Why do I want Turkey to confront 1915?

By Orhan Kemal Cengiz




Nowadays we witness thousands of ways to deny what happened in Turkey in 1915.


The latest, quite “creative” in its own fashion, is the absurd claim that Armenians, who pretended to be Turks, Kurds and so on, by wearing local clothes, had themselves killed in order to make their claim for independence stronger. An “academic” from a university raised this “argument” very recently. There are so many other “arguments.”


Some argue that there was a genocide of Turks carried out by Armenians in Anatolia.

I would not be surprised if they come forward and demand an apology from the Armenians for this “Turkish genocide.”


When I hear these kinds of arguments, I am really ashamed of being a citizen of this country. These arguments take so many different shapes. The other day I appeared on a discussion program, televised nationally, and the “issue of 1915” accidentally came up. One of the participants of the program was from a nationalist party. He asked me who would give the account of the wounds inflicted on his grandmother by Armenians. I was struggling, hopelessly, to explain that he cannot compare attacks committed by individuals or groups with something organized on a mass level by the political party ruling the Ottoman Empire at that time.


However, because of the prevailing atmosphere in the TV studio, I was almost portrayed as someone who turns a blind eye to individual suffering. In the view of the nationalist audience, I am someone who fights against “Turkish interests.” Do I really fight against the interests of Turkey by claiming that Turkey ought to recognize the Armenian genocide?


If these interests lie in the hostage-taking of our national conscience by the official state policies, then yes, I am fighting against them.


Denying what happened in 1915 in Turkey is not only an injustice to the victims but also creates all sorts of ambiguity in this country. As a result, ultra-nationalism and even racism look like ordinary nationalism. Denial feeds denial, and it does not stop at the Armenian genocide. All other atrocities carried out against Alevis, Kurds and so on, are also being denied. The perpetrators of even the most recent massacres like the Sivas massacre in 1993, the Maraş massacre in 1978 and so on, continue to enjoy impunity and feel no shame for what they have done.


Nationalists believe that the stronger their denial is, the more they protect the interests of this country. If this interest lies in having a floundering democracy, having a culture beset by aggression, having all sorts of hate speeches and so on, they are absolutely right. But if this country’s interests lie in having real self-confidence, having a strong moral conscience and having a strong democracy, we, who believe this country ought to confront its past, are right.


If I try to look on the bright side, I imagine that there will be many events in Turkey to commemorate the victims of the Armenian genocide. I salute those who will take to the streets and who will meet in different locations to commemorate the victims of this genocide, before whose memory I bow in respect and pain.