18 December 2007

2250) Turks Could Gain More Than Armenians By Acknowledging the Genocide, By Harut Sassounian

Hundreds of newspapers, internet sites, wire services, and radio and TV programs in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, France and many other countries had a field day with my . . column, "Armenians Demand Justice, not Recognition." Here are some of the headlines that appeared in the Turkish media last week: "Prominent Armenian Journalist: 'Our Goal is Compensation and Land from Turkey,'" (Hurriyet); "Sassounian: 'Our Aim is to Get Land from Turkey,'" (The New Anatolian); "Time is not on Armenia's Side," (Turkish Daily News); "Armenians Seek Land and Compensation," (Aksam); and "Call for Armenian Strategy," (Radikal).

It was somewhat surprising that the Turkish media provided such extensive coverage of a column that simply suggested reordering the sequence of traditional Armenian demands. Even more surprising is the fact that State Department officials expressed serious interest in that column.

Turkish and American officials have known for decades that Armenians have been seeking "Recognition" of the Genocide, "Restitution" for losses suffered and "Return" of their lands. The only new idea in my column was that Armenians should not pursue those "3 R's" in the foregoing sequence. I suggested that Armenians, having already accomplished recognition of the Genocide by the international community, should proceed immediately to their next two demands. Thus they would avoid falling into the Turkish trap of being stuck forever on demand number one. Knowing full well the sequential nature of the Armenian demands, Turkish denialists have cleverly refused to acknowledge the Genocide - the first demand -- thus blocking the pursuit of the remaining two.

The great Turkish interest in my column notwithstanding, my real intent was to remind Armenians that their fundamental aim revolves around demand number three -- To bring justice to a nation that was not only massacred, but forcibly deprived of the inalienable right to live in its own homeland.

After devoting so much time and energy to the pursuit of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and having accomplished that objective, Armenians should not be misled into thinking that they have achieved their ultimate aspiration. Such a false sense of accomplishment carries a major risk. Should the Turkish government someday acknowledge the Genocide, most Armenians may consider it a successful final resolution of their demands from Turkey. In reality, the acknowledgment of the Genocide would benefit Turks much more than Armenians. Turks would gain everything and lose almost nothing. Turkey's leaders would receive accolades from throughout the world, even possibly a Nobel Peace Prize, for "bravely" facing their nation's ugly past. Turkey's entry into the European Union would be facilitated and its shortcomings in other areas ignored. In addition, such an acknowledgment would have no negative legal or political consequences for the Republic of Turkey.

The suggested shift in focus from genocide recognition to bringing justice to the Armenian people has thrown the Turkish strategy of genocide denial into disarray. While Turkish governments over the years have developed elaborate mechanisms to counter accusations of genocide, such as hiring lobbying firms and pressuring other governments, Ankara is completely helpless in knowing how to deal with Armenian calls for justice!

For example, prominent Turkish propagandist Semih Idiz, in responding to my column, can only resort to the hackneyed trick of trying to create an artificial split between Armenia and the Diaspora on demands from Turkey. In trying to contradict my assertion that the borders of no country have remained unchanged throughout history, Idiz incredibly declares that Turkey's borders have not changed since "Roman times." In reality, the current borders of the Republic of Turkey were formed less than 100 years ago! Idiz also tries to use another well-known trick by asserting that my column makes "the hard-liners in Turkey more hard-line towards all things Armenian." Such an unfounded accusation implies that Turkish "hard-liners" were on the verge of making major concessions to Armenians and were dissuaded from doing so after reading my column!

Finally, there has been more commotion on the "armworkshop" website after my latest column. Some Turkish and Armenian "reconciliationists" became nervous after seeing their statements reproduced in my column. Utku Diril indignantly asked in his posting: "Can anyone just take any conversation on the list and publish it anywhere?" Sebouh Aslanian tried to reassure him by providing groundless legal advice. Reprinting the postings of "armworkshop" is "not only highly unethical but probably illegal," Aslanian wrote.

Dickran Abrahamian disclosed that he subscribes to a "maximalist" viewpoint on Armenian-Turkish issues. However, he said he keeps silent on most issues, in order to avoid being "thrown out" of the "armworkshop" He wondered why, when Turkish opinion columns are posted on the "armworkshop," none of its members object, but when Sassounian's column is posted, it "hits raw nerves?"

It is noteworthy that prominent and sensible businessman Osman Kavala wrote in his "armworkshop" posting: "It is not possible to dismiss the issue of compensation so readily. One can find it controversial, unrealistic [and] harmful to strategic priorities, etc., but it is clear that unlike 'land return,' it [compensation] will remain an issue to be discussed in the course of the reconciliation process."

While continuing to counter Turkish misinformation efforts on the Armenian Genocide, it behooves Armenians to shift their focus of attention to Armenian demands for justice which entails the recovery of lands and properties that belonged to their ancestors.


Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier