24 April 2006

585) 'Anti-Turkish Europeans Exploit Armenian Issue'

Turkey's proposals of settling the Armenian question received support from the Armenian Diaspora before the anniversary celebrations of the so-called genocide on April 24..

Isabella Kortian, a French researcher of Armenian origin who lives in Paris, asked to settle the Armenian issue through dialogue, when she said arguments over Armenians are being abused by some European countries objecting Turkish accession to the European Union.

The Armenian Diaspora is struggling to bring up arguments for discussion on a global level via April 24, the day declared as the anniversary of the 1915 so-called Armenian genocide. Influential Armenian associations in Diaspora have been organizing activities with this idea in mind across the United States (US) and Europe, among other parts of the world. There is, however, growing support among the Armenians in the Diaspora for the Turkish proposal of resolving the Armenian issue with help of the efforts to create dialogue.

Ms. Kortian is one of the Armenians in the Diaspora who voiced her support to the Turkish proposals. Only through dialogue between the Turkish and Armenian societies can we reach a solution for the Armenian question, said Kortian, who is employed at the Geo-Strategy Center, a subset of Ecole Normale Supérieure, the high-prestige French institution of high education.

Kortian underlined for Zaman that the Armenian problem is being exploited by certain European countries that object to Turkey's admission to the EU. The attitude of these countries is actually closing the door for a resolution, said Kortian, and the proposal from the Turkish government for formation of a commission of historians is an attempt that requires sensitivity. Kortian also pressed for discussion of the Armenian question only between the Turks and the Armenians, without third-party interference. Both the Turks and the Armenians are enslaved by this version of history, said the Armenia-born researcher, and expressed her belief that agreement between the two countries would be one of the most important incidents of the 21st century.

Kortian hopes for a resolution in 2014, the 100th anniversary of World War I, as historians from Turkey, Armenia and other countries can conduct studies about this bitter part of history.

Despite official inauguration of EU-Turkey talks, some European countries object to Turkey's accession to the Union as a member, said Kortian, and the leaders of such countries tend to make different suggestions to hide their obvious rejection of Turkey's entry. There is an anti-Turkish atmosphere in Europe, according to Kortian who emphasized the Armenian issue is being abused by those with anti-Turkish views.

"That is why we need to bring up this question for discussion elsewhere. We have to agree to discuss this issue without external interference," said the French researcher criticizing politicians' abuse of the Armenian question.

"If they have anti-Turkish or racist views, they should reveal their views without making Armenians seem to have similar views." The statements just quoted here do not, however, mean that "terrible things" did not happen in 1915, Kortian asserted.

There is an urgent need to set platforms for dialogue and discussion between the two societies and countries, she said, because different methods seem unlikely to help in resolving the problem.

The proposal from the Justice and Development Party, the ruling party in Turkey, to form a commission of historians from both countries as well as from the international arena, is "an attempt that requires sensitivity," said the French researcher, as she called for response from the Armenians.

"We cannot carry on with refusals to accept proposals for dialogue. 'No' should not be the word to use in a response. I think everyone will eventually be logical," Kortian said.

A possible agreement between the Turks and Armenians would be one of the milestones of the 21st century, said Kortian, and came up with an interesting date for the resolution of the Armenian question. The 100th anniversary of World War I coincides with the year 2014, said the French researcher who expressed her hopes for a resolution of the Armenian problem as historians from Turkey, Armenia and other countries that can conduct researches about the 1915 incidents.

The historians will carry on with their research as they train young researchers from each country involved in this project. Great contributions to the resolution of the matter at hand are expected to come from those young researchers, as they will be trained in an environment completely different from our own. Apart from forming a commission of historians, there is also a need for social organizations to bring together the two societies, said Kortian: "We do not have to wait to hear a decision from historians. We are not acquainted with each other. We do not really know about each other, whether we are close or far away from one another. We grew up with representations laden with clichés. We have to find a way to learn about each other." Kortian holds meetings with Turkish doctorate students in Paris to develop acquaintances between members from both countries. A Turkish student joined our interview with Kortian when he said that there are many Turkish students that agree with Kortian. The Turkish student also hoped to continue their meetings with Kortian on regular basis. The Armenian question no longer remains a taboo for the Turkish audience and there is real willingness in the Turkish audience for exploration of what really happened in 1915, said Kortian, and emphasized the importance of a look at all that has happened in Turkey from the viewpoint of the Diaspora. Both societies are obsessed with the past, said the French researcher, and added that new developments will have an impact on Armenians in the Diaspora: "We are all enslaved by the past. We have to face in an environment of dialogue and sympathy all that has happened in the history so that we can escape from this prison."

Kortian said, "A victim status does not give an identity" defending that the identity of a nation cannot be constructed upon its grievances, in reply to the interpretations suggesting "antagonism of Turks give Armenians their identities." The researcher says a nation should have other things to give for their identities and adds that "Armenian children in the Diaspora do not even know the Armenian language. They should first be taught the language." Extreme expressions, she adds, by some people in the Diaspora do not hold the whole nation responsible but only themselves; however, these extremists are very much on the map and the Diaspora should be tolerated due to the difficult times it goes through.

"Living in the Diaspora is not very easy,” Kortian says, “It is an uncertain status." She was faced with silence even in Europe and suffered great psychological effects due this. An independent Armenian state is very important for the Diaspora and the most important thing is the future of the state. "Diaspora's project for the future is dependent on Armenia. Armenia should have good neighbor relations with Turkey. This is obvious."

"If the events of 1915 had not happened, I would not be in France today. If only I could tell you all these in Turkish," said Kortian, whose family migrated to France from Dortyol.

By Ali Ihsan Aydin, Paris
Monday, April 24, 2006



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