12 December 2006

1276) Yes, I'm a denier! But what about the others?

In response to my open letter to Nancy Pelosi published on Nov. 21, I didn't get a reply from the soon-to-be U.S. House of Representatives speaker, which in fact I didn't expect Her Majesty to do. Instead, however, I did receive some inspiring remarks from Armenian readers. . .

Some of them were indeed hopeless cases, like one gentleman from Australia, Mr. A. M., who audaciously demanded the Turks "accept [the Armenian genocide], apologize," and "get out of [their] homeland!" Some others like Mrs. N. I., on the other hand, reproachfully invited me to "reread history with open mind" by checking a variety of "documents," ranging from statements of our Nobel winner author Orhan Pamuk to a still-disputed remark attributed to Adolf Hitler. Everything she pointed out were actually issues I had touched on in my previous analyses. She was, nevertheless, kind as well as moderate enough to admit that I have "the right to defend whatever I believe in" and "no one should be persecuted for defending his/her opinion."

I have taken these two messages deliberately, since they represent two categorically opposite poles, or lines of thinking, actually not much different from would-be reactions by Turks to a similar case.

The latter letter writer, on the other hand, led me to introspection. She deliberately ended her message by describing herself as "a firm believer in the Armenian genocide committed by the Turks." She was alluding to the way I signed off my letter to Nancy Pelosi. For those of you who have forgotten how this letter ended, let me remind you that I chose to describe myself as "a humble denier from Turkey."

At the time I wrote it, I pondered for a considerable while as to whether it was the right thing to do. Be sure, it was not because I feared punishment one day in France with time in prison, or that I might be accused of being an incorrigible fascist, particularly by my so-called liberal compatriots! I neither wanted to insult our sincere Armenian friends nor simplify the extent of the tragedy they suffered. But still, I did it because I wanted to underline, boldly, the denial of our tragedy by those who accuse the Turks of being nothing more than deniers. Yes, in that respect I am a pure denier indeed! This must be the precise reason why I received, particularly from U.S. citizens of Turkish descent, many messages of appreciation. They, too, are tired of being increasingly and overwhelmingly denied.

As you might have already realized, dear readers, the "genocide" debate revolves around three main words, or concepts: revisionism (in response to mainstream historiography), denial, and reconciliation with the past. In the atmosphere of intellectual terror that our dear Armenian friends have successfully built up, they stubbornly oppose any challenge to their version of mainstream historiography, although, in contrast to the Holocaust, it is highly disputable. Turkey's relatively puny efforts at self-defense are frequently portrayed as attempts at denial, and by accusations of revisionism history is sadly being politicized. The substance of the messages I received from Armenian readers precisely exemplify this phenomenon. In all of them I was accused of being a revisionist and thus, in a state of denial.

Since the Turks have failed to become reconciled with their past, this line of thinking then assumes, they must be forced, either with the help of parliamentary resolutions or political "sticks," to admit and accept the "genocide." Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, for instance, in his op-ed in the International Herald Tribune in October, maintained, "The message from France is clear: So long as Turkey refuses to confront its own history, others will feel impelled to do so."

Oskanian's (or of others alike) Machiavellian line of thinking, in turn, immediately brings to mind Turkish Armenians' Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan II's remarks at a symposium held in Kayseri a couple of months ago. Readers may well remember him wisely arguing that it's unethical for both Armenians and Turks "to ignore each other's responsibility or completely put it on the other side although responsibilities weren't equal in the brutal consequence." This being said, I will pose a very simple question the answer to which is of grave importance for any sort of healthy dialogue between the Turkish and Armenian peoples: Have our Armenian friends managed to reconcile with their past, or are they, too, in a state of denial and blindly trying to convince themselves to be the only victims without any guilt?

Those who fail to reconcile with their past or, as Oskanian accused Turkey in the said op-ed, who "continue to surround [themselves] with myths," one day, as the gentlemen far away from Australia unperturbedly did in his letter, will have even the temerity to ask the Turks to "get out of their homeland." Or, as the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (or the notorious Dashnaktsutiun) spokesman Giro Manoyan told The New Anatolian's Nursun Erel during her visit to Armenia, those who still fail to engage in self-criticism may even think that "the perfect solution for them would be the Treaty of Serves" (of 1920, superseded in 1923 by the Treaty of Lausanne).

After reading what the gentleman from Australia or Mr. Manoyan has sarcastically as well as irresponsibly argued, my Turkishness wanted to show itself. I just wanted to respond to both, by saying "Come and take or change it!" But I didn't. Because I still believe in dialogue and reason . . .

Cem Oguz
12 December 2006


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