Turkey’s reaction as usual

Turkey’s reaction as usual

It is enough to be an adult observer of politics to think that the German parliament’s vote on the “Armenian Genocide” was a political decision.

It is not that it did not or could not happen. Besides, it is not that the parliamentary vote was not an expression of sympathy and respect for the Armenians who suffered; in fact, it was a positive political move in that sense. Nevertheless, it was also a political move in another sense which has negative connotations that parliaments act not in terms of principles, but in terms of political calculations. In that case, the German parliament chose to keep silent on the matter for a long time in order to avoid conflict with Turkey and only decided to make a move after the last and controversial refugee deal with Turkey provoked irrepressible criticism and dissent toward Angela Merkel’s government and German policy in general.

Turkey’s reaction is another matter of concern as the president claims that “some in Germany are plotting against Turkey.” The president’s words are rather restrained in comparison with his supporters in the media and politics who not only accused Germany directly, but also trotted out the discourse of a “Western plot against Turkey which has proven to be the rising star of Islam.” Nonetheless, this understanding of politics and of the Western world is not particular to the Islamist government and its supporters. The republican secularists and the Islamists do not agree on anything, so much so that they even argue over national holidays and health matters like vaccination, except for one thing: the righteousness of Turkish history and Turks, especially concerning the Kurdish and Armenian issues. Although the elders of the republicans used more polite language than their Islamist counterparts, they are all outraged by the decision of the German parliament, not only because it seems to be a political decision but also because of the historical “accusations” themselves.

Under the circumstances, any attempt to discuss that particular episode in history is labelled as treason. It means that “the Old Turkey” and “the New Project” agree on the worst common ground, which is a fanatical nationalist understanding of the past. The New Turkey Project ended up challenging the old status quo only in terms of differences on the issue of secularism, and it has turned out to be a more authoritarian politics that is based more on authoritarian ideology than Islamist nationalism.    

It is interesting that the Holocaust has emerged as the best tool for Justice and Development Party (AKP) politicians and supporters to accuse Germany as “the last nation to talk about genocide.” It is noteworthy because Islamist political discourse has always been reluctant to talk about the Holocaust so as to avoid giving legitimacy to Jewish victimhood. Besides, many Islamists chose to ally with Nazi Germany and worked for its propaganda machine before and during World War II. Hajj Amin Husseini is the most prominent and best known figure, but not the only one. Turkish right-wing nationalists have also been eager to ally with Nazi Germany in solidarity with the Turkic-language-speaking Muslims who lived in the Soviet Union, some of whom fought with the Germans against the Soviets under the banner of the Turkistan Legions.

To sum up, the best use of history is to face up to the historical realities and tragedies so as not to make similar mistakes, rather than name and shame any national or political community. No modern society is based on more wisdom than vices; we can shame each other endlessly, and all to no avail. Turks need to recognize the shortcomings of our historical vices, not just to avoid political vulnerability but also to heal our national psychology which produces obsessive defensiveness and aggressive denial.n.