Armenian- Turkish Relations:
The Role of Civil Society in Reconciliation
“Come, let us first understand each other… Come, let us first respect each other’s pain…
Come, let us first let one another live…”
I happened to be in Marseille on the commemoration day of the “Monument in memory of Armenian Martyrs of the 1915 Genocide and war veterans and resistance fighters who died for liberty and France”.2 The memorial bears the following inscription in Armenian and French: “In memory of the 1,500,000 Armenian victims of the genocide ordered by the Turkish government of 1915. To the Armenian combatants who died for freedom and France”. During the commemoration ceremony the priest of Marseille Armenian Cathedral, after praying for the peace of victims’ souls, briefly introduced to the audience with the history of the memorial. It was interesting to learn the story behind the memorial, as it also reveals the so called “Armenian Turkish” relations, with all its typical manifestations. The monument was built in 1973. On February 11, 2013, Armenian Community of Marseille celebrated its 40th anniversary. The dispute about the monument has been started around its inscription. There was pressure from Turkey to France to amend the text of the monument and to build a wall in front of it so that it is not seen from the outside. However, the Armenian community launched a signatory campaign with appeal to the French president Georges Pompidou, “asking to support against any foreign attempt of desecration”. The day after the opening ceremony of the monument, the Turkish Ambassador to France, Hasan Isik, left France for Ankara, as a sign of protest.3 _________________________________
- 1. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p. 102.
- 2. Monument in memory of Armenian Martyrs of the 1915 Genocide in Marseille, France. Armenian National Institute <http://www.armenian-genocide.org/Memorial.72/current_category.63/offset.20/memorials_detail.html> [accessed 26, May, 2013]
- 3. Monument Communiqu é: Cathédrale Apostolique Arméniennes Saints Traducteurs de Marseille, Communiqué, Monument Contre La Négation d’un Génocide. 22 Fevriér, 2013. (Appendix 1).
Thus, this dispute on the monument and its mentioning by the Armenian priest nowadays, again witness that the Armenian Genocide commemoration is globalized, and even decades later the remembrance affects binational relations and is disputed. The Armenian-Turkish relations in fact assume more precisely lack of relations. The Armenian Genocide as the first genocide of the 20th century has been precedent for all the other genocides of the 20th and 21st centuries, including the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and so on4. A century of silence is one of the primary reasons of the lack of relations between the two neighborhood countries. “And now once again, our common fate in Turkish-Armenian relations, with a centuries-long past and a centuries-long future ahead, is before us”.5 Shall those two societies find solutions as responsible citizens, having this greatest responsibility towards their future generations? Will it be possible for those two nations to look ahead to the centenary of the tragedy in 2015 and encourage Turks to take part in commemorating the events of 1915? How the civil society in Turkey will contribute to the reconciliation and “bridge the gap between Armenia and Turkey”? 6 “The centenary of the Armenian tragedy in 2015 is a good reference point by which to set the goal of Armenian–Turkish normalization”.7 _______________________________
- 4. (a). Luke Walker, from the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, research published in World without Genocide, Armenian Genocide, The Aftermath, < http://worldwithoutgenocide.org/genocides-and-conflicts/armenian-genocide> [accessed 06 May, 2013]; (b). James Nazer , First Genocide of the 20th century: The Story of the Armenian Massacres in Text and Picture – T & T Publishing; First Edition (1968); (c). according to some other sources the first genocide of the XX century is claimed to be Herrero Genocide.
- 5. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p. 19.
- 6. Thomas de Waal (2010), Policy Brief 87, Armenia and Turkey: Bridging the gap, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
- 7. ibid.
This paper will try to highlight the ways of transformation of collective memory and discourse in divided societies (with case studies), and describe how they may help in the process of rehabilitation and reconciliation. In this paper I chose to speak about the change and the pioneers of bringing change, those who started it and struggle for it, despite difficulties and a large army of opposition and nationalists, composed of followers of the state official narrative of denial. I started my research in Istanbul, Turkey, during the first term of this master program. I got acquainted with the editorial staff of Hrant Dink’s newspaper “Agos” and Hrant Dink Foundation, and due to their support, introduction to their mission and contribution into reconciliation and our long conversations, I more clearly envisioned the question I want to explore through this thesis. The thesis will examine the role of civil society in reconciliation of Turkey and Armenia, especially with focus on the Turkish civil society, as a pivotal player in this process. The research question is: ‘How civil society may impact the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation?’ This study also focuses on memory as a part of identity, as an issue of dispute around the memory of the Armenian genocide and the denial of genocide memory. The aim of this paper is to understand how the Turkish-Armenian relations develop with transformations of the current discourse, the collective memories and identities, especially in perceptions of each those two societies. These transformative processes are promoted and developed due to the driving force of civil society and its efforts and initiatives. This paper is inspired with the life, devotion and mission of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who lived and died for struggle for a peaceful, free and just world, who desired to see more democratic Turkey with strong civil society, and who dreamed to see those “two close people, two far neighbors” finally reconciled. As a helpful source for this paper and evidence of the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation served the social group in Facebook: 4th Wave: Armenia-Turkey, which on daily basis updates with information on ongoing reconciliation efforts, initiatives and processes in Turkey and Armenia.8 As the Turkish-Armenian conflict specifically relates to some factors, such as (i) psychological factor, “images of the other”, negative perceptions, stereotype, collective memory, “historical trauma”, etc., (ii) “structural barriers”, closed borders causing lack of communication and knowledge about each other, (iii) need for justice (historical and present injustices), accordingly the chapters of this paper develop around collective memory, identity, transformation ways to justice.9 The thesis evolves in three main chapters. The first chapter represents theoretical definitions of the concepts of collective memory, transitional justice and civil society. The second chapter argues that the discourse and collective memory of the past of the two societies are closely connected with their relations in present life. It explores the recent developments in Turkish society leading to breaking the silence and the longstanding taboo of the “Armenian question”. This chapter represents the voice of Armenians in Turkey after a long silence, the lost and found identities, described in Hrant Dink Foundation’s publication “The Sounds of Silence”. The final chapter presents an overview of Turkish civil society and discusses the developments and transformations in the civil society aimed at reconciliation. It argues that the civil society has the potential to serve as a driving force for reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey. The chapter also presents two case studies: Hrant Dink Foundation and Anadolu Kültür, two civil society organizations in Turkey. _____________________________________________
- 8. Social group on reconciliation in Facebook social network: 4th Wave: Armenia-Turkey, <https://www.facebook.com/groups/185929828101338/> [accessed June 14, 2013].
- 9. TEPAV, Reflecting on the Two Decades of Bridging the Divide: Taking Stock of Turkish –Armenian Civil Society Activities, Ch. 2, Mapping of the Existing Initiatives and Perceptions of the Practitioners, 2 pp. 22-29 (23).
Chapter 1. Definitions
Collective Memory, Transitional Justice, Civil Society
1.1. Collective Memory
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Mark Twain
“The best that can be achieved is to know precisely what [the past] was, and to endure this knowledge, and then to wait and see what comes of knowing and enduring.” Hannah Arendt How memory influences the individual and collective life? How the past is perceived in present day struggle for power and in relations within the society and with neighbors (nations). How history is made, why collective memories do play important role in shaping the history? Is it possible that the past with its historical lessons helps to deal present conflicts to build more “healthy”, peaceful relations? How remembrance and recognition of past can help with “healing”. These are questions of concern for a nation having a “wound” in its history which seeks to be “healed”. The social and cultural memory studies tend to response to these questions, focusing mostly on commemorations and monuments. Jean-Werner Muller argues that “despite the intense focus on memory in history, sociology, cultural studies, the memory-power nexus remains curiously unexamined”. However, there is a direct link between memory and politics. Memory is crucial to some of the fields of scholarly inquiry: the study of nationalism, questions of ethnic identity and the ‘politics of recognition’.10 _______________________________
- 10. Jean-Werner Muller, “Memory & Power in Post-War Europe”, Introduction, (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 1-35(2).
There is a distinction between ‘collective’ (social) or ‘national’ memory on the one hand and mass individual (personal) memory on the other hand. Personal memory refers to recollection of events which individuals lived through. While the collective or national memory establishes a social framework through which nationally conscious individuals organize their history. The collective memory can influence the individual memory and sometimes can be in conflict with it.11 Halbwachs speaking of memory mentions: “It is in society that people normally acquire their memories, it is also in society that they recall, recognize and localize their memories”.12 Memories can be recalled externally, through the direct and indirect relations of individuals with other people or groups of society that give the means to reconstruct those memories. Through collective memory and social frameworks for memory, the individual thought participates in the process of recollection. Memories in an unconscious state can become conscious when recollected.13 “Our modern societies impose many constraints on people. Modern societies penetrate and insinuate themselves more deeply into their members because of the multiplicity and complexity of relations of all kinds with which they envelop their members”.14 ______________________________
- 11. Jean-Werner Muller, “Memory & Power in Post-War Europe”, Introduction, (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 1-35(3).
- 12. Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory, (trans. and ed. Lewis A. Coser. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1992, pp.37-40(38).
- 13. Ibid.
- 14. Ibid. p49.
Halbwachs thus argues that individuals cannot remember outside of the frameworks that people use in society, in social groups contexts. 15 At the same time he asserts that “remembering – though structured within social contexts – is an act occurring within individual minds”.16 In the book “Memory & Power in post-war Europe’ Jan Werner Müller outlines some of the cultural reasons why memory has led to a paradigm shift in the humanities, history in particular, and why the theme of memory increasingly pervades the media, political debate and everyday discourse. As he states the recent changes in the technology of data collection and recollection associated with the electronic media constitute a fundamental shift in memory of our social world as well as our moral imagination. Secondly he argues that with the waning of the generation of Holocaust survivors ‘communicative memory’, i.e. living oral memory based on personal recollection, is passing into cultural memory.17 Jean-Werner Müller considers memory to be an ongoing process, never a unitary collective mental act. Collective memory is mostly influenced by politicians, journalists and historians.18 In addition to the basic distinction between collective, national and personal memory, there is another distinction between memory and history. “Collective memory can be seen as ahistorical, even anti-historical” and history and memory are described to be mutually constitutive.19 _________________________________________
- 15. Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory, (trans. and ed. Lewis A. Coser. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1992, p49.
- 16. David Cunningham et al, The Durability of Collective Memory, Collective memory, (2010), Social Forces 88(4), pp. 3-5 (3).
- 17. Jean-Werner Muller, Memory & Power in Post-War Europe, Introduction, (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 1-35 (13).
- 18. ibid. p. 21.
- 19. Jean-Werner Muller, Memory & Power in Post-War Europe, Introduction, (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 1-35 (23).
There is a mutual relationship between collective memory and collective identity. Identity leads to certain pasts being remembered and others being forgotten.20 Collective memories can be frozen and underway a process of “numbing” at certain periods and become unfrozen in certain political times. Collective myths are used to legitimate power, the “psychological numbing” along with “collective amnesia” as well serve the same purpose. This is a process that leads to forgetting, when the remembrance is replaced by selective memories and survival stories.21 Traumatic past, if not very distant for some countries remains in the political agenda for a while, until it is revived and waits for solutions. “Sometimes the individual and collective wounds fester, waiting for necessary healing through political and judicial processes. Other times the wounds have been muted over years but can quickly reopen or explode to dominate public consciousness at home and abroad, given the intimate relationship between domestic and international political arenas”.22 Yossi Shain argues that international politics assigns legitimacy to actor’s choices, as such are rules of engagement in war included in domestic legislation and in international conventions. “In addition to existing rules and regulations, the usage of power, retaliation, preemptive strike, intervention, occupation, assassinations, administrative detentions and tribunals are all measured along another dimension – the spectrum of memory that each player is bringing to the table. These large pools of memories vary in intensity and recall both national catastrophes and triumphs”.23 _________________________
- 20. Jean-Werner Muller, Memory & Power in Post-War Europe, Introduction, (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 1-35 (21).
- 21. Jean-Werner Muller, Memory & Power in Post-War Europe, Introduction, (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 1-35 (4).
- 22. Eric Langenbacher, Power & the Past: Collective Memory and International Relations, Chapter I, (Georgetown University Press, 2010), pp. 13-48 (13).
- 23. Eric Langenbacher, Yossi Shain, ed. Power & the Past: Collective Memory and International Relations, Introduction: Twenty-first century memories, (Georgetown University Press, 2010), pp. 1-12 (11).
Memory has also been described as part of political culture. Memory and power are related in terms of memory’s role in political decision- making, policy-making. As a “structural power” memory can also define “what is put on the political agenda”.24
1.1.1. Remember, Forget, Forgive? How to Move forward?
“Forgetfulness is a form of freedom.” Kahlil Gibran
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” Paul Boese Two typical types of reconciliation are distinguished, reconciliation to forget and reconciliation to forgive. The latter type is not about forgetting. Reconciliation to forgive assumes several steps – such as empathy, remorse, public apology, practical amendments and acknowledgement – “never again”.25 Joanna Quinn argues that a society must pass through several stages while facing the history of past mass atrocities. To rebuild a society, those stages include memory and remembering, forgiveness and acknowledgement.26 “[T]he rebuilding of a society is not a simple task. Indeed, it is a process that comprises several discrete, yet inter-related, steps. As I de?ne them, these steps include acknowledgement, the act of forgiveness, and the development of social trust and civic engagement, as well as of social capital and social cohesion”.27 ___________________________________
- 24. Jean-Werner Muller, Memory & Power in Post-War Europe, Introduction (Cambridge, 2002), pp.1-35(26).
- 25. Rasmussen Derek, Reconciliation-to-forgive v. Reconciliation-to-forget, Culture & Survival, CSQ Issue: 25.1(2001)<http://www.culturalsurvival.org/ourpublications/csq/article/reconciliation-forgive-v-reconciliation-forget> [accessed 05, May, 2013]
- 26. Tamara Hinan (2010), To Remember, or To Forget? Collective memory and reconciliation in Guatemala and Rwanda, The University of Western Ontario Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 18 , Iss.1, Art. 11, The Berkeley Electronic Press, p. 16,
<http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1195&context=totem> [accessed 05, May, 2013]
- 27. Joanna Quinn, The Politics of acknowledgement, Introduction UBC Press 2010, pp. 3-11(3) <http://www.ubcpress.ca/books/pdf/chapters/2010/ThePoliticsOfAcknowledgement.pdf>[accessed 5 May, 2013]
1.2. Transitional Justice:
Facing History and Reconstructing Future.
“The past is not dead. It’s not even past.”
“The theories and research programs that explain, justify, compare, and contest specific practices of moral and social repair, and the political and social movements dealing with the past, including practices such as Truth Commissions, trials, administrative reorganization, nation building, commemoration and reparation, is what we now call ‘transitional justice’”.28 Transitional Justice (TJ) is as an approach emerged late 1980s and early 1990s. As a response to violations of human rights, transitional justice aims at recognition for victims, promotion of peace, reconciliation and democracy. Among the targets of its approaches are education, institutional reform, judicial and cultural responses, reconciliation and truth seeking. This multidisciplinary field was called “transitional justice”, being associated with “transitions to democracy” – human rights activists named the changes introduced to address systematic abuses by former regimes. Transitional justice adapts to societies recovering from mass conflict, repressive rule, societies transforming themselves after a period of expansive human rights violations. The field is very diverse in terms of different responses and approaches developed by different societies to past abuse and violence. For some societies certain initiatives adopted by governments became basis for transitional justice efforts. Such initiatives include “criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs, gender justice, security system reform and memorialization efforts”.29 ___________________________
- 28. Kora Andrieu (2010), Transitional Justice: A New Discipline in human Rights, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, <http://www.massviolence.org/Transitional-Justice-A-New-Discipline-in-Human-Rights> [accessed March 21, 2013].
- 29. What is Transitional Justice?, International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) <http://ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-Global-Transitional-Justice-2009-English.pdf>%5Baccessed21 March, 2013].
While the field was developed to response to multifaceted issues, many transitional states in the world tended to seek accountability after atrocity. Due to transitional justice efforts it is believed that “the legacy of these massive crimes cannot simply be buried, and must somehow be addressed”.30 To response to past abuses a state may take various measures, such as punishing perpetrators, establishing the truth, repairing damages, paying respect to victims, reforming institutions for prevention of further abuses and so on. The different many problems coming from the past abuse or violence are complex, not possible to solve by one action and need different approaches to be responded. Thus the judicial measures, trials and other procedures towards the hundreds of thousands victims and perpetrators, with even adequate, non-corrupted courts would not be effective enough to reconstruct the damaged social past without other initiatives required to complement one another. Truth-telling should be complemented by efforts of punishing abusers and perpetrators to make institutional reforms along with legitimation of justice and truth. “Transitional justice should be designed to strengthen democracy and peace – the key goals of societies picking up the pieces after periods of mass abuse”. 31 Over time the field of transitional justice has developed and diversified and thus also was introduced to international law, with the inception of 1988 decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, defining fundamental obligations for all states, later endorsed in decisions of European Court of Human Rights and UN treaty bodies.32 __________________________________________________________
- 30. Priscilla B. Hayner (2010), Unspeakable Truths: Transitional Justice and the Challenge of Truth Commissions, 2. Confronting past crimes: Transitional Justice and the Phenomenon of Truth Commissions, second edition, pp. 7-19 (8).
- 31. What is Transitional Justice? International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) <http://ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-Global-Transitional-Justice-2009-English.pdf> [accessed 21 March, 2013].
- 32. What is Transitional Justice?, International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) <http://ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-Global-Transitional-Justice-2009-English.pdf> [accessed 21 March, 2013].
Along with new challenges the field undertook new approaches and innovation, focusing on new issues such as ethnic cleansing, displacement, re-integration of ex-combatants, reconciliation among communities and the role of justice in peace building. “Some nations have reacted to their troubled pasts by closing their collective eyes”.33 In some cases opening the wounds of the past is hard and not preferable for transition to new society and transformation of collective memories. Still Serge Schmemann argues about the different approach of nations to the truth and their past: “Within this diversity of experience, though, the trend has been toward seeking some kind of closure. More than 20 nations in the last two dozen years have tried the institutionalized search for ”truth and reconciliation,” giving rise to a[sic] the new academic discipline of ”transitional justice,” with its lexicon of ”retributive justice,” ”restorative justice,” ”historical clarification,” ”lustration” and so on”.34 Thus, during the last decades the trend TJ has evolved increasingly, from an instrument of democratization and human rights it has developed as a key tool in the peace-building. Transitional justice proves to be an important tool for transforming the society through new political, economic institutions, new social norms, and promoting sustainable peace. Due to transitional justice efforts it becomes possible to promote reconciliation, disclose and voice the truth, and thus help to build a healthy civil society.35
- 33. Serge Schmemann, Ideas & Trends: Transitional Justice; How to Face the Past, Then Close the Door, New York Times, April 08, 2001 <http://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/08/weekinreview/ideas-trends-transitional-justice-how-to-face-the-past-then-close-the-door.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm> [accessed 21 March, 2013].
- 34. ibid.
- 35. Kora Andrieu (2010), Transitional Justice: A New Discipline in human Rights, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, <http://www.massviolence.org/Transitional-Justice-A-New-Discipline-in-Human-Rights>%5Baccessed March 21, 2013].
Transitional justice aims at transformation and regeneration of a society with the help of sociological, psychological, cultural, political and economic actions. These actions include such measures as prosecutions, public memorials and public apology, Truth and Reconciliation commissions, lustration, public access to police and government records, compensations, reparations, literary and historical writings.36 There are many challenges for divided societies to gain reconciliation through transitional justice mechanisms, with reference to past traumas, ideological, ethnic and historical experiences. For many nations even after apology or recognition of past atrocities, still genocides and mass violence tend to remain unforgettable. Hannah Arendht argues that “we are unable to forgive what we cannot punish and we are unable to punish what has turned out to be unforgivable”.37 However, transitional justice builds more optimistic grounds for the discourse and narrative change, leading to transformation of collective memories. Transitional justice within its discipline has developed its retribution – centered approach evolving towards restorative approach, and thus attaches high importance to relationships of societies rather than to the perpetrators. Kora Andrieu distinguishes three main categories of action for TJ: (i) legal justice, (ii) restorative justice and (iii) social justice.38 __________________________
- 36. Kora Andrieu (2010), Transitional Justice: A New Discipline in human Rights, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, <http://www.massviolence.org/Transitional-Justice-A-New-Discipline-in-Human-Rights>%5Baccessed March 21, 2013].
- 38. Kora Andrieu (2010), Transitional Justice: A New Discipline in human Rights, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, <http://www.massviolence.org/Transitional-Justice-A-New-Discipline-in-Human-Rights>, p. 4/37[accessed March 21, 2013].
- 37. Hannah Arendt (1958), The Human Condition, University of Chicago Press, p. 241; also Hannah Arendt webpage: <http://www.hannaharendtcenter.org/?p=6146 > [accessed March 21, 2013].
The first category refers to security and judicial system reform, the second one refers to restoring the truth about the past, to forgiveness, reconciliation and collective memory in rebuilding societies and finally the third category refers to promotion of social trust, reparations, social integration and structural social reforms. Thus, transitional justice promoting reconciliation is possible through building relationships and restoring trust as well as reducing fear across divided communities, reshaping narratives and discourse in divided societies, through media campaigns and various public dialogues. Also encourage apologies, recognition and collective remembrance, as being crucial for the acknowledgement of the past. As Paige Arthur argues “apologies can be particularly important instruments, as they often are understood as taking place across groups, that is, “given” from one group to another. Apologies signal both an acknowledgment of wrongdoing and the fact that the group that was object of the wrongdoing is worthy of such acknowledgement”.39 “Truth, then is the part of healing”.40 On one hand, disclosing the truth can promote reconciliation and healing but on the other hand by telling the truth the victims may experience retraumatization. Testifying can also reopen old wounds.41 This may endanger the transition. “Survivors find it hard to focus on anything but their own “truth,” but what is ultimately needed to promote reconciliation is the revealing of “complex truths”.42 ___________________________
- 39. Paige Arthur (2009), Identities in Transition: Developing Better Transitional Justice Initiatives in Divided Societies, Research Unit, International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), <http://www.humansecuritygateway.com/documents/ICTJ_DevelopingBetterTransitionalJustice_DividedSocieties.pdf> [accessed Mach 21, 2013].
- 40. Kora Andrieu (2010), Transitional Justice: A New Discipline in human Rights, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, <http://www.massviolence.org/Transitional-Justice-A-New-Discipline-in-Human-Rights>, p. 11/37 [accessed March 21, 2013].
- 41. Ibid. p. 14/37.
- 42. Judy Barsalou (2005), Trauma and Transitional Justice in Divided Societies, USIP Report, United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Washington, DC, US.
Forgiveness is important for building relations and reconciliation, as “there is no future without forgiveness”.43 Forgiveness does not necessarily assume forgetting, but it is a tangible step forward to reconciliation. However to help the victims to forgive, it is important to reveal recognition and acknowledgement of the past wrongness. “The aim is no longer the criminalization of history but the civilization of the world, in the double sense of putting an end to barbarism and promoting civil rights”.44 In response to the transition of divided societies with common past experience of violent conflict, the transitional justice applies different mechanisms in order to seek justice and reconciliation. “Countries emerging from long-term violent conflict are troubled societies that may develop destructive social and political patterns. In such cases, fundamental psychological adjustments in individual and group identity—aided by reconstruction processes—are essential to reconciliation”.45 ____________________________
- 43. Desmond Tutu (1999), No future without forgiveness, Doubleday, New York. Archbishop Tutu, now retired, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.
- 44. Antoin Garapon, (2008:22) cited in: Kora Andrieu (2010), Transitional Justice: A New Discipline in human Rights, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, <http://www.massviolence.org/Transitional-Justice-A-New-Discipline-in-Human-Rights> [accessed March 21, 2013].
- 45. Judy Barsalou (2005), Trauma and Transitional Justice in Divided Societies, USIP Report, United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Washington, DC, US.
1.3. Civil Society: The Role of Civil Society in Reconciliation
Civil society is described as one of the most confusing concepts of social science with so many definitions. It responds to multiple issues related to human relations within various cultures and societies. The variety of its definitions extends from freedom and democracy promotion to solutions for good governance, poverty reduction, human rights protection, social change and so on. Very often the different claims about civil society tend to be controversial. Over time scholars in the field have contributed more clarity to different interpretations with the aim of giving more clear understanding about civil society. Historically it dates back to the times of Greek and Roman thinkers, who described “civility as an orientation toward a common good” and identified civil society with “political commonwealth”.46 “The early philosophical debates on civil society emerged from and were grounded in the West, in context of state formation (Hobbes and Locke), emerging capitalism and class struggle (Hegel and Marx), and democratization and democracy (Gramsci and Habermas)”.47 In the evolution of the concept of ‘civil society’, due to different scholastic debates and interpretations, several stages appear to describe civil society, defining it as state-centered, market-centered and society-centered. At present a role of third sector is granted to civil society, being independent of both the state and market.48 _____________________________________
- 46. John Ehrenberg (2011) The history of civil society ideas. In: Michael Edwards (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Civil Society (Oxford Handbooks), pp. 15-25 (15).
- 47. Raffaele Marchetti & Nathalie Tocci (eds.), (2011) Civil Society, Conflicts and Politicization of Human Rights, Chapter 3, Conflict society and human rights: An analytical framework, United Nations University Press, pp. 47-71 (48).
- 48. Ahmad Alhendawi, (2011), The Role of Civil Society in the Arab Spring: A Comparison between the Role of Social Movements and NGOs in the Egyptian Uprising, CIFE European Institute, p. 14.
The roots of three-part model differentiating civil society, the state and the economy lie in Hegel, as well as other later theorists.49 According to the civil society debate, being very elastic concept, it is perceived by many as a part of society (the world of volunteer organizations), by some as kind of society (distinguished by certain social norms), and by others as a space for citizen action and engagement (described as public sphere).50 Michael Walzers encompassed various interpretations and claims by his definition on civil society that tends to highlight a set of mechanisms and concerns, describing civil society as a voluntary human association between the individual and the state.51 “The words “civil society” name the space of uncoerced human association and also the set of relational networks – formed for the sake of family, faith, interest, and ideology – that fill this space”.52 Civil society organizations represent different types of entities, such as social movements, development organizations, advocacy organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), labor agencies, community and professional associations and so on. All these different organizations contribute to the structural and systematic change within the society. ____________________________
- 49. Michael Edwards (2011) Introduction: Civil Society and the Geometry of Human Relations, (ii) The forms of civil society, Oxford Handbook of Civil Society (Oxford Handbooks), pp. 15-25 (7).
- 50. Jean Cohen (1994) Interpreting the notion of civil society, In: Michael Walzer (ed.), Toward a Global Civil Society, International Political Currents: Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, V. 1, Berghahn Books, pp. 35-40 (36).
- 51. Michael Walzer cited in: Michael Edwards (2011) Introduction: Civil Society and the Geometry of Human Relations, (ii) The forms of civil society, Oxford Handbook of Civil Society (Oxford Handbooks), pp. 15-25 (4).
- 52. Michael Walzer, Civil Society Argument, Gunnar Myrdal Lecture University of Stockholm October, 1990, <cts.lub.lu.se/ojs/index.php/st/article/download/2863/2427> [accessed March 22, 2013], p.1/11.; Michael Walzer, The concept of civil society, In: Michael Walzer (ed.) (1994), Toward a Global Civil Society, International Political Currents: Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, V. 1, Berghahn Books, pp. 7-27 (7).
Associations of various kind of civil society support and encourage diversity that presents differences in culture, religion, ideology, as well as social differences including gender and ethnicity. One of the key features of civil society is its universality, in terms of its influence on different layers of society, in different nations across the globe. It functions on national and international levels. Thus, with so many interpretations of civil society, with its multifaceted roles, to resume the summary John Keane argues that “the term civil society is a signifier of plurality, the friend and guardian of dynamic difference”.53 Multiple approaches to civil society also describe it as an actor, arena and a set of values, in relation with its ability to transform power relations. As an actor civil society comprises of NGOs, grassroots, social movements, cultural groups and professional organizations that may change the norms, agendas of other actors. As an arena it is the sphere where the public action takes place. As a set of values civil society includes such values as solidarity, respect for plurality, tolerance, etc. 54 Over time, along with innovations civil society also adapts to changes and thus new forms of civil society organization appear. As for instance due to communication, information technologies and public journalism the role of civil society develops in more engagement in public sphere. With emergence of new political regimes, appears a tendency of “global or transnational” civil society as compared to “local or national” civil society, in terms of power to be located, either in public sphere, to be practiced locally or to be transformed to global level.55 ___________________________
- 53. John Keane (2009), Civil Society, Definition and Approaches, Entry in the Encyclopedia of Civil Society, Books Springer <http://johnkeane.info/media/pdfs/jk_civil_sciety_definitions_encyclopedia.pdf >[accessed March 23, 2012].
- 54. John Gaventa (2011), Civil Society and Power (chapter 33) , Oxford Handbook of Civil Society (Oxford Handbooks), pp. 417-427 (417).
- 55. Ibid.
1.1.1. The Role of Civil Society in Peacebuilding
“Only a democratic state can create a democratic civil society; only a democratic civil society can sustain a democratic state”.56 The link between civil society and democracy is conditioned by participation and more involvement of people in political life, in order to be more aware of and responsive to public issues. “… it is possible to create institutions that facilitate participation and deliberation between ordinary people, both within and across different ethnic groups, and that enable them to effectively channel their views and opinions to governments”.57 Such institutions will help ordinary people to talk to each other and learn from each other, thus shaping views, values and interests that may fill the ethnic gaps and change human relationships.58 Civil society associations play a key role in deepening democracy in deeply divided societies. 59 The more civil society actors are engaged the more positive results they will gain and will bring social and political change.60 John Gaventa argues that “civil society engagement is not in and of itself inherently transformative, though it has transformative potential”. 61 ________________________
- 56. Michael Walzer, Civil Society Argument, Gunnar Myrdal Lecture University of Stockholm October, 1990, <cts.lub.lu.se/ojs/index.php/st/article/download/2863/2427> [accessed March 22, 2013], p.9/11.
- 57. Ian O’Flynn and David Russel, Deepening democracy: The role of civil society, In: Karl Cordell, Stefan Wolf, Routledge Handbook of Ethnic Conflict, edition pp. 225-235 (226).
- 58. Ian O’Flynn and David Russel, Deepening democracy: The role of civil society, In: Karl Cordell, Stefan Wolf, Routledge Handbook of Ethnic Conflict, edition pp. 225-235 (231).
- 59. ibid. p. 233
- 60. John Gaventa (2011), Civil society and Power (chapter 3), Oxford Handbook of Civil Society (Oxford Handbooks), pp. 417-427 (423).
- 61. ibid. p. 425
In the study of civil society’s role in ethnic conflicts Raffaele Marchetti and Nathalie Tocci examine the non-governmental organizations in ethno-political conflict and define the civil society actors as conflict society organizations (CoSOs).62 They stress that human rights has become an important concept that the civil society activists employ in ethnic conflicts, thus revealing the link between human rights, civil society and conflict. Securitization is in the core of human rights activities implemented by CoSOs. With respect to this concept three key impacts are identified by the scholars: securitization, non-securitization and desecuritization.63 In the book the authors argue that “civil society can and does represent a critical force for change in conflict countries, and at times contributes to desecuritization through its human rights activities”.64 Civil society’s impact in conflict is also considered in the context in which it operates. 65 As such may serve civil society’s operation in state or non-state context. The state can influence the nature of civil society. Another context for civil society is the nature of the state. To what extent the state is democratic conditions the existence and nature of civil society. In conflict situations also the underdeveloped socio-economic condition and the role of international community serve as contexts. Both contexts again influence and shape the nature of the civil society. 66 ____________________________
- 62. Raffaele Marchetti & Nathalie Tocci (eds.), (2011) Civil Society, Conflicts and Politicization of Human Rights, Chapter 3, Introduction: Conflict society, ethnic conflicts and politicization of human rights, United Nations University Press, pp. 1-10 (1).
- 63. Raffaele Marchetti & Nathalie Tocci (eds.), (2011) Civil Society, Conflicts and Politicization of Human Rights, Ch. 1, Introduction: Conflict society, ethnic conflicts and politicization of human rights, United Nations University Press, pp. 1-10 (4).
- 64. ibid. p. 8
- 65. Raffaele Marchetti & Nathalie Tocci (eds.), (2011) Civil Society, Conflicts and Politicization of Human Rights, Ch. 3, Conflict society and human rights: An analytical framework, United Nations University Press, pp. 47-71 (48).
- 66. Raffaele Marchetti & Nathalie Tocci (eds.), (2011) Civil Society, Conflicts and Politicization of Human Rights, Ch. 3, Conflict society and human rights: An analytical framework, United Nations University Press, pp. 47-71 (50).
Civil society’s impact on conflict is also observed in the “frameworks of action”, considering CoSOs role and engagement in phases of conflict escalation, conflict management, conflict resolution, conflict transformation and peacebuilding.67 “Finally, in post-violence situations CoSOs may be involved in capacity building, reconstruction and rehabilitation”.68 In post-war context to help the long-term transformation of conflict CoSOs also involve in activities to change discourse by giving alternative information and knowledge.69 “The cumulative interaction between context, identity, frameworks of action and political opportunity structures determines CoSOs’ impact on conflict”. 70 “Reconciliation and the strengthening of civil society must think beyond this more limited metaphor. I believe that reconciliation requires us to think about how to end things not desired, how to find creative solutions to specific problems, and how to us both to build something desired. This broader thinking I would refer to as peacebuilding and conflict transformation. Peacebuilding suggests forging structures and processes that redefine violent relationships into constructive and cooperative patterns.”71 _____________________________________________
- 67. Raffaele Marchetti & Nathalie Tocci (eds.), (2011) Civil Society, Conflicts and Politicization of Human Rights, Ch. 3, Conflict society and human rights: An analytical framework, United Nations University Press, pp. 47-71 (55).
- 68. ibid. p. 62
- 69. ibid. p. 63
- 70. ibid. p. 65
- 71. John Paul Lederach, ‘Civil Society and Reconciliation, Turbulent Peace, The Challenges of Managing International Conflict, Chester A. Crocker, Fen Osler Hampson and Pamela Aall (eds.), pp. 846-847. Cited in: International Alert, A Comprehensive Peacebuilding Framework. <http://conflict.care2share.wikispaces.net/file/view/Lederach+Factsheet.doc> [accessed May 29, 2013].
- 2. Discourse and Collective Memory In Armenian-Turkish Relations
2.1.1. A Question of Genocide:
Turkish Scholars and Writers Reflections
Discourse on the Genocide and its Developments Over Time
Armenian and Turkish diplomatic relations never become possible due to the long lasting issue on recognition of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, with one and a half million Armenian victims of the genocide. The question of dispute is based on the denial by Turkey questioning whether it was genocide. Turkey’s foreign policy strongly focuses on the fight against recognition of the Armenian genocide in the international arena. Armenians’ national identity is embodied in the remembrance of the genocide with the loss of their traditional homeland.72 The historical dispute between the two nations evolves with different developments in the recent years. Even if there is little progress but still very important. The silence of many years has been broken in Turkey by many Turkish intellectuals, writers and civil society members. Among them are such prominent writers as Orhan Pamuk, Muge Gocek, Taner Akcam, Hrant Dink, Turkish historian Ragyp Zarakolu and many others, all known for their publications about the Armenian Genocide. One of the most widely publicized cases was the trial of Turkish outstanding writer, Nobel Prize winner (2006) Orhan Pamuk. Turkey’s well-known novelist was quoted in a Swiss newspaper, where without even mentioning the word ‘genocide’ he just claimed that around 30000 Kurds and one million Armenians were killed by turkey.
- 72. Noah’s Dove Returns: Armenia, Turkey and the Debate on Genocide, European Stability Initiative (ESI), (2009) Berlin-Istanbul-Yerevan. <www.esiweb.org> [accessed May 31, 2013].
Pamuk faced a trial of three years of jail for making comments on his country’s mass killings of Armenians, and was charged with a “public denigration”,73 forinsulting the Turkish identity and character. Thus Pamuk broke the silence of around 90 years in Turkey.74 This was highly condemned internationally and was described as an expression of insult on freedom of speech.
The claim of one of the Turkish nationalistic officials follows: “What Orhan Pamuk has done here is a direct insult to Turkish nation, he wants to gain attention in Europe and receive Nobel Prize.” In response to Turkish nationalists and public attacks Pamuk replied: “What I said is true, and legally I have the right to say it, and historically, also morally this has to be said if we are decent human beings”. Thus he speaks of the importance for Turkey to face the past.75
The international reaction to this case condemned Turkish charges against Pamuk and described it as a violation against freedom of speech. “Whatever the motive, they are a reminder that one of Turkey’s biggest obstacles in dealing with the West is the way it chooses to patrol its own history”.76 ___________________________________
- 73. Article 301, denigration Turkishness – Article 301 (1 June 2005) of the Turkish Penal Code: Article 301, on the denigration of Turkishness, the Republic, and the foundation and institutions of the State, was introduced with the legislative reforms of 1 June 2005 and replaced Article 159,
Amnesty International, EUR44/003/2006, <http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR44/003/2006/en/1a24fcc9-d44b-11dd-8743-d305bea2b2c7/eur440032006en.pdf ?> [accessed May 31, 2013].
- 74. “Turk ‘genocide’ author faces jail”, BBC News, September 2005, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4205708.stm> [accessed May 31, 2013].
- 75. Facing up the Turkey’s past, documentary, August 2007, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6EwO5w2DzE> [accessed May 31, 2013]; ‘I stand by my words. And even more, I stand by my right to say them…’, by Maureen Freely, TheGuardian, October 2005, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/oct/23/books.turkey> [Accessed May 31, 2013].
- 76. ‘The Turkish identity”, New York Times, 2005, <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/10/opinion/10sat3.html?_r=0> [Accessed May 31, 2013].
Hrant Dink, Armenian-Turkish journalist, editor-in-chief of Armenian-Turkish weekly newspaper “Agos”, referring to Pamuk’s case and the Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code in general, stated that “It’s a sign how fragile Turkey is about its past. What is really dangerous for those who are in charge is awakening from inside. That is why they are more disturbed about us talking inside and indeed they would go to the end against this. And really, Turkish people have now started asking what has really happened in our history”.77 HrantDink for advocating the Armenian cause via “Agos”, also faced trials and was charged among dozens of others with the same Article 301 by the Turkish state. Dr. Fatma Muge Gocek of the Department of Sociology and Program of Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan is one of few Turkish scholars who voices the question of the Armenian Genocide and organizes various conferences worldwide bringing together the Armenian and Turkish scholars. She is the co-author of the book “A Question of Genocide”, published by oxford University Press in 2011. In an interview with an Armenian journalist Khatchig Mouradian, Muge Gocek states that as compared to historians who have more been concerned with presenting the interests of the state today’s scholars have more critical views. She distinguishes the Turkish historiography according to three phases. Especially talking to the historiography on the Armenians starting since late 1800s, she mentions the “Ottoman Interrogative narrative”, when the Ottoman leaders were thinking about reforms, that was followed by the hostile attitudes against Armenians described as “the other”. The next proto-nationalist phase is described and called by her as the “Republican defensive narrative”.78 ________________________________
- 77. Facing up the Turkey’s past, documentary, August 2007, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6EwO5w2DzE> 14:23,[accessed May 31, 2013].
- 78. Katchig Mouradian (2005), “An Interview with Muge Gocek: On the foundations of Turkey”, Azdag Daily, <http://headoverhat.blogspot.de/2007/06/interview-with-muge-gocek.html>[accessed May 31, 2013].
“Today, there are new works, like the works of Taner Akçam and interviews of Halil Berktay that approach the State’s views critically. These, put together with the fact that recently – in the last two decades – especially the Aras publishing house in Turkey has been translating Turkish-Armenian literature into Turkish, make me think, or hope and wish that there may be a post-national critical narrative developing”.79 When talking about the different conferences and meeting organized jointly with Turkish and Armenian scholars Muge Gocek remarks that at the beginning there were many historians with reservations and less willingness to participate in their workshops. “It’s very hard for people to perceive that there is scholarship done independently of the Turkish state, that there is a Turkish society that is separate from the Turkish state”.80 Another Turkish scholar is Dr. Ugur Ümit Üngör, director of Graduate Studies at the Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam, lecturer in international history at the University of Sheffield, also is author of books, articles and lectures on the Armenian genocide. In 2007 he published in Dutch his book entitled “Persecution, Expropriation and Destruction: The deportation of Ottoman Armenians during the First World War” 81, which gives an overview of the Armenian Genocide. _______________________________
- 79. Katchig Mouradian (2005), “An Interview with Muge Gocek: On the foundations of Turkey”, Azdag Daily, <http://headoverhat.blogspot.de/2007/06/interview-with-muge-gocek.html>[accessed May 31, 2013].
- 80. Ibid.
- 81. Dr. Ugur Ümit Üngör’s book title in original “Vervolging, Onteigening en Vernietiging: De Deportatie van Ottomaanse Armeniërs tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog” (Soesterberg: Aspekt, 2007), in his personal website: <http://www.uu.nl/hum/staff/UUUngor> [accessed May 31, 2013].
Dr. Üngör’s most recent works are “Confiscation and Destruction: The Young Turk Seizure of Armenian Property” and “The Making of Modern Turkey: Nation and State in Eastern Anatolia”.82 Thefirst book is about the “detailed accounting of all the property seized from Armenians during the Genocide to create the modern state of Turkey” and the second book studies the process of “social engineering, mass violence and genocide the Young Turks and their Republican successors utilized as they tried to create a homogeneous Turkey”.83
The prominent Turkish writer Taner Akçam, author of more than ten books and numerous articles, has dedicated many of his works to the Armenian genocide. Especially his well-known books on the Armenian genocide are “From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide”, “A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility” and “The Young Turks’ Crime against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire”.
Taner Akçam states that Turks are unable to speak calmly about the Armenian genocide as they feel accusation. “In nationalist discourse this sentiment is perceived as an accusation that puts into question four thousand years of glorious Turkish history, and attributes to the Turkish nation a crime of which it is not capable”.84 Speaking about the Turkish discourse Akçam states that the people mostly fear is not that much for the past, how it should be called, but more about future, what will follow after they accept it, and brings up the common public discussion “If we accept the Genocide, then the claim for reparations will soon follow.”85 __________________________
- 82. Dr. Ugur Ümit Üngör’s lecture live webcast from the Netherlands broadcasted in the American University of Armenia, on Thursday, May 2 at 6:30 PM (Yerevan Time), also streamed live on AUA webpage < http://newsroom.aua.am/live/> [accessed May 2, 2013].
- 83. Dr. Üngör’s personal website: <http://www.uu.nl/hum/staff/UUUngor> [accessed May 31, 2013].
- 84. Taner Akçam (2004), From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide, Zoryan Institute, London: Zed Books 2004, Ch. 8, Genocide and Turkey, “Why do Turks get so upset when the subject is brought up? pp. 233-237 (233)
- 85. Ibid. p. 237.
The “hidden texts” concerning the Armenian issue first appeared in Turkey by Ismail Besikci. In the Islamic publishing houses’ memorandums against the Committee of Union and Progress (Ittihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti),86 he was first to appear with an evident “controversial word”. Besikci many years passed in jail and experienced a lot of suffering due to his interest in the Kurdish question as well as the Armenian question. He was followed by other writers with their books and writings – Fikret Baskaya “The failure of Paradigms”, Osman Aytar “Hamidiye Regiments”, Serdar Jani “My grandmother’s tales”, Taner Akçam “The Turkish nationalism and the Armenian genocide”, which were books published in Turkey, again expressing controversial opinion. All those authors faced trials with different accusations. The “Bilgi” publishing house published in Turkish translation the book “Gonocide” by outstanding Armenian historian Vahakn Dadrian. 87 The works of all these Turkish writers, along with many other Turkish contemporary scholars is of high importance as their contributions to Turkish literature and history promote the awareness of the nation on another truth, different from what was constructed over long time by the state authorities and government of the Turkish state. They greatly help to change the discourse by publicly acknowledging the genocide, and they speak the unspeakable, thus break the silence of decades. Their role is fundamental in the process of reconciliation, and as time passes more and more Turkish people join this army, with the hope to reconcile with their own past and build a “healthier” future on true democratic grounds. During their work they pass through very difficult path in struggle with the nationalistic position of their state and their government, thus being denied by many co-followers, unjustly named by them as “traitors”. _____________________________
- 86. Ittihat ve Terakki – “Union and Progress” party ruled by the Young Turks, who organized the Armenian Genocide.
- 87. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p. 97
On their way to justice they work closely with Armenian scholars, trying to match the two histories and find out the truth from the different interpretations of it. Thus they also bridge the two nations, bringing together the once historically close nations, finding traces of common past and common history. With their writings they have impact on public opinion and give alternative clues to the Armenian issue in Turkey, different from the state’s denial and strong propaganda. Thus, these Turkish intellectuals speaking about the Armenian issue and breaking the taboo became the pioneers in Turkey to bring civil activism on the genocide into the scientific sphere in the recent decade. Very significant were the initial meetings of Armenian and Turkish scientists, which started in Chicago and continued in Michigan and later in Salzburg. The conferences later developed in more universities in the world and finally took place in Istanbul, for the first time in 2005. 88 The first such conference in Turkey took place in September 2005. The conference entitled “Ottoman Armenians During the Decline of the Empire: Issues of Scientific Responsibility and Democracy” was held at Bilgi University in Istanbul. The two previous attempts were blocked by the Turkish government. The conference turned to be the first initiative with such an open discussion of the subject that ever happened in Turkey. It was not allowed in public to discuss the Armenian question, as scholars using the word genocide could be prosecuted under a clause in the Turkish penal code on insulting the national identity. With Bilgi conference Turkey started a new procedure on the Armenian question.89 _____________________________________________
- 88. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p. 36.
- 89. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p. 99
2.1.1. Taboos in Turkey: Breaking Silence
“Should you dare to speak about the Armenian Genocide, massacres of Greeks and their expulsion from Anatolia, the Kurdish uprisings and the terrorist methods used by the state to repress them, you risk a storm of fierce denunciation. Whoever dares to speak about these matters is aggressively attacked as a traitor, singled out for public condemnation and may even be put in prison”. 90 In the book “From Empire to Republic” Taner Akçam describes that as a republic Turkey was founded based on taboos. To create a “new nation” many reforms were introduced with efforts to “create the individuals to match the state”. 91 As a result, the non-Muslims were portrayed as “the other”, and the national state was homogenized based on the Turkish cultural identity.In the core of many taboos, such as discriminating minorities, rejecting ethnic and cultural differences was also the Armenian question. One of the principles lying in the foundation of the Republic states: “No massacre whatsoever was carried out and directed at the Armenians”.92 Thus, from the very earlier times of history, in the consciousness of the society was rooted the perception of the minorities as “alien”, “the other”, moreover, deprived of any rights.93 Due to the historical taboo, Armenians from minorities turned into national enemies. This taboo about Armenians even today bears the syndrome “Armenians demand our lands”, having in its basis the historical events.94 _________________________________
- 90. Taner Akçam (2004), From Empire to Re public: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide, Zoryan Institute, London: Zed Books 2004, The Causes and Effects of Making Turkish History Taboo, pp. 208-225 (209).
- 91. Taner Akçam (2004), From Empire to Re public: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide, Zoryan Institute, London: Zed Books 2004, A model for understanding Turkey today, pp. 11-38 (25).
- 92. Ibid. p. 24.
- 93. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p. 58.
- 94. Ibid. p. 59.
As the Turkish state did not equip the schools and educational institutions with truth, instead provided with misinformation, the Armenian claims were described as “unreasonable statements”. However, this same “unreasonable” theme became subject for an essay competition in the elementary schools. Thus the question containing all societal layers promoted the elimination of the taboo. The process inevitably led from denial to acceptance. 95 During the past decade with emergence of a more liberal state of Turkey, also with the influence of the process of EU accession, Turkey’s political atmosphere changed and the Turkish intellectuals started challenging the historical taboos. Taner Akçam was the first Turkish scholar who encouraged the state on the recognition of the 1915 events as genocide. With other Turkish academics he saw the non- recognition as a serious obstacle for Turkey’s true democracy. “Speaking openly about the Armenian genocide in Turkish society, which means incorporating the Armenian genocide into Turkish historical writing, has a direct impact on pushing Turkey towards becoming a truly democratic state”.96 In 2004, when the Turkish government was undertaking some reforms according to the required preconditions for start of the EU negotiations, writer and human rights activist Fethiye Çetin published her book “My grandmother”, which depicts the story of discovering about her grandmother to be Armenian, while she was brought up as a Muslim girl. Another step for breaking taboo at that time was the discussions in “Agos”97 witnessing on discovery of another Armenian – Ataturk’s adopted daughter Rabina Gogcen, Turkey’s first female pilot.98 _________________________________
- 95. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p. 85.
- 96. Taner Akçam cited in: Noah’s Dove Returns: Armenia, Turkey and the Debate on Genocide, European Stability Initiative (ESI), (2009) Berlin-Istanbul-Yerevan. p.6. <www.esiweb.org> [accessed May 31, 2013].
- 97. Agos, a Turkish-Armenian weekly edited by Hrant Dink, published since 1996 Istanbul.
- 98. Noah’s Dove Returns: Armenia, Turkey and the Debate on Genocide, European Stability Initiative (ESI), (2009) Berlin-Istanbul-Yerevan. p.7. <www.esiweb.org> [accessed May 31, 2013].
In 2005, Halil Berktay with many other Turkish intellectuals organized a conference that was dedicated to the Ottoman Armenians. Prior to its happening the Turkish Administrative Court did not allow two universities to host the event. Finally, it was held in Bilgi University in September 2005. For the first time Turkish academics openly announced that the 1915 events should be recognized as genocide.99 Halil Berktay announced during the conference “What happened in 1915-1916 is not a mystery… The issue is liberating scholarship from national taboos”.100As a response to the event the Turkish daily Milliyet wrote about this event, “another taboo is destroyed”.101 Many accusations and attacks towards the conference participants followed the conference. More than 40 Turkish writers, journalists, authors received accusations, charged with “insulting Turkishness” under the Penal Code. Among them were attacks against Orhan Pamuk, for his interview in a Swiss magazine. Most long lasting and severe attacks were directed to Turkish-Armenian journalist, editor and writer Hrant Dink. In 2006, for “denigrating Turkishness” Hrant Dink was sentenced for 6 months. The public accusations towards Dink made him target for nationalists. He was required to visit Court again in March 2007, but in January 2007 he was killed in front of his editorial office, Agos in Istanbul.102 With Hrant Dink’s assassination, the Armenian genocide memories were again revived. Also, it became one of the largest political scandals in Turkey. _______________________________
- 99. Noah’s Dove Returns: Armenia, Turkey and the Debate on Genocide, European Stability Initiative (ESI), (2009) Berlin-Istanbul-Yerevan. p.7. <www.esiweb.org> [accessed May 31, 2013].
- 100. Halil Berktay cited in: Noah’s Dove Returns: Armenia, Turkey and the Debate on Genocide, ESI, (2009) Berlin-Istanbul-Yerevan. p.7. <www.esiweb.org> [accessed May 31, 2013].
- 101. Noah’s Dove Returns: Armenia, Turkey and the Debate on Genocide, European Stability Initiative (ESI), (2009) Berlin-Istanbul-Yerevan. p.7. <www.esiweb.org> [accessed May 31, 2013].
- 102. Ibid. p. 9.
Turkish people in hundreds of thousands went to demonstrations with slogan “We are all Armenians” The slogan, however, became subject of controversial debate. It was opposed by another slogan of nationalists “We are all Turks”.103 The Turkish society’s response to Hrant Dink’s murder showed the changed Turkey. Thus, Dink’s assassination witnessed about challenging the historical taboos in Turkey. “Hence, it was the breaking of this taboo that essentially constituted the societal and political trauma in Turkey following the killing of Dink.”104 In December 2008, Turkish intellectuals started a signature campaign online, an apology to Armenians with the following inscription: “My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathize with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers. I apologize to them.”From the initial 230 signature the number later reached till 30000. The campaign also was criticized by nationalism leaders and officials.105 With recent transformation developments within the Turkish society also the long lasting taboos are being broken. “Since 2000, however, Turkish civil society has begun to look at the history of Ottoman Armenians in a new light, in the process breaking numerous taboos.”106 _________________________________
- 103. Seyhan Bayraktar (2008), “Nothing but Ambiguous: The Killing of Hrant Dink in Turkish Discourse” Armenian Weekly, The Context: The Killing of Hrant Dink as a breaking point, p.7, <http://www.armenianweekly.com/wp-content/files/AW_Apr08.pdf > [accessed June 3, 2013].
- 104. Ibid. p.7.
- 105. Noah’s Dove Returns: Armenia, Turkey and the Debate on Genocide, European Stability Initiative (ESI), (2009) Berlin-Istanbul-Yerevan. p.9. <www.esiweb.org> [accessed May 31, 2013]; Homepage of the campaign: Ozurdilivoruz (we apologize)< <http://www.ozurdiliyoruz.com/ >[accessed June 3, 2013].
- 106. Noah’s Dove Returns: Armenia, Turkey and the Debate on Genocide, European Stability Initiative (ESI), (2009) Berlin-Istanbul-Yerevan. p.1. <www.esiweb.org> [accessed May 31, 2013].
As a proof these transformations is the Turkish writer Murat Bardakçi’s book “The Remaining Documents of Talat Pasha”107, published in 2009.The documents contain Talat Pasha’s report on the Armenian Genocide, giving most important details on the massacres of 1915. As the author later told New York Times, (interview, March 2009), for 27 years he had kept the documents waiting for times when its publication would not cause rage in Turkey. “I could never have published this book ten years ago, I would have been called a traitor. The mentality has changed”.108 Also an important change is the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, when in 2010 for the first time Turkish people joint Armenians in commemorating in Istanbul. Though it was followed by opposition protests, in 2013 it is the fourth year that Turkish people commemorate the genocide with Armenians on April 24, and the protests become less and less. Also in recent years the commemoration takes place not only Istanbul, but also in other Turkish cities. In 2011 the slogan of Turkish commemorators read “This pain is our pain”. Perhaps, the most important outcome of all these experiences was to see that Turks could talk about their taboos. So far, Armenian and Turkish civil society activists with various initiatives have accomplished a lot in terms of breaking taboos on both sides. As they argue on the Turkish side they could break taboos on historical past and have broken silence in the society with discussions on the 1915 events. On the Armenian side, their initiatives have broken the prejudices about impossibility of negotiations with the Turks. Thus, they succeeded in proving the possibility of a dialogue between the two sides. So it is possible to talk to each other. 109 _____________________________
107. The original title of the book is: “Talat Pasanin Evrak-i Metrukesi” (2008).
- 108. Murat Bardakçi cited in: Noah’s Dove Returns: Armenia, Turkey and the Debate on Genocide, European Stability Initiative (ESI), (2009) Berlin-Istanbul-Yerevan. p.1. <www.esiweb.org> [accessed May 31, 2013].
- 109. TEPAV, Reflecting on the Two Decades of Bridging the Divide: Taking Stock of Turkish –Armenian Civil Society Activities, 2012, Chapter 4, Maintaining the relationship –Outcome balance in initiatives, pp. 42-49 (42).
2.1.3. “The Sounds of Silence”: Turkey’s Armenians Speak
… Hrant Dink dreamed of more just and free world.110
It is not possible to examine the past of this historical conflict without exploring the memory, stories and narratives of both nations. Sometimes, even it is hard to see the line when the story of one ends and the other’s story starts. The question of memory, even more, the loss of memory makes those both societies vulnerable. Armenians who survived in Turkey after the 1915 Genocide, had no chose but to hide their identity to live in the Turkish society. They were Muslimized and lived bearing Turkish names. The deeply rooted taboo about Armenians in Turkey created fear to disclose their identities.111 Hrant Dink Foundation112 continues the peaceful mission of Hrant Dink, who desired to see those two nations in peace, again living side by side without enmity and able to talk to each other. Hrant Dink Foundation since its inception pursued a goal to create a resource of memories and stories of Armenians of Turkey. “The sounds of silence” is the first fruits of this desire. The book was aimed to recover the memory of the past of Armenians living in Turkey, to show their political and cultural life, to reflect their reality in Turkey, to show how they perceive themselves and “the others”. To fulfill this purpose an oral history research has been implemented which served as the basis for this book.113 ____________________________
- 110. The Sounds of Silence: Turkey’s Armenians Speak, prepared by Ferda Balancar, International Hrant Dink Foundation Publications, 2012.
- 111. The Sounds of Silence: Turkey’s Armenians Speak, prepared by Ferda Balancar, Foreword by Ali Bayramoglu, International Hrant Dink Foundation Publications, 2012, pp. 1-3.
- 112. Hrant Dink Foundation (Hrant Dink Vakfi) was founded in the aftermath of Dink’s murder, in 2007, home webpage: <http://www.hrantdink.org/?Home&Lang=&Home&Lang=en>.
- 113. The Sounds of Silence: Turkey’s Armenians Speak, prepared by Ferda Balancar, Foreword by Ali Bayramoglu, International Hrant Dink Foundation Publications, 2012, pp. 1-3(3).
Why is memory important? Memory lies at the roots of the reality, the society lives in. It is important to understand the historical wrong, to help to recover lost identities and to reconcile with the past. Far back to history, in the Turkish land there were blood and massacres of non-Muslims, and especially Armenians, who got deprived of their property, their homes, and their lives. Armenians were killed for their identity.114 All those bitter and sanguinary events based on religion were rooted in the process of becoming a nation in Turkey, accompanied with the “Turkification process”.115 “New nations burdened with such stories try to build the new nation by forgetting. This is why their policies, their state structures, their education systems, their narratives and tales are ‘selective’ and ‘amnestic’. This is why in our country, social existence is totally amnestic and the main crossroads where conscience and the fight for democracy meet has four directions: remembering, knowing, confrontation and redemption”.116 The book is about the victims’ memory. Armenians spread worldwide remember the 1915. “…they tell it, they read it and they write it, with pain, with anger, regenerating that pain and that anger…”.117 Armenian-American contemporary poet Alan Semerdjian in his book “In the Architecture of Bone” writes about memory, identity and past, all as “a fortune in a cup of Turkish coffee”.118 ______________________________________
- 114. The Sounds of Silence: Turkey’s Armenians Speak, prepared by Ferda Balancar, Foreword by Ali Bayramoglu, International Hrant Dink Foundation Publications, 2012, pp. 1-3(1).
- 115. Ibid. p. 1.
- 116. Ibid. p. 2.
- 117. Ibid. p. 2.
- 118. Alan Semerdjian (2009), In the Architecture of Bone, 1st Edition, GenPop Books.
Alan Semerdjian in his book of poems cites a Turkish writer: “I am also carrying a book of Nazim Hikmet’s jail poems. After getting out of prison, he wrote, “This Armenian citizen won’t forgive / his father’s slaughter in the Kurdish mountains. / But he likes you, / because you also can’t forgive / those who blackened the Turkish people’s name.””119 Memory of victims is embodied in art, literature and culture of the nation, in hundreds of thousands of books, articles, essays, in paintings and songs of the nation. This is how they break the silence and speak. “The Sounds of Silence” tells the story of people who stayed in the Turkish lands. People – who kept silent for a long time, who never dared to tell their stories, and they thought of speaking and remembering as a very dangerous step. Turkey’s Armenians adopted “voluntary amnesia”. “Even if they knew, they did not remember, even if they remembered they did not want to speak. They strove to protect future generations by hiding their story, by hiding themselves. What they did not speak of was not only the suffering, they did not even speak of their Armenian-ness, of what being Armenian means, they could not”.120 As the survivors are no longer living and their next generation, the children of survivors, is also getting old, thus their stories need to be told and not be lost. This oral history research is an attempt of saving those untold stories. The heroes of the book are from Istanbul and other cities of Turkey, 40 people were interviewed, 21 women and 19 men, aging from 19-70 years old.121 ________________________________________
- 119. Alan Semerdjian(2009), In the Architecture of Bone, 1st Edition, GenPop Books, p. 9.
- 120. The Sounds of Silence: Turkey’s Armenians Speak, prepared by Ferda Balancar, Foreword by Ali Bayramoglu, International Hrant Dink Foundation Publications, 2012, pp. 1-3(2).
- 121. Ibid. p.3.
As part of oral history, the stories presented in the selected 15 interviews of the book, are the voice of individuals who speak of their identity, memory, past and silence. These stories picture the trauma of lost or hidden identity. These personal narratives are contrasted with the discourse imposed by nationalists. Due to them the distinction between narratives becomes clear, as personal vs. historical. Through the individual stories it is possible to see the subjective side of the historical context.122 The fear seems to be the central feeling for most of them to keep silence. “when she [my grandmother] spoke of Deportation she would keep telling us, ‘get away from here, don’t stay around’…She kept telling us ‘You be careful now. Don’t buy too many goods or property. Don’t draw attention to yourselves’.”123 Now these voices speak about how they have always been discriminated, treated as “the others”, Armenians being named “gâvurs”124 by Turks. One of the narrators tells how Kurds speaking about Armenians used to say: “You can put these gâvurs on a bare rock, give them a piece of wool and they’ll still find a way to live but we can’t”. 125 The silence was becoming a habit and even was taught to generations, as described in one of the stories, entitled “I grew up getting beaten all the time”, the father told his son: “They are going to call you gâvur, they call the others that too but those don’t say a word. They won’t kill you, let them beat you, don’t say anything and just come home. Don’t say anything even if they break your bones.”126 _________________________________
- 122. The Sounds of Silence: Turkey’s Armenians Speak, prepared by Ferda Balancar, Epilogue by Arus Yumul, International Hrant Dink Foundation Publications, 2012, pp. 161-172(161).
- 123. Ibid. ‘Do you know why there are so many mosquitoes in Dogubayazit’, pp. 71-76 (72).
- 124. Ibid. ‘I have the right to say I am Armenian’ pp. 17-29 (18).
- 125. Gâvur (infidel), is the name by which the Turkish used to call non-Muslims, meaning non believer.
- 126. The Sounds of Silence: Turkey’s Armenians Speak, prepared by Ferda Balancar, International Hrant Dink Foundation Publications, 2012, “I have the right to say I am Armenian” pp. 17-29(19).
In their stories many Armenians describe that they had to convert to Muslims to save their lives. Sometimes the decision was made later in order to be able to live easily in the Turkish society and not be discriminated as non-Muslim. “My father’s father had to go through very hard times but he always told his children, ‘Never renounce your religion’. But when he died (…) the four brothers got together and decided to convert”.127 Some returned to Christianity later when there was less fear. “As for my paternal grandmother, she returned to Christianity so that my father could be baptized. From what I had been told, she had secretly gone on living as a Christian anyway”.128 However, some Armenians resisted protecting their language and religion as much as it was possible. “My Armenian is not enough to read but I do read the Bible in Turkish”.129 Armenians turn back to their identity, keeping their Armenian identity as a “family secret”.They prefer to hide their being Armenian. “Up until some 20 years ago my father and his family tried to meet their Muslim relatives who lived in Ankara. But they said ‘Don’t come, everyone will find out that we are Armenians”.130 These family secrets together with fear were part of the childhood for Armenian children in Turkey. “It was there that my grandmother spoke to my mother some time later about how the women came in great embarrassment…Because they had been raped on their way and were pregnant when they arrived. They were so ashamed of those pregnancies but there was nothing they could do, because they hadn’t found in themselves to put an end to their lives. That’s not so easy to do. We grew up listening to those stories”.131 ______________________________________________________
- 127. The Sounds of Silence: Turkey’s Armenians Speak, prepared by Ferda Balancar, International Hrant Dink Foundation Publications, 2012, “When my father became a Muslim my mother left the house” pp. 27-32 (27).
- 128. The Sounds of Silence: Turkey’s Armenians Speak, prepared by Ferda Balancar, International Hrant Dink Foundation Publications, 2012, “1915 is not a past history and it shouldn’t be” pp. 101-105(103).
- 129. Ibid. ‘Being an Armenian in Malatya’, pp. 61-66 (64).
- 130. Ibid. ‘1915 is not a past history and it shouldn’t be’, pp. 101-105(103).
- 131. Ibid. ‘I heard about ‘40 days on Musa Mountain’ from my grandmother’, pp. 37-43(40).
2.2. Collective Memory in Armenian-Turkish Relations
2.2.1 Collective Memories and Identities in the Divided Societies
“The terms “Turks” and Armenians” which are widely used in historiography and conversation, are not historical categories, but rather historical constructions. They are used to express only that one group is not Armenian and the other not Turk. This not only misrepresents history but exacerbates public perceptions and prejudices today”.132
The historical conflict that is in the core of Armenian-Turkish relations cannot be observed without discussing the collective memories and collective identities of the both nations. As bearers of different historical and political discourse, they still have much in common, with their common past and are strongly influenced by each other.
As Turks believe in their creation of a new national identity they refuse to accept any connotations related to the Armenian genocide that could be connected with their Republic.133 Thus the Turks worry that by recognizing the Armenian Genocide they may endanger their own national identity.
“I think the main reason the Turks avoid any discussion on history and make it a taboo lies in the reality of this connection between the Armenian Genocide and the foundation of the Turkish Republic. The devastation that would ensue if Turks had to now stigmatize as ‘murderers and thieves’ those whom they are used to regarding as ‘great saviors’ and ‘people who created a nation from nothing,’ is palpable”.134
- 132. Taner Akçam (2006), A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility, Holt Paperbacks, New York, Author’s Note, pp. 15-16 (16).
- 133. Taner Akçam (2004), From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide, Zoryan Institute, London: Zed Books 2004, Ch. 8, The Genocide & Turkey, “We do not want the identity that we have created to be dissolved”, pp. 226-241 (237)
- 134. Ibid. p. 240.
The collective memory and identity of the Armenian people is strongly related to their struggle for restoration of justice. While in the official history of the Turkish state, the topic has become a taboo throughout its existence. The Armenian Genocide recognition issue is the mostly debated issue in the political narratives of both countries.135
Armenians identity’s vulnerability is also caused by the indifference of the world to the Armenian Genocide, while the world was more “understandable” towards the Holocaust. Appeared in various countries of the world, Armenians faced the danger of their identity’s erosion due to assimilation, the process of “Americanization”, “Frenchization” (becoming French) and “Russianization” was rapidly progressing. The mixed marriages, loss of the language, emptying of the churches, ignoring of Armenian names became serious problems for the next generations. The creation of Diaspora gave a new context to the Armenian identity. Thus, representatives of the Armenian Diaspora became bearers of two identities – the new and old one. The old identity unfortunately was the nostalgia. In Armenia they live this identity, in Diaspora they try to keep it. Armenians endangering to lose their identity struggle to “live” this identity by demanding for justice. The notion of “Turk” plays an important role in formulating the Armenian identity, and in their perceptions of the Turk, Armenians from Armenia, Diaspora Armenians and Turkish Armenians strongly differ. 136
For the Diaspora Armenians living in different countries the memory of Genocide is the important part of the survival and keeping their identity. However, it is never forgotten by Armenians living in Armenia, Turkey or other Diaspora communities.
- 135. Ruben Safrastyan, Armenian-Turkish Relations: From Interstate Dispute to Neighborliness, CPS International Policy Fellowship Program, 2003/2004, CUI Policy Studies, Open Society Institute, p. 5, <http://www.policy.hu/document/200808/safrastyan.pdf&letoltes=1> [accessed June 5, 2013].
- 136. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p. 46-49.
In an interview with Mari Hovhannisyan, Turkologist Ruben Melkonyan also talked about different perceptions of Genocide by the Armenian communities:
“The collective memory of the Genocide had different manifestation among Armenians. I am against drawing new margins and dividing Armenians into subgroups but in any case conditionally we can draw some lines. For instance, Western Armenians those who experienced the deportation directly have deeper feelings, their pains are stronger as they were deported (…)”.137
In the book “The Sounds of Silence” a Turkish-Armenian girl after discovering her Armenian origins, first experiences a shock, then beginning of a new life with new identity. To some extent she feels a struggle between the two identities, being both Turkish and Armenian. However, she tries to free herself from the stereotypes and prejudices typical to those both identities, especially in the context of conflict. “I know that I have Armenian origins. A part of me is Armenian. I am totally at peace with this. I don’t define myself as an Armenian or a Turk…”.138 Even today, it is possible to find so many common feelings and memories, also see the influence and presence of the Turkish in the Armenian memory and identity. Turkish Armenians live with the Turks, Armenians in Armenia live in neighborhood of the Turks and Armenians of Diaspora live very far from the Turks. The distance thus becomes distinctive feature of the identity’s distortion.139 The Biblical Mountain Ararat is the symbol of identity for Armenians. Ararat symbolizes the ancient history of Armenia, their lost homeland and the longing to become part of that beloved land. For them it is not only past but also future…140 _______________________________
- 137. Mary Hovhannisyan, Interview with Turkologist Ruben Melkonyan, Yerevan, 2010, cited in
The Collective Memory of the Armenian Genocide, Master thesis submitted to CEU, Budapest, 2010.
- 138. The Sounds of Silence: Turkey’s Armenians Speak, prepared by Ferda Balancar, International Hrant Dink Foundation Publications, 2012, “It’s only to the people closest to me that I talk about these things”, pp. 81-88 (86).
- 139. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p.48.
- 140. Ibid. p. 60.
It is also the favorite mountain of the Turks and is now in the territory of Turkey. “We call out to our beloveds with different nicknames, those names are like the special seals of our affection. There are two peoples who love the same mountain with different names. They are two neighbours who see different worlds in the same mountain. Mount Agri represents grandeur in Turkey, while Mount Ararat-Masis represents a blessing in Armenia. No one in Turkey assigns further meanings to Mount Agri, as it is already here. Whereas in Armenia Mount Ararat–Masis is a symbol. It is witness of a unity that existed before the world fell apart, a witness of a no-land which no longer exists. It is a melancholy yearning. When it feels like it, it will reveal its face through the mist. And the border, the only one who knows both sides of the mountain, feels ashamed for being closed”.141 The restoration of the common memory between the Armenian and Turkish societies, is the most important procedure, very necessary for each member of the society. The expression “let’s leave history for historians” is not correct. It is not sincere. To leave the history to historians, while, at the same time to provide distorted history via mass media, TV and research works? When the handbooks of schools are full of hatred and with hostile characterizations? About the history of four thousand years, there is no mentioning in the history books, it has been forbidden up to date.142 “In these lands for a long time we lived together, we have common memory. Unfortunately, this common memory we turned into monologic memory. Each of us plays on the string we know. Whereas, why cannot we reconstruct our common memory, thus turning the monologue to dialogue.143 ___________________________________________
- 141. 2013 Agenda: Borders, Hrant Dink Foundation Publications, Istanbul, 11/2012.
- 142. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p.103.
- 143. Ibid. p. 123. [the quote is translated from Armenian to English, original book is in Turkish].
Along with the date of 1915, another date has affected deeply the collective memory, January 19, 2007, the day of Hrant Dink’s assassination. Hrant Dink was the voice of people and even after his death he contributed to the efforts to make this voice be heard. The perceptions about the Turks and the Kurds changed after Dink’s funeral, it united different groups.144 Taner Akçam argues that in Armenian-Turkish relations the problem lies mainly in their perception of the “sameness” of the present actors (Turks and Armenians) with the past”. This affects their behavior towards each other. Today’s Armenian and Turk speak to each other always referring to their history.145 They give labels to each other, such as ‘barbaric Turks’ or ‘Armenian traitors’, thus identifying “the other” with the historical image of Turk or Armenian, constructed in their societies.Thus, each tends to dehumanize and stereotype the image of “the other”.146 “They take on the role of historical actors and speak on behalf of them”.147 he believes that communication between Armenians and Turks may only be possible if they start distinguishing between their past and present. They should not “hide behind historical actors” while trying to speak to each other.148 ____________________________________________
- 144. The Sounds of Silence: Turkey’s Armenians Speak, prepared by Ferda Balancar, Epilogue by Arus Yumul, International Hrant Dink Foundation Publications, 2012, pp. 161-172(165).
- 145. Taner Akçam (2004), From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide, Zoryan Institute, London: Zed Books 2004, Ch. 9, “Some theoretical thoughts on obstacles to Armenian Turkish reconciliation”, pp. 243-253 (247).
- 146. Ibid. p. 249.
- 147. Ibid. p. 247.
- 148. Ibid. p. 249.
2.2.2. “Wounded” Memory, Trauma in the Divided Societies
The Armenian Genocide has become a trauma not only in the society of victims, but also in the society of the perpetrators. One side is traumatized as a victim and is trying to “heal” from the trauma with the help of its culture, art and literature, passing the pain from one generation to another. The other side is bearing the trauma of denial of the history that threatens to destroy its national image and identity. Turkish desire to forget is a “defense mechanism”. They make the history a taboo, protecting their society from memories that are characterized as genocide or massacre, and avoid the negative impacts those memories may have on the psychology of their society. One of such defense mechanisms is forgetting. Other defense mechanisms in psychology are “repression”, “suppression”, “denial” and “projection”. Turks deny the past and project and attribute their own deeds onto Armenians, by insisting “we Turks did not murder Armenians; Armenians murdered us”. He argues that this kind of approaches is applied by people who have a ‘damaged’ past.149 “Making the act of forgetting into a major foundation of a society is not exclusive to Turkish society”.150 “My fundamental thesis is that this attitude of Turkish society toward its history is a neurotic, pathological attitude, which can well be described as that of a hysterical personality. In other words, I am speaking of the existence of hysteria on a societal level”.151 The feelings of guilt, being dishonored or humiliated are in the core of the trauma in Turkish society. For “healing” from trauma, Akçam suggests re-conceptualizing Turkey with its history, resume remembering instead of forgetting.152 _______________________________________________
- 149. Taner Akçam (2004), From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide, Zoryan Institute, London: Zed Books 2004, Ch. 7 “The cases and effects of making Turkish history taboo”, pp. 208-225 (211).
- 150. Ibid. p. 211.
- 151. Ibid. p. 213.
- 152. Ibid. p. 217.
The reform of the Turkish alphabet became one of the obstacles for connecting the Turks with their past. The Turkish Republic while advancing did not wish to recall and study the past.153 The policy of forgetting was implemented through destruction of Armenian historical monuments, churches, khachkars.154 Thus, cleaning all traces of Armenians from history, from the historical books, documents and maps. Armenian churches witness about Armenian national life and speak about the “historic Armenian presence”.155 In contrast to the Turks, Armenians remember in order to heal from the trauma. Their remembrance is expressed in thousands of pieces of art and literature, academic research works, writings and books. Their songs are about yarning, loss and the pain they lived through. They speak and remember with the language of art as in reality, due to the trauma, many genocide survivors were unable to speak. Mourning is the central theme in the Armenian literature. Modern Armenian writer Marc Nichanian refers to this phenomenon in his book “Writers of Disaster”.156 Alan Semerdjian, Armenian-American young artist, musician and writer, is deeply influenced by his grandfather, cubist-impressionist and genocide survivor Simon Samsonian. Today, almost a century later after the Genocide, living in the cultural New York city with its different reality, he still devotes his art and writings to the memory, the trauma of his nation. In his poems Alan shows how identity and memory reflects in our today’s life, how it is deep rooted in our relations, in our perception of life and world. ______________________________
- 153. Katchig Mouradian (2005),‘An Interview with Muge Gocek: On the foundations of Turkey’, Azdag Daily,<http://headoverhat.blogspot.de/2007/06/interview-with-muge-gocek.html>[accessed June 6, 2013].
- 154. Khatchkar (cross-stone), Armenian carved memorial stone, reflects the unique development of Armenian culture; one of the most characteristic symbols of Armenian identity <http://www.khachkar.am/en/> [accessed June 6, 2013].
- 155. When Does Genocide End? The Armenian Case, lecture by prof. Dickran Kouymjian, Sonoma State University, Holocaust Lecture Series, 2003, pp. 1-17(10).
- 156. Marc Nichanian (2002), Writers of Disaster: Armenian Literature in the Twentieth Century, Volume One, The National Revolution, Taderon Press.
Alan Semerdjian’s poems are a mixture of memory and identity, that all at once resonates with the reader, giving the picture of the culture and history embodied in the grandmothers’ stories, family roots, being Armenian, the wanderings within collective and personal memories. “…I know they are Turkish because it’s in their eyes. It’s in their eyes because of the way they look at me when I speak the few words in Turkish that I know. I know these words because I am Armenian. That is also why I know they are Turkish (…)”.157 “The short fuse of memory is like the aneurysms my grandfather carries in his stomach. He tells me how he remembers while I feed him lumps of egg in the rehabilitation facility. “I open my eyes, and I find myself in the school of orphan,” he says surrounded by genocide children (…)”.158 “For my grandfather the word genocide tastes like copper (…)”.159 “…He must have been 3 or 4 when it happened, that’s what I think. He must have been – still is –speechless about it (…), how can anyone forget?” 160 Armenian composer Komitas after the Genocide because of the trauma lived twenty years in silence. The trauma can keep generations mute, this was the case with Armenian survivors of genocide. The Turkish denial was the main reason why the Armenians could not tell their story for such a long time. 161 “The wound of genocide in the human psyche exists in the fluctuating, chaotic and often dangerous world between memory and forgetting, between knowing and not knowing, between seeing and not seeing, between terror and nothingness. Traumatologists have come to recognize this process in victims as the “conspiracy of silence””. 162 _________________________________
- 157. Alan Semerdjian (2009), In the Architecture of Bone, GenPop Books, p. 10.
- 158. Ibid. p. 42.
- 159. Ibid. p. 63.
- 160. Ibid. p. 52.
- 161. Jack Danielyan (2010) “A Century of Silence: Terror and the Armenian Genocide, Ararat Magazine, <http://araratmagazine.org/2010/10/terror-and-armenian-genocide/> [accessed June 6, 2013].
- 162. Ibid.
3. Civil Society in Turkey
3.1. Civil Society in Turkey: An Overview
With a dialogue between divided societies the opposite side acquires more competence, its position becomes more understanding and the timidity turns into finding solution for the problem. This transformation more clearly is revealed especially in the dialogue of the civil society. 163 The lack of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia started since Armenia’s independence of 1991, despite of their historical relations of thousand years. Since then there have been some attempts for diplomatic negotiations by the state officials, which unfortunately had no positive results. It was difficult to foresee if the failed relations between Turkey and Armenia in the state official sphere would be more successful in the civic sphere. The civil society attempts to normalize the relations for a while have been of superficial character, and were mostly initiated due to the third party mediation. The civil society first serious initiative started with trade-business relations.164 It was the Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council,165 which did not limit its initiatives only with business sphere, but later developed also art and cultural activities, thus becoming the driving force of the idea of dialogue. 166 Another initiative was by US intervention, the establishment of Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Committee167 which proved not to be very successful. It created some tension between the two sides after its several meetings, eventually became a failure. __________________________________
- 163. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p.20.
- 164. Ibid. p. 34.
- 165. Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council was established on May 3, 1997, in Istanbul and in Yerevan, website homepage: <http://www.tabdc.org/>[accessed June 7, 2013].
- 166. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p. 35.
- 167. Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC), established at the State Departments initiative (July 2001- April 2004). < http://www1.american.edu/cgp/TARC/> [accessed June 7, 2013].
Turkey revealed indifference to take actions for improving relations. Armenia, on the other hand was taking initiative and was more active. The only important outcome of the committee was the third party report on the Armenian genocide, about applying the international law on genocide to the Armenian case, accordingly it was claimed to be genocide. This caused the opposition of the Turkish side.168 A very important part of the civil society activities were being implemented within the scientific framework. Thus most important among them were the meetings of Armenian-Turkish scholars that started in Chicago, continued in Michigan and later held in Saltsburg.169 In the dialogue between Turkey and Armenia women also have played a great role. RA National Assembly member Heghine Naghdalyan organized various meetings between Armenian and Turkish women.These initiatives were later followed by meetings between journalists, artists. Some Turkish actors participated in film festivals held in Yerevan and Armenian actors performed concerts in Turkey. The events like the meeting organized by the Turkish branch of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly in Istanbul, the summer school of young people of both countries, also the Turkish intellectuals visit to Yerevan for participation in the Eastern conference, were the rare communications in the recent 15 years.170 The normalization of the relations between the two nations is very important. The future will be defined with the dialogue resumed in the street trade of the two nations, in the café talks and discussions. These talks about ‘genocide’ will favor the two peoples discovering each other once again. The development of dialogue and relations on one side depends on the establishing of diplomatic relations and opening of borders, on the other hand by civic communications. A great responsibility lays on the Turkish and Armenian intellectuals, civil society members. When the two states are officially isolated, it is necessary to start with the national diplomacy.171 _____________________________________
- 168. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p. 36.
- 169. Ibid.
- 170. Ibid, p. 37.
- 171. Ibid, p. 72.
In Turkey the civil society being out of the official framework, acts freely and in recent years expands gradually. In contrast with the passive official position on the Armenian issue, the Turkish civil society is highly active. What happens within this sphere can be called a positive move.172 Today in Turkish civil society there are many institutions that promote reconciliation and “facing the past”, such as History Foundation of Turkey (Türkiye Tarih Vakfi) (http://www. ihvakfi.org.tr/cms/), Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV, http://www.tesev.org.tr/en/homepage), Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (Türkiye Insan Haklari Vakfi http://tihv.org.tr/index.php?english-1), Hrant Dink Foundation (Hrant Dink Vakfi http://www.hrantdink.org/), Center for Reality, Justice, Memory (Hakikat, Adalet, Hafiza, Merkezi http://www.hakikatadalethafiza.org), Henrich Böll Foundation (http://www.tr.boell.org), Anadolu Kültür (http://www.anadolukultur.org/), Association of Coming to Terms (Yüzlesme Dernegi http://yuzlesmedernegi.com/) and many others. In Turkey, the civil society organizations (CSOs) are distinguished by three types. First type is a group of CSOs that may be regarded as part of the state. Second type represents organizations which have liberal and pluralistic character. The third type is a group of organizations that oppose the state pressure and support different identities in social life. Apart from this distinction they also differ in terms of their support to “leftist”, “Kemalist”, “Islamist” or “liberal” and other groups.173 _____________________________________________
- 172. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p. 89.
- 173. Adem Çaylak (2008), “Autocratic or Democratic? A Critical Approach to Civil Society Movements in Turkey”, Journal of Economic and Social Research 10(1) 2008, 115-151, III. Analysis of the case p. 122, <http://www.fatih.edu.tr/~jesr/jesr.caylak.pdf> [accessed June 7, 2013].
“In the process of democratization we observe the emergence of two types of civil society organizations. On the one hand, there are grassroots movements that have developed and favor a civil democratic society; on the other hand, there are those supported by state and military, which favor the status quo”.174 In 2008, the “football diplomacy” 175 by the presidents of Armenia and Turkey was a key step to reconciliation, although it did not bring major changes in the diplomatic relations of both countries. However, it promoted changes and developments in civil society sphere. Numerous dialogue channels were established among academics, students, experts, journalists, businessmen and other professionals. Those human contacts in cross border relations through the inter cultural dialogue, help people to know each other, break the stereotypes, end hostility and come to understanding. Thus prior to the important diplomatic step of opening the borders to normalize the Turkish-Armenian relations, it is important to change attitudes towards each other and redefine identities in the societies. A Turkish scholar stated the importance of this by saying that “the issue is not the borders. Our minds and hearts are closed to each other”.176 On the path of EU integration Turkey undertook domestic transformations. The scholars studying EU-Turkey relations see a direct link between Europeanization and civil society development in Turkey. Turkey’s candidacy for EU membership has impacted the nature of the civil society in Turkey.177 ____________________________________
- 174. Taner Akçam (2004), From Empire to Re public: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide, Zoryan Institute, London: Zed Books 2004, A model for understanding Turkey today, pp. 11-38 (28).
- 175. “Football diplomacy” was launched by two presidents in 2008; with first ever visit by the Turkish president to Armenia, to watch the “World Cup Qualifier” match between national teams. Serj Sargsyan, Armenia’s president reciprocated the visit in 2009.
- 176. Fulya Memisoglu(2012),Easing Mental Barriers in Turkey-Armenia Relations: The Role of Civil Society,TESEV,<http://www.tesev.org.tr/en/publication/easing-mental-barriers-in-turkey-armenia-relations- > [accessed June 6, 2013].
- 177. Thomas Diez, Apostolos Agnantopoulos & Alper Kaliber (2005): File: Turkey, Europeanization and Civil Society: Introduction, South European Society and Politics, 10:1, 1-15, <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13608740500037890> [accessed June 6, 2013].
Civil society in Turkey is described to be in an “era of transition”. TUSEV’s (Third sector Foundation of Turkey) CSI project has realized a comprehensive study of the civil society sector in Turkey. According to the study the civil society in Turkey is at ‘turning point’.178 “…it will either build on its strengths to deepen its role as an indispensable actor in social and political life in Turkey; or it will enter a period of stagnation that is bound by its persistent weaknesses”.179
3.2. Civil Society in Turkey and Transitional Justice
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
For many decades the two societies in Turkey and Armenia were using monologues referring to the past, one side demanding justice for the past atrocities implemented by the Young Turks towards Armenians, and the other side using the policy of denial. In the recent decade new developments in civil society in both countries brought changes creating a platform for those monologues to turn to dialogues. A great role in those developments played the engagement of the Turkish intellectuals and scholars who broke the silence. “In the last twenty years Armenia became an independent state and turkey became a vibrant modernizing state with an energetic, diverse civil society. Ten years ago, the idea of Armenian and Turkish historians sitting down together to discuss the traumatic last years of the Ottoman Empire would have been almost unthinkable (…)”. 180 ____________________________________________
- 178. Civil Society in Turkey: At a Turning Point, CIVICUS Civil Society Index Project; Analytical country report for Turkey II, TUSEV Publication, 2009, <http://civicus.org/downloads/CSI/Turkey.pdf> [accessed June 6, 2013].
- 179. Ibid.
- 180. Ronald Grigor Suny, Truth in Telling: Reconciling Realities in the Genocide of the Ottoman Armenians, AHR Forum, American Historical Review, Oxford Journals. 2009, p. 7. <http://ahr.oxfordjournals.org/content/114/4/930.short> [accessed June 6, 2013].
The initial dialogue in academic framework was launched by few Turkish and Armenian scholars out of Turkey, the Workshop on Armenian and Turkish Scholars (WATS) was held in Chicago in March 2000. Later on the WATS workshops continued and involved more scholars. In Turkey the first conference despite the obstacles and taboo of the Armenian question became possible in some years. In May 2005, for the first time Turkish scholars organized a conference on Armenian issue, named “The Ottoman Armenians during the Era of Ottoman Decline”. 181 With the expansion of the dialogue in the Turkish civil society, were used the sources of media, TV, universities and publications to show the concealed side of the Ottoman history. In response to this, the state took strict measures against human rights activists, journalists, writers and historians. They faced trials with the charge of “insulting Turkishness”.182 For the period of period of 1995-2010, 64 civil society initiatives aimed for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation are identified, with involvement of the Armenians and Turks.183 Those initiatives described as “track two” diplomacy, being apart from the official state diplomacy, aimed at reconciling the relations through building trust, breaking stereotypes and promoting a dialogue that may bring consensus. It is important to find ways to link the “track two” diplomacy with the “track one”.184 The period of 2001-2003 is characterized as highly active in terms of civil society activities between Turkey and Armenia. Most such projects were funded by the US government. Those activities included cultural exchange events, concerts, film producing, joint magazines, publications, forums, training sessions and so on.185 __________________________________
- 181. Ronald Grigor Suny (2009), Truth in Telling: Reconciling Realities in the Genocide of the Ottoman Armenians, AHR Forum, American Historical Review, Oxford Journals, p. 7. <http://ahr.oxfordjournals.org/content/114/4/930.short> [accessed June 6, 2013].
- 182. Ibid.
- 183. TEPAV (Economic Research Foundation of Turkey) study, Reflecting on the Two Decades of Bridging the Divide: Taking Stock of Turkish –Armenian Civil Society Activities, Introduction, pp. 10 -11 (10).
- 184. Ibid. Ch. 1, Track Two Diplomacy and General Trends in the Armenian-Turkish Track Two Activities.
- 185. Ibid.
Some changes or signs of dialogue at “track one” diplomacy level have usually affected the developments of “track two” diplomacy. Those changes conditioned the rise in civil society activism. As for instance the rise of civil activism in 2008, was mostly promoted by the football diplomacy at the official level.186 The “track two” initiators differed in their approaches to conflict transformation. Accordingly three types of activities are identified. The first group of activists believed that the solution to conflict lies within Turkey and its transformation. Thus they offered to target the Turks and their public opinion for their activities. The second group proposed joint and interactive dialogue, building trust and understanding. The third group considered the conflict to lie in the inter-state relation and thus offered to open the borders and start economic and diplomatic relations.187 The mentioned sixty four activities differ in their type. The common four types were identified: (i) interactive workshops, joint working groups; (ii) exchange programs, dialogue groups; (iii) cultural projects; (iv) academic seminars and conferences.188 In the first type of activities were involved academics, policy makers, former diplomats and historians from Armenia, Turkey and Diaspora. In the second type activities targeted high school, undergraduate or graduate students. These activities aimed at improving relationships among youth, building trust and promoting dialogue (“Community Volunteers Foundation (TOG) http://tog.org.tr/EN/) and Eurasia Partnership http://www.epfound.am/english/home.html). The third type activities included cultural exchanges, exhibitions, joint concerts, joint literature projects, etc. Those cultural projects were funded either by European or American resources. Among them also were voluntary-based projects The Turkish foundation Anadolu Kültür sponsors such cultural joint projects as well.189 _________________________________
- 186. TEPAV, Reflecting on the Two Decades of Bridging the Divide: Taking Stock of Turkish –Armenian Civil Society Activities, Ch. 1, Track Two Diplomacy and General Trends in the Armenian-Turkish Track Two Activities, pp. 12-19 (18).
- 187. Ibid. Ch. 2, Mapping of the Existing Initiatives and Perceptions of the Practitioners, 2 pp. 22-29 (24).
- 188. Ibid. p. 25.
- 189. Ibid. p. 26.
The aim of cultural projects was to introduce with the culture of the other side (e.g. Osman Köker books and exhibitions dedicated to the historical life of Armenians in Turkey).190 The fourth type of activities were usually closed seminars with involvement of academics (Caucasus Institute in Yerevan, other organizations). Along with these most common types of activities there were also relatively rare types, such as capacity-building, public communication and advocacy, and so on.191 In Turkey the public opinion is highly influenced by the nationalist politicians. Therefore to change the public opinion is one of the key aims of the civil society activists, and media serves as the first important tool for this change. Turkish civil society with its activities plays an important role to weaken stereotypes, struggle against wrong perceptions and raise awareness about Armenians among Turkish people in order to have successful rapprochement strategy.192 After the assassination of Hrant Dink, editor of Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, the Turkish civil society faced a new wave of awakening. His death shook the society. Turkish people in tens of thousands joint Armenians mourning for Dink, in his funeral. Their slogans reading “We are all Armenian” broke the silence and the stereotypes in the Turkish society. With his death Hrant Dink more united this two nations living side by side. This was his desire and struggle throughout his life. “After the murder I went to Hrant Dink’s home, and I saw that no different from an Anatolian home. In that home I smelled Anatolia.” said Bülent Arinç, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey.193 __________________________________________________
190. Maria Titizian, “Once upon a time in Turkey, A visual chronicle of Armenians in Turkey 100 years ago: Osman Köker’s personal journey from Marash to Istanbul to Yerevan”, Armenian Reporter, 2009, < http://www.reporter.am/go/article/2009-10-02-once-upon-a-time-in-turkey> [accessed June 9, 2013].
- 191. TEPAV, Reflecting on the Two Decades of Bridging the Divide: Taking Stock of Turkish –Armenian Civil Society Activities, Ch. 2, Mapping of the Existing Initiatives and Perceptions of the Practitioners, 2 pp. 22-29 (27).
- 192. Breaking the Ice: The Role of Civil Society and Media in Turkey and Armenia Relations, Susae Elanchenny, Narod Marasliyan, Istanbul Kültür University Publications No. 170, April 2002.
- 193. Quote of Bülent Arinç January 19, 2012, cited in ‘Breaking the Ice: The Role of Civil Society and Media in Turkey and Armenia’, p. 13.
Hrant Dink concludes his book “Two Close People Two Far Neighbors” (Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu) with calling to come to understanding and peace. “…We [Armenians] want this land; not to take it away, but lie under it!”194 The Turkish civil society, together with Armenian civil society makes joint efforts for reconciliation, trying to improve the channels of dialogue and promote involvement of more people into this process. It is however difficult due to the Turkish state’s continuous denial position. “The discourse, the language is mostly determined by the paradigm created by the policy of denial”.195 Taner Akçam argues that the main obstacle for reconciliation is that the two societies in their relations always relate to this state policy of denial. “Both societies are essentially prisoners of this paradigm”.196 It is important for them to free from this “prison” and find a “new space” to communicate freely with one another, “a paradigm shift is necessary”.197 “…we know that reconciliation process embodies the four concepts of truth, mercy, justice, and peace, which lead to reconciliation. Without acknowledging the truth, that is, articulating the events of the past, conflict will never be resolved”.198 ____________________________________
- 194. Hrant Dink (2009), “Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu” (“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original book written in Turkish), Hrant Dink Foundation, p. 134; Ronald Grigor Suny, Truth in Telling: Reconciling Realities in the Genocide of the Ottoman Armenians, AHR Forum, American Historical Review, Oxford Journals. 2009, p.13. <http://ahr.oxfordjournals.org/content/114/4/930.short> [accessed June 6, 2013].
- 195. Taner Akçam (2004), From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide, Zoryan Institute, London: Zed Books 2004, Ch. 9, “Some theoretical thoughts on obstacles to Armenian Turkish reconciliation”, pp. 243-253 (251).
- 196. Ibid.
- 197. Ibid
- 198. Ibid
The truth should be accompanied with forgiveness, with acknowledging the past, with justice in order to “heal the wounds” of the past, and thus come to peace. These all factors are the key steps to reconciliation.199 “Genocide recognition, in essence, is about justice, not freedom of expression or thought”.200 “This is not a question of courage, but conscience.” said Turkish historian, lawyer Ragyp Zarakolu, during the International Conference on “Armenian Genocide. Challenges on the Eve of the Centenary” held on March 22-23, in Yerevan.201 Speaking about facing the past, Hasan Cemal, former columnist with the Milliyet daily,202 and the grandson of WWI Ottoman Empire general Cemal Pasha writes in his book “1915: Armenian Genocide”: “The pain of 1915 is not an issue of the past, but of the present. We can only find peace and finally rest by making our peace with history – but with the real history, not an invented or altered one like ours – and ridding ourselves of the virus of exploring it”. 203 A constructive approach to the Armenian genocide may be possible only within a highly developed civil society in both countries, thus the role of civil society is crucial in the Armenian-Turkish relations.204 __________________________________
- 199. Taner Akçam (2004), From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide, Zoryan Institute, London: Zed Books 2004, Ch. 9, “Some theoretical thoughts on obstacles to Armenian Turkish reconciliation”, pp. 243-253 (252).
- 200. Taner Akçam, ‘Akçam: genocide Recognition is about Justice, Not Freedom of Thought’, the original interview appeared in Le Monde on Jan. 7, 2012, was conducted by Guillaume Perrier, English interview published in Armenian weekly, Jan 25, 2012. <http://www.armenianweekly.com/2012/01/25/akcam-genocide-recognition-is-about-justice-not-freedom-of-thought/> [accessed June 9, 2013].
- 201. Conference “Armenian Genocide. Challenges on the Eve of the Centenary“, March 22-23, Yerevan, Armenian Genocide Museum, <http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/conference-photos-2013.php>[accessed June 9, 2013].
- 202. “Author Hasan Cemal Fired from Milliyet Newspaper”, Mirror Spectator, March 2013, <http://www.mirrorspectator.com/2013/03/20/author-hasan-cemal-fired-from-milliyet-newspaper/ > [accessed June 9, 2013].
- 203. “Turkish journalist authors book on ‘Armenian genocide’, ahramonline, 14 September, 2012.
- 204. Oxford Analytica 2012, Turkey May Restart Negotiating Armenian Normalization, May 30, 2012, <http://www.oxan.com/display.aspx?ItemID=DB176018> [accesses June 6, 2013].
3.3.Case Study I: Hrant Dink Foundation
“The border first opens in our minds”.205
Throughout his life Turkish Armenian editor and journalist Hrant Dink always struggled for reconciliation between Turkish and Armenian nations. Hrant Dink devoted his life and unfortunately lost it for freedom, justice and peace. Hrant Dink Foundation along with Civilitas Foundation, Eurasia Partnership, Anadolu Kültür, Human Rights Association (Turkey), Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (Turkey), are among the organizations that have projects between the two countries and support the Armenia-Turkey dialogue. One of the case studies of this paper is devoted to Hrant Dink Foundation which continues Hrant Dink’s mission. The Foundation’s main goals are to promote Turkey’s democracy, freedom of expression and human rights with equal opportunities for everyone regardless their ethnic, religious, cultural and gender differences.206 “…It [Foundation] strives towards a Turkey and a world where the value of people living on a land is upheld more than that of the land itself, where conscience outweighs other concerns in how we look at our past and our present. As the ‘Hrant Dink Foundation’ our ‘cause worth living for’ is a future where the culture of peace and empathy reigns”.207 The Foundation was founded in 2007, shortly after the assassination of Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, writer and journalist. As a non-governmental organization in Turkey, the Foundation with its activities develops culture of dialogue, promotes cultural diversity, peace, democratization in Turkey, also it tends to support writing history free of nationalism and racism. ___________________________________
- 205. Hrant Dink Foundation Annual Report of 2011, <http://www.hrantdink.org/picture_library/faaliyetraporu_EN_2011.pdf> [accessed June 10, 2013].
- 206. Ferda Balancar (2012), The Sounds of Silence: Turkey’s Armenians Speak, International Hrant Dink Foundation Publications.
- 207. Ibid.
It supports creating and preserving archives on publications, articles, photos and other writing and visual documentaries devoted to Hrant Dink. One of the Foundation’s focus areas is working for equal opportunities of the children and youth, promoting their creativity. It has also supported many publications and documentaries about memory, thus promoting the oral history preservation.208 The Foundation’s activities are in multiple spheres, such as books publications, establishing archives, organizing events of film, art, music and summer schools, festivals of art, dance and literature, presenting awards in memory of Hrant Dink.209 The activities include the following areas: Culture and Arts; Education; History; Democratization & Human Rights; Turkey-Armenia relations; Talks. The Foundation in its publications and projects explores memory, memory and its role in transformation of conflict, reconciliation, rehabilitation. The variety of the Foundation’s recent projects, publications, conferences is as follows: Stories of ‘Born not to be a Soldier’– journalist Pinar Ögünç published a book about 14 personal stories of the people – “conscientious objectors” who oppose the motto in Turkey “Every Turk is born a soldier”. 210 Oral History Project 2013 – Ankara’s Armenians Speak – since 2010, the project is being implemented with the support of the Olof Palme International Center, with the aim to research the lives of Ankara’s Armenians. In 2010, the project coordinated by Ferda Balancar research the lives of Armenians in Turkey, and published the book: “The Sounds of Silence: Turkey’s Armenians Speak”. In 2011, the oral history research continued to study the Diyarbakir’s Armenians and was published “The Sounds of Silence II: Diyarbakir’s Armenians Speak”. 211 _______________________________
- 208. Hrant Dink Vakfi / Hrant Dink Foundation’s website homepage:
<http://www.hrantdink.org/?Home&Lang=en> [accessed June 10, 2013].
- 209. Ibid.
- 210. Ibid. <http://www.hrantdink.org/?Detail=691&Lang=en> [accessed June 10, 2013].
- 211. Ibid. <http://www.hrantdink.org/index.php?Detail=697&Lang=en> [accessed June 10, 2013].
Nefretsoylemi.org – Media Watch and Hate Speech – The aim of the project is to struggle against racism and discrimination based on ethnic and religious grounds. Thus the projects implements monitoring of the newspapers and revealing the “problematic” articles in the media.212 Film Submissions for Films about Conscience – A short film project named “Films about Conscience” was initiated by the Foundation, following Hrant Dink’s words: “The voice of conscience has been sentenced to silence. Now, that conscience is searching for a way out” People are invited to shoot 5 minutes films about conscience.213 Conference on Islamized Armenians – Conference held in November 2013, in Istanbul, was devoted to the Armenians who had to be Islamized due to the 1915 events. Many survivor Armenians were adopted in Muslim families, there were marriages with Muslims. Many families and villages survived as they converted to Muslim. For a long time the stories of these survivors were silenced and only recently were voiced in literature, memoirs, books, testimonials and historic research works. The conference was dedicated to the silence of Islamized Armenians, their experiences and the process of breaking this silence.214 2013 Agenda: Borders – The Foundation every year publishes in three languages (Turkish, English, Armenian) a traumatic Agenda with a focus on one topic. The previous thematic agendas were entitled ‘Armenia’ (2010), ‘Crows’ (2011), and ‘Trials’ (2012). The 2013 theme is devoted to borders. The fifty three texts of the Agenda symbolize the humanity’s struggle against various boundaries. It is about history of humanity, “from geographical borders to social borders, from the borders of human mind to the borders between individuals”.215 __________________________________
- 212. Hrant Dink Vakfi / Hrant Dink Foundation’s website: <http://www.hrantdink.org/?Home&Lang=en>;
Nefretsoylemi.org Project <http://nefretsoylemi.org/en/amac_hedefler.asp/> [accessed June 10, 2013].
- 213. Films about Conscience, website: <http://www.hrantdink.org/index.php?Detail=685&Lang=en>.
- 214. Conference on Islamized Armenians, <http://www.hrantdink.org/index.php?Detail=645&Lang=en>.
- 215. 2013 Agenda: Borders, website: < http://www.hrantdink.org/?Detail=616&Lang=en >.
The Agenda pictures the “illusory border between “this World” and the “other World” inherited from the Middle Age; virtual boundaries and boundarylessness that have entered our lives with the internet, borders constructed from stones in between free societies; ‘moral’ boundaries always imposed by the authorities; ‘the hunger line’ still faced by 840 million people worldwide; Felix Baumgartner, who jumped from space breaking the sound barrier and who uttered the words, “Limits, like fear, is often an illusion.”; John Lennon who wrote the legendary song Imagine that made a call for peace transcending boundaries…”216 Let’s Pin Down the Headline at the Neighbor’s! 2013 – Armenia – is one of the Foundation’s projects on Turkey-Armenia dialogue, organized since 2009 in cooperation with Heinrich Böll Stiftung Turkey Office. The program’s goal is to strengthen ties between Turkish and Armenian journalists, who contribute to the creation of accurate tools in the establishing of news sources. Turkish journalists’ group visited Armenia in February 2013, and had exchange of opinions and vision about their mutual relation. In Armenia they closely cooperated with Civilitas Foundation, Caucasus Institute, Regional Studies Center and media outlets, such as Yerkir media, Internews, CIVILNET, and others. Turkish journalists also met with Armenia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandian, they visited the National Assembly of Armenia.217 Restoration of the two historic fountains in the village Habap in Elazig province took place in the period of August-November 2011. Fethiye Çetin’s grandmother, the heroine of her book “Anneannem” (My Grandmother), lived in the village Habap until she was 9 years old. After restoration, the two fountains represent a very unique sample of the Anatolian and Armenian architecture.218 __________________________________
- 216. Hrant Dink Vakfi / Hrant Dink Foundation’s 2013 Agenda, website page:
< http://www.hrantdink.org/?Detail=616&Lang=en> [accessed June 10, 2013].
- 217. Let’s Pin Down the Headline at the Neighbor’s! 2013.website page:
<http://www.hrantdink.org/index.php?Detail=652&Lang=en> [accessed June 10, 2013].
- 218. Hrant Dink Vakfi / Hrant Dink Foundation, Restoration of the Two Historic Fountains in the Village Habap in Elazig, website page: < http://www.hrantdink.org/index.php?Detail=408&Activities=3>.
The restoration works of the Fountains became possible due to the joint efforts and hard work of Turkish, Armenian and Kurdish volunteers form Turkey, as well as other countries of the world. Thus, the Habap Fountains restoration became restoration of souls.219 The above mentioned projects and events are just a few in the big list of the numerous projects of Hrant Dink Foundation, implemented since its inception. The projects vary in their focus, such as “Workshop: The roots of Armenian music models”, “Armenian Architects of Istanbul in the Era of Westernization”, “Cultural Interaction in the Ottoman Empire ”, “Cultural interaction in the Ottoman Empire”, “Ari Dun” (“Come Home” project brings young Armenians to Armenia), “Media watch and hate speech”, “Discriminatory discourse and the role of media”, “Problems of minority foundations”, “Habap Fountains Festival”, “Beyond waiting…stories from Turkey-Armenia border”, “Hrant Dink memorial workshop” (2009, 2012), “Hrant Dink memorial lecture” (2008; 2010; 2011; 2012); “Hate speech conference”, “Free speech in Turkey and the world”, “The International Hrant Dink Award”, “Multimedia for dialogue”, “Ownership problem of the Armenian foundations in Istanbul”, “Social transformation in late Ottoman Diyarbakir and environs” and many others.In total the number of projects and publications is around 170. 220 One of the activities initiated by the Foundation since February 2011, is Talks. Speakers who are mostly Armenians are invited once a month to have talks in Turkey. Its main goal is to bring close together the various Armenian specialists and Armenian youth in Turkey, as well as people living in Turkey in general. As for instance, one of such talks was “Talk on Armenian feminist writers”.221 ________________________________________________
- 219. Hrant Dink Vakfi / Hrant Dink Foundation, Restoration of the Two Historic Fountains in the Village Habap in Elazig, website page: < http://www.hrantdink.org/index.php?Detail=408&Activities=3>.
- 220. Hrant Dink Vakfi / Hrant Dink Foundation’s website: <http://www.hrantdink.org/?Home&Lang=en>.
- 221. Hrant Dink Foundation Annual Report of 2011, <http://www.hrantdink.org/picture_library/faaliyetraporu_EN_2011.pdf> [accessed June 10, 2013].
3.4. Case Study II: Anadolu Kültür
In this paper the second case study is devoted to the Anadolu Kültür, another organization that promotes the Turkey-Armenia dialogue through cultural and art exchange. As a non-profit cultural institution it was founded in 2002. The mission of Anadolu Kültür is to share culture and art in Turkey and across borders. Through its diverse activities it develops inter-cultural relations, creates ties between various ethnic, religious and regional segments, and supports regional collaboration, and initiatives and the diversity of culture. The activities of Anadolu Kültür are implemented in different areas: Arts and Cultural Dialogue with Armenia; Cultural Diversity and Human Rights, Cultural Collaboration with Europe, Arts and Cultural Dialogue in Anatolia.222 Arts and Cultural Dialogue in Anatolia supports spreading of art and culture products of Anatolia to Istanbul and across Anatolia, also introducing Istanbul’s art events of films, contemporary and performance arts, music and literature to Anatolian cities. The events include film screening, exhibitions, concerts, performances and public talks in Anatolian cities. Its projects support collaboration of film and photography activities with youth, workshops with children, in collaboration with civil society organization. With its art and cultural exchange projects it unites different cities and different backgrounds of Turkey.223 Arts and Cultural Dialogue with Armenia started its projects in 2005 and since then it includes collaboration with civil society and academic institutions, independent artists from Armenia. The aim is to promote neighborhood relations between Armenia and Turkey, help the countries come to understanding and communicate with each other. __________________________________
- 222. Anadolu Kültür website: < http://www.anadolukultur.org/> [accessed June 11, 2013].
- 223. Ibid.
People with different professional and age backgrounds from both countries meet each other and learn from each other about their everyday experience and life. This inter-cultural dialogue with different art events, exhibitions, concerts, film, literature workshops, aims at reconciliation. Thus the projects touch upon social life and common history and culture and art in Turkey and Armenia.224 One of Anadolu Kültür’s cultural centers is Diyarbakir Art Center, founded in 2002. Its aim is to promote arts and culture production in areas outside of large cities and support art and culture projects of regional artists. Founded in 2009, Depo is the other cultural center and debate platform in Istanbul, which supports partnership between artists, civil society and cultural institutions with regional collaborations in Turkey, Middle East, Southern Caucasus and the Balkans. Along with exhibitions and art events, Depo organizes lectures, panel discussions, conferences, workshops and publishes the Red Thread 225 e-journal:/ http://www.red-thread.org/en/issue.asp /.226 One of the recent Depo’s activities related to Armenia is the exhibition entitled Bearing Witness to the Lost History of an Armenian Family Through the Lens of the Dildilian Brothers (1872-1923).227 Another Armenia-related projects of Depo are the exhibition entitled Burning Eyes: Memories of the Armenians 228 and the exhibition Horovel. “I began this journey from darkness towards light twenty years ago; I tried to visualize the imaginary narratives I inherited from Armenian exiles.” said the author of Burning Eyes exhibition’s photography collection Antoine Agoudjian. 229 _________________________________
- 224. Anadolu Kültür website: < http://www.anadolukultur.org/> [accessed June 11, 2013].
- 225. Red Thread, network and platform for exchange of artists, curators, social scientists, theorists from Turkey, the Balkans, Middle East, Southern Caucasus, North Africa and beyond.
<http://www.red-thread.org/en/issue.asp> [accessed June 11, 2013].
- 226. Diyarbakir cultural Center: < http://www.diyarbakirsanat.org/default.aspx >; DEPO <http://www.depoistanbul.net/en/index.asp > [accessed June 11, 2013].
- 227. DEPO exhibition Lost History of an Armenian Family, 26 April- 8 June, 2013. <http://www.depoistanbul.net/en/activites_detail.asp?ac=88> [accessed June 11, 2013].
- 228. DEPO Exhibition Burning Eyes: Memories of the Armenians, by Antoine Agoudjian, a French Armenian photographer, 2011. <http://www.depoistanbul.net/en/activites_detail.asp?ac=48>; Burning eyes-review, TheGuardian, < http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/may/17/burning-eyes-armenia-perrier-review> [accessed June 11, 2013].
- 229. Ibid.
The exhibition Horovel is about border stories, extending from Kars in the North, to Igdir, in the South of Turkey, the stories are embodied in photographs and recorded videos. It explores traces of Anatolia, and Armenians in Turkey, with the aim to revive memory. 230 Anadolu Kültür’s other large projects are: Armenia Turkey Cinema Platform,231 Hafiza Merkezi232 and Speaking to One Another.233 Anadolu Kültür jointly with other international organizations realized the project ‘Speaking to One Another’ with the aim to contribute to the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. In order to bridge Turkish and Armenian people the project implements activities like adult education, intercultural exchange and oral history research.Youth camps with oral history training were organized for students in Armenia (2009) and in Turkey (2010).234 As a result of research project, the book “Speaking to One Another: Personal Memories of the Past in Armenia and Turkey” was published based on personal stories of people in Turkey and Armenia, interviewed by the students trained oral history during the summer camp.235 The first section of the book “Wish they hadn’t left: The burden of Armenian memory in Turkey” prepared by Leyla Neyzi is based on the research done in Turkey, and the second section “Whom to forgive? What to forgive?” is based on the research conducted in Armenia by Hranush Kharatyan-Araqelyan.236 The statement “Wish they hadn’t left” of a Turkish interviewee speaking about Armenians witnesses of a nostalgia about the past, about the ever existing harmonious relations between Muslims and Christians.237 __________________________________________
- 230. Exhibition: Horovel, photographs and multimedia documentary by Erhan Arik,
<http://www.depoistanbul.net/en/activites_detail.asp?ac=47> [accessed June 11, 2013].
- 231. Armenia Turkey Cinema Platform <http://cinemaplatform.org/intro.aspx> [accessed June 11, 2013].
- 232. Hafiza Merkezi, The Center for Truth, Justice, Memory, aims to support transitional justice.
<http://www.hakikatadalethafiza.org/default.aspx?LngId=5> [accessed June 11, 2013].
- 233. Speaking to One Another <http://www.speakingtooneanother.org/> [accessed June 11, 2013].
- 234. Ibid.
- 235. Ibid. <http://www.speakingtooneanother.org/index.php?page=publication> [accessed June 11, 2013].
- 236. Ibid
- 237. Leyla Neyzi, Hranush Kharatyan-Araqelyan, “Speaking to One Another: Personal Memories of the Past in Armenia and Turkey”, Project: Adult Education and Oral History: Contributing to Armenian-Turkish Reconciliation, dvv international, Anadolu Kültür. Section I, “Wish they hadn’t left”, pp. 15-22 (15).
“… the burden of Armenian memory, which continues to weigh upon the peoples of Turkey, can be regarded as a metaphor for our society’s yet unresolved and schizoid relationship with the recent past, with modernity, and with national identity.”238 “Our grandfathers who came from the Ergir239 dreamed their country’s soil would cover their graves. My father used to say: ‘Even if I am not buried there, bring just a handful of soil when you go there.” (from the story of Vard Abajyan)”. 240 Anadolu Kültür’s the other project “Armenia Turkey Cinema Platform” represents people from Turkey and Armenia with background of cinema. They believe it is possible to reconcile and reach peace through cinema. Through cinema they help people to get to know each other. The Armenia-Turkey Cinema Platform (ATCP) was jointly initiated with the Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival, in 2007. ATCP supports filmmakers from both countries to work together, produce joint projects and share with their professional experience in both cultures, providing small funds to filmmakers. Out of financed 8 films 5 films were premiered in the 30th International Istanbul Film Festival. So far, ATCP has been a platform for meetings for more than 100 filmmakers from Armenia and Turkey.241 One of the films is Arthur Sukiasyan’s documentary Master of Doves, filmed in 2010. It tells the story of two people who live in Gyumri, Armenia (“Gyumretsi” Ando) and in Kars, Turkey (“Turk” Mustafa) and have one activity in common – they both take care of doves. The two men are linked through these freedom-loving birds. As symbols of love, faith and yearning, doves soar in and between the cadres in the film. ___________________________________________________
- 238. Leyla Neyzi, Hranush Kharatyan-Araqelyan (2010), Speaking to One Another: Personal Memories of the Past in Armenia and Turkey, Adult Education and Oral History: Contributing to Armenian-Turkish Reconciliation, dvv international, Anadolu Kültür, Section I, ‘Wish they hadn’t left’, pp. 15-22 (15).
- 239. Armenians call the lost historical area of inhabitance in Western Armenia Ergir or Yerkir – which literally means “The Country” in Armenian. ArmeniaNow, October 2005, <http://www.armenianow.com/features/5938/hayastan_so_much_pain_a> [accessed June 11, 2013].
- 240. Leyla Neyzi, Hranush Kharatyan-Araqelyan (2010), Speaking to One Another: Personal Memories of the Past in Armenia and Turkey, Adult Education and Oral History: Contributing to Armenian-Turkish Reconciliation, dvv international, Anadolu Kültür, Section II, Whom to forgive, What to forgive? “Ergir’s soul is strong, Ergir’s fruits are sweet, Ergir’s water is as clear as the eye of a crane”, pp.96-98.
- 241. Armenia Turkey Cinema Platform (ATCP), Project of Anadolu Kültür ,<http://cinemaplatform.org/en> [accessed June 11, 2013].
The Armenian genocide is the main reason of the historical conflict, present in the core of the Armenian-Turkish relations. The debate over genocide and its denial lies in the discourse in the two societies. The common past reflected in the collective memory of the two nations refers to their trauma related to the past. They attempt to “heal” the past “wounds” and overcome the trauma, with the help of building new attitudes, new perceptions about the past and changing the language of implications of the past. To bring together those two nations that historically had been close to each other, and help them reconcile is the most important responsibility towards future generations. The memory of genocide is the indispensable part of the Armenian national identity. Thus, remembering of genocide is in the core of the present narratives about the historic past of the nation. Remembering also unites Armenians all over the world. Their narratives have developed around the victims of the genocide as well as the survivors with their longstanding silence and breaking of silence through their culture and art. For the Turkish people it is unthinkable to destroy the identity they have created. Turks erase the unwanted memories of the past not to “harm” their new national identity.242 For building dialogue and reconciliation it is important to change the discourse and reinterpret the collective memories in both societies. It is vital to change the stereotypes and prejudices each of those two nations has about “the other”. It is time for them to know each other, build trust and on this ground build “healthy” relations. ____________________________________
- 242. Taner Akçam (2004), From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide, Zoryan Institute, London: Zed Books 2004, Ch. 8, Genocide and Turkey, “We do not want the identity that we have created to be dissolved” pp. 237-242 (237)
“… if we really want to create a new approach to Turkish-Armenian relations, we have to acknowledge that we should start by creating our own language, our own terms, which would be a product of this new mindset of being willing to reach reconciliation”.243 Acknowledging the past is crucial for reconciliation. In 2009, Hrant Dink wrote in his book “Two Close People, Two Far Neighbors”, that a progress in improving Turkey-Armenia relations can be seen if on April 24 Armenians and Turks, side by side commemorate the Armenian genocide in Turkey.244 Though for years genocide commemoration within Turkey was thought to be impossible, today it is reality in Turkey. It is already for several years that Turkish civil society organizations organize the commemoration of April 24, to support the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. This is a big step forward. Hrant Dink’s assassination became a turning point for a new wave of change in Turkish civil society. His long-lasting desire to see the awakening of the civil society happened also due to the strong response of Turkish society to his tragic death. Today we witness so many evidences of apologies. The longstanding taboo of the Armenian issue has been broken in Turkey. One of such evidences was the online apologizing petition of the Turkish intellectuals, academics and journalists, resulting in 30000 signatures up to date. In this work I have analyzed the correlation between discourse, identity, memory and their impact, developments and transformations in the divided societies that seek rehabilitation and reconciliation. _____________________________
- 243. Taner Akçam (2004), From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide, Zoryan Institute, London: Zed Books 2004, Ch. 9, “Some theoretical thoughts on obstacles to Armenian Turkish reconciliation”, pp. 243-253 (253).
- 244. Hrant Dink (2009),“Iki Yakin Halk Iki Uzak Komsu”(“Two Close People Two Far Neighbors”, the Armenian trans. of original Turkish book), Hrant Dink Foundation, Epilogue, pp.120-134(130).
The purpose of this paper was to investigate the role of civil society in Armenia-Turkey reconciliation process. I argue that civil society plays a vital role in this process and with more efforts in this sphere it is possible to reach all transformative steps necessary for reconciliation – truth, acknowledgement, justice and peace. Especially, with its activities aimed at changing discourse, stereotypes, prejudices, affecting memory by transforming the traumatic memory into “healing” and raising awareness of the past, through more active dialogue, cultural and social interaction. The growing number of Turkish academics contributing to the acknowledgement of the past and recognition of the Armenian genocide is also evidence on the change, the Turkish civil society is undertaking in the process of transitional justice. For reconciling those two distanced societies need to strengthen the dialogue and communication between them, with the help of cultural exchange projects, media, social networks, public activities, scientific, historical contributions, publications. The findings show that Turkish civil society is very diverse and therefore there is an asymmetry of power challenging the efforts for reconciliation, between the organizations following state’s denial position and those struggling for free, tolerant, democratic Turkey with responsibility to face the past and reconcile with neighbors. Since almost hundred years have passed from the Armenian genocide, and in 2015, the Armenians worldwide will commemorate the centenary of the 1915 genocide, it is vital to see Turkish civil society’s engagement in commemoration and their efforts for recognition and reconciliation. Writer Peter Balakian believes that for coming to reconciliation the “Turkish state needs to deal honestly with its past”.245 _____________________________________
- 245. “A War of Words?” Interview with Peter Balakian, bestselling author of “The Burning Tigris”, Fox News Radio, 2 May, 2013, <http://radio.foxnews.com/2013/05/02/a-war-of-words/> [accessed June 12, 2013].
While writing this paper, in recent weeks, Turkey has been facing new developments within its civil society with the mass protests for Istanbul’s Gezi Park. The protestors were severely attacked by the state. Demonstrations for Gezi Park developed into more cities within Turkey. The Turkish recent developments are described to test democracy in the country. The initial environmental protest grew to the “Turkish spring”.246 Armenians in Turkey, together with other ethnic groups support the protestors and are united with Turkish people in their struggle. Armenian civil society members and activists have recently initiated “Armenian solidarity to Istanbul petition campaign” in Facebook social network. 247 Dr. Ugur Ümit Üngör, during our recent correspondence, to my question on the role of Turkey’s civil society in reconciliation, replied: “Will Turkey’s civil society push reconciliation forward? Nobody can see the future, but if the societal pressure on the government grows (for recognition and opening borders), I am quite hopeful yes”. The paper concludes that the Turkish state’s official denial policy is being challenged more and more by growing tendency of Turkish society to face the past and acknowledge it, with more commemorations, steps to break the silence and to voice the truth. Hopefully, this growing change promoted by Turkish civil society will impact the state policy in near future. Prospects for Turkish civil society’s further efforts and impact on reconciliation may be determined through more constructive steps, continuous efforts to bring together the two societies, bridge them by creating trust and eventually advocate the reconciling policies at state level, also through engagement of political parties. ________________________________________
- 246. Richard Seymour, “Istanbul Park Protest Shows the Seeds of Turkish Spring”, The Guardian, 31 May, 2013, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/31/istanbul-park-protests-turkish-spring> [accessed June 12, 2013].
- 247. Solidarity from Armenian Civil Activists to Istanbul Protesters, <https://www.change.org/ru/%D0%BF%D0%B5%D1%82%D0%B8%D1%86%D0%B8%D0%B8/solidarity-from-armenian-civic-activists-to-istanbul-protesters> [accessed June 12, 2013].