Every April 24 marks a new anniversary of the beginning of one of the most ominous events that humanity remembers, which occurred between 1915 and 1924: the genocide (as defined by many countries in the world, including Argentina) that Turkey carried out to the detriment of the Armenian minority on its territory. The expulsion from the territory and/or mass murder of no less than 300 thousand (as the Turks claim) or up to one and a half million (as historians and particularly the Armenian community claim) of men and women of that national identity (including elderly and children).
Every year, also, the successive Turkish ambassadors in Argentina send letters to this newspaper reiterating the historical position of the government of their country. A few days ago, the current diplomatic representative in Buenos Aires, Sefik Bural Altay, sent a letter to the editor in chief of PERFIL, the text of which begins by noting that his community in the country “is exposed to hate speech towards the Turkish state and people because of part of the Armenian community. Next, he ratifies the negationist position of his government.
For years, this ombudsman has been pointing out that the term “genocide” is correctly applied to the events of the early 20th century, in line with what jurists, historians and even dissident Turkish intellectuals have written and opined, such as the Nobel Prize for Literature Ohran Pamuk. In 2015, when the Turkish ambassador was Taner Karakas, this column (which I titled “Genocide, not euphemisms”) made the position of the ombudsman and the newspaper clear, so there is little point in going back over it. However, two paragraphs of Mr. Bural Altay’s letter deserve a response: there is no information vacuum or censorship when it comes to reflecting Turkey’s positions in the newspaper. They had their space and they have it now. Articles by successive ambassadors have been published on the subject and the pages were open to dissent. What Mr. Bural Altay expressed is unacceptable, and I respond with the same phrase used by Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, a year ago: “Freedom of expression is the basis of human rights, the root of nature human and the mother of truth. Killing freedom of expression is insulting human rights, it is repressing human nature and suppressing the truth.”
It is true, as Ambassador Bural Altay points out, that the United Nations has not considered those tragic events that Armenia continues to denounce as genocide, but it is necessary to put that position in an international context with strong influence from Turkey and its allies, mainly the United States. That this could change in the near future is something that the main international analysts are considering, especially since the country that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan governs with a heavy hand is a member of NATO and at the same time declares himself a friend of Vladimir Putin.
I will close this space with a paragraph from Bural Altay’s letter to PROFILE, although I clarify that there is no approach to a balanced historical truth in that letter: “If we are going to share the suffering of the victims, there must be a more holistic approach. Third countries can act as intermediaries to listen to both parties and mediate between them to reach a peaceful result after an evaluation with the appropriate methods. The estimated number of war victims in the devastated Ottoman Empire is 3 million, including Turks, Kurds and Armenians. They were all Ottoman citizens at the time. Picking at the sufferings of the Armenians and ignoring the pain of more than 500 thousand Turks massacred by the Armenian rebels during that period is definitely not an objective third party approach. The sufferings are common, the pain is the same”.
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Turkey, Armenia and the ominous shadow of the denied genocide