Will Germany’s Armenian resolution have the desired effect?
The rationale provided by German deputies, including those of Turkish origin, for supporting the non-binding parliamentary resolution in the Bundestag that refers to the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 as “genocide,” is that this “will contribute to healing the wound between Turks and Armenians,” and “will also help normalize ties between Turkey and Armenia.”
This shows a lack of understanding of how the average Turk thinks, or has been led to think after being fed a single narrative on this topic for decades. We find similar reactions to the German resolution from Turks of all shades, regardless of religious beliefs, or political and ideological affiliations.
Take, for example, the headlines of two Turkish newspapers after the Bundestag adopted the Armenian resolution. These are Star and Sözcü, two firebrand dailies which stand at opposite ends of a deep ideological divide.
Star supports President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) slavishly, while Sözcü works hard to denigrate Erdoğan and undermine the AKP. After the Armenian genocide resolution was adopted both papers carried large picture of Chancellor Angela Merkel sporting a Hitler moustache.
Both blasted Germans as “Hitler’s grandchildren” and “the killers of the Herero people in Namibia,” claiming in so many words that Germans were trying to pin the genocide label on Turkey in order to assuage their own sense of historic guilt.
Both papers also said this development would harm ties between the two countries, a line that Erdoğan has been pushing too. But the signals from Ankara as to what it will do to respond to Germany are mixed. Newly installed Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, for example, has been suggesting that Ankara cannot afford to risk Turkish-German ties, given the deep interaction between the two countries on multiple levels.
The bottom line, however, is that Ankara does not have the political or economic clout to retaliate against Germany even if it wanted to. Turkey’s ambassador has been recalled in protest, as expected, but he can be expected to return to his post after a while.
A number of high-level visits may be canceled by Ankara, but the 3.5 million Turks in Germany, and Turkey’s vast economic interest in that country, will ensure that official contacts continue on almost all levels, regardless of what nationalist Turks are calling for.
The assumption that the resolution adopted in the Bundestag will help heal the wound between Turks and Armenians, and help normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia, meanwhile, is a fallacy. This resolution has probably only made matters worse.
For most Turks it’s now more than ever a question of honor that Turkey should never bow to outside pressures on the Armenian issue. Meanwhile, the government will lay even more stress on the traditional Turkish narrative on the events of 1915, and also refuse more than ever to normalize ties with Armenia, while supporting Azerbaijan more than it already is.
Another fallacy, however, is that this resolution was prepared and adopted with the noble aim of trying to make peace between Turks and Armenians. Many believe that German deputies are fed up with Erdoğan’s anti-Western and anti-democratic policies, and the course he has put Turkey on, and just wanted to punish Ankara for this.
If true, this will only play into the hands of Turks who believe that everyone is against Turkey and reinforces their sense of national isolation. Germany is a country that knows from its history where such feelings can lead.
An angry Turkey that sees enemies everywhere is hardly a recipe for helping stabilize a volatile part of the world that is of deep concern to Europe. Historic and ethnic arguments aside, one cannot help wonder, therefore, how helpful this resolution will be in terms of addressing the real issues the world faces today.