Turkish Foreign Minster Ahmet Davutoglu
BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
Ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and in its continuing efforts to revise history and distort the truth, official Ankara has set its eyes on the Armenian Diaspora, this time revising the definition of the word to water down the political and legal elements that define a diaspora. In an interview published in the Turkish Milliyet on July 7, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that he has sent a directive to all Turkish embassies in which he redefined the Turkish diaspora. “We consider all those who emigrated from those lands, and not only the Turks, to be the diaspora—the Armenians, Jews, Greeks, the people called El Turco in Latin America, and the Arabs in Argentina…
Those are our people… Those are people whose culture and language resemble ours.” Based on these “redefined criteria,” Turkish representations around the world “ will now open their doors to those people who were once Ottoman subjects, they will contact them, and they will even invite them to national days. The contacts with the Armenian diaspora are said to have already started,” according to Milliyet. Asbarez warned its readers recently of an effort to infiltrate the Armenian community. It is a direct by-product of this diplomatic directive that has propelled the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles to reach out to well-meaning yet confused community members to open, what is potentially a dangerous dialogue. According to Wikipedia, a Diaspora is “the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral homeland; or “people dispersed by whatever cause to more than one location”; or “people settled far from their ancestral homelands.” “In an article published in 1991, William Safran set out six rules to distinguish diasporas from migrant communities,” Wikipedia goes on to explain. “These included criteria that the group maintains a myth or collective memory of their homeland; they regard their ancestral homeland as their true home, to which they will eventually return; being committed to the restoration or maintenance of that homeland; and they relate ‘personally or vicariously’ to the homeland to a point where it shapes their identity.” Davutoglu’s redefinition of Diaspora and his blatant perpetuation of Turkish revisionism and denial is the second of a three-point outline he has concocted—introduced—to advance Turkish-Armenian relations ahead of the Genocide Centennial. The first point is what Davutoglu says concerns “feelings,” whereby the Turkish foreign minister wants to assure Armenians that “I understand your pain; we will listen to the Armenians.” This patronizing approach of showing “respect” toward Armenians’ feelings, not only diminishes the fact of the Genocide, but it waters down the incident, making the Genocide seem like an accidental mishap that must be dealt with. While he acknowledges that in past Turkey has denied the Genocide, his new approach is nothing more that using another euphemism to address this matter. “The Armenians are not facing a foreign minister who claims that nothing happened in 1915. I do not call the incidents genocide. We must develop a new language on the issue. We are not denying your suffering, we understand it. Let us get together and do whatever is necessary. That, however, cannot be a unilateral declaration of guilt,” Davutoglu told Milliyet. Davutoglu, the newspaper explains, has developed a concept called “just memory,” which is supposedly based on feeling the pain of the Armenians and “not trying to shut them up.” He either actually believes or wants the entire world to believe that the Turks should not be compared to the Nazis, because the Genocide was not a systematic effort to annihilate an entire race but rather a consequence of events the caused “paranoia in people who feared that they would be exiled from Anatolia.” Davutoglu also claimed that there are efforts to sign a joint declaration before 2015 with Armenia that reflects this version of the events. The third point in this preposterous plan deals directly with the provisions of the Armenia-Turkey protocols, whose ratification by Turkey is pre-conditioned on a pro-Azeri resolution to the Karabakh conflict. Armenia’s Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian rejected this three-pronged solution, saying Thursday at a press conference that the international community has already proposed its own three point plan, which includes ratifying the Armenian-Turkish protocols without preconditions; carrying out the provisions of the agreements, again without preconditions; and refraining from linking the Armenian-Turkish issue with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Nalbandian asserted that Turkey has failed to take serious measures toward any rapprochement for 97 years, saying “Turkey has been unable to face its own history.” “If Turkey intends to work in the same manner for the next three years and proposes ‘a combination of some steps’ which lead to nowhere, the result is obvious,” said Nalbandian. By redefining what a Diaspora is, Turkey is advancing a dangerous policy to change the role of its diplomatic representations into centers that can—and have started to—have an impactful role in [our] community life. Individuals who do not recognize this threat and are actively taking part in this divisive tactic, must closely evaluate their personal interests and not become pawns in this dangerous effort to diminish our national struggle. At the same time, the Armenian government must become more assertive on this issue and instead of the reactionary and tacit responses to Turkey’s malicious policies, must aggressively advocate and advance the Armenian Cause. Less than three years remain to the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. The political aspects of this milestone, perhaps, far outweigh the efforts to properly mark this anniversary. Our national aspirations that include just reparations and restitution for the victims of the Armenian Genocide, as well the territorial demands of the Armenian nation are paramount to advancing the Armenian Cause. It is high time that we, as a Nation, start speaking the same language and acting on the imperatives that will advance justice. The government of Turkey began implementing this new approach to its decades-old denialist policy long ago by pouring millions of dollars into Turkish organizations outside of Turkey and bolstering Turkish presence in political life in various countries. Davutoglu can redefine terms and concepts as much as he wants. The fact remains that Turkey will have to pay for its crimes—current and past.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Milliyet article reference above was reported by Asli Aydintasbas and translated into English by Katia Peltekian.