Noah’s Dove Returns. Armenia, Turkey And The Debate On Genocide


21 April 2009

Executive Summary

No single topic poisons relations between Turks and Armenians more
than the 1915 destruction of the Armenian communities of Anatolia,
and the question of whether it constituted genocide. For Turkey,
the fight against genocide recognition on the international stage has
been a central goal of foreign policy. For Armenians, the genocide and
the resulting loss of a traditional homeland is a defining element
of their national identity. At present, the two countries have no
diplomatic relations. The border between them remains closed. In
recent times the first signs of a rapprochement have appeared, with
the political leadership on both sides making conciliatory gestures.

For a normalisation of relations to take place, however, both sides
will have to overcome some deeply entrenched prejudices.

Turkey has gone through profound changes in recent years under the
influence of the EU accession process, reforming its constitution
and reducing the role of the national security establishment in
civilian affairs.

Democratisation has enabled, for the first time, an open debate in
Turkey on the Armenian question. For years, official Turkish history
asserted that the rebellious Armenian population, siding with the
Russians during World War I, was the main aggressor and the architect
of its own destruction.

Those who questioned the official line were labelled traitors and
risked criminal prosecution. Since 2000, however, Turkish civil society
has begun to look at the history of Ottoman Armenians in a new light,
in the process breaking numerous taboos.

Over the same period, Turkey’s foreign policy has evolved dramatically.

Under the motto "zero problems with neighbours", the current Turkish
government has moved to resolve a series of long-running disputes,
cementing Turkey’s position as a strategic player on the regional and
international stage. So far, however, Armenia has remained a blind
spot in this vision.

Turkey also continues to invest considerable political capital in
resisting international recognition of the Armenian genocide.

Yet this is a battle that Turkey cannot win. Resolutions commemorating
the 1915 genocide have now been passed by more than 20 countries,
including many of Turkey’s close allies. With the new US President
and most of the senior figures in his administration on record
recognising the Armenian genocide, it seems only a matter of time
before the US follows suit. Contrary to the fears of many Turks,
however, this is not a sign of growing anti-Turkish sentiment or
of the lobbying power of the Armenian diaspora. More than anything,
the growing tide of recognition reflects an evolving understanding
of genocide among scholars and legal experts. The consensus is=2 0now
that genocide – attempts to destroy, in whole or in part, a distinct
national or ethnic group – was committed on numerous occasions
during the 20th century, in almost every corner of the world. There
are hardly any reputable scholars in the field of genocide studies
who doubt that what happened to the Armenians in 1915 constitutes
genocide. However, it is also clear that modern-day Turkey is not
legally responsible for genocidal acts committed nearly a century ago,
and that acknowledging the genocide would not bring into question
the established Turkish-Armenian border.

This is also a time of intense debate among Armenians. For decades,
anti-Turkish sentiment and dreams of a Greater Armenia have been
unifying themes among many Armenians, both in the republic and
the diaspora. Since the early 1990s, however, maximalist demands
for return of historical lands have had to compete with a more
pragmatic official view that recognises improved relations with
Turkey as a strategic imperative for the isolated and landlocked
Armenian republic. Successive Armenian governments have called for
a normalisation of relations with Turkey without preconditions.

Armenians today face a choice: either treat Turkey as an eternal enemy,
or re-engage with its western neighbour in the hope of one day sharing
a border with the European Union.

This is a critical period for both countries. Restoring diplomatic
re lations and opening the b order, though only first steps towards
reconciliation, would marginalise extremist voices on both sides,
enabling a more reasonable and measured debate to go forward. Turkey
should stop trying to stifle discussion of the Armenian genocide both
at home and abroad – and avoid over-reacting if, as might well happen,
any more of its allies recognise the events of 1915 as genocide. For
their part, Armenians must accept that recognition of the genocide
will never pave the way for challenging a territorial settlement that
has stood for nearly a century.

"At the end of 150 days the Ark came to rest on the mountains of
Ararat. For 150 days again the waters receded, and the hilltops
emerged. Noah sent out a raven which went to and from the Ark until
the waters were dried up from the earth. Next, Noah sent a dove out,
but it returned having found nowhere to land. After a further seven
days, Noah again sent out the dove, and it returned with an olive
leaf in its beak, and he knew that the waters had subsided."

I. Football Diplomacy At 16:45 on Saturday, 6 September 2008, an
Airbus 319 touched down at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport. Abdullah
Gul, president of Turkey, stepped out of the plane and onto the
tarmac, where he was greeted by Armenia’s foreign minister, Edward
Nalbandian. The red-blue-and-orange Armenian flag flew alongside
the Turkish crescent and star. Two helicopters hovered ab ove. An
armoured car, brought to Armenia from Turkey via Georgia, waited for
him. Gul was in Yerevan to watch a World Cup qualifying game between
the Turkish and Armenian football teams. It was the first visit ever
by a Turkish president to Armenia.

The decision to accept Armenian president Serzh Sarkisian’s July
2008 invitation did not go down well with everyone in Ankara. Deniz
Baykal, the leader of the opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party),
was caustic in his criticism: "Did Armenia recognize Turkey’s borders,
did it abandon genocide claims, is it pulling out of the Karabagh lands
it occupies? If these things did not happen, why is he going?" Devlet
Bahceli, leader of the second largest opposition party, the nationalist
MHP, accused Gul of caving in to foreign pressure, calling the visit a
"historical mistake" that would "damage Turkey’s honour".

As Gul’s motorcade entered the centre of Yerevan, protesters held up
signs – "I am from Van", "Accept the truth", "We want justice" and
"Turkey, admit your guilt" – in English, Armenian and Turkish. The
flags of countries that had recognised the 1915 massacres of
Armenians in Anatolia as genocide (among them France, Canada and
Argentina) were displayed prominently along the road. The protests
were organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), or
Dashnak Party. Established in 1890 in Czarist Russia, the Dashnaks’
very first proclamation warned that "Turkish Armenia, enslaved=2 0for
centuries, is now demanding its freedom … The Armenian is no longer
imploring – he now demands with gun in hand." In 1918, the ARF formed
the government of the first Armenian republic. When independent Armenia
was invaded by Soviet troops in 1920, the Dashnak leaders escaped,
going on to create a powerful network within the Armenian diaspora,
from Beirut to Los Angeles. The ARF is currently a junior partner in
Armenia’s coalition government.

The Turkish president’s car reached the city centre via Marshal
Baghramian Avenue, named after a leading Armenian general in the Soviet
army during World War II. It crossed Victory Bridge, built in 1945 to
commemorate the end of a war in which 450,000 Armenians fought in the
ranks of the Red Army against Nazi Germany. Although Yerevan recently
celebrated its 2750th anniversary, very few of its buildings predate
the communist era. The motorcade continued along Mesrop Mashtots
Avenue, named after the 5th-century monk who invented the Armenian
alphabet, before arriving at the newly built Golden Palace Hotel,
where the Turkish football team was staying.

Looking west from the top floor of the hotel, over the Ararat plain,
one can easily make out the contours of Mount Ararat on the other
side of the Turkish-Armenian border. The biblical resting place of
Noah’s Ark is a holy site for Armenians. Ararat appears everywhere in
Yerevan: on mineral water bottles, company logos, hotels and shops,
and on the Armenian coat of arms.

A few days before the arrival of the Turkish team, Ararat still
featured on the kit of the Armenian football team – until the
Armenian football federation decided to change the logo, replacing
the image of Mount Ararat with a ball. Facing a storm of criticism,
the head of the federation reacted defensively: "I admit that we
made a mistake. However, it does not mean that I should be blamed
for every sin. I did not sign either the Treaty of Kars or the Treaty
of Alexandropol."

After some words of encouragement for the Turkish team, Abdullah
Gul left the hotel and drove to the presidential palace, a white
Soviet-era building guarded by two marble statues. One is of Tigran
the Great (95-55 BC), the Armenian ruler whose kingdom reached from
the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean (and whose capital Tigranocerta
was in today’s Turkey). The other is of the patriarch Noah, whose
great-great-grandson Haik, according to legend, is the founding father
of the Armenian nation. After a rebellion against the evil leader
of Babylon, Haik is said to have brought his people back to the land
of the Ark near Mount Ararat, and defended the Armenian homeland in
a final battle between good and evil. The Armenians still refer to
themselves as Hayk in his memory.

Inside the palace, the two presidents held a private meeting followed
by dinner. Th e presidents then gave a joint press conference. "This
visit will create a good opportunity for normalising bilateral
relations," said Gul. "I saw a willingness, a desire to establish
stability and peace in the region, for which I am very happy,"
Sarkisian told journalists.

At the stadium, flags of friendship bearing the words "Armenia-Turkey"
fluttered in the wind. Both national anthems were played: the Turkish
beseeching the crescent on the red flag to "smile upon my heroic
race / this blood of ours which we shed for you shall not be blessed
otherwise"; and the Armenian asserting, "Blessed is he who sacrifices
his life for the liberty of his nation." On a hill across the stadium,
protesters had lit candles and torches in front the Armenian genocide
memorial. Kick-off was at 9 pm. The match was fair but unspectacular,
with the Turkish guests scoring two goals in the second half to
secure a 2:0 victory. By midnight, after less than eight hours on
Armenian soil, Abdullah Gul had gone back home. The visit had passed
without incident.

Some in Yerevan had high expectations: "Mainstream pundits and
the media predicted an instant blitz solution to long-estranged
Turkish-Armenian relations," wrote Hayk Demoyan, director of
the Genocide Institute in Yerevan. But no solutions emerged, no
groundbreaking declarations were made.

The borders remained closed, and diplomatic relations suspended. Three
days after the visit, the Dashnak s were referring to th e meeting as
"propaganda opportunities for Turkey."

But a shift had taken place. On the flight back to Ankara, Gul told
journalists that Turkey and Armenia needed to "take advantage of the
dynamics that were triggered by the visit to Yerevan" or else "wait
another 15-20 years for the next opportunity." Foreign Minister Ali
Babacan did not leave Yerevan with Gul. He returned to the Foreign
Ministry on Republic Square, where he talked with Armenian foreign
minister Edward Nalbandian into the early hours of the morning. The
two ministers would meet another seven times between September 2008
and April 2009.

No one could tell, at the time, whether this football qualifying
match would be a major step towards a truly historic reconciliation.

II. Treason and apology A. The first cracks in the wall On 9 October
2000, Turkish historian Halil Berktay, a professor at the prestigious
Sabanci University in Istanbul, gave a full-page interview to the daily
Radikal. "A special organization killed the Armenians", read the title
of the text. Berktay laid responsibility for the deaths of at least
600,000 Armenians in 1915 – during the final decade of the Empire –
at the door of the last Ottoman government. An Armenian rebellion had
resulted in the deaths of thousands of Turkish and Kurdish Muslims,
he noted, but "the activities of the Armenian rebels had more the
character of localised violence."

The Ottoman response , however was of a different order: the
government, said Berktay, created "special death squads" and volunteer
forces of convicted criminals to conduct the massacres.

Never before had a respected Turkish academic spoken so openly in
the mainstream press about Ottoman responsibility for the Armenian

The reaction, says Berktay, was immediate:

"After my interview I got very positive responses. By phone, by mail,
people stopping me in the street. There were many more positive than
negative reactions. At the same time, hell broke loose. The day after
the interview many websites published information about my background,
including details which could not have been found through normal
journalism. It was an orchestrated attack. I received hate mail. It
was choreographed intimidation – fake indignation."

One of Turkey’s most influential columnists, Emin Colasan, attacked
Berktay on the pages of the country’s then best selling daily
paper, Hurriyet, with an article entitled "Those who stab us in
the back." Colasan accused Berktay of treachery and demanded his
dismissal from Sabanci University for "inciting his students against
the fatherland and filling their young minds with lies." When Berktay
and other Turkish scholars met with Armenian historians at a conference
in Mulheim, Germany, in March 2001, Hurriyet called it a "meeting of
the evil" where "so-called Turks attack Turkey."

Conventional Turkish histor y holds that the bl oodshed in Anatolia
in 1915 was triggered by an Armenian uprising in support of Russia
during its battles with the Ottoman Empire during World War One.

The Ottoman authorities responded to the rebellion through mass
deportation of the Armenian population. Armenian deaths, according to
this narrative, were primarily the result of disease and starvation
during the deportations.

As former Turkish ambassador Gunduz Aktan stressed, "the Armenians
lost a civil war which they themselves had started."

Already in 1985, Kamuran Gurun, undersecretary at the Foreign Ministry
following the 1980 military coup, explained in his book, The Armenian
File – The Myth of Innocence Exposed, that the deportation of more
than a million Armenians was a measure that any state would have taken:

"The Armenians were forced to emigrate because they had joined the
ranks of the enemy. The fact that they were civilians does not change
the situation.

Those who were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second
World War were also civilians […] Turkey did not kill them but
relocated them. As it was impossible to adopt a better solution under
the circumstances, it cannot be accepted that those who died because
they were unable to resist the hardship of the journey were killed
by the Turks."

The Turkish Historical Society (TTK), set up in the 1930s, established
the "correct" national line on the events of 1915. Its long-servi ng
director, Yusu f Halacoglu, referred to "519,000 Muslims the Armenians
killed", underlining that "most Armenians died from disease …. Those
who were slaughtered were about 8-10,000 according to the numbers we
obtained." He also argued in 2007 that Armenians continued to pose
a mortal threat to Turkey until today since "most of the people" in
the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) were actually Kurds of Armenian
origin. This, too, was a nationalist obsession. In March 1994 national
television TRT had claimed that PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan (Apo)
was an Armenian named Artin Hakobian.

Throughout the 1990s court cases were repeatedly launched against
those who challenged the official line, using the Anti-Terror Law as
well as the Turkish Penal Code. When Belge Publishing released Yves
Ternon’s History of The Armenian Genocide, the publisher was sentenced
to two years imprisonment (later reduced to six months). In 1994, when
the same publisher issued a translation of Vahakn Dadrian’s Genocide
According to International and National Law: The Armenian Example,
the book was banned. In 1995, the publisher’s office was bombed by
unknown assailants.

In 2001 Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli, leader of the
MHP (National Movement Party), spearheaded the creation of an
inter-ministerial Coordination Committee Against Baseless Genocide
Claims. One of its aims was to "ensure that young people are informed
about the past, present, and future o f unfounded alleg ations of
genocide." It called for, and procured, new material for the teaching
of history in Turkish schools – including a 2002 textbook claiming
that genocide allegations were a plot to weaken Turkey by Western
powers that "cannot tolerate a strong Turkey either in the short or
long term."

In 2003, Turkish state television (TRT) aired one of the most
ambitious documentary projects ever made in Turkey. In six 40-minute
episodes produced over three years and filmed across 13 countries,
"Sari Gelin [Yellow Bride] – the true story" meticulously sets out the
case that Armenians had brought about their own destruction through
subversion and rebellion and that Armenian terrorists had massacred
Turks throughout history. Atrocities committed by Armenians in Igdir
province in Eastern Anatolia are cited in horrific detail. In one
scene Turkish villagers recall: "Children were cooked over the fire
… women were forced to eat their husbands."

In March 2007, the Coordination Committee Against Baseless Genocide
Claims sent the series to the General Staff, Ministry of National
Education, Foreign Ministry and intelligence services "for use
when required." In July 2008, the Ministry of National Education
distributed it throughout Turkey, following up with a February
2009 circular reminding schools to show it to students and report
back to the Ministry. For a number of Turks, however, the film’s
racist tone was insufferable. Columnist=2 0Ahmet Insel wrote that
"watching this documentary you feel as if you are watching a classic
Nazi propaganda film." Turkish Armenians reacted with an open letter
to the Prime Minister:

"We cannot understand what objectives of the General Staff or the
Education Ministry would be served by fuelling hatred and animosity
against Armenians and by instilling anti-Armenian sentiments in our
children’s minds."

Serdar Kaya, a Turkish father of a fifth-grade pupil, filed a
complaint with the public prosecutor’s office in Uskudar (an Istanbul
district). "My daughter was extremely disturbed and frightened by the
film," he said, "and she asked me questions like ‘Did the Armenians
slaughter us?’" Following the public outcry, the Ministry of National
Education withdrew the documentary, noting that it had "also heard"
that the documentary was "in some cases" used "outside its intended

B. Taboos and national security Founded in 1961, the National
Security Council (NSC) has for decades been one of the most powerful
institutions in the country, particularly following the military
coup in 1980, dictating a range of foreign and domestic policies
to forestall potential threats to the Republic. Though formally
an advisory body, the NSC served as a conduit for the military
establishment to express its views on a broad range of policy matters.

The NSC has consistently portrayed Turkey as surrounded by hostile
forces bent on its destructio n. Its then general secretary, Tuncer
Kilinc, asserted in Brussels in April 2003:

"Since the conquest of Istanbul, the Europeans have viewed us as their
foes … Europe brought up the Armenian question in the 1850s. After
World War One they turned the Armenians against us and created the
foundation for dozens of horrific events that followed. The PKK is
an organization that the EU has established. The EU is the reason
33,000 of our people were killed.

The EU secretly and openly supported terrorist organisations in

However, over the past decade, a new, more liberal Turkey has begun
to emerge. Under the influence of the EU accession process, it has
become increasingly difficult for people of Kilinc’s point of view
to influence national policy. Since the December 1999 decision to
grant Turkey EU candidate status wide-ranging constitutional and
legislative reforms have reinforced civil and political rights and
strengthened the democratic process.

On 23 July 2003, the Turkish Grand National Assembly passed a law
limiting the role of the NSC. It was made a purely consultative body
with a civilian majority. It lost the authority to demand that the
president and the prime minister follow its "recommendations". There
was no longer to be an NSC representative on the Supervisory Board
of Cinema, Video and Music, the High Board for Radio and TV (RTUK)
and the Higher Education Board (YOK). In August=2 02004, the f irst
civilian Secretary General of the NSC was appointed.

As the political environment moderated, Turkish intellectuals became
increasingly willing to challenge historical taboos. For many of them,
discussing the events of 1915 came to be seen as a way of tackling
the obstacles to genuine Turkish democracy – including, first and
foremost, the "deep state", said to be a highly influential network
of elements in the Turkish military, nationalist organizations and
the criminal underworld.

This was also the view of Taner Akcam, the first Turkish academic to
call on the state to recognise the 1915 events as genocide. Akcam
contended that Turkish political elites inherited a tradition of
impunity from their Ottoman predecessors. The use of torture by the
police and the lack of civilian scrutiny over military expenditure,
he pointed out, had long been justified by the elites on the grounds
that Turkey was surrounded by enemies bent on its destruction. Akcam
drew a direct link between the debate about 1915, the anti-Western
attitudes of the security establishment and Turkey’s authoritarian
tendencies: "Speaking openly about the Armenian genocide in Turkish
society, which means incorporating the Armenian genocide into Turkish
historical writing, has a direct impact on pushing Turkey towards
becoming a truly democratic state."

In 2004, as Turkey’s AKP government worked to fulfil the political
preconditions for opening EU membership talks, human=2 0rights lawyer
Fethiye Cetin published Anneannem (My Grandmother), in which she
described her discovery that her grandmother was Armenian. Cetin’s
grandmother had been taken away from her parents as a child during
the 1915 deportations, to be raised as a Muslim girl. The book became
a bestseller.

Many similar cases – including that of the adopted daughter of Ataturk,
Sabiha Gokcen, Turkey’s first female pilot and a national heroine –
were discussed. Agos, a Turkish Armenian weekly in Istanbul edited
by Hrant Dink, provided a platform for these revelations. The Sabiha
Gokcen case in particular quickly turned Agos, and Dink, into a target
of a ferocious nationalist backlash.

In 2005, a group of Turkish intellectuals, including Halil Berktay,
organised a conference to debate the fate of the Ottoman Armenians. For
parts of the establishment, it was a deeply provocative event. Justice
Minister Cemil Cicek attacked the organisers in the Turkish parliament
with the familiar charge of "stabbing the Turkish people in the
back." Bosporus University decided to postpone the conference, but
then chose to reschedule it after 110 of its academics issued a joint
statement calling for it to go ahead. Last minute injunctions issued
by an Administrative Court in Istanbul prevented two universities
(Bosporus and Sabanci) from hosting the event, but could not prevent
it from going ahead at a third (Bilgi) in September 2005.

0D The 270 partic ipants were well aware of the political significance
of the occasion. The literature professor Murat Belge, who had spent
two years in prison following the 1971 military coup, noted in an
opening address: "This is directly related to the question what kind
of country Turkey is going to be." Halil Berktay underlined: "What
happened in 1915-1916 is not a mystery … The issue is liberating
scholarship from nationalist taboos." A number of respected Turkish
academics stated openly that the events of 1915 should be recognised
as genocide. Agos-editor Hrant Dink spoke about how attached Armenians
are to the Anatolian soil. "We Armenians do desire this land because
our roots are here. But don’t worry. We desire not to take this land
away, but to come and be buried in it."

The event was widely interpreted in the Turkish press as heralding
the end of an era of stifled debates. The daily Milliyet wrote,
"Another taboo is destroyed." Radikal announced on its front page:
"The word ‘genocide’ was spoken at the conference, yet the world
is still turning and Turkey is still in its place." In the months
that followed, the debates continued. The 2005 book What happened
in 1915?, edited by Hurriyet columnist Sefa Kaplan, carried the full
range of views that could now be heard among Turkish intellectuals,
from those who denied that any massacres had taken place to those
who openly called the events genocide.

0A A nationali st backlash was gathering strength, however. The
ultra-nationalist Grand Union of Jurists association came to increasing
prominence. Its leader, Kemal Kerincsiz, shared Kilinc’s view of
the world.

"History has taught us that we cannot trust these Europeans. Look at
what happened in 1920: they divided up the Ottoman Empire, even though
they had pledged not to. People call us paranoid, but we are not."

Following the Armenia conference, Kerincsiz filed a suit against 17
individuals, including Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Gul,
who had in the end supported the conference taking place. Kerincsiz
filed charges under the Turkish Penal Code against more than 40
Turkish journalists and authors for "insulting Turkishness". He filed
a complaint against the novelist Orhan Pamuk for comments he had made
in an interview with a Swiss newspaper on the killings of Armenians
and Kurds. In September 2006, Kerincsiz brought proceedings against
the writer Elif Safak, claiming that her novel The Bastard of Istanbul
was Armenian propaganda. The charges stemmed from statements made by
fictional characters. "Characters in a novel may be fictitious, but
the authors are real," said Kerincsiz. "In our culture, no-one can
brand their ancestors murderers." When Pamuk was awarded the Nobel
Prize for literature later in 2006, Kerincsiz saw it as yet another
sign of the international conspiracy against Turkey.

"This award is a reward for20the lies he sa ys about the so-called
genocide … It is all part of Europe’s plot to partition Turkey,
as they did 90 years ago. They want to give our land to Armenians,
Kurds and Greeks. Pamuk and the Europeans he loves so much are the
enemies of Turkey."

But Kerincsiz’s most bitter attacks were reserved for the Turkish
Armenian journalist and editor Hrant Dink, who had long called for
Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. The nationalist media launched a
vicious campaign against Dink, "an enemy of Turks". He received a
flood of death threats. In October 2006, following a case brought by
Kerincsiz, Dink received a 6-month suspended sentence for "denigrating
Turkishness". (Kerincsiz appealed the sentence; it was, he believed,
too lenient.)

Dink recognised the prosecutions as part of a wider response by "that
great force which had decided once and for all to put me in my place
… to single me out, render me weak and defenceless." Dink told
friends that he felt especially intimidated by Veli Kucuk, a former
general and radical nationalist who appeared at his trials alongside
Kerincsiz. He contemplated leaving Turkey, but decided not to do so
"out of respect for the thousands of friends in Turkey who pursued
a struggle for democracy and who supported us. We were going to stay
and we were going to resist."

Dink was scheduled to appear in court once again in March 2007. In
January 2007, he was murder ed in front20of the Agos office. It was
one in a series of murders of Christians, including that of an Italian
priest in Trabzon (2006), and a German and two Turkish Protestants
in Malatya (2007).

The public response to Dink’s murder showed that Turkey had changed. In
2002 Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink had been put on trial in
Urfa for stating at a conference: "I am not a Turk … but an Armenian
from Turkey."

Now the slogan "we are all Armenians" became an expression of
solidarity of hundreds of thousands of citizens of Istanbul. Huge
demonstrations took place in Istanbul. Dink’s funeral procession was
followed by a large crowd, with Turks, Kurds, Armenians and other
groups marching shoulder to shoulder.

C. Towards a sober debate?

The threat to Turkish democracy at the time was in fact far more
severe than anyone had suspected. In January 2008, news broke of a
major operation by Turkish police against a secret ultra-nationalist
network known as Ergenekon. The investigation had begun in the summer
of 2007 with the discovery of arms in a house in the Umraniye district
of Istanbul, leading to the indictment of 142 individuals (to date)
on charges of plotting to overthrow the government. These include
prominent right-wing journalists and academics, retired generals and
figures from the security services – among them the people who had most
intimidated Hrant Dink, Veli Kucuk and Kemal Kerincsiz.20A number of

journalists have claimed that the Dink assassination was one of a
number of murders linked to Ergenekon, part of the organisation’s
strategy to pave the way for a coup d’etat. The investigation is

The nationalist backlash suffered further setbacks. Emin Colasan
was dismissed from Hurriyet in August 2007. The government removed
hardliner Yusuf Halacoglu from his position as head of the Turkish
Historical Society in August 2008. With the Ergenekon trial under
way, Turkish civil society became ever bolder. On 15 December 2008,
Turkish intellectuals launched an online signature campaign with the
following text:

"My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the
denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were
subjected to in 1915.

I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathize with the feelings
and pain of my Armenian brothers and sisters. I apologize to them."

Beginning with 230 signatures of prominent intellectuals on the
website ("we apologise"), the campaigners so far collected almost
30,000 signatures from the public. The campaign triggered the
usual denunciations. "I am ashamed of the persons who initiated
the campaign," said Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Nationalist
Movement Party (MHP). General Metin Gurak, chairman of the General
Staff Communication Department, told the press on 19 December 2008:
"This apology is wrong and it may lead to harmful consequences." A
group of retired ambassadors announced: "Today, Armenian terror
has completed its mission. We are aware that the second phase of
the plan includes an apology and the next step will be demands for
land and compensation." Prime Minister Erdogan distanced himself
from the apology campaign: "We did not commit a crime, therefore
we do not need to apologise." However, the Ankara Chief Public
Prosecutor’s Office declined to prosecute those who joined an Internet
campaign. President Abdullah Gul underlined that "everybody is free
to express his opinion." Cengiz Aktar, a leading liberal intellectual
and initiator of the apology campaign, stressed that it is only the
beginning of a longer process: "Centenaries to come, almost every
year until 2023 and even beyond, will provide us the opportunity to
learn and remember the fate of Armenians."

Turkey’s domestic transformation remains incomplete. The
interministerial Coordination Committee Against Baseless Genocide
Claims still exists.

Monuments and museums commemorate World War I massacres of Turks by
Armenians – but not one monument in Anatolia commemorates Armenian
victims. In 2009 publisher Ragip Zarakolu was sentenced to 5
months imprisonment (converted to a 400 TL fine) for publishing the
Turkish translation of The truth will set us free, a book written
by an Armenian about his Anatolian family story in 1915. Zarakolu
is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights. Finally,
the20Ergenekon trial ha s only just gotten under way; and it remains
unclear if those responsible for Hrant Dink’s murder will ever
be found.

But the debate has already changed dramatically. Murat Bardakci,
a Turkish author and columnist, published "The Remaining Documents
of Talat Pasha" in early 2009. The documents – which once belonged to
Mehmed Talat, the most important architect of the Armenian deportations
and massacres – indicate that the number of Armenians living in
the Ottoman Empire fell from 1,256,000 before 1915 to 284,157 just
two years later: 972,000 Ottoman Armenians disappeared from official
population records between 1915 and 1916. As The New York Times wrote
in March 2009:

"Mr. Bardakci said he had held the documents for so long – 27 years
– because he was waiting for Turkey to reach the point when their
publication would not cause a frenzy."

Murat Bardakci also told the paper that "I could never have published
this book 10 years ago, I would have been called a traitor. The
mentality has changed."

In 2004, Taner Akcam could still write that "it is generally accepted
that debates on violence against Greeks, Armenians and Kurds are
under a taboo in Turkey … Any attempt to break through the wall of
silence is felt to incur the most severe judgement imaginable." Just
five years later Halil Berktay can note:

"The peak of extreme nationalism (ulusalcilik) has passed. A coup was
preve nted. Yusuf Halacoglu is gone [from the Historical Society],
which is very important. The Ergenekon inquiry also has an effect. The
position of the US and the EU has had an effect. Then there was Hrant
Dink’s death and the funeral. Today we have a totally different
Turkey. I write columns in Taraf about the genocide. There is no
noise. There is no psychological terror in public when you carry out
a sober debate. Silently, a profound normalisation is underway."

III. Success and Failure of Turkish Diplomacy A. "Zero problems with
neighbours" "History," British academic Philip Robins once wrote,
"tells Turks to be suspicious, especially of their neighbours, who
covet their territory or seek to erode the greatness of the nation
through devious means." In 1995 Sukru Elekdag, a former Foreign
Ministry undersecretary, concluded that "there are valid reasons for
Turkey’s regarding other neighbours with scepticism and as a source of
threat. Two countries among these neighbours, namely Greece and Syria,
who have claims on Turkey’s vital interests, constitute an immediate
threat for Turkey." In 1998 the impression of increasing cooperation
between Armenia, Greece and Iran caused such irritation in Turkey
that Foreign Minister Ismail Cem travelled to Tehran and accused
Greece of attempting to "recruit Muslim soldiers to take part in new
Crusades." Nahil Senoglu, General and Commander of a military academy,
told a crowd of young o fficers in the late 1990s that "Surrounded
by the largest number of internal and external enemies," Turkey is
"the loneliest country in the world".

At the turn of the decade there was little to suggest that the EU, much
less Greece, would embrace Turkey as a prospective EU member state;
or that Turkey could dramatically improve its relations with Syria. At
the beginning of 1999 relations between Ankara and Athens had reached
a nadir. On 14 February 1999, US president Bill Clinton went so far as
to speculate that the two NATO allies might go to war over the violence
in Kosovo, given their mutual distrust. The very next day, a team of
Turkish commandoes captured PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in Nairobi,
Kenya, exposing, in the process, Athens’ role in sheltering Turkey’s
"public enemy number one". Ocalan had been hiding in the Greek embassy.

Things could not get much worse – and didn’t. The Greek foreign
minister responsible for handling the Ocalan affair was sacked, his
place taken by a long-time supporter of Greek-Turkish rapprochement,
Giorgios Papandreou. In August 1999, a huge earthquake hit the Marmara
region in Turkey. In September, a smaller one struck Athens. The
earthquakes produced an unprecedented show of solidarity by ordinary
Turks and Greeks. The response to the earthquakes provided domestic
cover for a series of diplomatic initiatives: a series of meetings
between Papandreou and Cem paved the way towards20a new spirit o
f détente. At the Helsinki summit of 10-11 December 1999, Greece
formally withdrew its long-standing opposition to Turkey’s accession
to the European Union. Turkey became an official EU candidate.

The Helsinki summit became a turning point in Turkey’s relations with
the outside world. EU candidate status not only spurred a domestic
democratisation process, but also helped to reorient Turkish foreign
policy away from a focus on hard security to soft power. In what
Ihsan Dagi calls the "Europeanization" of Turkish foreign policy,

"a paradigm shift occurred from pure power politics motivated by a
search for survival in a hostile environment to a liberal foreign
policy agenda seeing the countries of the region not as adversaries,
but as partners, prioritizing cooperation over conflict and soft
power over military might and bullying."

The European Union, wrote Kemal Kirisci, "succeeded in having an
impact on Turkey’s ‘culture of anarchy’, moving the country out of
a Hobbesian world toward the Kantian one."

The AKP government, in power since 2002, also perceived that Turkey’s
multiple disputes with its neighbours were diminishing its ability to
play a greater role in international affairs. One of the party’s key
international policy thinkers, Ahmet Davutoglu, wrote already in 2001,

"It is impossible for a country experiencing constant crises with
neighbouring states to produce a regional and global foreign policy
A 6 Particularly in=2 0our region, where authoritarian regimes are
the norm, improving transport possibilities, extending cross-border
trade, increasing cultural exchange programs, and facilitating labour
and capital movement […] will help overcome problems stemming from
the role of the central elites."

The AKP government realised that soft power offered a more effective
means of advancing the national interest. Prime Minister Erdogan
announced a policy of "zero problems" with neighbours – or, as
he put it in November 2008, "winning friends, not enemies". This
has proved to be no empty rhetoric. In the past few years, Turkey
has improved its relations with almost all of its neighbours – most
notably Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Greece. Turkey and Syria put
an end to a half-century-long land dispute, thanks to an agreement
signed in May 2008. Even on Cyprus, Turkey offered its support to the
Annan Plan for a federal solution in 2004, only to see it be rejected
by Greek Cypriots.

In parallel, Turkey has launched a number of ambitious and praised
mediation efforts – between Lebanese factions; between Iraq and
its neighbours; between Pakistan and Afghanistan; between Syria and
Israel. A tangible shift in trade patterns, a sign of a diversified
foreign policy portfolio, has also taken place. Since 2002, exports
to neighbouring and Black Sea countries (Bulgaria, Greece, Syria,
Iraq, Iran, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Russia,20Romania and Ukraine) h ave
risen year after year – from 11 percent of total exports in 2002 to 20
percent in 2008. Imports from these countries, over the same period,
have jumped from 15.5 percent to 27.6 percent.

Turkey’s foreign policy achievements have improved both its
international reputation and its global influence. It is a reflection
of this position that the new US President chose to visit Turkey on
his very first foreign trip in April 2009.

In principle, a policy focused on active engagement with all
neighbouring states would also have dictated the normalization of
relations with Armenia.

It has not. "Turkey wants to see peace, stability, security and
prosperity in its region," as Ali Babacan once put it, "but as you
know our relations with Armenia do not fit into that formula." Talks on
establishing diplomatic relations – already under way in 1992 – first
fell victim to the Armenian-Azerbaijani war over Nagorno Karabakh. In
February 1992, after an Armenian attack on the town of Khojaly, Turkish
President Turgut Ozal openly considered coming to Azerbaijan’s aid
and using military force to "halt the Armenian progression." Less
than three months later, after the Armenian capture of Shushi,
Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel warned that "Turkey can not act as a
bystander to the conflict." In April 1993, in response to Armenian
occupation of further regions surrounding Nagorno Karabakh, Ankara
suspen ded the talks on=2 0diplomatic relations and border issues.

For the last fifteen years the unresolved conflict between Azerbajian
and Armenia has developed into an obstacle to Turkish-Armenian

Turkey’s closing the border with Armenia has done little to help
resolve the problem of Nagorno Karabakh. It has not helped Azerbaijan,
and has diminished Turkey’s role in the region. It has also undermined
Turkey’s soft power. According to Armenia’s National Statistical
Service 2007 exports to Turkey amounted to a paltry $3 million
and imports to $131 million (4 percent of Armenian imports). The
standoff between the two countries remains damaging for both – for the
landlocked Armenian Republic as well as for the impoverished eastern
provinces of Turkey. So why has Turkish policy on Armenia so far been
out of step with its regional vision?

B. Genocide diplomacy In March 2005, the American historian Justin
McCarthy, who had made his name writing on the expulsion of Turks from
the Balkans and the Caucasus in the 19th and early 20th centuries,
was invited to address the Turkish Grand National Assembly. McCarthy
encouraged Turkish lawmakers not to bend to those who claimed that
1915 was a case of genocide. To give in, McCarthy warned, would be
to open the door to potentially devastating consequences, in terms
of both money and territory. The Armenian nationalist agenda had not
changed in more than a century:

"Fi rst, the Turki sh Republic is to state that there was an ‘Armenian
Genocide’ and to apologize for it. Second, the Turks are to pay
reparations. Third, an Armenian state is to be created … Then they
will demand the Turks give Erzurum and Van and Elazig and Sivas and
Bitlis and Trabzon to Armenia."

This, in turn, would have serious implications for the current
inhabitants of East Anatolia:

"The population of the new ‘Armenia’ would be less than one-fourth
Armenian at best. Could such a state long exist? Yes, it could exist,
but only if the Turks were expelled. That was the policy of the
Armenian Nationalists in 1915. It would be their policy tomorrow."

McCarthy’s speech was received with loud applause. It was, after
all, an affirmation of one of the basic tenets of Turkey’s foreign
policy. For the past three decades, Turkey has made a sustained effort
to convince its allies that international recognition of the Armenian
genocide would amount to not only an insult to Turkey, but a threat
to its territorial integrity.

Since the 1980s, the Turkish state has invested significant amounts
of political capital in promoting its views on the Armenian question
on the international stage. It has financed and enlisted research
institutions – such as the Institute of Turkish Studies in Washington
D.C. – to promote its agenda. It has reached out through the print
media. When a resolution referring to the Arme nian genoc ide was
tabled in the US Congress in 1985, for instance, Turkey took out
full-page advertisements in The New York Times, The Washington
Post and The Washington Times to publish a declaration – signed by
sixty-nine scholars – that "statesmen and politicians make history and
scholars write it" and that "much more remains to be discovered before
historians will be able to sort out precise responsibility between
warring and innocent." In 2005, the Ankara Chamber of Commerce paid
for 600,000 copies of the documentary series Sari Gelin to be sent
out across Europe as a Time Magazine supplement, in English, German,
French, Spanish, Polish and Russian. (The magazine later apologised
for distributing the film without reviewing the content.)

Until the mid-1980s, the Turkish campaign appeared to be working. In
1965, the Uruguayan parliament was the first to adopt a resolution in
honour of the "Armenian martyrs slain in 1915". Other than Cyprus,
no other country followed suit for the next twenty years. Turkey
had a number of trump cards at its disposal: it was an important
NATO ally in the Cold War, while Armenia was a Soviet Republic. The
Lebanon-based Armenian terrorist group ASALA (the Armenian Secret Army
for the Liberation of Armenia), responsible for a series of deadly
attacks against Turkish diplomats around the world, linked the Armenian
cause with Middle Eastern fanaticism. Turkey had powerful friends in
the U S Co ngress and State Department, and throughout the Western
business world. For geo-strategic reasons, it had the support of the
pro-Israeli lobby. In addition, as Adam Jones pointed out, "a tacit
understanding prevailed among politically powerful sectors of Turkish
and Israeli society to marginalise the Armenian genocide by proclaiming
the uniqueness and incommensurability of the Jewish Holocaust."

However, in the 1990s official apologies for historical wrongs were
becoming increasingly common in Western democracies. Around the world,
governments were acknowledging a moral responsibility for the acts
of previous generations, whether to do with wartime conduct, slavery
or the mistreatment of indigenous populations. In the absence of
developments within Turkey, the Armenian question was picked up
by parliaments in a number of other countries, including the US
and France, and by the European Parliament, some of which issued
declarations using the word "genocide".

Successive Turkish governments treated these declarations as hostile

Threats were issued against countries debating genocide
resolutions. For example, during a 2000 hearing in the US Congress,
former Turkish ambassador Gunduz Aktan warned that a resolution on
genocide could lead to the closure of the US air force base in Incirlik
(southern Turkey). Armenia would also suffer:

"By insisting on the recognition of the genocide, the Armenian
leadership and the diaspora will finally silence20the few=2 0remaining
voices favourable to them in Turkey. This will effectively result in
sealing the border. Given the situation in Armenia this attitude of
the Armenian government is akin to suicide."

Yet Turkey’s genocide diplomacy has been almost entirely
unsuccessful. The tide of international opinion has clearly and
irrevocably shifted towards acknowledging the Armenian genocide. Barack
Obama may not have used the word during his April 2009 visit to Turkey,
but he has done so in the past, and it is very likely that he and
other world leaders will do so again in the future. Yet contrary
to the fears of the Turkish establishment, this is not a sign of
anti-Turkish sentiment, but rather a reflection of a global change
in the way genocide itself is understood.

C. A century of genocide In 2007, a publication of the Ankara-based
Institute for Armenian Research noted, with perceptible resignation,
that recognition of the Armenian genocide had shifted from an Armenian
national agenda to a mainstream view among scholars.

"in recent years, the most salient but maybe the least noticed fact
with regard to the Armenian question is that the Armenian claims are
accepted more extensively by part of the Western academic society
… At the end of this process, which resembles a chain reaction, many
more academics read these publications and use them in their studies."

This chain reaction was part of the emergence of genocide20as a new

field of study in Western academia. In 1980, the University of Montreal
launched the first ever academic course on "the history and sociology
of genocide". Following the publication of Leo Kuper’s 1981 book
Genocide – Its Political Uses in the Twentieth Century, the field
of genocide studies expanded rapidly. Genocide research institutes
were created in the US and across Europe. In 1997, an International
Association of Genocide Scholars was founded. In 1999, Israel Charny
produced the first Encyclopaedia of Genocide, which included twenty
pages on the Armenian genocide. Samantha Power’s 2002 book A Problem
from Hell, on America’s failure to prevent genocides in the 20th
century, won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

Until 1980, genocide research had focused mainly on the Holocaust. When
the Armenian historian Vahakn Dadrian first wrote on the subject of
"comparative genocide", he used the Holocaust as a yardstick. So too
did his detractors.

Turkish scholars rejected the genocide label by emphasising the
difference between Hitler’s policies and those of the Young Turk
government. Their arguments centred on two propositions. First,
unlike the Holocaust, it was impossible to establish an "intent
to destroy" the Armenians on the part of the Ottoman authorities,
given that important Armenian populations in parts of Turkey were
untouched. US historian Guenther Lewy underlined in a recent book that

"the20large Armen ian communities of Constantinople, Smyrna and
Aleppo were spared deportation and … survived the war largely intact
… These exemptions are analogous to Adolf Hitler failing to include
the Jews of Berlin, Cologne and Munich in the Final Solution."

The second proposition is that, unlike the Jews of Nazi Germany, the
Armenians had rebelled against the Ottoman authorities, and therefore
could not be counted as "innocent victims". As Gunduz Aktan told the
US Congress in 2000: "Killing, even of civilians, in a war waged for
territory, is not genocide. The victims of genocide must be totally
innocent." Given that the events of 1915 were not equivalent to the
Holocaust, the argument went, they did not amount to genocide, and
any use of the term was purely political.

What this argument overlooks, however, is that, in international usage,
the term "genocide" has never been limited to "acts equivalent to the
Holocaust". The starting point is the Convention on the Prevention
and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the UN General
Assembly in 1948. The Convention defines "genocide" as:

"any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole
or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or
mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on
the group conditions of life calculated to bring ab out its physical
destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to
prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children
of the group to another group."

There is now a considerable body of court cases, official declarations
and academic studies applying this definition to both historical
and contemporary events around the world. In 2003, the Dutch expert
Ton Zwaan was asked by the prosecutor of the International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to summarise "the main
general findings and insights developed in the field of ‘genocide
studies’." Zwaan argued that detailed studies of specific historical
cases since the early 1980s had made clear that, while the Holocaust
"was undoubtedly the most systematic attempt to realise a ‘total’ and
‘complete’ genocide ever", it should not obscure recognition of other,
less ‘total’ forms of genocide.

"In fact, all genocides have been in a sense ‘partial’ genocides
… There have indeed been quite important differences between the
murder of the Jews, and the National-Socialist genocidal policies
towards parts of the Polish and Russian populations under German
occupation, but one may simultaneously acknowledge that in all three
cases a genocidal policy was followed and a genocidal process took

The key phrase in the 1948 Convention is "in whole or in part". As
the International Association of Genocide Scholars has pointed out:
"Perpetrators need not int end to destroy the entire group. Destruction
of only part of a group (such as its educated members, or members
living in one region) is also genocide."

This has been applied in numerous findings by courts and commissions
of enquiry. The Guatemalan Historical Clarification Commission,
looking into the atrocities of the 1970s and 80s against indigenous
Mayans, concluded that "agents of the State of Guatemala, within
the framework of counterinsurgency operations carried out between
1981 and 1983, committed acts of genocide against groups of Mayan
people." The government’s decision to designate all Maya as supporters
of communism and terrorism, the report noted, had led to "aggressive,
racist and extremely cruel … violations that resulted in the massive
extermination of defenceless Mayan communities."

Similarly, the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in
which Bosnian Serb forces killed some 8,000 Muslim men, was found to
be genocide.

In a 2004 judgment, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former
Yugoslavia (ICTY) concluded that "the aim of the Genocide Convention
is to prevent the intentional destruction of entire human groups,
and the part targeted must be significant enough to have an impact
on the group as a whole." It continued:

"The massacred men amounted to about one fifth of the overall
Srebrenica community. The Trial Chamber found that, given the
patriarchal character of the Bosnian Muslim societ y in Srebrenica,
the destruction of such a sizeable number of men would inevitably
result in the physical disappearance of the Bosnian Muslim population
at Srebrenica."

Scholars and courts have also clarified the meaning of "intent to

The International Association of Genocide Scholars wrote:

"Intent can be proven directly from statements or orders. But more
often, it must be inferred from a systematic pattern of coordinated
acts … Whatever may be the motive for the crime (land expropriation,
national security, territorial integrity, etc.), if the perpetrators
commit acts intended to destroy a group, even part of a group, it
is genocide."

Forced relocation has been described as genocide in a number of
instances, including the American Indians. Scholars tell the story of
"genocidal death marches, most infamously the Trail of Tears of the
Cherokee and Navajo nations, which killed between 20 and 40 percent
of the targeted populations en route." Discussing the extermination
of native Americans in Spanish America, Adam Jones notes that:

"When slaves are dying like flies before your eyes, after only a few
months down the mines or on the plantations, and your response is not
to alter conditions but to feed more human lives into the inferno,
this is ‘first-degree’ genocide."

A history of conflict between the two groups in question, or
indeed the existing of any causal relationship between an initial
aggression and s ubsequent retribution, does not preclude a finding
of genocide. When Hutu apologists claimed that the 1994 Rwandan
genocide was a continuation of civil war, and a defensive act intended
to pre-empt genocide at Tutsi hands (which Hutus had suffered in
neighbouring Burundi in 1972), the International Criminal Tribunal
for Rwanda rejected the argument.

Through these interpretations, the number of episodes accepted
internationally as genocide has steadily increased. Scholarly journals
such as Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Journal of Genocide
Research now feature articles and debates on genocide committed by the
ancient Roman Republic against Carthage in 146 BC, on the fate of the
Australian Aborigines in the early 20th century, on Russian atrocities
against Muslims in the Northern Caucasus, and on genocides in Cambodia,
Rwanda, East Timor, Burundi, Guatemala, the Ukraine (under Stalin) and
Bosnia. Growing international concern on the subject, particularly
in the wake of the Srebrenica and Rwandan genocides, has been a
significant influence on international policy. For example, it was
a major factor in NATO’s 1999 decision to engage militarily in Kosovo.

Genocide studies have therefore by no means "singled out the Turks",
as some Turkish critics have suggested. On the contrary, research
has made it clear that the 20th century – probably the most violent
in human history – saw genocide take place in almost every corner
of the20world. =0 D Against this background, there are hardly any
reputable scholars in the field of genocide studies who doubt that
what happened to the Armenians in 1915 constitutes genocide. To deny
it is to take on an international consensus supported by countless
scholars, commissions, courts and governments. It is a consensus that
Turkey’s diplomats have struggled – and failed – to overcome.

D. Abandoned by its allies?

Resolutions commemorating the 1915 massacres as genocide have now
been passed in more than 20 countries, leaving Turkish politicians and
diplomats baffled by their inability to win over even the staunchest
of Turkey’s allies. Turks have felt themselves outmanoeuvred and
outspent by an Armenian diaspora with apparently unlimited resources
and political clout. The memory of Turkish diplomats killed by ASALA
terrorists in the 1970s and 80s adds bitterness to the defeat,
reinforcing the sense that it is Turkey that is the victim of an

When the French National Assembly adopted a single-sentence law
in May 1998 – "France publicly recognizes the Armenian genocide
of 1915" – French Armenians were identified as the culprits. Many
of the parliamentarians who first proposed the law did represent
constituencies – in suburban Paris and Marseille, for instance – with
high concentrations of French Armenians. One Turkish writer, Gurbuz
Evren, speculated that if all the Turkish residents in France had20
French citizenship "the French parliament would pass a resolution
claiming that it was not Turks who murdered 1.5 million Armenians
but on the contrary the Armenians who massacred the Turks."

The Armenian diaspora is seen by Turks as a formidable opponent. The
largest Armenian communities outside of Armenia are in the US (over
1.5 million, half of which reside in California), Russia (more
than 2 million), France (450,000), Georgia (460,000) and Lebanon
(234,000). There are also substantial communities in Syria, Iran
and Argentina.

However, many of these resolutions cannot be explained by Armenian
lobbying, or indeed by any apparent anti-Turkish sentiment. Genocide
resolutions have passed in countries with small Armenian populations
– in Poland, a long-time ally of Turkey, in Italy, in Lithuania and
in Slovakia. The Netherlands, home to one of the largest Turkish
communities in Europe, adopted a genocide resolution in 2004, at the
very time that the Dutch government, in its position as EU president,
was trying to secure a date for Turkey’s EU accession talks. In June
2005 Germany, with Europe’s largest Turkish population, unanimously
adopted a parliamentary motion on "Remembering and commemorating the
expulsions and massacres of the Armenians in 1915."

Germany, governed at the time by a Red-Green coalition under
Social-Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schroder and Green Party Foreign
Minister Joschka Fischer, was one of Tur key’s=2 0closest European
allies. Berlin had pushed for Turkey to become an EU candidate in 1999;
in 2000, it amended the German citizenship law to make it easier for
hundreds of thousands of long-time Turkish residents to become German
citizens (and thus voters); in 2004, it strongly supported opening
accession talks with Ankara.

The text adopted by the Bundestag – and sponsored jointly by the
parliamentary groups of the SPD, CDU/CSU, the Greens and the FDP –
was nonetheless unambiguous:

"The German Bundestag … deplores the deeds of the Young Turk
government of the Ottoman Empire, which led to the almost total
annihilation of the Armenians in Anatolia."

The resolution includes a reference to genocide: "numerous independent
historians, parliaments and international organisations recognised
the deportation and extermination of Armenians as genocide." Turkey’s
policy of denial, it concludes, was "contradictory to the idea of
reconciliation that is the foundation of the community of values
existing in the European Union."

Rarely have the shortcomings of Turkish genocide diplomacy been more
obvious than in its efforts to block this resolution. The Turkish
ambassador in Germany, Mehmet Ali Irtemcelik, accused its supporters
of acting as "spokespersons of fanatic Armenian nationalism, which
is using organised terror around the world." The Turkish foreign
ministry noted with regret that "none of our warnings were taken
into acc ount by the Bundestag." Parliamentary Speaker Bulent Arinc
sent a letter to his German counterpart, saddened by "this one-sided
decision by the parliament of a friend and allied country." It was
to no avail. German Green politician Cem Ozdemir, the most prominent
German politician of Turkish descent, noted simply that "With state
propaganda, which has worked far too long in a closed society, you
cannot continue in an international debate."

Even in the United States – where some Turks still feel that the
recognition game is theirs to be won – the failure of Ankara’s
genocide diplomacy is all too obvious. US president Ronald Reagan
referred to the "Armenian genocide" in a speech in 1981. George Bush
Sr. has spoken of "the terrible massacres [the Armenians] suffered in
1915-1923 at the hands of the Ottoman rulers." To date, 42 US states
(representing 85 percent of America’s population) have recognised
the Armenian genocide, either by legislation or proclamation.

Turkey has spent considerable political capital on attempting to
block the passage of a genocide resolution in the US Congress. In
September 2007, when the House of Representatives was poised to
vote on a non-binding resolution condemning the Armenian genocide,
Turkey recalled its ambassador. Turkish warnings halted the passage
of a genocide resolution in Congress also in 2008. It was, as Turkish
analyst Omer Taspinar called it, a "pyrrhic victory". The failu re
to adopt the genocide resolution "had nothing to do with the sudden
discovery of new historical facts proving correct the Turkish version
of history", he noted, and everything to do with purely strategic
concerns – i.e., America’s dependence on Turkish help and resources
in the war in Iraq.

Charles Krauthammer, an influential commentator who had sided
with Turkey in opposing a resolution, also wrote at the time:
"That between 1 million and 1.5 million Armenians were brutally and
systematically massacred starting in 1915 in a deliberate genocidal
campaign is a matter of simple historical record." In short, Turkey
failed to persuade even its allies of its version of history. As
Taspinar concluded, "Turkey won an important battle but ended up
losing the war."

Following the latest US elections, all the key figures in the new
administration – President Barack Obama himself, Vice President Joe
Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Speaker of the
House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi – are on record calling 1915
a genocide.

Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell, is a key foreign policy
adviser and member of the National Security Council. Obama’s campaign
website stated:

"the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or
a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an
overwhelming body of historical evidence."

"As a senator I strongly support passag e of20the Armenian Genocide
Resolution," Obama announced during his campaign, "and as President
I will recognise the Armenian Genocide." During an April 2009 visit
to Ankara, intended to launch a new era in US-Turkish relations,
Obama told journalists that his views on the Armenian genocide
"had not changed and were on the record." Obama’s non-use of the
"g-word" during the Turkey trip was a polite and judicious way of
standing by his convictions without offending his hosts. It seems
only a question of time, however, before Obama and others in his
administration reaffirm what they have already stated repeatedly.

E. The consequences of recognition In August 2004, the German
development aid minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul attended a ceremony
in Okakarara, Namibia. She had come to issue a formal apology for
what historians have called the first genocide of the 20th century,
committed by German colonial troops during the Herero uprising of 1904:

"We Germans accept our historic and moral responsibility and the
guilt incurred by Germans at that time … The atrocities committed
at that time would have been termed genocide."

In response to a Herero uprising that killed around 130 German settlers
and soldiers, colonial troops led by Lothar von Trotha ordered the
Hereros to leave Namibia or be killed. Men, women and children were
subsequently massacred or driven into the desert and left to die. Of
some 100,000 people, only=2 =0 A015,000 survived. In 2001, the Hereros
filed a USD 4 billion lawsuit against the German government and
two US-based German companies. The claim was opposed by the German
government, who argued the international humanitarian laws on the
protection of combatants and civilians did not exist at the time of
the conflict. When the German apology was finally forthcoming, exactly
a hundred years after the events, the court proceedings were abandoned.

Turks have long argued that international recognition of the Armenian
genocide would single them out as a "genocidal people", placed on
an equal moral footing with Nazi Germany. But as it happens, the
same trends in international thinking that have led to widespread
recognition of the Armenian genocide have made it a less singular
episode than it might have appeared a few decades ago.

The pro-Turkish historian Justin McCarthy once told an audience
in Istanbul, almost flippantly, that by the standards of the UN
Genocide Convention "Turks were indeed guilty of genocide" – and
"so were Armenians, Russians, Greeks, Americans, British, and almost
every people that has ever existed." His remarks, though intended to
ridicule the Genocide Convention, actually point to a deeper truth:
there have been all too many genocides around the world, implicating
both Western and developing countries.

However, recognition of historical genocides predating the 1948
Convention have been largely symbolic acts,=2 0without any of the dire
consequences feared by Turks. The growing number of resolutions on
the Armenian genocide since 2000 have also done little to undermine
Turkey’s international prestige. The same period has seen the opening
of EU accession talks, a Turkish non-permanent seat on the UN Security
Council (the first since the 1960s), exponential increases in foreign
investment, and widespread international praise for Turkey’s domestic
reforms and foreign policy initiatives. Barack Obama’s visit in April
2009 is yet another sign of Turkey’s rising star on the international

The genocide resolutions have not drawn any link between
acknowledgement of genocide and either reparations or territorial
concessions. In fact, the trend towards international recognition
has not carried any material consequences for the Turkish state. The
European Parliament resolution of June 1987 explicitly stated that,
while "the tragic events in 1915-1917 involving the Armenians
living in the territory of the Ottoman Empire constitute genocide
[…] the present Turkey cannot be held responsible for the tragedy
experienced by the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire." In 2002, the
Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission sought the views of the
influential International Centre on Transitional Justice in New York
on the question of legal responsibility for the genocide. An opinion
drafted by independent counsel stated:

"The Genocide Convention contains no provision m andating its
retroactive application. To the contrary, the text of the Convention
strongly suggests that it was intended to impose prospective
obligations only on the States party to it. Therefore, no legal,
financial or territorial claim arising out of the Events [of 1915]
could successfully be made against any individual or state under
the Convention."

Leading international scholar of genocide and international law
William Schabas also wrote:

"Nobody but Turkey can invoke international law before the
International Court of Justice in order to claim the right to
compensation for the genocide of the Armenians, something it is hardly
likely to do."

A non-binding resolution mooted in the US Congress – the Damoclean
sword Turkish policy makers see hanging over their heads – would not
alter this. Nor would a statement by president Obama.

This is the paradox of Turkey’s genocide diplomacy. A growing number
of Turks have realised that their country’s international position
on the Armenian question has only generated tension with important
allies, while utterly failing to persuade them. At the same time,
vague but powerful anxieties remain as to the consequences of any
change in the official line.

So long as Turkey’s political leaders and opinion makers continue to
stoke fears of loss of territory and reparations Turkey will continue
to respond defensively. By continuing to treat every mention of the
‘g-word’ as an at t ack on national honour, Turkey’s foreign policy
has become hostage to events beyond its control, particularly when
dealing with the Caucasus. It is now readily apparent that this
particular policy has become a national liability.

IV. The Fading Dream of Greater Armenia The wallpaper on Kiro Manoyan’s
computer in his Yerevan office tells part of the story. It features
a picture of Harput, the former hometown of Manoyan’s grandparents
– a part of South East Anatolia which became known in 1915 as a
"slaughterhouse vilayet". At the beginning of 1915, the region was
home to some hundred thousand Armenians. On 30 December 1915, the US
consul in Harput reported that "there are probably not more than four
thousand left."

The intervening period saw a reign of terror described in detail by
US historian Guenther Lewy:

"Several hundred Armenian men had been seized, including nearly every
person of importance. Almost all of them were being tortured in order
to reveal hidden weapons and seditious plots … In early July the
authorities began to empty the prisons. Batches of men were taken
away at night and were never heard of again. It soon became known
that they had all been killed."

Manoyan’s grandparents managed to escape, having found shelter with
Turkish friends (this despite the fact that sheltering Armenians
constituted a capital offence at the time).

Kiro himself was born in Lebanon, home to a large number Otto man
Armenians who survived the deportations. The diaspora in Lebanon,
like many other Armenian communities around the world, was "a broken
refugee population with little or no political consciousness, with
strong regional and religious identities, a weak pan-national sense
of belonging and even limited or no Armenian language skills."

Attitudes towards Soviet Armenia, already highly polarised, were
exacerbated by divisions within the Armenian Apostolic Church. During
the Cold War, the Cilician See, based in Lebanon and allied to the
Dashnak cause, took a fiercely anti-Soviet stance. The Etchmiadzin See
(in Armenia), supported by other diaspora political parties, supported
the Soviet authorities. In the Lebanese civil war of 1958, the Armenian
community split into two factions, each supporting a different side.

On 24 April 1965, on the 50th anniversary of the 1915 massacres,
a crowd of 200,000 Armenians gathered outside the opera building in
Yerevan. The protestors, throwing stones, cries of "Justice" and "Our
Lands" on their lips, demanded that Turkey return all territories where
Armenians used to live, and called on the Soviets for help. Two years
later, construction of the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan,
listing the Armenian-populated cities now inside Turkish borders,
was completed.

The 1965 anniversary was also to become a turning point for the
huge Armenian diaspora. A new group of ARF (Dashnak) leaders began
to use =0 Aanti-T urkish sentiment to forge a rallying platform for
Armenian unity and patriotism. The call for justice, reparations,
and restitution mobilised the scattered communities as never
before. Genocide and the campaign for its recognition became central
to Armenian national consciousness. As Razmik Panossian put it,

"The genocide itself (including its denial) became the defining moment
– the founding ‘moment’ – of contemporary Armenian identity. Post-1915
Armenians, particularly in the diaspora, saw themselves as ‘the
first Christian nation’ and ‘the first victims of genocide in the
twentieth century’."

As opposition to Turkey grew, demands for a Greater Armenia – the
unification of historical Armenian territories through revisions of the
Turkish border – supplanted the goal of liberation from Soviet rule.

Increasingly, the diaspora political parties began to shelve their
divisions to adopt a united front towards Turkey. A memorandum
submitted by the three main diaspora parties to the UN in 1975
demanded "the return of Turkish-held Armenian territories to their
rightful owner – the Armenian people", along with "moral, financial
and territorial reparations."

Like many Armenians, Kiro Manoyan and his family fled Lebanon during
the civil war and emigrated to Canada, where he became active in the
ARF network, now energised around a common cause. In 2000, he came to
Armenia and became the ARF’s spokesperson for foreign policy. To this
day, Manoyan continues to reject the current border with Turkey. In
an interview with the Armenian daily Yerkir in April 2005, Manoyan
explained that Armenia will bring up the territorial dispute with
its vastly more powerful neighbour as soon as the opportunity to do
so presents itself.

"We believe that Armenia is unable to make such demands today. But
this doesn’t mean that it will be unable to do so tomorrow. So it
must not take any steps that would hamper or inhibit us tomorrow."

This remains the official ARF position. In a parliamentary debate in
Yerevan in 2007, Vahan Hovhannisian, then deputy speaker of parliament
and a leading ARF politician, described the 1921 Treaties of Kars
and Moscow, which define the current border, as "illegal" (despite
their having been ratified) and called for "very serious diplomatic,
legal work" to revise them. Speaking at the same debate, Ara Papian,
previously Yerevan’s ambassador to Canada, also rejected the validity
of the two treaties, arguing instead that the 1920 Treaty of Sevres,
which awarded Armenia a substantial part of eastern Anatolia (but was
never ratified), remained in force. Papian even calculated a precise
figure, USD 41,514,230,940, to be paid by Turkey in reparations for
damages inflicted during World War I.

According to Armenians like Manoyan and Papian, the unresolved
territorial issue is an insurmountable obstacle to normal relations
between the20neighbourin g countries. Armen Ayvazian, director of the
Yerevan-based strategic research institute ‘Ararat’, for his part,
argues that Armenia – if it is serious about pursuing its territorial
demands – should not engage with Turkey at all.

"The solution to the Armenian question is not the international
recognition of the Armenian genocide, as many misperceive it and
as Armenia’s false friends are suggesting. The Armenian Question is
first of all a territorial question …. There is only one solution to
the Armenian Question: to restore Armenian statehood, if not in the
entirety of Armenia (350,000 sq/km), then at least on a substantial
piece of it, such that the safe and long-term existence and development
of Armenian civilisation can be secured."

Ayvazian likens present-day Armenia (29,800 sq/km) to a "lonely
castle", offering no place for the nation to retreat and regroup its
forces. This can never be accepted. Ayvazian also harshly criticises
the Armenian authorities for being too soft on Turkey, particularly
in light of President Gul’s 2008 visit to Yerevan.

"While Israel confronts a Holocaust-denying Iran by all possible means,
the Armenian government invites the Armenian Genocide-denier Abdullah
Gul to Armenia and prompts our people to respect the flag and anthem
of the enemy."

Maximalist positions like Ayvazian’s are still common among Armenians,
both at home and abroad. As part of a political platform, howe
ver, they =0 Aappear increasingly bankrupt, offering no effective
strategy or realistic perspective for advancing Armenian territorial
claims. What is more, they have ceased to be effective as a tool for
uniting Armenians, either at home or in the diaspora.

At home, the ARF has never been able to win more than 14 percent
of the vote. A junior coalition partner in the current government,
their influence on foreign policy is limited. Tellingly, every Armenian
government since independence has been in favour of opening diplomatic
relations with Turkey without any preconditions.

Even in the diaspora, positions are divided. While some Armenians
oppose any contact with Turks whatsoever until Turkey admits the
genocide, pays reparations, and returns territory in "Western Armenia",
others are open to engagement. The Armenian National Committee of
America (ANCA), a network affiliated with the ARF, regarded the 2001
Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission, an effort by the US
State Department to bring prominent Armenians and Turks together,
as "a Turkish ploy intended to derail international recognition of
the Armenian genocide" and "a barrier to the genocide recognition
campaign." The Armenian Assembly of America (AAA), on the other hand,
took part in it.

International recognition of the genocide, meanwhile, has not
translated into international support for changing the borders, one
of the ARF’s major aims. Third country resolutions and proclamations,
acknowl edged Simon Payaslian, a diaspora historian, "neglect the
issues of retribution, compensation and restitution; and they
particularly ignore the fact that as a result of the Genocide,
Armenians lost their historic territories." As a result, Armenian
hardliners are questioning the wisdom of fighting so hard for genocide
recognition throughout the world. As Papian put it:

"All of our resources went to the genocide. Well, it is all too
obvious, if people were massacred for their ethnicity that is
genocide. It is senseless to argue whether this happened or not".

The Armenian nationalists’ "coarse and indiscriminate" discourse,
writes Gerard Libaridian, a leading American Armenian intellectual
and a former advisor to Armenian president Levon Ter-Petrossian,
"accused all Turks, past and present, of being party to the criminal
action. It was, or appeared to be, a battle of all Armenians against
all Turks … The policy of denial of the genocide was seen as the
mere manifestation of the evil nature of Turkey and of Turks." By
linking genocide recognition to territorial claims, he adds, the
nationalist discourse has proven counterproductive.

"Armenian political parties considered a Turkish recognition of the
genocide as the first step and the legal basis for territorial demands
from Turkey.

Even if there were no other reasons, this linkage would have been
sufficient for the Turkish state to deny the genocide at al l cost."

Asserting ou tright that "there is no logical connection between the
cause of genocide recognition and that of retrieving land from Turkey,"
historian Donald Bloxham has also challenged the Armenian nationalists
to answer the fundamental question "whether recognition is really going
to open the door to healing wounds and reconciliation, as we are often
told, or whether it is a means of redressing nationalist grievances. Is
it an issue of historical truth, morality and responsibility, or of
unresolved political and material claims?"

V. Birds with Wings In December 2007, Levon Ter-Petrossian (Armenia’s
first president from 1991 to 1998) delivered a major policy speech
at Yerevan’s Liberty Square as part of his presidential election
campaign. After reminding his audience of his personal background –
"I am a descendant of Genocide survivors. My grandfather fought in
the heroic Battle of Musa Dagh. My seven-year old father carried food
and water to the positions. And my mother was born in those days in
a cave. Had the French Navy not happened to have been sailing by the
shores of Musa Dagh I would not be alive now" – he set out the case
for improving relations with Turkey:

"It is time to finally understand that by presenting ultimatums to
Turkey or pushing it into a corner, no-one can force it to recognise
the Armenian Genocide. I have absolutely no doubt that Turkey will do
so – soone r or later. Yet it will not happen before the normalisation
of Armenian-Turkish relations, but after the establishment of an
atmosphere of good-neighbourliness, cooperation and trust between
our countries.

Consequently, emotions aside, these relations must be built on the
basis of the reality that Armenia considers the events of 1915 to be
Genocide, whereas Turkey does not."

Ter-Petrossian did not object to Armenians in the diaspora working to
achieve genocide recognition. As he put it, "The sons and daughters
of the Armenian Diaspora, as citizens, taxpayers, and voters of
different countries, have the right to exert pressure on their
governments." Armenia’s interest, however, was not in lobbying against
Turkey abroad, but in seeing Turkey succeed in becoming a prosperous
European democracy. Armenian authorities’ attempts to undermine
Turkey’s EU accession process were thus a sign of "incompetence":

"Isn’t it obvious that Turkey’s accession to the EU is in Armenia’s
best interest in all respects – economic, political, and security? What
is more dangerous – Turkey as an EU member, or Turkey that has been
rejected by the West, and has turned therefore to the East? Or, what
is more preferable: Armenia isolated from the West, or Armenia that
shares a border with the European Union? Our country’s foreign policy
should have answered these simple questions long ago."

Even before Armenia declared its independence from the Soviet Union,
0ATer-Petrossian liked to evoke th e fate of the first Armenian
republic, which lasted less than two years between 1918 and 1920. To
avoid this fate, he believed that Armenia needed a balanced foreign
policy, and in particular good relations with Turkey. Six months
before Armenia’s independence, Ter-Petrossian met with Volkan Vural,
the Turkish Ambassador to Moscow, assuring him that:

"Armenia is changing, and in this new world we should be neighbour
states with new thinking. We want to become friends. We are ready
for any type of mutually beneficial cooperation. Armenia has no
territorial claims towards Turkey."

In the end, however, Ter-Petrossian did not succeed in establishing
diplomatic relations with Turkey. When he was pushed out of office
by Robert Kocharian, the former leader of the break-away republic of
Nagorno-Karabakh, many among the new leadership in Yerevan wrote off
the former president’s policy of accommodation as a failure. Kocharian
brought the ARF (Dashnak) party, which had been outlawed, into
his government, and decided to work more closely with the Armenian
diaspora. He organised the first big Armenian diaspora conference in
Yerevan in September 1999. He also made the issue of international
genocide recognition a priority of Armenian foreign policy.

While assuring Turkey that genocide recognition would not give rise
to territorial claims, he made few efforts to reach out to Turkey –
pointing out, at the same t ime, that "it is not us keepin g the
Armenian-Turkish border closed."

In April 2008, Robert Kocharian was succeeded by his former prime
minister, Serzh Sarkisian, who had defeated Ter-Petrossian in
the polls. During the election campaign, some media outlets had
portrayed Ter-Petrossian as a Turkophile, referring to him as ‘Levon
Efendi’. However, once elected, Sarkisian decided to seek engagement
with Armenia’s Western neighbour.

Addressing Armenian diaspora representatives on 23 June 2008 in Moscow,
he noted:

"Armenia’s position is clear; in the 21st century between neighbouring
countries there must not be closed borders. The regional cooperation
could be the best means supporting stability. The Turkish side offers
to form a commission that would be studying historical facts. We
don’t oppose the creation of such a commission, but when the border
between the states is open."

It was then that the new Armenian president invited his Turkish
counterpart, Abdullah Gul, to Yerevan. In an article in The Wall
Street Journal on 9 July 2008, Sarkisian explained his position in
more detail:

"The time has come for a fresh effort to break this deadlock, a
situation that helps no one and hurts many. As president of Armenia,
I take this opportunity to propose a fresh start – a new phase of
dialogue with the government and people of Turkey, with the goal of
normalizing relations and opening our common border … There is n
o real alternative to the establ ishment of normal relations between
our countries."

When President Abdullah Gul decided to take up Sarkisian’s offer
and visit Yerevan, the opposition Armenian National Congress led by
Ter-Petrossian postponed a planned rally to protest against president
Sarkisian on 5 September. "We are supporters of the normalisation
of Armenian-Turkish relations," said the ANC in a statement, "and
we do not wish in any way to overshadow any event supporting the
perspectives of those relations." It was Kocharian who expressed his
disapproval. Asked, back in July 2008, to respond to allegations that
he was still "ruling the country" behind the scenes, he responded
that "if that were true, Levon Ter-Petrossian, most likely, would
now already be in jail for criminal activity … and the Turkish
President would not be invited for a football match to Yerevan for
sure." It was now Sarkisian’s turn to suffer charges of appeasement.

Haykakan Jamanak, an opposition daily, accused the new president of
making too many "concessions" to Turkey. Its cover featured Sarkisian –
"Serzhik Efendi", as the newspaper called him – wearing an Ottoman fez.

It asked: "What should one call such behaviour? Is it flattery,
flirtation, self-interest or simply treachery?"

Some Armenians still believe that Turkey cannot change. Suspicion of
Turkey’s motives and fear of its true intentions are widespread, both
on the street and in the media. In a 2004 opinion po ll, 68.7 percent
of Armenian respondents, when asked to characterise Turks in a single
word, came up with negative descriptions – among them, "bloodthirsty"
(6.4 percent), "enemy" (10.1 percent), "barbarian" (9.1 percent) and
"murderers" (6.4 percent). Only 6 percent of respondents cited positive
characteristics. When Turkish intellectuals launched the 1915 apology
campaign, a number of Armenians questioned their intentions out of fear
that the initiative was designed to hinder the Armenian campaign for
genocide recognition. Some analysts and politicians stressed that "the
number of signatories is too small to speak of public support to the
initiative and the authors of the petition did not use term Genocide."

Memories of 1915 came to the fore once again with the murder of
Hrant Dink in January 2007. Many protests and commemorative events
were held simultaneously across Armenia. The ARF Youth branch held
a protest march on 22 January in front of the Council of Europe
office in Yerevan. Their posters read: "The genocide is continuing",
"Turkey, your hands are bloody!", "Restrain the Turks!", "Demand
the truth of the Dink murder". On 24 January, a rally organized by
the Yerevan Mayor’s Office and the Writers’ Union of Armenia marched
on the Genocide memorial in Yerevan to denounce the assassination,
with up to 100,000 participants according to news reports.

"Genocide is continuing," one of the=2 0participants was quoted as
saying. During=2 0a parliamentary debate, former Prime Minister Khosrov
Harutyunian (1992-93) recommended that "Armenia should do everything to
show the international community that Turkey had not changed at all."

At the same time, however, many people in Yerevan – impressed by images
of Dink’s huge funeral procession in Istanbul and news of many Turks’
genuine grief – were coming to exactly the opposite conclusion. As
Haykakan Jamanak columnist Anna Hakobian wrote,

"The scene on TV was really impressive. The waves of hundreds of
thousands of people accompanying Hrant Dink’s coffin were impressive;
the applause that was audible from time to time was impressive;
"We are all Armenians, we are all Hrant Dink", "Stop Article 301",
"Shoulder to shoulder against Fascism" posters and similar sounding
calls were impressive … Even before Hrant Dink’s burial ceremony,
the Turkish authorities managed to make an unprecedented step towards
reconciliation, addressed to the Armenian authorities."

A new consensus on the wisdom of reaching out to Ankara, supported by
Turkey’s recent liberalisation, has opened up a window of opportunity
for a historic rapprochement. It has also had a tangible impact on
the way that Armenian society perceives Turks and Turkey. A series of
IRI-supported polls recently revealed that in March 2007, following
Dink’s assassination, 89 percent of Armenians cited Turkey among
the most sig nificant threats to their country. By Januar y 2008,
the figure had dropped to 56 percent.

In a December 2006 interview, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian
argued that a commission of historians from Armenia and Turkey, as
proposed in 2005 by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, would produce no
results. Turkish historians, he said, would be unable to pronounce
the word "genocide".

"How can they speak with the Armenian historians? There are prohibiting
laws in Turkey. This is like releasing a bird from its cage while
breaking its wing."

Today, however, this is no longer true. In the new climate, the broken
wings are healing, creating an opportunity for both Turkey and Armenia.

Gerard Libaridian once defined the battle for the soul of the Armenian
republic as the response to the following question: Is the Republic
"to be defined by the Genocide and anti-Turkism or become a normal
state in peace with its neighbours and in pursuit of the welfare and
security of its citizens"? The coming months are the right time for
an answer to this question. As Ter-Petrossian put it,

"Many nations and states, under differing circumstances and for
different reasons, have found themselves on the verge of national

Armenians and Jews were subjected to Genocide. Germany and Japan,
having suffered devastating defeat, were utterly destroyed. Ottoman
Turkey, Britain and Russia lost their all-powerful empires. Every
nation believes=2 0in the uniqueness of its own tragedy 0 However,
almost all of these nations and states, having suffered national
tragedy, have turned that tragedy into a tool of healing and strength,
rather than one of hopelessness and inferiority. They have found the
internal strength not only to heal their wounds and rid themselves
of historical complexes, but also to undergo revival and join the
community of the world’s most vibrant and flourishing nations. What
prevents us from following in these nations’ footsteps?"

VI. Instead of a conclusion: the light of Ararat His village, Lusarat,
is only a stone’s throw away from the Turkish border, but it is the
first time that Hayk has ever invited a Turk into his home. Lusarat,
"the light of Ararat", lies near Khor Virap, one of Armenia’s most
famous churches, perched on a small hill right on the border. It was
here that St. Gregory the Illuminator was held prisoner for 13 years
before curing Armenian King Trdat III of a disease and converting him
to Christianity. Armenia, as a result, became the first officially
Christian nation in the world in 301.

But Khor Virap, more than providing a history lesson, also offers a
view of the green belt along the Araxes river and the Ararat mountain,
on the western – Turkish – side of the border. On a clear day one
can even make out the shape of a factory, a mosque, a moving car.

Despite its name and location, however, Lusarat is a rather grim
place. 0AIn Soviet times, when Lusarat was a special security zone on
the border between NATO and the Soviet Union, only the locals could
enter the village. Today it is run down, its houses more like huts,
its school in ruins, broken windows and tin roofs everywhere. The
barbed wire – the border zone – is just a hundred metres away.

Hayk and his wife, Lusine offer their Turkish guest (an ESI researcher)
home-made cheese, Armenian coffee, and eggs. In the background, on
the satellite TV – turned to a Turkish channel – Turkish pundits are
discussing Ergenekon. The family discusses Turkey:

"Dink was not murdered by that boy, it was the state. We have a deep
state experience too. You know about our parliament attack in 1999,
don’t you? We fear the state here."

Hayk finds it "wonderful that so many people spontaneously went out
onto the streets after Dink’s murder." Lusine does not believe the show
of solidarity was sincere. They argue awhile, before Hayk continues:

"My father was from around Diyarbakir, he spoke Kurdish. He was
deported to Syria and came back to Armenia in 1966. My wife was born
in this village but her family origins are in Mus, they came across
the border in 1923.

We used to be able to talk over the border. I am OK with the Turks
on the other side. They are different from the people at whose hands
we suffered.

Of course, we will not forget history, but we sho uld have neighbourly
relations with an open border. There is no reason we cannot get along.

Gul’s visit to Armenia was the first really good development. Our
president’s invitation was honoured. It made us very happy. A
majority of us did not believe he would come. Everything happens
for a reason. Maybe football will lead to other things. We care more
about the border then the important people in Yerevan do. Having a
Turk in our house already makes us see more than anyone else. Many
people come to the Khor Virap church, but no one comes to our village.

About the border opening: I will believe it when I see it. Of course
I want to go see where our ancestors come from … which Armenian
doesn’t? In my dreams, I want to see that place just once. Tell me
about Akhdamar if you have seen it. I want to eat fish from Lake Van.

In Soviet times I worked at a factory. It was wonderful. We had
free education and health care and I had a steady job. There are no
factories now. I have been sitting around doing almost nothing for six
months. I have land that I work in season. But I cannot do much with
my land because I don’t have any capital to invest in machines. If I
borrowed money, I probably could not pay it back – and then I would
lose my land to the bank. So I don’t take that risk.

Gas, electricity and water are getting more and more expen sive. Food
is much cheaper here than in Yerevan, but we still cannot afford
it. Cash is hard to come by. Without my relatives sending us money
from abroad, we could not live. I have a brother in Western Europe. My
eldest son is studying to be a dentist. My younger son is in school.

The government does not perform its duties. They take from us and
do not give. We have to pay to get treatment at the hospital. Some
people’s lands have been confiscated and given to people close to
the administration.

Corruption is rewarded in this system. The honest ones lose their
job. If there were just one factory, it would be enough to make our
life good. We do not want much.

Life would have been much better if there hadn’t been the Karabagh

For years after the war, we suffered. There were Azeris living
in this village, around 500 of them, we lived well together. Now
there are around 1,100 Armenians here in total. When the conflict
hit our village, the Azeris were forced to flee. One was very sick
and could not leave. He came to my doorstep. I took him in. My house
was surrounded. They said I should not help him. I took him to the
hospital, they turned him back. He died in my house. I had seen
the Muslim rituals after death. I washed him. I called my friend,
a priest. We buried him, abiding as much as we could to Muslim

By now Hayk had tears in his eyes. It might seem an unlikely place
to dream of reconci liation. And yet, in the living room of an
impoverished family in Lusarat, it becomes possible to imagine a
different future for the troubled Caucasus.

Berlin – Istanbul – Yerevan, 21 April 2009