12 August 2004

Etyen Mahcupyan writes on the "Armenian Issue"

AZAD-HYE: Etyen Mahcupyan, the columnist of the Turkish “Zaman” daily has singed an interesting article in the 7th August 2004 issue of the newspaper (see article below).

Etyen Mahçupyan was born in an Armenian family in Istanbul, Turkey in 1950. He earned Chemical Engineering Bachelor and Masters degrees in the University of Bosphorus in Istanbul. He graduated from the Department of Economics at the School of Political Sciences of Ankara University with a Master's Degree. He has published 8 books concerning Turkish politics. He is currently working as a columnist in the Zaman Daily in Turkey. He produces TV programs on Turkish politics. In March 2002 he was one of the six Turkish writers who appeared in court for publishing "Freedom of Expression 2000", a book that contained 60 articles that criticized various free-speech laws in Turkey.

Mahcupyan usually writes about subjects that concerns the Turkish politics, the Cyprus issue, relations with the neighboring countries, etc. He is one of the most exciting political commentators in the Turkish press today. His comments are straightforward, challenge the Turkish status quo with marked liberal thought.

Take this one for example about “nationalism” (“Zaman” daily 22 October 2003): “…in countries incapable of solving their own problems, nationalism abides in inferiority complex and nervousness. One of the results of this psychology is that of one kind of nationalism’ being considered over 'the other.’ The difficulty of the people coming face to face with their own failures causes people’s analysis, preferred 'enemy’ attitudes and actions to reflect on the others”.

In December 2002 Mahcupyan appeared in a documentary of Abu Dhabi TV titled “Argument about the Genocide” (released six months after the airing of the famous documentary titled “The Innocents: The Ethnic Cleansing in Armenia”, prepared by the same team of the Abu Dhabi TV), where he expressed his views about the Armenian Genocide and Turkish-Armenian relations. Below are some of his views in that context:

“The problem started by levying (heavy) taxes and duties on the Armenians. This made them ready for revolution. Meanwhile, the ideas of freedom began pouring from Europe. Foreign intervention aimed at instigating forces (within the Ottoman society) that will exercise pressure on the Government. The situation aggravated due to the fact that the Government did not respond to the Reforms”

“There were Armenian militiamen (who worked against the Government), but they represented only a very tiny proportion of the (Armenian) population”

“There is a stream of intellectuals (in modern-day Turkey), who is moving towards investigating the historical events. We should leave the past behind us and we should admit our mistakes. As Armenians we should remember that if we had a great country of our own at that time, we may have acted the same way (as the Turks did) towards the minorities!”

After this introductory let us read the article that appeared in the “Zaman” daily English section:

“Which Armenian Issue?”, by ETYEN MAHCUPYAN

During Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's tour of France, one of the most anticipated meetings was the one with Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande.

Because in previous statements, the party had emphasized that it expected the Armenian issue to be taken up in the human rights context. It seems that the prime minister's visit did not change the other side's expectation. In other words, the French Socialist Party wants Turkey to make a gesture concerning the events that happened in 1915, which perhaps will not even necessitate a debate on "genocide." That is to say, it wants Turkey to accept that these events took place. On the other side, it is obvious that there is no such condition in terms of the Copenhagen Criteria because these criteria were determined collectively for all the countries concerned. Therefore, handling specific historical, geographical or cultural problems of countries in the "human rights" context, could turn into a sort of psychological condition according to the disposition of the person or institution dealing with the issue. This is extremely natural because European Union (EU) membership is both a legal and political issue; and the political aspect of the issue cannot be independent of the perceptions, expectations and domestic policies of the societies.

However, this situation causes historical events, like those in 1915, to be protracted and become a natural part of today's politics. Hence, many different Armenian issues surface… Today, European Union (EU) institutions, the Armenian diaspora, Armenia, the government of the Turkish Republic as well as the state, and finally, the Armenian congregation in Turkey, all have different perceptions of the "Armenian issue," and the political functions and meanings of these approaches may differ from one other. Therefore, the critical point is how to shape the required strategy that will make Turkey play an active role both in the EU process and in its own geography. Here, three important factors come to the fore: The first one is naturally Turkey's own objectives, its responsibility before its own eyes and its position before its own society. The second point is what the right attitude should be when looking forward in light of the globalization process in the world. And the third is to what extent honesty over historical facts would be adopted…

Such an analysis cannot arise independently of the mentality you possess; however, if being active in the future world is desired, then the probable mentality of the future needs to be shared. What this implies is that a solution to the Armenian problem needs to be sought with a democratic mentality. Above all, this approach implies being open to talks, and basically, Turkey talking to itself. For example, the fact that Turkish historians with different approaches, still cannot come together on the same platform, is an attitude that implies that they are dodging the truths. Turkey taking this [positive] step will bring two advantages: On one side, "a moment to take a breath," that will ensure the elimination of accusations reflected from "abroad" will be gained, and the depression caused by the "illegitimate" attitude carried out so far will be eradicated. On the other side, Turkey will be able to come closer to some of the "different Armenian issues" hovering around, it will particularly be able to bring to the agenda different aspects of this event thanks to approaches that will include Armenians living in Turkey and various coalitions.

The distinguishing aspect of the "genocide" concept kills the debate and makes the quest of living together more difficult. However, it is necessary to see that the logic of mutual conflict, that reaches the point of rejecting historical events, will not benefit any of the sides. The Turkish Republic overlooking this fact is a burden too heavy to bear before the international community.

End of the Article

It seems that Mahcupyan is keen to point out that rejecting historical events would not benefit any of the sides (maybe he wants to say the Turkish side, since the denial of the Genocide is the cornerstone of that rejection). He goes further to emphasize that a Turkey which is not acquitted from the burdens of the past (maybe he means specifically from the burdens of the denial of the Genocide) would not be acceptable from the international community. Let us hope that in the future more Turkish journalists and scholars will have the courage to tackle such subjects with open-mindedness and with the aim of overthrowing the obstacles that can keep the two peoples: Turks and Armenians apart.

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