ANKARA: Two Mistakes In The Discussion Between Gul And Aritman

By Fikret Bila

Turkish Press
Dec 24 2008

MILLIYET- Everyone is talking about a statement made by Canan Aritman,
Republican People’s Party (CHP) Izmir deputy, which implied that
President Abdullah Gul’s mother had Armenian roots. Citing his
family tree, President Gul said this argument was false. Gul stated
that he is Muslim and Turkish on both sides of his family, as 100
years of the tree proves. Gul said that he felt he had to set the
record straight in order to correct a tendentious lie which started
when he ran for president last year and has recently been openly and
deviously resurrected. He added that he wanted to establish the truth
for history’s sake.

Aritman’s statement implying that Gul’s mother has Armenian roots was
unfortunate. The path she took was wrong. Whether Gul’s mother has
Armenian roots or not shouldn’t be used for political fodder. Aritman’s
‘racial’ approach was widely criticized, including by the CHP, her own
party. This is another sign that what Aritman did was wrong. Aritman
offended Turkey’s Armenians with her suggestion about Gul. Her
approach, which paints being Armenian as a crime or deficiency, is
contrary to the Turkish Republic’s founding principles. Her words
ill suit a member of a party like the CHP (Turkey’s first party),
which established the founding principles of the republic. The Turkish
Republic isn’t based on an ethnic basis. Ataturk’s understanding of the
nation wasn’t racist. In an excellent formulation of his understanding
of the nation and nationalism, Ataturk said that the nation which
established the Turkish nation is called the Turkish nation. Whatever
one’s ethnic background, each and every citizen of the Turkish Republic
can undertake any post or duty. The president, Parliament speaker,
prime minister, chief of General Staff and government ministers may
have different ethnic roots. This is a requirement of the republic’s
founding principles.

Gul not only released his family tree, but also sued Aritman. The
president represents the entire nation, and he’s head of the
state. Thus his filing a lawsuit against claims that there are
Armenians in his family and allegations of discrimination might offend
our Armenian citizens. If being an Armenian or having a family with
Armenian roots is seen as something which has to be denied, this might
cause misunderstandings, particularly in terms of Gul’s responsibility
to represent the entire nation. Although he was trying to prevent
political exploitation, Gul shouldn’t have sued her, but instead,
out of consideration for our Armenian citizens, found it sufficient to
issue a statement. Looking at the situation in terms of the republic’s
founding principles, Gul filing a lawsuit against Aritman’s statements
amounts to compounding one mistake with yet another."

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