Adrian Hamilton: Turkish Government Breaches Wall Of Denial About Th


December 1, 2011 – 14:22 AMT

PanARMENIAN.Net – With all that was going on in Europe at the time,
the Dersim massacre of the Tunceli Alevi in eastern Turkey between
1937 and 1938 aroused little attention. But it was a fearful crime
nonetheless. A total of 13,806 people, many of them civilians, were
killed, according to documents released last week by Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As many as 22,000 were deported from the area,
according to the musicologist Hasan Saltuk, who has a book on the
subject coming out in May. In style, in brutality and in intent,
it was reminiscent of the much bigger killings of the Armenians at
the end of the First World War, Adrian Hamilton says in the article
titled “Breaking with the past is key to Turkey’s future” published
by The Independent.

“It’s hard to overestimate the significance of the decision to release
these documents and for the Prime Minister to publicly “apologize”
for the action. Ever since their defeat in the First World War and
the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Turks have been living under
the narrative created by President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the “father”
of the nation – that of a modern westernized secular state which had
rejected its past, abandoned its Muslim status and had reformed itself
into a centralized nation. Even today it is a crime, punishable by
imprisonment, to speak ill of him,” he says.

“By directly implicating Ataturk himself in this affair, however, the
government is also breaching a whole wall of secrecy and denial about
the past. With the Dersim documents out in the open, do we now move to
open admission of state responsibility for the Armenian Genocide? Does
Ankara accept what it has done to the Kurds within its territories?

With the centenary of the Armenian massacres due in 2015, the
opportunity for a grand gesture of responsibility is clearly there.

It’s what traditionalists fear, concerned that, in raking up the past,
the government will now release the forces of fragmentation of the
state, and liberals dearly wish for, eager to see the country face up
to its past. Even those who distrust Erdogan’s religious aspirations
nevertheless welcome the moves to dismantle the judicial-military
network which has dominated the country since the last war,” the
author says.

“One of the truly great figures of the 20th century, Ataturk managed
to get a country in the ruins of a once-powerful past to come to terms
with its defeat and face the future. No other imperial power managed
that feat. One asks whether the U.S. now or Britain can do it as
effectively. But it was at a cost to tolerance, to the minorities and
to freedom. Nearly a century later, we are in a very different world
in which a resurgent Turkey is laying claim to a regional influence
and an example of moderate political Islamism which it has not seen
since the Ottoman days. For the outside world, it is its foreign
policy that fascinates, its break with the U.S. and its support of the
overthrow of the regimes of Libya and Syria. But it is the story of
change within the country which is just as fascinating and uncertain.

Nowhere does history matter as much as in the Middle East. In
confronting its past Turkey is now preparing itself for a different
future,” he concludes.

From: A. Papazian

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