Armenians express hope over apology

Armenians express hope over apology

Vercihan Ziflioğlu ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Armenians express hope over apology

Sept. 6-7, 1955 events resulted in pogroms throughout Istanbul against the minorities.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s apology on behalf of the Turkish state on Nov. 24 over the killings in Dersim in 1938 has created a stir among Armenians both in Turkey and abroad.

“It looks as if Erdoğan is ready to discuss official history in Turkey. I hope he presents this attitude for the Armenian genocide as well. Recognizing the genocide would gain Turkey prestige and make it possible for her to face up to its history,” Ara Sarafyan, director of the London-based Gomidas Institute, told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

Sarafyan said they were ready for a commission of historians to tackle the issue, but he called for the disclosure of Turkey’s confidential archives as well.

Hayk Demoyan, the director of the Genocide Museum-Institute in Yerevan, also said the prime minister was indirectly referring to what Armenians claim is a genocide.

“The Young Turks committed genocide against the Armenians in 1915. The Kemalists, who shared the same mindset with the Young Turks, then subjected the remaining Armenian survivors in Dersim to genocide. As such, Dersim was the follow up to the genocide,” Demoyan told the Daily News via a phone interview yesterday.

Dersim, which is in eastern Turkey, was renamed Tunceli in the 1930s.

Demoyan said they were ready for a commission of historians to work on the issue but expressed skepticism that Turkey could reciprocate the move.

“We are ready to take part in the commission. But are you ready to disclose the secret archives of the [Turkish] General Staff and speak of the genocide in an objective manner? How are your academics supposed to discuss this problem freely when there is a threat hanging over your country’s intellectuals, such as Article 301 [of the Turkish Penal Code]? Turkey has a problem about confronting its past,” Demoyan said in reference to an infamous legal article that has been used to criminalize “insults to Turkishness.”

But Mihalis Vasiliadis, the chief editor of the Istanbul-based daily Greek newspaper Apoyevmatini, said the prime minister’s speech was a political maneuver.

“So, will he also apologize for the events of Sept. 6-7, 1955, as in the many painful events that occurred throughout the history of the Republic? I highly doubt that,” Vasiliadis told the Daily News in reference to pogroms against members of the country’s minority communities.

“I cried during the prime minister’s speech. I believe in him. His attitude will lead all the way to a facing off with the events of 1915; the state will apologize to us,” Arev Cebeci, a Turkish-Armenian who ran as a deputy candidate nominee for the opposition CHP during the last elections, told the Daily News.

But Cebeci, whose deputyship bid received much criticism from Istanbul’s Armenian community, said CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s statements regarding the issue did not befit a left-wing party.

Cebeci also told the Daily News that he had decided to resign from his active duties in the CHP Assembly.

“The prime minister’s mental map is identical to that of the Armenian diaspora. Erdoğan will soon recognize the Armenian genocide, too,” Kılıçdaroğlu had said in connection with the ongoing public spat over the Dersim killings.

The prime minister’s response, in turn, was no less furious: “You dare to put me in the same place with the Armenian diaspora? Shame on you. I defy anyone who places Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan in the same spot as the Armenian diaspora. Know your place,” Erdoğan told Kılıçdaroğlu.

In the late 1930s, the military launched an operation to suppress tribes in Dersim, whose population was largely made up of Alevi Kurds. Thousands were killed while many survivors were sent into internal exile.