Erdoğan extends condolences to the ‘grandchildren of Ottoman Armenians’ over 1915

In an unexpected move, Turkish Prime Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s office has extended condolences to grandchildren of Armenians killed in 1915 events during World War I in Anatolia.

For the first time, Turkey issued a statement in sympathy with the pain of Armenian citizens in a drive to accelerate reconciliation with grandchildren of Ottoman Armenians, scattered all around the world following the deportation of significant segments of the Armenian population from Anatolia.

“Any conscientious, fair and humanistic approach to these issues requires an understanding of all the suffering endured in this period, without discriminating as to religion or ethnicity,” a Prime Ministry press statement said on Wednesday, April 24, a day when Armenians around the world commemorate the losses in tragic yet disputed events that led to great suffering of Ottoman Armenians in 1915.

The issue has remained a source of friction and simmering dispute between Turkey and the Armenian diaspora over how to interpret the 1915 events as the latter prefers to describe the killings as “genocide.” Ankara strictly rejects use of the term, firmly denying any official policy — as claimed by Armenians — designed to deliberately wipe out the population during the Ottoman administration in 1915. Instead, Ankara claims that the Armenians staged a rebellion against Ottoman rule, with backing of the Russian army in eastern Anatolia, leaving the Ottoman army in a perilous situation, a threat that prompted officials in İstanbul to resettle Armenian population of eastern Anatolia in the southern provinces and in Syria. The resettlement resulted in heavy losses of civilians.

Erdoğan’s move is of significant importance for a reconciliation meant to end decades of mutual distrust and bitter recriminations with the Armenian diaspora, which has launched a global campaign to persuade countries to recognize the 1915 events as “genocide.” 

THE MESSAGE OF THE PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY, RECEP TAYYIP ERDOĞAN ON THE EVENTS OF 1915
(UNOFFICIAL TRANSLATION)

“The 24th of April carries a particular significance for our Armenian citizens and for all Armenians around the world, and provides a valuable opportunity to share opinions freely on a historical matter.

It is indisputable that the last years of the Ottoman Empire were a difficult period, full of suffering for Turkish, Kurdish, Arab, Armenian and millions of other Ottoman citizens, regardless of their religion or ethnic origin.

Any conscientious, fair and humanistic approach to these issues requires an understanding of all the sufferings endured in this period, without discriminating as to religion or ethnicity.

Certainly, neither constructing hierarchies of pain nor comparing and contrasting suffering carries any meaning for those who experienced this pain themselves.

As a Turkish proverb goes, “fire burns the place where it falls”.

It is a duty of humanity to acknowledge that Armenians remember the suffering experienced in that period, just like every other citizen of the Ottoman Empire.

In Turkey, expressing different opinions and thoughts freely on the events of 1915 is the requirement of a pluralistic perspective as well as of a culture of democracy and modernity.

Some may perceive this climate of freedom in Turkey as an opportunity to express accusatory, offensive and even provocative assertions and allegations.

Even so, if this will enable us to better understand historical issues with their legal aspects and to transform resentment to friendship again, it is natural to approach different discourses with empathy and tolerance and expect a similar attitude from all sides.

The Republic of Turkey will continue to approach every idea with dignity in line with the universal values of law.
Nevertheless, using the events of 1915 as an excuse for hostility against Turkey and turning this issue into a matter of political conflict is inadmissible.

The incidents of the First World War are our shared pain. To evaluate this painful period of history through a perspective of just memory is a humane and scholarly responsibility.

Millions of people of all religions and ethnicities lost their lives in the First World War. Having experienced events which had inhumane consequences – such as relocation – during the First World War, should not prevent Turks and Armenians from establishing compassion and mutually humane attitudes among towards one another.

In today’s world, deriving enmity from history and creating new antagonisms are neither acceptable nor useful for building a common future.

The spirit of the age necessitates dialogue despite differences, understanding by heeding others, evaluating means for compromise, denouncing hatred, and praising respect and tolerance.

With this understanding, we, as the Turkish Republic, have called for the establishment of a joint historical commission in order to study the events of 1915 in a scholarly manner. This call remains valid. Scholarly research to be carried out by Turkish, Armenian and international historians would play a significant role in shedding light on the events of 1915 and an accurate understanding of history.

It is with this understanding that we have opened our archives to all researchers. Today, hundreds of thousands of documents in our archives are at the service of historians.

Looking to the future with confidence, Turkey has always supported scholarly and comprehensive studies for an accurate understanding of history. The people of Anatolia, who lived together for centuries regardless of their different ethnic and religious origins, have established common values in every field from art to diplomacy, from state administration to commerce.
Today they continue to have the same ability to create a new future.

It is our hope and belief that the peoples of an ancient and unique geography, who share similar customs and manners will be able to talk to each other about the past with maturity and to remember together their losses in a decent manner. And it is with this hope and belief that we wish that the Armenians who lost their lives in the context of the early twentieth century rest in peace, and we convey our condolences to their grandchildren.

Regardless of their ethnic or religious origins, we pay tribute, with compassion and respect, to all Ottoman citizens who lost their lives in the same period and under similar conditions.”

About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar 39 yıllık gazeteci. Mesleğe İsveç Radyosu'nda muhabir olarak başladı, oradan TV ve yazılı basına geçti. Sırasıyla Cumhuriyet İsveç muhabirliği, BBC Türkçe Servisi'nde yapımcı-sunuculuk, Yeni Yüzyıl'da dış haberler servis şefliği, Milliyet'te editörlük yaptı. 1999 yılı başında Milliyet Okur Temsilcisi olarak, medyada kurumsal bir 'özdenetim' yapısı olan ombudsmanlığı Türkiye'ye tanıtan ve ilk uygulayan kişi oldu. Bu görevi Milliyet ardından Sabah'ta da sürdürdü. Toplam 15 yıl süren bu görevi nedeniyle dünyanın en kıdemli ve 'uzman' ombudsmanlarından biri sayılıyor. Baydar, merkezi ABD'de bulunan Dünya Medya Ombudsmanları Örgütü'nde (ONO) başkanlık ve yürütme kurulu üyeliğini de üstlendi. Türkiye'ye döndüğü 1990'lı yılların ortasından bu yana çeşitli TV kanallarında başta Soru-Cevap olmak üzere çok sayıda analiz-tartışma programını hazırlayıp sunmuş olan Baydar, düzenli olarak Süddeutsche Zeitung ve The Arab Weekly için yorumlar yazmakta. Baydar, Ocak 2014'te bir grup meslektaşı ile beraber medya bağımsızlığı ve özgürlüğü alanında çalışmalar yürütmek üzere Bağımsız Gazetecilik Platformu'nun (P24) kurucu üyeleri arasında yer aldı. 2000 yılında 'Okur Temsilcisi' olarak yaptığı çalışmalar nedeniyle Çağdaş Gazeteciler Derneği'nin (ÇGD) Özel Ödülü'ne layık bulunan Baydar, 2014 yılında da, Avrupa'nın 'Pulitzer'i sayılan Avrupa Basın Ödülü'nü (EPP) 'meslekte mükemmeliyet' tanımlamasıyla aldı. 2004'te Michigan Üniversitesi'nde Knight-Wallace Araştırma Bursu ile 'Ortadoğu, demokrasi ve medya' konulu mesleki çalışmalar yapan Baydar, 2014 sonbaharında da Harvard Üniversitesi'ne bağlı Kennedy School'da 'Shorenstein Fellow' olarak Türkiye medyasında sansürün ve mali yozlaşmanın yayılmasını ele alan uzun bir rapor yayınladı. Baydar ayrıca Guardian, El Pais, New York Times gibi gazetelere de aralıklı olarak yorum ve analiz makaleleri yazıyor.
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