The battle lines are drawn. The next three years leading up to the 100thanniversary of the Armenian Genocide will witness a continued, steady, but firm advance of truth and justice in academic, legal, and political arenas on both sides of the Atlantic. The “Return of Churches” resolution in Congress; the lawsuits in the U.S. and Europe demanding the return of church properties stolen from the Armenians during and after the genocide; the bill criminalizing genocide denial in France; and the discussions in the Israeli Knesset—all within the last weeks of 2011—are a harbinger of things to come.
These successes of varying degree and significance were registered due to the unrelenting efforts of Armenian communities worldwide, an increasing awareness of the genocide by the world, and favorable political winds. They were not precipitated by an absence of counter-efforts by the Turkish state, but despite them. Threats of a diplomatic and economic nature, lawsuits, and the intimidation of scholars have become hallmarks of the official Turkish response. These policies will undoubtedly continue in the next few years.
Yet the more significant threat to the tidal wave of truth and justice is the Turkish government’s policy to undermine Armenian efforts by not mere denial and disengagement, but rather direct engagement with Armenia and the diaspora. Discussions in diplomatic circles and the Turkish press have increasingly focused on the search for innovative ways to deal with the “Armenian problem.” From the Turkey-Armenia protocols to talk of “engaging the Armenia Diaspora,” efforts by the Turkish political elite are focused on swaying Armenians and world public opinion towards a “middle ground.”
The ideas floating around in Turkey include granting descendants of genocide survivors Turkish citizenship, commemorating the “joint suffering” of Armenians and Turks during World War I, and normalizing relations with Armenia. Strikingly, even these meager steps—which fail to address the core issues of truth and justice—are being raised in the Turkish media as a means to impede Armenian efforts, and not as a genuine effort to provide a remedy for the crime of genocide.
On the other hand, there is a very small, yet vocal group of Turkish citizens (Turks, Kurds, Armenians, and others) who continue to adamantly criticize the country’s public discourse on the Armenian genocide.
As the pressure continues to mount on the Turkish state in the lead up to the 100thanniversary of the genocide in 2015, we must reemphasize our parameters for engagement: truth and justice. The rest is window-dressing.