“REPAIR - Armenian-Turkish platform” is a project conducted by the French-Armenian NGO Yerkir Europe in partnership with the Turkish foundation Anadolu Kültür.
This project aims to debate the Armenian-Turkish issues by allowing various players in the Turkish, Armenian and Armenian Diaspora civil societies to voice their standpoints.
On the eve of commemorating the centenary of the 1915 genocide of Armenians, relations between Armenia and Turkey are in an impasse. The issue is a complex one, inasmuch as it comprises historical, identity, social, geopolitical and economic parameters.
Some hardened beliefs in people’s mindsets generate systematic antagonism. Three protagonists – functioning very differently – are most often involved: Turkey, Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora. Although they are making progress on the issues, these civil societies live in mutual ignorance of one another.
Internationalization of the Armenian-Turkish question
The Armenian-Turkish issue has become a prominent international issue largely because of the geographical location of the Republics of Armenia and Turkey. At the crossroads of Europe, the Middle-East and Asia, this geostrategic area is a knot of political and economic interests.
However, the Armenian-Turkish issue cannot be explained solely in terms of international relations: it initially derives from identity and historical features pertaining to each of the civil societies of Turkey, Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora.
These identity, memorial and societal aspects automatically echo into the French and European debates because of the presence of large communities of Armenian descent among them.
The unacknowledged Armenian component of Turkish society
In the last years, the Turkish civil society has been facing identity and historical issues. There was a surge of debates casting light on taboos smothered for almost a century under the tight lid of the “military nationalist” doctrine (in particular around Kurdish, Alevi, Greek, Armenian and Assyrian issues). Something new is that these debates are no longer confined to the intellectual circles of Istanbul but involve whole sections of the society, who rediscover their origins.
Locked up in the trauma of genocide and the systematic opposition to its recognition, the Armenians find it hard to invest this field of reflection in Turkey and establish a dialogue which, however, is indispensable. This distrust is all the more understandable that, since 1991, Turkey has been imposing an economic blockade on the Republic of Armenia while pursuing an intense international policy of revisionism denying the reality of the 1915 Genocide.
"Two close people, twodistant neighbours”
The difficulty for Armenians in accepting the communication with the Turks, is arisen from the reaction towards the negation of a crime against humanity. Traditional dominance of nationalist ideology constrains Turks from establishing a sincere dialogue. Thus, one should work at helping changes in attitudes to heal these rifts. Only dialogue, within a jointly established setup, can lead to breakthroughs.
Recognition of Armenian genocide
Unless the genocide is recognized by Turkey, Armenians are suspicious of dialogue and rapprochements attempts. They think that those steps are the one of the ways which Turkish government tries in order to prevent the recognition of genocide. However it is important not to confuse the state with the Turkish civil society, who has started a work of introspection on these matters.
There are some hopeful movements in Turkey: the recognition of the Genocide by personalities and 24th April ceremonies, the call for forgiveness by intellectuals, the multiplication of books and articles on this subject all bear witness to the fact that the wall of denial is cracked from the inside.
Although some circles handle the subject with an utilitarian approach and manners on this issue sometimes reveals unsteadiness; this question is gradually being discussed by greater parts of the society in Turkey. This circumstance is pleasing and satisfactory for some Armenians, while it is qualified as a new form of denial for others.
Nevertheless, artistic and scholarly initiatives between Armenians and Turks are many and keep on multiplying. They contribute to the intuitive realizations that there is a common heritage. These must be encouraged, but the path towards the heart of civil societies remains full of obstacles.
Indeed, the countless statements by intellectuals, opinion leaders, politicians, etc. remain mostly confined to their own sphere of influence. Although the debate is present in Turkey, in Armenia and within the Diaspora, there is almost no direct interaction between these three civil societies.
Repair -Repairing the Future
The goal of this project is thus to overcome this situation by creating an environment conducive to dialogue so as to build bridges between these civil societies and face the various roots of the issue commonly. Obstacles should be circumscribed in order to reach solutions together that might resolve the existing conflicts.
The “Repair” project is dedicated to supporting the efforts of the civil societies of Turkey, Armenian and the Armenian Diaspora in their mutations by trying to synchronize the positive dynamics currently plagued by mutual misconceptions. It was thus necessary to create a framework of reflection by organizing exchanges between players in these civil societies.
The medium of the “Repair” project is this website where will be launched debates on themes connected with Armenian-Turkish issues. We’ll give the floor to the experts, opinion makers, journalists, politicians and organization executives from the civil societies of Armenia, Turkey and the Armenian Diaspora, as well as to international figures.
The goal is to let each civil society discover the opinions coming from these debates within them and make it possible for Armenians to speak to Turks and vice versa.