History Lessons from Mr. Davutoglu

By Edmond Y. Azadian

Ever since Ahmed Davutoglu moved from academia to serve as Turkey’s foreign minister, he has been repackaging Turkey’s bloody history and has become an apostle of Prime Minister Erdogan’s denialist policy on the topic of the Armenian Genocide.

He is more of a sidekick to Mr. Erdogan in the eyes of Genocide scholars who have long passed their verdicts on the facts of the Armenian Genocide.

The excuses enumerated by the Turkish leaders can hardly be used for domestic consumption and perhaps only for a short while, because in today’s globalized world, the Turkish society itself is undergoing an intense process of instruction, learning the undeniable facts of the Armenian Genocide. Mr. Erdogan is trying to intercept the process by declaring a war against the media.

Less than a year ago, Mr. Erdogan was challenging Armenians to “come up with one single proof that Turkey has committed [genocide] against Armenians.”

The Turkish leader’s statements on April 23 were also meant to provide a cop out to other politicians who are ready to jump on the Turkish bandwagon. No wonder that our Secretary of State John Kerry was “stunned” into silence.

But, on the eve of the Genocide centennial, Turkey is anticipating a tsunami of events unmasking long buried ugly truths in Turkey. In anticipation of that tidal wave, Turkey has hired high-powered PR firms to soften the blow or to deflect similar statements recently made by French President Francois Hollande. The current goodwill campaign is certainly devised by those PR firms.

In a backdoor understanding with the White House, Prime Minister Erdogan undertook the initiative to get President Obama off the hook.

In less than a week, Mr. Erdogan offset the goodwill — if any — generated by offering his condolences to the grandchildren of the Armenian martyrs.

He indeed denied that Turkey had perpetrated any genocide against the Armenians when he was interviewed by Charlie Rose on PBS.

In the meantime, another interview given to the German Der Spiegel surfaced, although this one seems to have been published prior to the April 23 condolences, in which the Turkish leader continued to spout the same “there can be no talk of genocide” line.

With all those contradictory statements, Foreign Minister Davutoglu published an opinion piece in the Guardian on May 2, ostensibly with an olive branch in his hand, inviting the Armenians to “follow Erdogan’s lead.”

After some sugarcoated statements about the contributions of the Armenian musicians and architects to Ottoman history, he resorts to the same diversionary tactics that Turkey has been using to duck the issue. He tries to equate the suffering of the Genocide victims with those of Turkish military losses during World War I.

“The power of the Ottoman empire declined continuously in the 19th century. The loss of the Balkan provinces was a striking defeat which resulted in mass atrocities, expulsion and the deportation of Ottoman Muslims. … Approximately 5 million Ottoman citizens were driven away from their ancestral homes in the Balkans, the Caucasus and Anatolia. While much of western history tells of the suffering of the dispossessed and dead Ottoman Christians, the colossal sufferings of Ottoman Muslims remains largely unknown outside of Turkey,” Davutoglu writes.

The murderers’ arithmetic is not compatible with the historic truth. The historians have taken into account and evaluated objectively the Ottoman losses, which were the result of a tyrant losing his grip on his victims and suffering the consequences. For more than four centuries, Ottoman sultans ruled the Balkans with iron and blood. And when the empire began crumbling, those lands claimed their independence and they sent back their torturers to Anatolia.

Any person in his right mind — let alone historians — will ask: what responsibility do the Armenians bear in the collapse of the Ottoman rule in the Balkans? After begging for some sympathy for Ottoman losses, the smart diplomat tries to draw parallels with the Armenian victims of the Genocide, hoping to create a fictitious “common pain.”

Yes, indeed, Armenians suffered and died, but also some Turks died, therefore the Armenian martyrs must bear some responsibility for the Turkish losses and the Diaspora has to use some “just memory” that the Turks also suffered because they could no longer exploit the subject nations in the Balkans.

The next building block of Mr. Davutoglu’s sympathy campaign is the old story of commissioning a joint committee of historians “to discover” the truth. The same discredited proposal was also made by Erdogan in his Der Spiegel interview. That proposal comes also with a challenge: “Turkey has opened its archives, let Armenia open its own archives.”

Serious historians have long established that Turkey has sanitized its archives from any incriminating evidence. Also, the Ottoman archives are not open to serious scholars. They are open only to some hired guns that defend the Turkish government’s official line. Adding insult to injury, Erdogan and Davutoglu have been proposing to bring those discredited scholars in the same room with established and respected scholars who have already “discovered” what the Turkish leaders cannot seem to do.

At the conclusion of his column, Davutoglu ceremoniously invites the world to a reconciliation charade: “The statement by Prime Minister Erdogan is an unprecedented and courageous step taken in this direction. I believe now is the time to invest in this relationship. But we can only succeed if this endeavor is embraced by a wider constituency intent on reconciliation. Turkey stands ready.”

If Turkey is ready, it has to demonstrate its willingness for reconciliation by taking some concrete steps. During the discussions leading to the signing of the Protocols, Mr. Davutoglu asked Armenians to relinquish three regions under Karabagh forces in order to break up the logjam and to create goodwill on the Turkish-Azerbaijani side. Now we would like to ask the same from Turkey. Let the Turks lift the blockade, which will benefit both sides. Let Turkey repeal Article 301 from its Penal Code punishing anyone who insults Turkishness. Let Turkey come up with a plan to preserve Armenian architectural heritage in historic Armenia. And let the Turks come up with a compensation package.

That “Turkey is ready” will sound hollow without any such accompanying steps.

Mr. Davutoglu proposes: “Let’s bury the common pain.”

But before burying the pain, let us properly bury the 1.5 million victims. That way, history lessons will find their rightful place.