Emerging Democracy in Turkey Lacks Dialogue Between Sects

Murat Belge writes that while the majority of Armenians quietly wish for revenge against Turkey, there are some who seek friendship, even though Turkey has given them little reason for optimism. Turkey's Armenian problem will only be solved with further democratization, he says, and he encourages those favoring dialogue to practice just that.

al-monitor The peace monument by Turkish sculptor Mehmet Aksoy is pictured in Kars, northeastern Turkey, January 9, 2011. Photo by REUTERS/Umit Bektas.

İşlenmiş konular

kurdish problem, justice and development party, justice, democratization in turkey, democratization, armenian issue, armenian genocide, armenian diaspora

Haz 29, 2012

Regarding Turkey, Armenians — both inside Armenia and in the diaspora community — have two fundamental perspectives. The first of these perspectives, characterized by a vengeful attitude, is becoming increasingly crystallized. I don't blame them for thinking this way, given the catastrophe that they had gone through, as well as the Turkish state's official policy of denying the issue. I am not in a position to preach to these people to give up this attitude.

Even though this attitude is popular in the Armenian community, another perspective on the issue is gaining strength. There is still a segment of the Armenian population that feels vengeful, but ultimately believes in solving the issue through dialogue. This group does not seek to punish each and every Turk over the historic atrocity. In a world where no single society is free from past sins — even though the significance of each sin may profoundly differ — these people believe that historical hostilities and conflicts can be settled through dialogue.

The second camp believes new friendships can bury past hostilities, should conflicting groups deliberate over their differences. I believe that those who employ this kind of mentality will shape the future of the world. However, this group does not represent the majority.

In between these two different approaches to the issue, there is a silent majority who, when asked, prefers the revenge camp. This stems from a conformist attitude. Throughout their lives these people have been taught that a vengeful attitude is the more secure position. Urging for revenge and blood is always more appreciated than calling for friendship and love.

Those seeking dialogue watch Turkey carefully, observing and appreciating a transformation process that is currently taking place in the country. Indeed, they know of Hrant Dink and support his position. They are aware that the policies of the supposedly Islamist Justice and Development Party are far better than those of the orthodox Turkish politicians.

However, there has not been much progress beyond this. Since Turkey is not taking the necessary steps, what are we doing to strengthen the hand of those supporting the dialogue?

When we meet with our peers we inform them about Turkey’s transition. An unprecedented democratization process occurred in Turkey, but there are still serious and inter-connected problems. The common solution for these problems is more democratization. It is not possible to think that Turkey can solve the Kurdish problem without solving the Armenian one, or vice versa. For example, unless the quality of life for Turkey’s Alawites improves, Turkey’s other problems will also remain unsolved.

However, a heavy historical burden and other negative factors are hindering change. The forces aligned against democratization are also relatively strong. Therefore, the democratization process is very slow and fragile, and it will not progress further without coercion.

My Armenian friends are aware of this process and they agree with what I say, since they also think within the same paradigm. Yet, how are they going to advocate a peaceful solution when Turkey cannot take a few positive steps? What shall they say to those in the other camp? How long should they ask for patience from them? They are already met with statements like, “You asked us to wait and we did. What happened? Did Turkey take any positive, forward steps to solving this issue?”

When things go off the rails, I would suggest using Aliyev to solve the issue. However, even then, I think that Aliyev is also used as an excuse to stall the process.

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