EXIT FROM A WELL 1,915 METERS DEEP

Today's Zaman, Turkey
April 25 2013

by Markar Esayan

As Turkey is putting an end to its denial policy or at least going
through a significant change in this regard, it is impossible to
stick to the red lines of the old ideological mentality concerning
the 1915 forced relocation of Armenians. The democratic progress
made and reforms implemented during the last 10 years have already
produced a serious curiosity and urge for understanding about this
issue. Every sane person has asked the following question: Now that
the official version of the past is not true, how could its account
of the 1915 incidents be true? Why should we not question it?

The banishment of Armenians from their lands through massacres and
exiles in 1915 is not a problem specific to Armenians. It is one of
the main reasons why the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) and its
supporters forced the country to join World War I so as to endanger
the entire country and make an impact on its fate. Unfortunately,
this ideological preference was inherited by the newly established
republic, paving the way for the emergence of a number of serious
problems such as the Kurdish, Alevi, Armenian and deep state issues.

The violence to which the Armenians had been subjected came to be
imposed on Kurds, non-Muslim religious minorities who chose to stay in
the country, Alevis, Muslims and all dissident groups, albeit with a
changing magnitude depending on the conjuncture. This practice helped
preserve the totalitarian nature of the regime, and democracy couldn't
flourish in this country.

Thus, people not only refrained from questioning the sins of the
pro-CUP ideology but also glorified the logic and ethics of these
sins. The tendency to cover up these sins made it possible to overthrow
a democratically elected government once every 10 years and inject
hatred and animosity into social groups. Certain segments of society
even long regarded the execution of a prime minister and two ministers
during the military coup of 1960 as a democratic achievement thanks
to this polarization.

After about a century, Turkey is now facing the sins of its past. The
prime minister has made an official apology for the massacres of
Alevis and Kurds in Dersim between 1937 and 1938. And the pressures
backed by the law on non-Muslim religious minorities are being eased.

Not everything is perfect, but there is certainly positive progress.

Most importantly, the state is quickly stripping itself of the old
state's mentality. Society is becoming freer and people are starting
to ask questions and bad things do not happen to them as they seek
to find answers to these questions. This is because everyone in
this country has problems with the past. These problems signify the
injustices suffered. People realize a new order won't be permanent if
these injustices are not redressed through confrontation and remedies.

The Great Tragedy (Meds Yeghern) Armenians suffered in 1915 is part of
this story, and it is perhaps the starting point of this story. If the
confrontation with 1915 had occurred during the establishment of the
republic, i.e., if the offenders of the massacre had not been employed
in the civilian and military bureaucracy of the state, then the story
would probably be very different. Thus, a problem that is today causing
tensions for Turkey would have been settled at that time. But we would
also not be experiencing other problems stemming from this mentality.

There is also the Armenian side of the story. As a people who have
been banished from their homeland with a great trauma under whatever
pretext was found for it, Armenians have been trying to tell everyone
that they have suffered from a great injustice for the last 98 years.

Therefore, they couldn't start to mourn for their losses and they
remain stuck in 1915. But as Hrant Dink put it, this was a gross evil
done by the CUP supporters to the entire country. To get rid of this
disease, Turks need Armenians and vice versa.

I am not talking about state policies. Rather, I say, it is high time
both nations shared their common sorrows and healed each other. They
must jettison the radical tendency to see Turks as genocidal and
Armenians as anti-Turk. They must share this sorrow and exit together
from the wrong path we took at the start. I think this is the only
correct formula.