02 May 2007

1647) Hatred Factor In Turco-Armenian Relations

‘Feelings’ generally are not taken into considerations in International Relations studies. Almost every school of thought in IR agree that permanent friendship and enmity is something impossible. However, Sociology and Psychology of International Politics . . recently show that feelings and institutionalization of feelings are getting more and more important in nation-to-nation relations. In this context, Turco-Armenian relations show a clear example for the importance of feelings in politics;

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One of the surprises awaiting Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan was Armenians in his visit to Lebanon last year. During his visit to Lebanon to negotiate Turkey’s contribution to the United Nation’s International Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Mr. Erdogan was exposed to any kind of insult and curse of the Armenians. “Animals are not Welcome” slogan was on the banners under the photograph of the P.M. Erdogan. It was so normal to burn the Turkish flag in those events. Unfortunately, no Armenian leader there criticized these kinds of events nor tried to prevent them.

Last week, on 24 April demonstrations Armenians once more burnt the Turkish flag in Athens, Greece. They insulted Turkey and Turks. In Georgia we saw the same picture; ultra nationalist Armenians living in Javakhk insulted Turkish flag. The Armenians first spread the flag on the ground, and then all of them jumped over the Turkish flag, and finally they burnt it. Then they went to church and held a divine service. Again, no Armenian elite or leader criticized these kinds of events nor tried to prevent them. Moreover, it was so meaningful to make a ‘spiritual ritual’ in the church after insulting a nation and that nation’s flag.

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I encounter almost everyday the Armenians’ hatred towards Turks. My e-mail inbox is full of Armenian insults against myself, Turkish people and the Ottoman Empire. Nowadays, it is something normal for me to receive e-mails like these. E-mails, which claim that my articles are baseless and I am trying to twist the truth, are only ‘moderate criticizes’ among these Armenian posts according to me! However, some e-mails that I receive are so full of hatred and insults that I could not read till the end. In addition, the writers of these mails are not ignorant and illiterate people. They are lawyers, doctors, engineers or academicians living in the North America or in Western Europe. Some e-mails are even more interesting; starting so restrained and you feel that he or she has a compromising or a constructive attitude, but suddenly everything changes and that polite and elegant person could not control his senses. You see that grammatical mistakes increase as the insults against your personality and Turkey rise. It shows that being so restrained and polite in the beginning that person cannot control himself as he/she comes to the chapter of the so called ‘genocide’.

Especially, some of my Armenian readers confirmed my analysis that hatred against Turks and Turkey are getting stronger among the second and third Armenian generation after the Tehcir. A few days ago, Noobar Janoian was saying in his mail “The hatred toward the Turks is embedded in us”. Not only Janoian but lots of Armenians think that they have that hatred against Turks in their blood. Narek Mesropian defines the situation as,

It is in our blood to hate the Turks,
However, we hate Bulgarians and Greeks also,
The Jews like Turks, but they hate Arabs,
The Arabs in turn, are not in favour with the Turks,
And the level of hatred is rising.

While hatred is so common and profound, it leads to the formation of its own story too. Stating this, I do not want to say that the Armenians did not experience difficult times both in 1915 and afterwards. However, not only the Armenians but also the Turks and other Muslim societies experienced similar difficulties. I am surprised when I listen to the similarities between experiences of the Turkish ancestors and the Armenian ones; slaughter of children, torture made to the people by attacking the villages and many other inhuman experiences and so on. It is possible to hear the similar stories from the Turks of Eastern Anatolia and in other regions of Turkey. These experiences of Turks are not being echoed in the international arena because Turks do not write their experiences down and prefer to forget them. However the Armenians preferred just the opposite and made anything possible not to forget even a minute of that period. Armenians made the clashes with the Turks as the base of the Armenian identity. This is why the Armenians have possibility to express their sorrows stronger than the Turks. Naturally, some myths get into the experiences as well in this process. For instance, while telling his families emigration story, Mr. Janoin gives an example of these myths:

“Only my mother survived and that was a miracle. My grand parents were from Siiert, and they spoke Arabic at home (they did not know Armenian) you know why? Because in the rural areas were the Armenians were minorities were treated like slaves, and they did cut their tongs if they dared and spoke Armenian.”

It is possible to criticize the Ottoman Empire; however it is the last civilization that can be blamed of preventing the minorities of speaking their own language. It is evident that Armenians published books and newspapers in their own language and they had their own churches and schools in the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, there is another fact that the Armenians were strongly involved in the Ottoman economy, particularly trade and banking, together with the Greeks and Jewish people. This is why the rumors on the prevention of Armenian language exaggerate the realities. However, the hatred increased and encouraged, in time creates its own stories and after a while you cannot differ the truth and made up-stories from each other.

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When we compare Turkish perspective with the Armenian’s since 1915, we see that Armenians trying to keep their memories fresh to remember their pain. In a way, it seems like every time they are tearing a wound once more that is going to heal. They do not let it to heal. They begin to derive pleasure from this situation and building their identity on this pain. However, this is something unhealthy. Even the Jews, who built their identity on victimization, do not keep their pain this much alive. Without forgetting and leaving their pain in the past, a society cannot have a healthy and normal life. For this reason nations refer to their great victories and positive sides. Even if they don’t have great victories they glorify their existing successes. In this context, the way that Armenians have chosen is so exceptional.

When we look at the Turkish side we see an approach that is built on forgetting. Since they think that keeping memories of pain alive would make it impossible to live in this geography, they not only tried to forget their bad experiences with the Armenians but also with any other ethnic groups as well. Maybe this is the reason why Armenians try to keep their memories fresh. They see this kind of an attitude of the Turks against themselves and they cannot understand the real reasons behind this. According to Armenians, Turks insult them by forgetting everything.

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In this framework, it is not possible to discuss the situation with objective variables from where we stand. It is impossible to take steps by ignoring the psychological dimension of the Turco-Armenian relations. Maybe compromising way would be Armenians to forget a little and Turks to remember a bit.

Sedat LACINER
slaciner@gamail.com
slaciner@usak.org.uk

2 May 2007

Copyright © 2005 Journal of Turkish Weekly www.turkishweekly.net

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