The Armenian issue of 1915, Turkish politics and Israel

İhsan Yılmaz
İhsan Yılmaz


Date posted: April 23, 2013

I am in Salzburg, Austria, for a week as an Erasmus visiting professor. I am mainly contributing to the ongoing seminar classes of other professors who have asked me to talk about Turkey, Islam, democracy, human rights, Turkey’s EU membership process and the Hizmet movement. The students of the University of Salzburg are highly interested in these topics and they ask a lot of probing and challenging questions. It seems that they have been following Turkish domestic and international politics very closely and are concerned about the recent developments.

In every class, I have had a question on the Armenian issue of 1915. My answer was blunt. I said that the Young Turks had oppressed several sections of society with their nationalist homogenizing policies to create the perfect citizen, Homo LASTus — laicist, non-practicing Sunni Muslim Turks. For instance, in 1938, they used poison gas against thousands of innocent civilians, including children and women, in the caves of Dersim, for which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has publicly and very clearly apologized in Parliament.

In the same vein, it is most probable that this Young Turkish mentality had allowed them to get rid of the over half-century-old Armenian question of establishing an independent state in the eastern provinces of Anatolia once and for all in 1915. They had used the terrible conditions of World War I and brutal attacks of some Armenian gangs on Muslim villagers as a pretext to ethnically cleanse Anatolia of non-Muslims. I told them that it is not clear if the Young Turks wanted all Armenians dead, but it was obvious that they did not and maybe could not take sufficient precautions to protect the migrating Armenians, who would very obviously have come under attack by Turkish and Kurdish gangs.

Turkey must at least come to terms with this terrible failure and issue an apology. These Armenians’ children must be invited back and given Turkish passports. Their confiscated properties must be returned. Even if they “sold” these properties before they left, their lands must be given back. One does not have to be a genius to know that under these terrible conditions, no one was able to sell their property for a proper price and, thus, practically speaking, their goods and properties were looted by certain Turks and Kurds. Though, at the same time, other Kurds and Turks were trying to save the lives of these Armenians by hiding them in their houses. At the end of the day, it is agonizing enough that a “millet” that lived in Anatolia for thousands of years and was protected by Islamic Seljuk and Ottoman rulers for hundreds of years became extinct because of the decisions of the secularist-nationalist Young Turks. Why should practicing Muslims defend their sins?

Other questions were on Turkish political developments. Students have asked me if Turkey could prove that former Islamists will not tend to be authoritarian after securing their political power by getting rid of the military establishment. We have also talked about the American green light to all military coups that took place in Turkey. I explained to them exaggeratingly that even the Turkish military generals’ underwear comes from the Pentagon and that without America’s permission, they could not fly a fighter jet. In its relations with Turkey, the American government has mainly been concerned about security issues and, unlike the EU, has never criticized the Ergenekon gangs, the terrible, anti-Islamic Feb. 28, 1997 coup and several other anti-democratic Kemalist moves in the country.

The students were also concerned about Erdoğan’s recent remarks on Zionism being a crime against humanity. It is quite obvious that very few people understand and interpret Zionism as Erdoğan does. In most people’s eyes, it is about creating a safe haven for Jews who have been oppressed for thousands of years by different Western peoples. Criticizing oppressive and brutal right-wing Israeli policies should not be confused with criticizing Zionism, since there are also many left-wing Zionists who harshly criticize Israeli policies and support an independent Palestinian state. Putting all of them in the same basket is neither just nor wise.

Source: TodaysZaman, 10 April 2013


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