From Talat to Erdogan — The Same Old Racist Genocidal Policy


By Edmond Y. Azadian

When House Resolution 252 was adopted by the US Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Swedish Parliament passed the Genocide Resolution, Turkish leaders realized the domino effect that those political actions may trigger in the diplomatic world. In fact, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that his government would not panic and instead take measured and calculated responses.

And today although Turkey’s knee-jerk reactions seem to express confusion, panic and overreaction, they actually are not and Turks, from the prime minister to the most junior diplomat are reacting in a calculated and coordinated manner, because they have been expecting this coming long time ago. And before the genocide issue becomes an avalanche the Turkish leaders have been resorting to preemptive strikes.

We have to see the issues with clear eyes and never allow our emotions to take over our judgment. Very few statesmen and governments are motivated by the moral or just aspects of the Armenian Genocide. The issue has become a convenient political tool to extract concessions from Turkey, especially when this latter has been waiting at the gates of Europe, expecting membership in the European Union, against good behavior.
Many European governments and the European Union itself have flip-flopped over the years in demanding Genocide Recognition and then forgetting it until the next opportune time to use it as a condition against Turkey. We have been on the margins of this political game for the last 95 years, and perhaps we have to endure it another century before Turkey comes to terms with its history and justice is restored.

Turkey’s government — and especially Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — have learned through experience that the best defense is an offense. Erdogan’s recent threat to deport immigrant Armenians from Turkey is the thrust of that offensive — in every way — policy. Adding insult to injury, Erdogan and his cohorts play victim, rather than perpetrators of Genocide. They are not naive to believe that this political ploy can have any takers, but they have invested some trust in its confusing effects. They are convinced that this will bring some relief from the international pressure or at least temporarily derail the adoption of Genocide resolutions in many countries’ legislature. After the American and Swedish moves, similar initiatives have been taken in Bulgaria and Britain. Regardless of the outcome of these moves, Turkish leaders foresee the noose tightening around their necks.

On March 16, Erdogan gave an interview to the BBC threatening to expel “100,000 illegal migrant workers from Armenia. We close our eyes to their situation, but what am I going to do tomorrow? If necessary, I will tell them, ‘get out and go to your country.’ They are not my citizens; I am not obliged to keep them in our country. Too bad that other people don’t understand our good intentions.” Before his “pious” hypocrisy, Mr. Erdogan has tried to score some points by trying to pit Armenia against the diaspora, by saying, “Today, Armenia has to take an important decision and relieve itself from diasporan pressures.” The other point was to intimidate Armenia to compromise its position on the Karabagh issue.

This deportation threat and actual action has been the core of Turkish policy towards minorities, from Talat to Tansu Ciller, Ozal and now Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In between, deportations were carried out during World War II, when the Turkish government imposed the wealth tax on Jews, Greeks and Armenians, deporting many to Ashkalah labor camps to die.

This policy is not Erdogan’s improvisation. It is also his party’s policy, advocated publicly by his fellow parliamentarians Sukru Elekdag, Onoor Oymen and Mrs. Janan Artman, who had accused the prime minister of being soft on migrant issues, and surprisingly just when he had blamed previous deportations as “fascistic actions.”

Before we come to the impact and reverberations of Erdogan’s blackmail domestically and worldwide, we better put the record straight.

When former Prime Minister Tansu Ciller had threatened, in her turn, to deport migrant Armenians, she had given the fantastic figure of 70,000. The fact is that there is a scientific study on the case of migrant Armenians. According to the Turkish daily Milliyet, Eurasia Foundation has conducted research, which puts the number of Armenian migrant workers at 10,000. This research, published a month ago, shows that 93 percent of the migrants are undocumented. Three percent renew their visas regularly and 4 percent are married to citizens of Turkey and are entitled to live in the country legally. Ninety-six percent of these migrants are women, most of them with professional degrees but doing menial jobs.

These statistics steal 90 percent of the thunder of Erdogan’s blackmail, for whatever it’s worth.
The prime minister seems not to be satisfied with his blackmail and he has resorted to other tactics to confuse the international public, if there are any naive people left to believe in his forgery of history. Thus, on the occasion of the Canaccale victory, meaning the Galipoli campaign of 1915, when Mustafa Kemal scored a victory against the all-powerful Allies, under most mysterious conditions, Erdogan has made the following statements: “Armenians in the Ottoman Empire never faced a genocidal government policy, and on the contrary, they themselves plotted to exterminate Turks…there is no genocide in our civilization. Our civilization is the civilization of love, tolerance and brotherhood.”

One can easily surmise that the expulsion of migrant Armenians symbolizes “love, tolerance and brotherhood.”
We notice here that Erdogan turns the tables shamelessly, without thinking that even the most naive listener can judge for himself/herself whether an unarmed minority could commit genocide against the mighty Ottomans who had all the guns in their hand. And had Armenians killed the Turks, today they would be living in modern-day Turkey, on their ancestral lands.

Of all people, Deputy Secretary of State Philip Gordon has come to Erdogan’s rescue by endorsing or minimizing this latter’s preposterous statement.

Erdogan’s aggressive comments have triggered a variety of reactions in Turkey, some supportive, but most critical to the extent that the prime minister has resorted to the antiquated ruse of blaming the media that he was misunderstood.

One of his supporters, not surprisingly, is Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul. This statesman had bragged in Belgium last year about the benefit that Turkey enjoyed by deporting Armenians and Greeks during World War I, concluding in a rhetorical question that “would we have today’s unified Turkey, had we not deported the minorities at that time?”

Mr. Gonul has tried to reinterpret the prime minister’s statement and then he has gotten into a mishmash of history where he maintains that Armenians and Turks have lived together “harmoniously,” for a thousand years and then the Russians helped Armenians to occupy Anatolia and exterminate the Turks. It seems that Turkish leaders have forgotten at what stage a statesman can become a laughing stock in the diplomatic community.
But there are sober heads even in Erdogan’s party itself, who have distanced themselves from the prime minister’s threats. For example, Nejeeb Taylan, a member of the Justice and Progress Party, and member of the Foreign Relation Committee has said: “It is a controversial statement, suitable for political exploitation. Armenia’s situation is obvious. Many families are sustained by the salaries earned and sent to Armenia. Deportation can create serious problems. For example, if Germany treated Turkish migrant workers the same way we would fall in a difficult situation. I don’t understand why our prime minister has made that statement.”
The Kurdish representative in parliament, Akin Birdal, representing the Peace and Democracy party, has said that this blackmail raises the question whether we are returning to 1915.

Newspaper columnist Cenguiz Candar went as far as asking the prime minister to apologize to the Armenians, to which Erdogan quipped, “I don’t need to learn humanity from a newsman.”

Even pro-Erdogan columnists have criticized his statement. One of them is Shaheen Alpayn who says he was surprised by the prime minister’s speech, because he really believed that the present administration would do what it meant by reducing to zero Turkey’s problems with its neighbors. The conclusion, in the article, is a sober one, if only self serving. However, it is important to quote it here to see the boomerang that Erdogan’s blackmail has created in the Turkish public. Mr. Alpayn concludes his article:

“Sooner or later, free and civilized Turkey will come face to face with the tragedy that Ottoman Armenians experienced. That is why the question always will rise — if there was no intent of extermination, no genocide, didn’t hundreds of thousands of Armenians die of murder, starvation and disease? Weren’t they expelled from their own lands? Neither the Turkish people, nor the Republic of Turkey are responsible for this calamity. The responsible people were the Ittihadists who destroyed the Ottoman Empire.”

Reviewing all the reactions one can see that the prime minister’s threat has failed to serve its intended purpose. It rather blew to his face. Even the Turkish youth have raised their voices portraying Erdogan in Talat’s image. In an announcement in the name of Turkish youth, Jeren Kenar has stated: “For 95 years the same government reflex is an action, extending from Talat to Erdogan.”

Addressing his comments to the government, he asks a rhetorically, “Are you the apologists for Talat and Enver Pashas? We refuse to be their grandchildren. We want to be the grandchildren of those Turks who protected Armenians and saved them from massacres.”

Although Erdogan’s arrogant statement angered Armenians around the world, it ironically contributed to Turkey’s domestic discourse, which eventually will force Turkish leaders to face history’s verdict.