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Why We Can't Forgive Turkey for the Armenian Genocide

Zhiar Ali is a Kurdish activist working on LGBTQI+ issues in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Armenia, the country the Ottoman Empire thought was a threat to the Turkish empire

Armenia, the country the Ottoman Empire thought was a threat to the Turkish empire

The Armenian Genocide

To this day, the holocaust is recognized as one of the most terrible historical events of all time. It is recognized as a somber tragedy internationally, and Germany has apologized repeatedly for the incident since the collapse of the Nazis. On December 10, 2018, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier apologized once again for the holocaust.(1) Germany admitted to what had taken place, and they recognized their mistake. They agree with the rest of the world about how the incident was inhuman and atrocious.

Turkey Won't Admit to Ethnic Cleansing

Turkey, on the other hand, denies the Armenian genocide, acting as if nothing ever happened.(2) That’s not what history tells us. Over a hundred years ago,(3) carnage took place on the Armenians’ land at the hands of the Othman Empire. Armenians were considered a threat to the empire, worrying that they will strike an alliance with Russia, which was an enemy of the empire at the time. Approximately, 1.5 million Armenians were brutally and mercilessly murdered by the Turks, some of which were crucified; others were forced to march all the way into the Syrian desert, where they were met with their demise and starved to death.(4)

Since then, not once have the Turkish authorities come forward with an official apology. Not only will they not apologize, but they are in complete denial about what most historians would call the first genocide of the twentieth century. The Turkish government acknowledged the fight between the Armenians and Turks, but they went on to say that “a lot of other people were dying” and that it was “wartime” as an excuse not to participate in ceremonies and memorials held for the Armenian victims. Why would one stand against their beliefs, after all?(4)

Conflict With the Kurds

Armenians are not the only victims of the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Turks throughout history; the Kurds are another victim. Residing in Northern Iraq, in a now-autonomous state, the Kurds suffer from a collective trauma from what Turkey has done to them.

Back in 1914, during the Caucasus Campaign, the Ottoman Empire forced some of the Kurds to participate in fighting against the Armenians during the genocide. Taking their safety into account, throughout history, the Kurds were forced to choose between either the Safavi or the Ottoman Empires, having been the most dominant empires surrounding the Kurds. Not siding with either side was often followed by attacks and raids with both empires targetting the Kurdish tribes.(5)

Fighting for the Ottomans was often encouraged by empty promises of safety. Whenever the Ottoman Empire thought they’d need the Kurdish tribes for fighting, they acted kindly to them, giving them the authority to act freely on their own land. This always ended the same way for the Kurds: betrayal. When the Ottoman Empire thought their interest has been met, they’d start to get violent with the Kurds, removing their leaders from positions of power and attacking their tribes.(5)

A map of the Kurdish inhabited areas, which the Kurds call Kurdistan.

A map of the Kurdish inhabited areas, which the Kurds call Kurdistan.

However, the Kurds decided to be resilient against the Turkish ethnic cleansing and kept on honoring being Kurds and living in Kurdistan. Once the Ataturk administration was established and saw that the Kurds refused to be acknowledged as anything else other than Kurds, they criminalized identifying as a Kurd, speaking Kurdish, and referring to Kurdistan at all.(6) They began calling the Kurds “the Turks from the mountains”, and still deny the existence of Kurdistan, exactly how they deny the Armenian genocide.

Even today, Turkey is well known for indirect ethnic cleansing against the Kurds who reside in the north near Turkey, separating them from modern society, not letting them learn Kurdish, and forcing them to identify as Turks and speak Turkish. The current government has also taught the Turkish people to hate the Kurds, teaching them since childhood by calling the Kurds “terrorists and enemies.”(6)(7)

Sources

  1. German President apologizes for the Holocaust
  2. Erdogan: Turkey will 'never accept' genocide charges
  3. 100 Years Ago, 1.5 Million Christian Armenians Were Systematically Killed. Today, It's Still Not A 'Genocide'
  4. A Century After Armenian Genocide, Turkey’s Denial Only Deepens
  5. Ordered to Die: A History of the Ottoman Army in the First World War by Edward Erickson
  6. Turkey: Meet the 12-Year-Old Girl Who Risked Prison to Revive Her People's Language
  7. Erdogan’s ethnic cleansing of the Kurds is still happening now – and we have Trump to thank

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2019 Zhiar Ali