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When Erdogan Apologizes

When Erdogan Apologizes
Erdogan speaks at “The Symposium on Our Archives’ Improvement, Vision and Contributions to Historical Research” (April 2019) (Photograph: Workplace of the President of Turkey)

On April 24, 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had Armenians on his thoughts. He railed and cajoled, and spared no form of communication—a speech, a letter and a barrage of tweets—to stay afloat on a day that threatened to drown his country’s legacy in disgrace. His speech and tweets have been primarily directed at his countrymen; his letter at Turkey’s Armenian group; and a press release by his Overseas Ministry on the international group and the “radical” diaspora.

“The relocation of the Armenian gangs and their supporters, who massacred the Muslim individuals, including ladies and youngsters, in japanese Anatolia, was probably the most affordable motion that could possibly be taken in such a interval. The doorways of our archives are large open to all looking for the reality,” tweeted Erdogan. This was but one among his many tweets referring to the “events of 1915.”

The others have been self-congratulatory in essence, praising his country’s archival troves. “Archives are the memory of a nation and a state. Nations with out reminiscences can’t know where they arrive from, where they are at this time and the place they are headed to. A robust tradition of archive can also be a sworn statement to a robust state history,” learn one other tweet. “One of many issues about which we proudly proclaim the truth to the entire World because of our archives is the Armenian concern…” learn part of one other. Some of these tweets have been quoted from a speech he delivered that exact same day at “The Symposium on Our Archives’ Improvement, Vision and Contributions to Historic Research.”

That exact same day, the Turkish President’s official web site posted a letter Erdogan despatched to the Common Vicar of the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey, Aram Ateşyan. The letter was rife with justifications, equivocations, temporal distancing of the crime and a warning.

“This yr as properly, I keep in mind with respect the Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives underneath harsh circumstances of the First World Struggle and supply my honest condolences to their grandchildren,” wrote Erdogan. He referred to a “large humanitarian crises” which he implied was an abnormal prevalence “as had been the case during some other empire’s disintegration interval.” He briefly praised the “nice contributions” of Armenians within the Ottoman Empire. He spoke of the “free” and “equal” Armenian residents of his country immediately who play “essential roles” in society “as they did prior to now.” He referred to the “shared grief and pleasure” of “these two peoples”—presumably Turks and Armenians—and their “widespread goal…to heal the injuries of the past.”

What can be the “proper” message by Ankara? What would constitute a sincere state apology?

“We’ll proceed to face with you for the alleviation of your sufferings and the resolution of your problems. I especially want to underline that the peace, safety and happiness of the Armenian group in our nation are of very particular significance to us. We’ll stand towards those who permit even a single Armenian citizen of ours to be alienated or excluded… I consider that the best way to building a shared future is to be one and united. In this regard, I kindly request you to avoid serving to those that seek to create hatred, grudge and hostility by distorting our widespread history. With these thoughts in my thoughts, I keep in mind with respect, as soon as again, the Ottoman Armenians whom we misplaced through the First World Warfare,” he concluded.

In the meantime, the Turkish Overseas Ministry issued the following assertion in response to US President Donald Trump’s “Medz Yeghern” message:

We reject US President Donald Trump’s assertion dated 24 April 2019 with regard to the events of 1915. This assertion, based mostly on the subjective narrative fictionalized by Armenians, is of no value. Distortion of historical past for domestic political issues can by no means be accepted. We remind pains of more than 500 thousand Muslims slaughtered by Armenian rebels in the same period and invite President Trump to be truthful. Turkey continues to be behind its proposal to determine a Joint Historical Fee to make clear all elements of the events that occurred 104 years in the past. Radical Armenians, who need to ensure their duties in the occasions of 1915 are ignored, don’t show the braveness to respond positively to this proposal. On this occasion, we commemorate with respect Muslims, Christians, Jews, and all different Ottoman communities who misplaced their lives in the course of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

These messages could be summed up in a couple of sentences: The Genocide is an Armenian fabrication. The deportations were not; but they have been probably the most affordable of actions and have been nicely deserved. Armenian gangs are the true culprits. Suffering was expected as the empire collapsed. Armenian citizens of Turkey should be grateful and supportive of the state. We’re pleased with our archives and would love to lock up Armenian historians in our archival mazes until they see issues our method.

One would presume that no one was stunned studying the threats and justifications above. Outraged? Maybe. Shocked? No. Most descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors anticipate this line of rhetoric from official Ankara. And most have been outspoken in their rejection of the official “condolences” and the equivocating language of Erdogan’s administration.

The question that interests me here nevertheless is what can be the “right” message by Ankara? What would constitute a sincere state apology?


The Apology

It is April 24, 2020. President Erdogan stands on the steps of the Haydarpasha Practice Station in Istanbul, the place round 250 Armenian intellectuals, politicians, group leaders and writers, who had been detained on April 24, 1915, have been boarded on trains and sent to Ankara and later killed. The day marks the start of a genocide marketing campaign that targeted the Armenian, Assyrian and Pontian Greek population of the crumbling Ottoman Empire. Erdogan draws a deep breath and begins to speak. The occasion is broadcast stay by major nationwide and worldwide tv stations.


[1] I stand earlier than you right now to extend the long-overdue apology that my authorities owes to the survivors and descendants of survivors of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocide. The Turkish state killed up to 1,500,000 Armenians, 300,000 Assyrians and 500,000 Pontic Greeks between 1915 and 1923. The Christian inhabitants of this country stood at roughly 20 % earlier than the genocide. At this time, that number is lower than 0.2 %. [1] I apologize for this systemic and government-sponsored marketing campaign that focused your communities, exterminated your management, killed your men, raped, kidnapped, and enslaved your ladies and youngsters and sent the surviving members of your communities on demise marches that many didn’t survive.

[2] I acknowledge the goal and consequences of that campaign, which uprooted you from your ancestral lands, systematically robbed you of your properties, lands, churches, faculties, companies and homes. This marketing campaign of dispossession was not confined to the years 1915-1923, however it continued, peaking again in the 1950s and 1970s. I apologize to the Greek group for the Istanbul pogrom of September 6 and seven, 1955, when the federal government incited and condoned the violence towards the Greek group in Istanbul, the looting and burning of your companies, the beatings and the killing of as much as 30 members of your group.

[3] I recognize the ways by which the perpetrators and this authorities and state enriched themselves by means of these plunders and continue to profit to today. I acknowledge the continued destruction of your church buildings and cemeteries by treasure hunters who search for gold[2].

[4] I acknowledge, for example, that until very lately—2014 to be actual—the presidential palace—the Cankaya Mansion—the place I carried out much of my work, was in fact the confiscated house of Ohannes Kasabian, an Armenian jeweler and businessman. In the present day, my government has transformed Kasabian’s house into the prime ministerial workplaces. I apologize for this continued injustice.

[5] I recognize that in the century following the beginning of this campaign of extermination and Turkification, the state has diligently engaged in a campaign of denial and intimidation, robbing you of your dignity. Denial has followed you to totally different shores where, as descendants of survivors, you sought to reconstitute your communities and keep in mind all those who have been victimized. When you pursued your quest for justice, this authorities and the governments earlier than it denied, justified or minimized your struggling.

[6] I acknowledge that even at present, these of you who have someway managed to stay on this nation—you who we now have referred to as “remnants of the sword”—proceed to stay in worry, dealing with intimidation, harassment, and discrimination. I acknowledge that the actions of this state have pressured you to cover your identities and relinquish your names and faith; a few of you’ve mothers or grandmothers who survived the genocide by being kidnapped or taken in by Turkish and Kurdish households and their stories have been suppressed in this environment created by successive Turkish governments. In all these instances, the state remained meticulous in figuring out you in official data. Until immediately, successive governments maintained “race codes.” The Turkish government mistrusted you, and its remedy of you showed that.

[7] I recognize that even at present the state continues to harbor an environment of worry. My government denied you your primary want for security. Some of you felt that the majority strongly in 2007, when the outspoken Armenian editor Hrant Dink was gunned down in entrance of his workplaces. My authorities intimidated him. We harassed him. We dragged him to the courts for speaking the truth. And we ultimately killed him. The one to tug the set off was an ultra-nationalist youth, but he’s the product of this state’s rhetoric and remedy of you. We refused to offer his household justice. We hid the reality of his homicide, of our complicity in that heinous crime.

[8] I acknowledge that by naming streets and public areas after the masterminds of the genocide—Talaat, Enver and Jemal—the state continues to praise and condone this crime towards humanity.

[9] I acknowledge that Turkish historical past textbooks advance the dominant narrative of genocide denial. I recognize that the Turkish government continues to show its youngsters this language of denial, vilifying you and portray you as enemies of the state. I recognize the state’s widespread and systemic effort to erase your presence from history via purposely destroying your church buildings, omitting references to your historical past and presence on these lands, as well as the renaming of villages, cities and cities.

[10] This authorities and governments before it did all this in a concerted effort at denial and Turkification, to create a homogenous Turkey—a Turkey for Turks solely. I recognize these insurance policies have been rooted in racism, prejudice, xenophobia, greed and hatred.

[11] I acknowledge that my authorities’s justifications have only paved the best way to new injustices towards you and other teams in this nation.

[12] I acknowledge these information and take full duty for them.

[13] I apologize for these crimes, unequivocally and sincerely.

[14] This apology is that this authorities’s initial step on a new path marked by a truthful reckoning with its previous and present. This is the moment leaders of this nation break the language of denial, and try and pave a new path ahead. That is the first blow to the edifice of hatred and xenophobia—a new Turkey will only have the ability to rise on foundations of fact, justice, equality and self-reflection.

[15] Congruent to this apology, my government has consulted with victim organizations and individuals, representatives of varied Armenian, Assyrian and Pontic Greek communities and specialists within the area of transitional justice to draft bills and take necessary steps to counter the injustices of the previous. Among these efforts are the return of confiscated properties and lands the place potential; reparations to the descendants of victims; the rewriting of textbooks the place denial and justification happen; help—whether ethical or in assets—to the group organizations still functioning in this nation; the development of public memorials in cities and cities throughout this country; the renaming of streets and public areas named after the masterminds of the genocide; and a complete investigation into current crimes, together with the homicide of Hrant Dink. In addition, we’ll make our archives absolutely out there to researchers and set in place funds to help the analysis carried out by people and organizations in the area of genocide studies.

[16] At this time, this authorities is lifting the unlawful and unilateral financial blockade towards Armenia that has been in place since 1993. We’re in communication with Yerevan to draft a plan of normalizing diplomatic relations without preconditions.

[17] Finally, I proclaim this present day—April 24—Nationwide Remembrance Day of the Armenian Genocide.

[18] I proclaim Might 19 the National Remembrance Day of the Pontian Greek Genocide.

[19] I proclaim August 7 the Nationwide Memorial Day of the Assyrian Genocide.

[20] I hope that together we will continue to ascertain a new path ahead.

Thank you.


Erdogan’s letter is obvious and to the purpose.

[1] The opening paragraph lays out a clear acknowledgement of the wrongs and takes duty for them. It acknowledges the magnitude of loss when it comes to numbers. Erdogan recognizes the concept of intent—that the orders of genocide got here from the top echelons of government—which is a transparent break from the justifications given up to now. The line of denial that has been pushed forward so far has in essence argued: We didn’t do it; and if we did do it, we have been justified by the realities of World Warfare I. In recent times, Erdogan and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu have issued “condolence” messages to Armenians. Erdogan targeted[3] on “our shared ache,” equating the losses from genocide with Turkish losses throughout World Conflict I. Similarly, Davutoglu argued[4] that Turks and Armenians “share… a ‘widespread ache’ inherited from our grandparents.” Each statements have been rejected by giant segments of Armenian communities, and gave rise to a flood of editorials, op-eds and statements denouncing them.

[2] The second paragraph additional recognizes the extent of the crime: the uprooting of peoples from their ancestral houses and the dispossession that accompanied it.

[3] The third paragraph recognizes that the genocide not only benefited the perpetrators of the time, but in addition how it continues to profit the descendants of the perpetrators and the state. As an example, the US Incirlik Air Base, the Diyarbakir Airport and lots of other main landmarks are situated on confiscated Armenian properties. It has been argued that at the moment’s financial system and the creation of a new rich class in Turkey is rooted on this campaign of dispossession.[5] [4] Paragraph four serves to offer a better instance of the dispossession and state profiteering.

[5] Paragraph 5 addresses a unique dimension of the damage—that of denial. Erdogan acknowledges the magnitude of this denial campaign and the damage it has prompted, and takes duty for it.

[6] Paragraph 6 acknowledges the struggling of the survivors and descendants of survivors who remained within the country. It recognizes the plight of the remaining communities, the Islamized and hidden descendants of survivors. It additionally acknowledges their continued oppression, and the state’s continued position in it. The last sentence of the paragraph refers to the id codes in place in Turkey, the place the ethnicity of people are codified on their id cards and official paperwork. The codes have been in place since 1923, and determine people with Armenian, Jewish, and Greek background.[6] [7] Paragraph 7 recognizes the state’s position in failing to protect minorities. The homicide of Hrant Dink turned a turning level in current Turkish history, the place the diploma of hatred was seen in plain sight. Dink’s funeral introduced out around 200,000 mourners, who have been appalled by the deed. Justice nonetheless evades the Dink household. The legal process has been criticized for failing to reveal the extent to which authorities and cops have been complicit in his homicide, regardless of a European Courtroom of Human Rights verdict[7]. Here, Erdogan acknowledges the position of society and the environment created by the state as complicit parts in his homicide.

[8] Paragraph 8 recognizes how the naming of streets and public spaces after the masterminds of the genocide continues to trigger damage, and moreover condones the crime.

[9] Paragraph 9 recognizes the ways through which denial and the erasure of non-Turkic identities continues to today, notably in textbooks, the renaming of locations, and references to history. It acknowledges the complicit position of the schooling system in perpetuating injustices.[8] [10] Paragraph 10 recognizes the basis causes of the crime: racism, prejudice, xenophobia, greed, and hatred.

[11] In paragraph 11, Erdogan recognizes how failure to reconcile with past injustices make new injustices potential. Right here, it’s implied that he is referring to the state’s remedy of “othered” teams, together with the Kurds.

[12] In paragraph 12, Erdogan reiterates his recognition of “these details” and his willingness to take duty for them. By reiterating it, he leaves no room for vagueness.

[13] In paragraph 13, Erdogan reiterates his apology—clearly and unambiguously.

[14] In paragraph 14, Erdogan reveals that the apology is however a first step of atonement and a marked break from the language of denial. He also qualifies it as a primary step in the direction of a new vision of an inclusive state.

[15] Paragraph 15 describes a few of the additional measures that might be taken by the state, in session with victim teams and organizations. This exhibits the dedication of his workplace to taking meaningful steps in the direction of restitution, reparations, and societal rehabilitation.

[16] In paragraph 16, Erdogan reveals a change in overseas coverage, the place the illegal blockade towards Armenia is lifted with out preconditions, and further talks between official Yerevan and Ankara are in the works. In 2009, the normalization attempt between the two nations—referred to as “The Zurich Protocols”—largely failed because of public outcry in Armenian communities worldwide towards preconditions current within the deal, including a clause that rendered the difficulty of genocide recognition right into a historic debate to be discussed by a historical fee made up of “specialists” from the two nations.

[17-19] In paragraphs 17, 18, and 19, Erdogan assigns days of mourning of the Armenian, Pontian Greek, and Assyrian genocides. The dates are these set by their respective communities as days of remembrance.

[20] In his concluding sentence, Erdogan expresses his hope that “collectively” a brand new future might be attainable. The sentence denotes a willingness to work collectively in making certain that past injustices will not be repeated sooner or later.

Erdogan’s apology is unambiguous and to the purpose—from the opening sentence to the top of his message. Erdogan largely avoids using the passive voice, however as an alternative relies on an lively voice and lively verbs. He does not use temporal distancing, however on the contrary, recognizes the continued injustices affecting the survivors and descendants of survivors—from denial to the continuation of oppressive insurance policies and rhetoric. He enumerates the injustices, and their totally different dimensions. He offers no justifications and no qualifiers. Through the use of the first-person singular pronoun “I,” Erdogan takes personal duty for the wrongs. Erdogan, whose apology as well as the acts to comply with it, can be drafted together with victim groups and organizations, is accustomed to his viewers. Furthermore, naming a few of the root causes of the crimes—racism, prejudice, xenophobia, greed and hatred—suggests that Erdogan has drawn some classes from this accounting.

Lastly, it is very important understand that the apology will surely fall in need of the expectations of some individuals and organizations, since not everybody has the identical concept of what justice should seem like. Teams are usually not homogeneous and embrace a mess of voices and wishes. It will be significant for Erdogan to return to terms with this and refrain from appearing in an antagonistic method in the direction of those who reject these efforts.


And three apples fell from heaven…


Writer’s observe: In drafting this apology letter, this writer drew advice and inspiration from Stewart David Ikeda’s “The Artwork of Apology: Grading the Ex-Presidents on their Internment Classes” (2000). (Ikeda’s article is on the market here: Lastly, the writer is grateful to Prof. Rajini Srikanth of UMASS Boston, whose course on literature and conflict examined a variety of subjects including points referring to state apologies and helped shape this text.

[1] Current proportion based mostly on the Central Intelligence Agency’s “The World Factbook,” obtainable at .

[2] It is a fashionable belief in Turkey that Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks buried their gold beneath their church buildings in the course of the genocide. Many articles have mentioned such destruction. Throughout my many travels within the Japanese provinces of Turkey, I didn’t encounter a single church whose grounds and interior were not pockmarked by deep, extensive holes.

[3] You’ll find Erdogan’s message here:

[4] You’ll find Davutoglu’s full message right here:

[5] See for example: Uğur Ümit Üngör and Mehmet Polatel’s Confiscation and Destruction: The Young Turk Seizure of Armenian Property. Bloomsbury Educational, 2011; and Varak Ketsemanian’s “The Confiscation of Armenian Properties: An Interview with Ümit Kurt”, The Armenian Weekly, September 23, 2013 (Out there here: ).

[6] See “Minorities in Turkey tagged by ‘race codes,’ official document reveals,” in Hurriyet Every day News, August 1, 2013 (Obtainable here: ).

[7] See “Turkey Unanimously Convicted in Hrant Dink Case,” Bianet, Sept. 15, 2010. Obtainable here:

[8] See as an example “Akcam: Textbooks and the Armenian Genocide in Turkey: Heading In the direction of 2015” by Taner Akcam, in The Armenian Weekly, Dec. 4, 2014 (obtainable right here: ; and “A Century after Armenian Genocide, Turkey’s Denial solely Deepens,” by Tim Arango in The New York Occasions, April 16, 2015 (Obtainable right here:



Nanore Barsoumian was the editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2014 to 2016. She served as assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2010 to 2014. Her writings concentrate on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender points. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk and Turkey. She earned her B.A. degree in Political Science and English and her M.A. in Battle Decision from the College of Massachusetts (Boston).



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