in an interview with Tert.am, Head of the Modus Vivendi center Ara Papyan commented on Kurds declaring Turkey’s Dersim an autonomous region and spoke of consequences.
According to him, a number of analysts, including himself, are speaking of that. That is, time of disintegration of empires is coming. Turkey has found itself “between two or three fires” and has to freeze its anti-Armenian programs for a while not to war on several battlefields at a time.
Mr Papyan, Kurdish insurgents have declared Dersim an autonomous region and set checkpoints there. What will be the impact on Armenia in terms of security and, so to say, territorial claims?
To understand the phenomena we should take a wider view of things. I think is frozen process is simmering in the Middle East, which stemmed from World War I. This is disintegration of empires. At one moment, the process was interrupted because of the Russian revolution to resume in the Balkans in the 1990s. And it should be expected in the Middle East and Russia now. I think that, if establishing good-neighborly relations with neighbors fails, relations need to be established with organized societies – religious or ethnic groups – in the states in question.
Alevis constitute 70-80 percent of the Dersim population, with a dense Alevi population in the adjacent territories. And it is a question of 12-20 million people in Turkey.
I should also note that although Alevis are considered Shiites, many of them do not profess Islam. They consider themselves followers of a different religion because of essential differences. Moreover, Alevis have shown a much better attitude to Armenians and it is no coincidence that many more Armenians were saved in the Alevi-populated regions during the Armenian Genocide. We should also remember the Dersim massacre of 1938. In contrast to the Armenian Genocide, Turkey actually recognized the massacre and Recep Erdogan gave an apology. This all, with developing sense of national identity, is a new phenomenon. Will it lead to disintegration of Turkey and formation of new states – it is too early to speak of that. However, the fact is that it is a most serious process. And Dersim is not the only region. Numerous other Kurdish regions are being ravaged by hostilities. So we are entering a period of serious changes many, including myself, have for years spoken of.
When war operations got under way along the Turkey-Syria border at the end of July, you foresaw the start of difficult times for Turkey. So is the self-proclamation of Dersim a sign that your predictions are coming true?
It is, as a matter of fact, a phase of those difficult days, with Turkey being between the devil and the deep see. On the one hand, it faces [the ethnic] minorities internally; we call them minorities conventionally, because a dense population of 12, 15 or 20 million is far from being a minority; It’s a whole commune, let alone a nation as the Alevi community needs to be treated as a creed. It’s a powerful phenomenon. The other trouble is that the Islamists have started pressuring Turkey. So Turkey is facing blows by the Alevis from the left and the Islamists from the right. Plus, the West is shifting the emphasis on cooperation to Iran, a move that will undermine Turkey’s major significance.
We, the Armenians, will yet another time, find ourselves unprepared in face of the groundbreaking periods. Obviously, though, it is very important to be prepared for such moments. It is periods like this that open up an opportunity to solve different problems, including Armenia’s land issue. And this is where the Alevis could be allies for us, as it appears to be a big problem for Turkey. It isn’t as though it lessens Turkey’s chances for intervention. Let us not forget that Turkey has sunk in the West’s estimation as a NATO member country and an Islamic state without, at the same time, finding allies in the Islamic world. On the contrary, it has gained enemies. So I repeat, Turkey is going to face hard times. As to our possible advantages, it is linked to quite a lot of objective and subjective factors.
So should Turkey temporarily freeze such anti-Armenian strategic plans as the Turkey-Azerbaijan duo, Panturkism etc?
It should, because it isn’t easy to carry on a war or conflict on different fronts. And it’s not for every country, especially Turkey.
But if we approach the problem from the standpoint of the Armenian lands while Dersim and Alevis keep striving for independence, it is too early to speak about that. For them, however, it is advantageous to have Armenia as their neighbor, as that would open their way to the sea.
And what is all that likely to bring about inside Turkey? Is a war scenario possible? Turkey is not clearly going to wait in idleness. So what is the expected action?
A war, which is practically in progress. And Turkey even uses air equipment to suppress the rebels. But experience shows that a military pressure is not likely to solve the problem … So, what is Turkey going to do? To keep using pressure, annihilating and massacring people? But its chances to do that are becoming less and less, as there are powers interested in maintaining the domestic instability. Those are the forces that wouldn’t wish, for instance, the Iranian gas to reach the European market and become a rival to the Russian gas, i.e. – Gazprom. The Iraq-Syria route is now closed to keep Turkey in isolation; the other option is the Azerbaijan-Georgia route which may close at any moment in light of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The next remaining option is the Armenia-Georgia [route]. So there are different conflict forces here.