APRIL 24TH, 2015

Instead of condoling, Davutoglu could have offered his sincere
apologies to the handful of survivors, like Aaron Manoukian


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By Aram Ananyan

AARON Manoukian, one of two dozen Armenian genocide survivors living
in Armenia, celebrated his 101st birthday on March 20, a month before
Davutoglu's statement offering condolences to the grandchildren of the
Ottoman Armenians, who survived systematic murders and death marches
a century ago. Aaron's eyes reveal the qualities of his character,
as a look at his hands tells a lifelong story full of turbulence
and hardships. Aaron's passport indicates Turkey as his birthplace,
but what he calls home was the American orphanage in Armenia.

Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, following his boss Erdogan,
with almost a year's interval, made quite a predictable statement ahead
of the Genocide Remembrance day, and on April 20 offered condolences
to the descendants of the Ottoman Armenians, who had suffered all the
horrors of the Armenian genocide in 1915. These condolences come right
after Pope Francis boldly called the 1915 massacres a 'genocide',
the European parliament called Turkey to face its troubled history,
and Germany and Austria, once World War I allies of Turkey, moved
closer to the full recognition of this crime against humanity.

In reality, it is a misleading indication of Ankara's readiness for
dialogue, and for those who are well aware of this issue, Turkey's
statement runs as another attempt to swap the necessity of recognition
of the Armenian genocide from the most important historical, political
and legal domains to a debate based on emotional manipulations.

In around 450 words, Davutoglu advocates to follow his lead, "to
relieve the pain of the past century and rebuild our humanitarian
bond". Furthermore, Turkey's chief diplomat proclaims, that this
year, on April 24 a divine liturgy will be organised by the Armenian
Patriarchate of Istanbul, to commemorate the tragic events. He fails
to mention that this is the first time ever that Armenians in Turkey
will do so - fast enough, since the corpses of hundreds of thousands
Armenians were left unburied in Asia Minor and the Syrian deserts
100 years ago. In this regard, Turkey's condolences lacked sincerity
and honesty, and were aimed at trivialising the crime to an own
interpretation of history. In fact, when talking about the Armenian
genocide, Turkey uses an interchangeable vocabulary, depending on
the consumers and the occasion. For instance, on one day Turkish
officials threaten the Pope and on the next day they talk about the
human duties of remembrance.

Davutoglu recaps what Erdogan said a year ago, that it could be
meaningful for Turkey and Armenia to commemorate the events. What he
avoids to mention is the following: Erdogan received an invitation
to be in Armenia on April 24, along with the other heads of state,
to commemorate together, but instead, on the exact Remembrance day,
he preferred to orchestrate a pompous celebration of the Gallipoli
battle on that date.

The cause is always more important than the effect and reconciliation
in the future takes much bigger effort rather than manipulating with
the consequences. Davutoglu offers not to politicise the history,
but does the opposite, by supporting the century-long denial of Turkey.

Genocide scholars agree that the Armenian genocide was a masterminded
act to solve a number of issues. The Ottoman leadership exterminated
the Armenian political, economic and intellectual elites; deported
the Armenians from their ancestral homeland, with a reason not only
to avoid implementing Ottoman international obligations, but also
the comprehensive political and social reforms to protect universal
and core human rights and values that Christian minorities were
undelivered but deserved in the Ottoman Empire; and, eradicated the
Armenian issue by annihilating the Armenian people.

Instead of condoling, Davutoglu could have offered more reasonable
steps, first of all sincere apologies to the handful of survivors,
like Aaron Manoukian, who felt the inhumane atrocities right on their
skin. And there is the dark side of the reality that the Prime Minister
of Turkey wants to avoid when he refers to pain that has never been
shared by the absolute majority of the Turkish elite. In moral terms,
this approach seems rather cynical, because it equates the suffered
pain of the victim with the un-suffered of the perpetrator.

The author, Aram Ananyan, is a historian and Director General of
Armenpress News Agency