GENOCIDE DEBATE HAUNTS TURKEY 100 YEARS AFTER ARMENIA

Bloomberg
April 23 2015

by Selcan HacaogluSara KhojoyanJack Fairweather

Like Turkey's government, Abdullah won't bring himself to say the
actions of his great grandfather a century ago amounted to genocide.

The 21-year-old Ankara student's ancestor was among those who played
a prominent role in the deportation that led to the killing of as
many as 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 as the Ottoman Empire crumbled
during World War I. The centenary of the slaughter is being marked
amid unprecedented international recognition that what happened was
an act of genocide, to the fury of the authorities in Ankara who
dispute the death toll.

"What happened was ethnic engineering," said Abdullah, whose family
name was withheld in case of reprisals. "Still, I don't think my great
grandfather made a mistake, he obeyed orders to relocate Armenians
who rebelled against the state."

As world leaders gather in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Friday,
Turkey's denials have left the country increasingly isolated. Pope
Francis and the European Parliament called on the government in Ankara
last week to recognize the genocide, while Germany, Turkey's largest
trading partner in the European Union, is due to adopt the term for
the first time on Friday.

Nektar Alatuzyan, 101, is among a dwindling group of survivors in
Armenia. When Turks ordered the expulsion of residents of her village,
her parents joined a band of Armenians who fought back for 53 days
from Musa Dagh mountain in what became a legendary tale of resistance.

Putin, Kardashian

"Our house was full of weapons to defend ourselves," said Alatuzyan,
now almost blind and hard of hearing. "My father was a hero of seven
villages."

They escaped with their lives when a French ship on the Mediterranean
coast rescued survivors of the revolt. Alatuzyan went on to have
five children, 12 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren and eight
great-great-grandchildren.

"The perpetrators of the genocide failed to achieve what they
planned," Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan told a forum in Yerevan
on Wednesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President
Francois Hollande, whose countries both recognize the slaughter
as genocide, will be among more than 60 delegations at Friday's
commemorations.

U.S. reality-TV star Kim Kardashian added to Turkey's troubles when
she stirred up global publicity about the genocide during a visit
to Armenia, her family's ancestral homeland, with her rapper husband
Kanye West this month.

George Clooney brought Hollywood glitter to Armenian billionaire Ruben
Vardanyan's New York launch of the "100 Lives" project celebrating
survivors in March.

Obama Pledge

Though he made a 2008 pre-election pledge to recognize the "Armenian
genocide," U.S. President Barack Obama is unlikely to use the term in
his statement on the centenary, preferring not to alienate Turkey. The
country hosts a U.S. air base at Incirlik and is a key defense ally
in the Middle East.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will lead a presidential delegation in
Yerevan and the U.S. will "urge a full, frank, and just acknowledgment
of the facts," according to a White House statement on Tuesday.

The genocide dispute is at the core of tensions between Armenia
and Turkey, who have no diplomatic ties and face each other across
a closed border. Turkey argues that, while atrocities took place,
they were the consequence of war after some Armenians joined Russian
troops fighting the Ottomans.

Gallipoli Clash

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan changed the date of a ceremony
to mark the 1915 Gallipoli campaign to clash with the one in Yerevan,
leading to a diplomatic tug-of-war with Armenia over attendance at
the respective events. The British royal family and Australian Prime
Minister Tony Abbott will be present for the Gallipoli memorial.

Turkey "can never accept such a sin, such guilt," Erdogan said last
week in reference to the genocide.

Some analysts say a tentative reassessment of the Turkish role has
begun, however, pointing out that Erdogan offered Turkey's first-ever
condolences last year to descendants of Armenians killed in 1915.

"We remember with respect the innocent Ottoman Armenians who lost
their lives and offer our deep condolences to their descendants,"
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a statement on Monday,
while declaring that "reducing everything to one word" is "morally
and legally problematic."

Growing international recognition of the genocide is increasing
pressure on Turkey "to more sincerely face its past," Richard
Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center in Yerevan,
said by e-mail.

The Bandit

Abdullah said his relative, known as "Ali the bandit," murdered
an Armenian dignitary on the orders of Halet Bey, a member of the
Ottoman parliament.

Pressure for change must come from the bottom up, according to Diana
Yayloyan, an Armenian activist also studying in Ankara. Like Abdullah,
she has also sought to challenge her upbringing in a conservative
family that was driven from Turkey in 1915.

"In Armenia, we think that all Turks know the truth of genocide and
they reject it," said Yayloyan. "The problem is that the people in
Turkey don't know anything about it."

All sides "need to uncover the past and learn from each other,"
she said. "Then the politicians will follow."

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-22/genocide-debate-haunts-turkey-100-years-after-armenia




From: A. Papazian