Standpoint of Turkey
Political scientist, columnist for the daily Yeni Şafak
According to Ali Bayramoglu, who led the petition campaign called “I apologize” in 2008, there are some positive effects of the campaign that are reflected in today. While for the Turkish-Armenian relations, the effects of Erdogan's election to the Presidency shall be limited, it is seen that Turkey is still far away from reaching to the state of apologizing.
Repair : What did you intend in 2008 while you started the apologize campaign? When you look today, could you reach those objectives?
Ali Bayramoglu : Indeed, efforts of Hrant also established a similar framework. We thought that, a social practice occurred upon a public confession, a conscience against the genocide and what was happened in 1915 are as vital as the facing with history in Turkey and cleaning of a Turkish identity and being purified. We also thought that the politics shall be surrounded with and directed by such a social practice. One of our requests was that. Not only directing the society, but also expressing this aloud and inviting people to a similar facing by fulfilling our tasks as intelligentsia. That was the first dimension. The other dimension is that it was a text which represents the hope in the environment of 2008. Both politics was alive and vigorous and within this framework, there was also a dynamism occurred within the society . While we look today from that day, of course it is possible to give two answers. One of them is positive. Since such types of steps are not political and instant steps and since they constitute the milestones, the constituent parts of a story, it was one of those steps that take the genie out of the bottle-lamp. That is not only this step, we could also say conditions of such period. You mustn’t attribute this to that four people’s or a hundred and fifty people’s petition. This was a reflection of the ambiance. Thus, if the word of “genocide” could be used more easily today, if such a social awareness has affects even around the government, I think that 2008 petition has a contribution in this. And it also reflects today in a positive approach.
What do you think about the condolence that Erdogan issued in last 24th April?
This declaration was widely criticized. It may be criticized, because there is no approval and apology in this letter. We could mention about a development when we compare with the past. At least it is a declaration saying that there was a disgrace, a scandal happened in 1915 and this is a humanitarian catastrophe – may be it does not tell that it is a crime against humanity – but it is required to share the sorrow of Armenians for the sake of humanity. It is positive since it is a governmental declaration that is nearly a definition of a disaster even reversely and short. Of course it is very short compared to expectations. What is desired is to define 1915 more detailed. At least, to make determinations about the Union and Progress in more perceptible way. These could not be met by this declaration yet but, when we think about 5-6 or 10 years ago, this text has a revolutionary characteristics compared to those years. I assess this text as a new bend of a road. Of course we have too many bends and roads further. When you consider in terms of the government, this government did not get to this point not by taking pressures. I concern these as positive developments in the way from inland-governmental, political, social and intellectual debates, from government-intelligentsia conflicts in that well-known symposium in 2005 to the apology campaign in 2008.
But, on the other hand, I consider that the political conditions are worse from that day to this. We saw in recent years that zero problems strategy of Turkey in especially foreign politics could not be carried on well and since Tayyip Erdogan has an emotional and politic engagement about Azerbaijan – of course it is the engagement of Turkish government and they could make more pressure on Azerbaijan – and since this engagement has a very limiting and restrictive dimension in relations with Armenia. This is also extremely negative development. Obviously, both scales are full while 2015 is coming. While Turkish government's approach to this issue -with its strategy following the claim or desire to be a great country with a defensive language- is cold and keeping it's distance, we see that there is a working mechanism that reflects to the language of government.
Since it is critical centenary; there is a question occurred as “What will it happen in 2015 ?”. Here, Ahmet Davutoglu being the Prime Minister has both positive and risky results on this issue. Turkey tries to proceed more in this issue with human and tragedy dimension. But, it is more likely that Davutoglu shall deal with this issue by considering “equal memory” which he usually uses in his speeches, in other words related with massacres to which other communities were exposed in the same era. These may include new and positive steps forward but also may be interpreted as the new and cold expression of that negationist approach of Turkey. Both time an developments, discussions in the society will show this. But now, when comparing today with 2008; the most problematic point is that Armenian Question, the genocide recedes into the background among several political problems. From 2008 till 2010, this question was at least a carrier question in the pressure in the definition of democracy and pressure on the government. But, later on, Gezi protests, tendency of AK Party to become authoritative, changes in foreign policy such as in Egypt and Syria and discussions about congregations occurred and the agenda loosened, became a little bit saucy and even the public order dimension became prominent. I think, these circumstances prevented the pressure required in the social level and the adaption from reaching to the expected level. Here, such nationalist reactions were reborn in an environment where they could act against this issue.
How will Erdogan's election to Presidency effect this issue? Because, he expresses that he would like to carry out an active presidency.
He says he shall be an active president. But that is a different matter of debate, what will happen or not. It is not very easy, because you do not have any authorization. Even opportunities for breach of constitutional law are limited. I don’t think that Erdogan being the President of Republic shall effect this issue. It is not required to be more determinative when he is a president. But it is not important that he is the president or not, he is already a very central leader. Does it have an additional positive role when he is now in the position of subsidiary or confirmative to government policies? I suppose not. There is only such a matter; the mentality that Tayyip Erdogan represents think that there is no genocide. This opinion is sincere and severe for them. Will this opinion change? I don’t think that this opinion shall change. I suppose, Davutoglu does not think so different than this. But in this terms, we could assume that Tayyip Erdogan shall create a mentality barrier in further developments. But we have to note that AK Parti and their leader is extremely flexible. Thus, he may not be only mentality preventive but also supporting the political initiatives.
Thus, it is seen that there is no possibility for an apology in the future?
Not yet. We all desire, wait but I don't think that Turkey comes to a point of apology. In order to come to the point of apology, Turkey must have a mentality break in itself. AK Party did not have such a break. Social demand and pressure has not been enough yet. While we see in terms of international conditions, we could not say that it flows in such a direction. Especially Turkey-Armenia relationships must be a little different from the past. But, as I said, there could be surprise, unexpected developments. Such as in the text of condolence last time. Let's hope that such things will happen.