Why We Can't Forgive Turkey for the Armenian Genocide

Updated on December 24, 2019
Zhiar Ali profile image

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.

It was exactly 77 years ago when the Holocaust took place. It was 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) a carnage took place on the Armenians’ land, on the hands of the Othman Empire, as they were considered a threat against 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 how 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)

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    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

      wba108@yahoo.com 

      8 months ago from upstate, NY

      MG Singh-

      " The clue here is the West led by the USA. It alone can make the impossible -possible"

      Theoretically, the US could apply that kind of pressure on Turkey but politically and economically it seems unlikely. Trying to nation-build has of late been a failed experiment in Iraq and Afganistan. It seemed to create more problems than it solves.

      Ultimately the United States in and of itself is not all-powerful and like any other nation, it needs to act in its own self-interest. I'm obviously not a foreign policy expert but maybe an independent Kurdish state would be a stabilizing influence in the middle east but I would think you would need to have Russia, the middle east countries and who knows who else to all sign off on that.

    • emge profile image

      MG Singh emge 

      8 months ago from Singapore

      Turkey wants to be a great power and restore the glory of the Ottoman empire. This is well nigh impossible. Kurdistan and Armenia are two sore points with Turkey and I don't ever see Turkey apologizing for the Armenia massacre. Similarly, I don't see any chance of a Kurdish state, though if created it could be a viable entity. The clue here is the West led by the USA. It alone can make the impossible -possible.

    • Zhiar Ali profile imageAUTHOR

      Zhiar Ali 

      8 months ago from Kurdistan

      Thank you, Readmikenow. Turkey will never acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. They are currently making and airing TV shows that glorifies the Ottoman Empire, showing them to be "the good guys." One good example is the ongoing show Diriliş: Ertuğrul, and another example is Payitaht: Abdülhamid. Erdogan is subtly attempting to revive the Ottoman Empire through propaganda and dictatorship.

    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

      wba108@yahoo.com 

      9 months ago from upstate, NY

      Sure the west supports Turkey as a buffer against Russia and the middle east but No one in the middle east, Russia, India or any other nation has helped the Kurds either.

    • emge profile image

      MG Singh emge 

      9 months ago from Singapore

      Interesting article. Much of what happened in Turkey is because of encouragement from the west. The Ottoman empire survived because the west allowed it. Even now Turkey which is a second rate power is acting belligerently against Kurds and others because the west allows it.

    • Readmikenow profile image

      Readmikenow 

      9 months ago

      This is a very well written article.

      If you are successful at getting Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, please let me know. I'm Ukrainian. We live with the stories of how the Russians starved between 7 and 10 Ukrainians to death in the 1930's under Stalin. If you want to know more google Holodomor.

      It sounds very familiar. Like the Kurds, Ukrainians could not speak their native language. Signs in the street were changed from Ukrainian to Russian and more. It's very similar.

      I enjoyed reading your article.

    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

      wba108@yahoo.com 

      9 months ago from upstate, NY

      Ya, the Armenians and Kurds have been and are in a horrible position. Both are surrounded by powerful totalitarian regimes that use them when it's convenient to fight their wars for them. The Kurds don't even have their nation-state to defend themselves and the Armenians are the world's oldest Christian nation in an area dominated by Muslim nations on three sides and contested by Russian and Arab powers.

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