Impartiality of the state, tragic events of 1915

TUĞBA AYDIN
TUĞBA AYDIN


Date posted: April 24, 2013

MERVE BÜŞRA ÖZTÜRK

Turkey commemorated the 98th anniversary of the tragic events of 1915 — the killings of Anatolian Armenians during World War I — on Wednesday.

April 24 is the date chosen to recognize the events of 1915 when close to 200 Armenian religious and intellectual leaders were rounded up in İstanbul and later imprisoned and summarily executed. As Turkey refuses to term the killings of Armenians as genocide, columnists ponder whether Turkey should apologize for the unfair treatment of Armenians in 1915 in order to restore ties with Armenia.

We are commemorating the victims of the tragic events of 1915 and discussing how we can mend the ties between the two countries on another anniversary of the events, Bugün’s Gülay Göktürk writes. The columnist says we have long relied on historians to clarify what took place and whether or not there was a genocide. But that was the wrong approach. Just like historians can never give one definite answer to any question about history, there can never be one definite answer to “What really happened in 1915?” Then we thought that coming up with a name for what happened in 1915 could perhaps be the job of law professors if not of historians or politicians. But then we changed our mind as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights could not determine what took place in 1915. Therefore, we cannot rely on the law, either, to name the 1915 events. So how are we going to settle this issue now, Göktürk asks.

Today the majority of the Turkish public believes the problem with relations between the two countries could be solved with an apology from the Turkish state. “I personally was thinking the same too for a long time,” Göktürk says. “But lately I have been questioning whether it would be right for a state to apologize on such a controversial issue. Just like some citizens are disturbed by the fact that the Turkish state does not recognize the ‘Armenian genocide,’ some citizens will also be disturbed if the state apologizes for the 1915 events. Either move from the state will end up representing one group of citizens and disturbing another group. Thus, I have started to think that the state should remain objective, impartial and non-ideological on this issue as well as on any other issue,” the columnist notes.

Nongovernmental organizations, political parties, the ruling party and individuals can have their own views, but the state, which is basically tasked with serving all the people of the country, cannot have an official view on historical incidents. As for what should be done now, Göktürk suggests that the state should no longer involve itself in the discussion of what happened in 1915 and that the discussions should be carried out only by historians, sociologists and law professors from the two countries. A clear conclusion will likely never be reached in these discussions and everyone will decide for themselves, but this is the way it is supposed to be, the Bugün columnist says.

Star’s Hakan Albayrak, on the other hand, says Turkey should apologize for the unfair treatment of Armenians, but not for genocide, in order to clear our conscience and prevent this issue from damaging the image of Turkey as a just country.

Taraf’s Roni Margulies is of the same view as Albayrak. Showing a photo on which is written “Happy is he who says I am a Turk” above an Armenian school’s signboard, Margulies says: “It is not only about genocide. There are many things to apologize for.”

Source: TodaysZaman, 24 April 2013


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