TO­WARD THE 100TH AN­NIVER­SARY OF 1915

Turkish Review - - FRONT PAGE - ESRA EL­MAS

April 24, 2015, is a sym­bolic day for Ar­me­ni­ans around the world, be­cause it marks the cen­te­nary of the day on which hun­dreds of Ar­me­nian com­mu­nity lead­ers in İstanbul were de­ported and mostly ex­e­cuted. April 24, 2014, mean­while, was an his­toric date for Turkey be­cause for the first time the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment pre­sented its ‘con­do­lences’ to Ar­me­nian descen­dants of the 1915 vic­tims for their ‘suf­fer­ing’ dur­ing a ‘dif­fi­cult pe­riod’ Although in his mes­sage last year Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan never used the term “geno­cide,” which Turkey ab­so­lutely de­nies as part of its state pol­icy, and his ac­tions could be viewed as opportunistic, it can still be con­sid­ered an his­toric mes­sage, one which has come as a re­sult of chang­ing so­cial dy­nam­ics in Turkey and in­ter­na­tional pres­sure.

In Turkey, the his­tory of com­mem­o­ra­tions of 1915 is very short. The ex­treme si­lence, even, among in­tel­lec­tu­als and aca­demics in the coun­try re­gard­ing this is­sue be­gan to be bro­ken at the be­gin­ning of 2000 and gained promi­nence with the as­sas­si­na­tion of Turk­ish-Ar­me­nian jour­nal­ist Hrant Dink in 2007. Three years af­ter Dink’s mur­der, a group of Turk­ish and Ar­me­nian in­tel­lec­tu­als be­gan to gather at Tak­sim Square each year in or­der to ex­press their sad­ness over the suf­fer­ings that oc­curred al­most a cen­tury ago.

With time, taboos in Turkey’s public arena have to an ex­tent been over­come; those who want to re­fer to the events as “geno­cide” may face re­ac­tions from na­tion­al­ist cir­cles, but they are freer to do so com­pared with the past. Ar­ti­cle 301 of the Turk­ish Pe­nal Code (TCK) -- un­der which Dink was pros­e­cuted -- still ex­ists, but is now sel­dom ap­plied, with pros­e­cu­tions never reach­ing court. De­bate in the me­dia con­tin­ues, as does aca­demic re­search.

For the last few years, a large vol­ume of aca­demic re­search has been com­pleted on the Ar­me­nian is­sue in Turkey. Ac­cord­ing to data from the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Board (YÖK), most of the aca­demic work on this is­sue re­flects Turkey’s of­fi­cial po­si­tion on the mas­sacres. More­over, ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished in the bilin­gual Turk­ish-Ar­me­nian weekly Agos, aca­demics work­ing on dis­ser­ta­tions about the Ar­me­nian Geno­cide are un­der the close scru­tiny of the Turk­ish His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety (TTK). On the other hand, there are civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­de­pen­dent re­searchers that of­fer in­de­pen­dent re­search on the is­sue. In par­tic­u­lar, those us­ing the oral his­tory method have brought per­sonal nar­ra­tives to light. Th­ese have had pos­i­tive ef­fects on the public in terms of widen­ing the his­tor­i­cal facts, open­ing a door for con­fronta­tion with the past and go­ing be­hind the head­lines of state pol­i­tics.

In this sense, the “Sounds of Si­lence” se­ries of books from the Hrant Dink Foun­da­tion’s oral his­tory project,

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