turks who have mixed ancestry – Greek, Kurdish, Ahlevi, Jewish, Armenian – are ‘coming out’ in greater numbers, supported by an articulate intelligentsia. Historical facts can no longer be falsified.

This is a win-win situation for Turkey. The resolution should be seen as the first and most important step towards the goal of ‘normalisation’ and the Turkish people should be proud enough to embrace it and face their Armenian neighbours with dignity. After all, many already have.

Nouritza Matossian is the author of Black Angel, The Life of Arshile Gorky and the prize-winning documentary, Hrant Dink, Heart of Two Nations