Cihan News Agency, Turkey
April 25 2014

Turkey acknowledges 1915 tragedy for the first time

TR_ISTA - 25.04.2014 09:06:54


On Wednesday, a day before Armenians mark the 99th anniversary of the
1915 killings by Ottoman Turks, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
released a statement regarding the issue, which came as a surprise to
many.

In the statement, which was issued in in Turkish, Armenian and seven
other languages, Erdoğan offered Turkey's condolences to the
descendants of those who were killed during the tragic events in 1915.
Erdoğan called the events of World War I "our shared pain" and
acknowledged that the deportation of Armenians from Anatolia in 1915
had "inhumane consequences." Although Erdoğan's move was hailed by the
US State Department as well as top officials from the European Union
who regarded it as a positive step, the Armenian National Committee of
America (ANCA) dismissed Erdoğan's statement as "simply 99 years of
genocide denial repackaged."

Vatan daily columnist Okay Gönensin wrote in his Thursday piece that
99 years ago, over 1.5 million people -- the Armenian citizens of the
Ottoman Empire -- including leading politicians, authors, journalists
and businesspeople based in İstanbul, were sent for execution, but
this fact has long been ignored by the Turkish state. According to
Gönensin, for a long time, only those who lived at the time really
knew what happened. "The state did not want us to learn what happened.
We were only told about the acts of nationalist Armenian gangs ahead
of World War I. Much later on, we learned that 1.5 million of the
then-10 million population of Anatolia were Armenians. And the
terrifying fact that these 1.5 million people were sent to their
deaths had been hidden from us. By hiding and ignoring, some thought
that this 'massive disaster' was going to vanish from the memory of
humanity. However, it did not and the last ring in this chain was the
murder of Hrant Dink," commented Gönensin, referring to the 2007
murder of the Turkish-Armenian journalist.

Gönensin noted that while concealing the truth, the state of Turkey
put a lot of effort in spreading the claim that "Armenians killed more
Muslims," during years of denial. According to Gönensin, with
Wednesday's statement, Turkey for the first time officially recognized
this tragic incident and acknowledged that those responsible for it
committed a crime against humanity.

Cengiz Çandar, a columnist with the Radikal daily, wrote on Thursday
that acknowledging what really happened in 1915 is a matter of ethics
and humanity. Çandar shared a conversation he once had with Dink, in
which Çandar asked the late journalist whether he considers the 1915
incidents "genocide," as he never heard Dink mention the word
"genocide," which is constantly used by the Armenian diaspora. Çandar
recalled Dink's response: "I am an Armenian. For us, this an
acknowledgement by nature. We never talk about it to each other. But
we know it." Çandar wrote that he had many other Armenian friends
during his school years in Kayseri, and none of them ever spoke about
the "terrible things" that happened in 1915, neither among themselves
or with Turks.

GÜNAY HİLAL AYGÜN (Cihan/Today's Zaman)