It cannot be considered normal for a century old event to take hostage the present and future of two neighbourly and close peoples to such an extent. Today, not many people remember the fact that Armenians and Turks had very close social relations wherever they were, up until the assassinations of the Turkish diplomats by Armenian terrorist organizations and the subsequent genocide propaganda.
In order to reinstate such an affinity, there is a need for a dialogue process, respect for different views and efforts to instil empathy. This is how a path for abridging the Turkish and Armenian discourses on the basis of “a just memory” could emerge.
Believing that this is possible, Turkey proposed the establishment of a joint historical commission composed of Turkish and Armenian historians, and other international experts, to study the events of 1915 in the archives of Turkey, Armenia and third countries. The findings of the commission might bring about a fuller and fairer understanding of this tragic period on both sides and contribute to normalization between Turks and Armenians.
There is a separate need for establishing a constructive discourse in line with the spirit of the age that will eliminate prejudices and dismantle the preconceptions of the culture of conflict with a view to focus on the future.
President Erdoğan’s message of condolences was issued with such conviction on 23 April 2014,during his term as Prime Minister, and it was an important milestone. The message centered on the respect for the lives lost in the events of 1915, prescribed focusing on the future while studying the historical facts on the basis of a just memory, emphasized the importance of staying away from offending narratives and approaching different views with empathy.
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
Turkey continues with this sincere discourse and takes further steps to give it a further meaning. In this respect, cherishing the memory of the Ottoman Armenians and protecting the Armenian cultural heritage is a primary aim. During the liturgy in memory of the lives lost in 1915 organized by the Armenian Patriarchate of İstanbul on 24 April 2015, the Republic of Turkey, for the first time, was represented at ministerial level. Every year, the President sends messages to the liturgy.
LET ME REITERATE THAT WE ARE COGNISANT OF THE SORROWFUL EVENTS EXPERIENCED IN THE PAST BY THE ARMENIAN COMMUNITY AND THAT I SINCERELY SHARE YOUR PAIN. PLEASE REST ASSURED ALSO THAT OUR HEARTS REMAIN WIDE OPEN TO THE GRANDCHILDREN OF THE OTTOMAN ARMENIANS ALL AROUND THE WORLD.
It is disappointing to see that those steps taken for friendship and normalization have not been reciprocated by Armenia so far.
In the final analysis, the only approach befitting this era would be facilitating ways for reconciliation, putting focus sincerely and humanely on to the future and replacing feelings of hatred and revenge embedded in the minds and hearts of young Armenians with concepts of mutual understanding and empathy.
In response, after second Van riot on April 15th 1915, the Ottoman Government decided that the Armenian population residing in the warzone or in the strategic areas nearby should be relocated to the southern Ottoman provinces away from the supply routes and transport lines of the advancing Russian Army. Some Armenians that resided away from the frontline but were reported or suspected of being involved in collaboration with the enemy were also included in this measure.
IT IS MISLEADING TO COMPARE THE APPALLING LOSSES SUFFERED BY THE ARMENIANS OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE WITH THE DESTRUCTION OF JEWS OF THE NAZI GERMANY...WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ARMENIANS IS A RESULT OF THEIR ARMED REBELLION AGAINST THE TURKS THAT STARTED LONG BEFORE THE WAR AND CONTINUED INCREASINGLY.
Relocation had been a security measure of the time applied in similar conditions by other countries such as; between 1756-1763 the British expulsion of Acadians during the Anglo-French war, the US expulsion of natives to the south in 1830, Polish expulsion of the local Ukrainians to the all sides of the country from their homelands after WWII. Retrospective viewpoint would be highly misleading when it comes to interpreting historical events. The past should be evaluated in accordance with the conditions of the time.
Whilst the Ottoman Government had planned for the protection and nourishment of the dislocated Armenians, their suffering could not be avoided under the circumstances of the time. Wartime conditions exacerbated by internal strife, local groups seeking retaliation, banditry, famine, epidemics and the general lawlessness of a disintegrating Empire all combined to produce a painful tragedy that was beyond any expected contingency.
Archive documents reveal that there were some Ottoman officials who committed offences against Armenian convoys contrary to their orders. They were held responsible for the Armenian losses and were punished in 1916 including with capital punishment.
With the de facto dissolution of the Ottoman Empire following the First World War, the constituent elements of the Empire fought the “War of Independence” and established the Republic of Turkey. In its struggle for life, this national movement that founded the Turkish Republic had to take on a war, especially between 1918 and 1920, with the Armenian rebels as well as with the occupying forces. While in 1923, as the successor of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Turkish Republic was claiming its role in the world with the founding principle of “Peace at home, peace in the world”, it buried the pain of the loss of millions of lives of its children and many hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of land and focused on a future that was based on peace, tranquillity and amity.