Response Of H.e Tuncay Babalı, Ambassador Of The Republic Of Turkey To Canada To The Letter To The Editor By The Ambassador Of The Republic Of Armenia Which Appeared On Toronto Star On March 8, 2013
Response of H.E Tuncay Babalı, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Canada to the Letter to the Editor by the Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia which appeared on Toronto Star on March 8, 2013
It was very disappointing to read Ambassador Yeganian’s offensive remarks in the Toronto Star on many grounds. We are, by our profession, supposed to find a way to solve the difficulties between our governments and most importantly have the task to bring our two peoples into a closer understanding so that they can lead us from this vicious circle of being prisoner of a single word which does not look good on both sides (swinging from trauma to paranoia). Turks when they hear it, Armenians when they don’t hear it they both do not listen to anything else. We do not need to continue to “replenish” hatred “reservoirs” as we do have enough. At least that is my understanding.
As for the accusations, it is exhausting to be forced and dragged into this kind of usual and leading nowhere discussions. Since this is a sensitive issue, I do not intend to go into details in back and forth letters, however, at least through media I would like to reach out to those who would like to listen and say few words on the official and the humane part:
As for the official: The remarks drag the subject totally away from the current situation of the Syrian Armenians and what Turkey is doing for them. That was my main point.
The characterization of the events of 1915 as “genocide” is only accepted by Canada as governmental position (not talking about the Parliaments) and is rejected not only by my Government, but also by many others (Yegenian claims two dozen of Parliaments approves, then what about 170+ of them) and respected scholars who have studied the period, such as the eminent Holocaust scholars Guenter Lewy and Bernard Lewis.
During the debated period, the Turks were fighting for survival under the invasion of many national armies with most Armenians of Eastern Anatolia collaborating with them. Ottoman Empire was the only country who fought the WWI for 11 years: 1911 Italy’s invasion of Libya, 1912-13 Balkan Wars, 1914-18 WWI, 1918-1922 War of Liberation. During that period, my ancestors had to endure great catastrophe (some lost their lives in inter-communal fight and in camps in Bulgaria; though I do not have feeling of hatred towards Bulgarians today, quite contrary and do regularly travel to my ancestral land to see my relatives). Mr. Ambassador fails to realise that hundreds of thousands of Turks also suffered from Armenian gangs (300 thousand alone in and around Van and Bitlis). 1915 was also the year of heroic Gallipoli Campaign where the Turkish side lost 250 thousand of its crème de la crème educated people mostly from Istanbul and some being Ottoman Armenians serving in the Ottoman Army.
I should also add that the institutions mentioned in Ambassador Yeganian’s letter have no official capacity whatsoever to render a verdict on the subject and they are very well known by their connections to anti-Turkish Armenian diaspora organizations.
We need a just memory about our mutual history. Reducing almost a thousand years old Turkish-Armenian relations only to the Turkish conquest of the Near East in 1071 (last Armenian Kingdom was subjugated hundred years before Turks arrived) from Eastern Roman Empire and to 1915, and omitting what happened in between is misleading to say the least. It is no secret that the Armenians flourished under the Turkish rule, played important roles not only in social, economic and cultural life but also in high political positions.
Most fundamental mistake in Ambassador Yeganian’s remarks is sounding like demanding a land based on claims from 11th century, referring to Eastern Turkey as “Western Armenia”. This is totally unacceptable. There is no place in Turkey called “Western Armenia”. This deplorable remark when it comes firsthand from the official representative of Armenia, a country still occupying 20 percent of the territories of Azerbaijan other than Nagorno Karabagh is the perfect testament showing the perverted ill mentality now in the 21st century. How about and why not stopping somewhere in the 16th or 17th centuries for the Turks or 19th century for the British? Is there a meaningful end to this kind of an approach?
Turkey itself has sought the facts via numerous collaborative efforts, such as the establishment of a joint historical commission which was the integral part of the Turkish-Armenian Protocols signed in Zurich, October 2009, not like the ones where a group of like-minded academicians come together with a fancy name and the verdict can be given by a show of hands. Why Armenian archives in Boston are not open to researchers other than Armenian origin? Why my counterpart does not mention a word about “reconciliation or rapprochement”? Turkish officials numerous times told that whatever the verdict of this commission we will accept it. But not before a fair judgement. Otherwise it seems lynching a man who is “believed” to have committed a crime in the neighborhood without a trial. This is not justice.
On a personal note and humane side:
“I, as an ordinary” Turk, “not an ambassador, am obliged to respond to my colleague from” Armenia not to ever challenge a Turk over courage.
I do not want my three sons to grow up with this hatred rhetoric. It is true that apart from this issue Turks and Armenians are getting along very well in the 3rd countries. Because they were part of the same Anatolian diaspora and common culture of living together. Why not officials? Then let’s move away and make room for our NGOs and civil societies to show us and our leaders the way for rapprochement. Until and unless the Turkish and Armenian peoples can begin an open and honest dialogue, based on empathy and sympathy for each other’s sufferings a genuine reconciliation cannot begin.
Do you have the courage for this? I do. And I am sure I am not alone.
Tuncay BABALI, PhD
Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Canada
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