21 June 2006

786) Armenian Issue in the 1980s: From Terror to Parliaments

In the first half of 1980s, the Armenian terror was continued, but the next half was the time when the Armenian terror stopped at once. However, the problem continued to exist, even more strongly, amongst the mutual relations of Turkey with especially Western countries. In addition, in this period of time, the approach of Turkey towards the Armenian problem seriously changed. In this new era which was shaped by the coup d'etat and the international attitude towards Turkey, Turkey began to approach the problem from different perspectives. The new face of Armenian terror and Turkey's reaction to this change determined the developments in this period.

Initially, with effect of the 12 September coup d'etat in Turkey, Turkey's policies against Armenian terrorism became sharper. Surely the reason of this attitude was that the terrorist acts of the Armenians peaked in the late 1970s and at the beginning of 1980s. Since the first day of their rule, the military government placed struggling against Armenian terror in the first line of its priorities. The method of struggling, however, remained as a matter of debate for a long time. On the other hand, the coup d'etat that broke out in Turkey in 1980 gave an impression to the rest of the world that serious human rights violations are occuring in Turkey, a situation which were added as negative points in the square of Turkey. Bringing the mutual relations of Turkey with especially Europe to a halt, the military government experienced a serious communication gap with European countries against the Armenian attacks and have not been able to express its arguments to the rest of the world.

Despite paying special attention to the Armenian problem, the military government could not achieve a significant progress towards solution. Being deprived of even fundamental information in those days, Turkey moved back and forth between two extreme points: One group were claiming that the toughest reaction must be shown against the Armenian problem. They were thinking that these acts meant a resurge for the spirit of Sevres and they were asserting that relations with the West should be decreased at a minimum level and even Turkey must cease to be a member of NATO. Whereas another group was advising that the matter must not be exagerated too much.

According to this group, as it is fact that those who allege should prove their allegation, it was Armenians themselves who needed to prove their claims, and by dwelling upon the matter so much, Turkey was popularising the problem more. The second group also suggested that the allegations of Armenians should be replied back by scientific publication both in Turkish and in other languages and the matter should be left to historians to explain, rather than dealing with it as a matter of politics. While the second idea found its adherents in the environs of the Foreign Ministry, the first idea was mainly pronounced in radical political parties and the army. Both groups have their cons and pros. However, the experience lived in 1980s showed that both of these ideas are deficient and both attitudes caused Turkey to lose a great time in diplomacy.

In this period of time, Turkey suffered a serious disease and could not approach the Armenian problem from a multi-dimensional perspective by establishing an institutional coordination. In other words, in those days, different solution methods and strategies could have been generated for different aspects of the problem. By defining different strategies for terrorist acts, historical claims and political side of the problem, we could have worked for the same goal from diverse directions. Whereas Turkey have not been able to escape from exhibiting emotional and reactionary behaviour in a process timing of which was completely determined by others. Actually this was not a surprising situation. Because, relating to the Armenian problem, the stage where Turkey reached at the beginning of 1980s was just the stage of “What is this problem about?, What do Armenians really mean?” According to what we learnt from Kamuran Gürün, the Secretary-General of the Foreign Ministry at the time, Turkey did not follow the books, documents, journals etc. containing the Armenian allegations and did not even form an archive related to the subject. In 1980, the Turkish archives were closed for research, and the information available in the archives of other countries were not seriously examined and brought to Turkey.91 All these studies and works were started only after the assasination of about 40 high Turkish officials by the Armenian terrorists.

However, as we mentioned earlier, it was both too late and the things that were done were too little. As if suddenly woken up by the Armenian terrorist attacks or decisions that are taken in the favour of Armenians, throughout 1980s, Ankara held headlong meetings, announced messages of condemnation, formed nonfunctional and ineffective committees and some people were given the duty of publishing brochures justifying the statements of the Turkish side, etc. So many Turkish publication was released making the propaganda to the Turkish community itself showing that Turkish is on the right side. Documents and materials sent abroad either rotted in the storerooms of Turkish embassies or eliminated by the Armenians. In short, the efforts were focused in only one direction and rather being inspectory, they were not any more than repeating the same tongue twisters. Because of this, as these efforts did not contribute anything to the relations of Turkey with other countries, they neither generated a factual or decent strategy, nor properly presented the Turkish point of view about the Armenian problem. In each case, Turkish government returned to the start and met the problem is if it is being experienced the first time.

Another feature of 1980s related to the Armenian problem is that the terrorist acts gradually transformed into a “civil fight”. Especially during 1970s, radical Armenian groups saw terror as the prominent mean for fighting against Turkey and have been successful in winning support of many Armenian people. These attacks were sometimes received with tolerance and the attackers were not punished as they deserved. The killers of Turkish diplomats were not even qualified as “terrorists” by the Western media and in a way they supplied support for terrorism. All these events, however, indirectly happened. Although they criticised Turkey in this matter and did not spend necessary effort for catching the attackers, nearly all countries are of the same idea that Armenian attacks were terrorist acts. Whereas, responding with empathy towards the Armenian terrorists, they could understand why the terrorist involve in a terrorist act, and even some Western press vindicated the terrorists. As we mentioned short while ago, there seem to be a condemnation from official mouths and Turkey was not openly opposed.

This scenery has radically changed in 1980s with the decisions taken in parliaments and local councils of foreign countries. Only then other countries began to oppose Turkey. In many countries like the USA and France offficial decisions favouring Armenians were negotiated and they came to a certain stage in their effrots. Despite denying any change in their foreign policies, government officials and parliament members of these countries openly blamed and falsely accused Turkey of committing genocide. Hence, the problem was no longer a problem between Armenians and Turks, but it became a direct part of Turkey's relations with other countries. These both greatly harmed Turkey's mutual contacts and deepened the Western antipathy and suspicion towards the outside world felt by the Turks in those days.

Armenian Strategy in the 1980s

Since an independent Armenian state was not established yet, the Armenian strategy during the 1980s was mainly focused upon the diaspora movement. Emotional idealist groups have been successful in joining the monetary support came from Western countries together with the radical Armenian youth who came from Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries with strong tendency to violence. However, in the mid-1980s, it was thought that the terror completed its task and with a sudden occurance as if received a command from a centre, all Armenian terrorist acts were stopped. This did not mean that the foundation of the terrorist attacks were demolished. On the contrary, some radical groups started to take up arms and continued their training and stockpiling to utilise when necessary. These activities and effort, however, were mainly directed towards providing support for other terrorist groups (especially PKK) opposing Turkey and apart from a few occasions, they deliberately stay away from acts that can be called Armenian terror.

Forcing governments to recognise the so called genocide has been the main occupation in the first stage of the strategy followed in the civilian field. According to this strategy, all Armenian communities were oblidged to perform acts to convince the highest offices, councils and parliaments in villages, towns, cities, states and countries about the Armenian claims. Laws, decisions, condemnations, shortly anything that will force Turkey to accept Armenian allegations would be beneficial for the Armenian cause. If they could not obtain an immediate decision to be taken by the parliaments of the countries, they concentrated upon local councils and waited for an appropriate time to take a further step.

Thus, all Turkish fortresses would be destroted one by one and the whole world would support the Armenian claims and apply pressure over Turkey. Wherever the biggest deficiency of this strategy is not realising that such pressures are taken completely negatively in Turkey and perceived with a severe hostility. Such pressures coming from the West caused a lack of confidence in these states. Especially those pressures that are thought to be unjust and biased oppressions have strengthened the oppression groups. There many cases of this consequence happened in the process of full membership to the EU and even during the Ottoman period. The most significant instrument reinforcing the Western opponents in Turkey has always been the wrong policies of the West. Especially when, not the interest of the West itself, but the interest of a third party like the Armenians is under concern, it is extremely optimist to think that this strategy will effectively work. When the period of time elapsed during 1980s are examined, it can be seen that this strategy triggered prejudices and distrust towards the West in Turkey, and recognising the Armenian assertions have attracted the attention of the Turkish public more upon the Armenian problem and raised greater oppositon towards Armenians. The role played by the Greek Cypriots and Armenians in the PKK terrorism have caused an automatic rejection of all demands coming from this ternary collaboration.

The second big stage of the Armenian strategy is to establish a direct correlation between the Jewish Holocaust and the so called Armenian genocide and labeling those who do not accept this as deniers. As it is known that the word “denier” is literally used for those who do not recognise the mass extermination of Jews in Germany and it is considered as a big shame in the West and even legally a crime in some countries. In every place where Armenian assertions are mentioned, they started to also mention the Jewish genocide and frequently emphasized that Jewish genocide was actually inspired by the so called Armenian massacre and claimed that all great mass destructions were always committed by the Turks in the history. All those who defended the opposite was accused of being a denier.

In the 1980s, another leg of the big Armenian strategy was to form a veritable genocide industry amongst the Armenian communties. All Armenian artists, businessmen, teachers, politicians, etc. were forced to use their talents somehow for the Armenian cause. This pressuring which was mainly felt as a social pressure, was sometimes turned into violence. All film-makers, actors and singers who utilised the Armenian cause in their dramas, films or songs have been awarded by the Armenian community and were treated with great respect and honour.

Another leg of the Armenian strategy is standing on the education. In the field of education in general, they tried to include the genocide and together with this the so called Armenian genocide in the curriculums of the Western countries. They gave a special attention to the primary educational programs and they attained this in many states of America. They also sought help from Jewish groups for this attempt.

Yet another leg of the strategy is formed by mischievous activities focused upon destroying the relations between Turkey and the European Community. Sensing the determination of Turkey in entering the EU, Armenians claimed this time that Turkey must first admit the so called Armenian genocide to be a member of the EU and they forced this to be accepted in some EC committees.
Sedat Laciner
Translated from Turkish
June 2006
USAK - Ankara based 'International Strategic Research Organisation'
Author is director of USAK & Davos Economic Forum Young Global Leader 2006



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