What do Ceara, New South Wales and Tehran have in common?
Simple: They are regional administrations that have recognized the Armenian genocide. As of March 2015, a total of 22 countries in the world, 44 states in the United States, two states in Australia, three in Brazil, four regions and three cities in Spain, two in Syria, five provinces in Bulgaria, one in Colombia, one regional parliament in the Netherlands, one regional parliament in Italy and one in Iran have recognized the tragic events of 1915-1920 that killed 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians as genocide.
Against that backdrop, any additional input poured by Ankara into the international debate over how to call the deaths of over 1 million Armenians (in addition to hundreds of thousands of Turks) further distorts the banality of Turkish denial – even silence can be bliss compared to speaking nonsense.
If one common Turkish official reflex is to threaten, the other is to claim conspiracy theories behind every mention of the word genocide by a foreign state dignitary or institution. According to this plot, billions of people around the world are conspiring to stop the rise and rise of the Turkish Empire, resorting to the Armenian genocide to achieve this evil goal.
In the most recent debate over the pope’s mention of the word genocide, a new Turkish “defense” strategy has emerged. Except that the new defense strategy looks more like “confession” than “denial.”
“We [will] open up the dossiers of the Catholic world and tell [the world] how in 500 years those who escaped the inquisition found safe havens in our country. If we open the books on European history, there will be questions about what was done in Asia and Africa. What happened to the original tribes there? Where are the Aborigines? Where are the Native Americans?”
Thus spoke Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, in anger, and probably without realizing how his words could damage his government’s denial policy.
In a few simple lines, Mr. Davutoğlu undoubtedly associated “whatever happened to the Ottoman Armenians” with the Inquisition and the genocidal crimes against African (including in Darfur, Mr. Davutoğlu?) and Asian tribes as well as against Australian Aborigines and Native Indians in America. So he admits the events during the final decade of the Ottoman Empire were as bad as the Inquisition or other crimes against humanity.
Furthermore, in this thinking, Turkey would agree to ignore these crimes as long as other nations agreed to ignore the crimes against Ottoman Armenians. But if other nations break this bizarre deal, then all Turkey would feel compelled to do would be to recall historic crimes committed against other nations and accuse their perpetrators. Is this what, really, Mr. Davutoğlu calls a “principled foreign policy?” Let’s not talk about anyone’s past sins: If you talk about ours, we’ll talk about yours.
Despite their loud defense along the lines that “our noble ancestors are perfect and cannot have done anything wrong,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Mr. Davutoğlu may be privately hoping that President Barack Obama – and as many Western leaders as possible, most preferably Israel’s leaders – should mention the G-word on the centennial of the tragedy.
If that happens, the opposition parties – except the Kurds – will have to grudgingly unite behind the government and exhibit solidarity, instead of bashing Mr. Davutoğlu for failing to stop the mention of the word. What else? Mssrs. Erdoğan and Davutoğlu will cherish the golden opportunity to scream at one rally after another and tell “our dear nation” how this proves their claims that dark powers had united the world against the Turkish Empire, and further that this is exclusively the work of the Jewish lobby and the Gülenists.
Meanwhile, back in their offices, the president and prime minister will be comfortably observing, possibly sipping their tea with shrewd smiles on their lips, how angry and offended Turkish voters will choose to unite behind their government now under attack from evil forces. An extra three percentage points at the ballot box on June 7 would not be too bad. It could have been more, one will later complain to the other, with the same smile on his face.