Turkey denies history—all the more reason for the rest of the world to tell the truth about the Armenian…

A wartime lexicon.
April 5 2010 10:43 AM

Shut Up About Armenians or We'll Hurt Them Again

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's latest sinister threat.

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The outburst strengthens the already strong case for considering Erdogan to be somewhat personally unhinged. In Davos in January 2009, he stormed out of a panel discussion with the head of the Arab League and with Israeli President Shimon Peres, having gone purple and grabbed the arm of the moderator who tried to calm him. On that occasion, he yelled that Israelis in Gaza knew too well "how to kill"—which might be true but which seems to betray at best an envy on his part. Turkish nationalists have also told me that he was out of control because he disliked the fact that the moderator—David Ignatius of the Washington Post—is himself of Armenian descent. A short while later, at a NATO summit in Turkey, Erdogan went into another tantrum at the idea that former Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark would be chosen as the next head of the alliance. In this case, it was cartoons published on Danish soil that frayed Erdogan's evidently fragile composure.

In Turkey itself, the continuing denial has abysmal cultural and political consequences. The country's best-known novelist, Orhan Pamuk, was dragged before a court in 2005 for acknowledging Turkey's role in the destruction of Armenia. Had he not been the winner of a Nobel Prize, it might have gone very hard for him, as it has for prominent and brave intellectuals like Murat Belge. Turkish-Armenian editor Hrant Dink, also prosecuted under a state law forbidding discussion of the past, was shot down in the street by an assassin who was later photographed in the company of beaming, compliant policemen.

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The original crime, in other words, defeats all efforts to cover it up. And the denial necessitates continuing secondary crimes. In 1955, a government-sponsored pogrom in Istanbul burned out most of the city's remaining Armenians, along with thousands of Jews and Greeks and other infidels. The state-codified concept of mandatory Turkishness has been used to negate the rights and obliterate the language of the country's enormous Kurdish population and to create an armed colony of settlers and occupiers on the soil of Cyprus, a democratic member of the European Union.

So it is not just a disaster for Turkey that it has a prime minister who suffers from morbid disorders of the personality. Under these conditions, his great country can never hope to be an acceptable member of Europe or a reliable member of NATO. And history is cunning: The dead of Armenia will never cease to cry out. Nor, on their behalf., should we cease to do so. Let Turkey's unstable leader foam all he wants when other parliaments and congresses discuss Armenia and seek the truth about it. The grotesque fact remains that the one parliament that should be debating the question—the Turkish parliament—is forbidden by its own law to do so. While this remains the case, we shall do it for them, and without any apology, until they produce the one that is forthcoming from them.

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