By Karine Kalantarian
A prominent Turkish-Armenian intellectual advocated on Tuesday a radical shift in the ongoing efforts at international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide, saying that Armenia and its influential Diaspora should educate ordinary Turks instead of seeking Western pressure on Ankara.
Hrant Dink, editor of the Istanbul-based Armenian newspaper “Agos,” said the best way to get Turkey to address the mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire is to help it become a more democratic state.
“The Turkish state may one day recognize the genocide under pressure from various countries,” Dink told a news conference in Yerevan. “This is possible. But is this the right solution? I don’t think so.”
The Armenian campaign has already led the governments and parliaments of about two dozen nations, including France, Russia, Italy and Canada, to officially term the slaughter of some 1.5 Ottoman Armenians a genocide. Diaspora organizations, backed by the authorities in Yerevan, believe that a similar move by the United States would dramatically heighten international pressure on the Turkish government, which vehemently denies the genocide. But their efforts to have the U.S. Congress pass a genocide resolution have been unsuccessful so far.
According to Dink, a genuine Turkish recognition could only be the result of domestic pressure. “The Turkish people know nothing about those people,” he argued. “Turkish society needs time to learn things. There is a need for a serious examination of history. Armenians must have a role in that examination.”
“Does the campaign for genocide recognition facilitate or complicate this process? In my view, we just give more ammunition to Turkish nationalists,” he added.
Calling the Armenian massacres a genocide is still considered a crime in Turkey. Dink himself was given a suspended six-month prison sentence last July for speaking up on the subject that was until recently considered a taboo in the country. He was convicted under a controversial article of the Turkish Criminal Code that imposes prison sentences on those who “insult Turkishness.” The clause, condemned by the European Union, has been used to bring charges against dozens of Turkish journalists, publishers and scholars questioning the official line on the bloody events of 1915-1918.