RECOGNISING GENOCIDE PART 2
In his book “With Intent to Destroy: Reflections on Genocide,” Colin Tatz argues that Turkey denies the genocide so as not to jeopardize "its ninety-five-year-old dream of becoming the beacon of democracy in the Near East". In the light of recent developments in the region, this argument seems unconvincing. On the other hand in their book “Negotiating the Sacred: Blasphemy and Sacrilege in a Multicultural Society, Elizabeth Burns Coleman and Kevin White present a list of reasons explaining Turkey's inability to admit the genocides committed by the Young Turks, being: a) A suppression of guilt and shame that a warrior nation, a ‘beacon of democracy’ as it saw itself in 1908 (and since), slaughtered several ethnic populations. Democracies, it is said, don’t commit genocide; ergo, Turkey couldn’t and didn’t do so. b) A cultural and social ethos of honour, a compelling and compulsive need to remove any blots on the national escutcheon. c) A chronic fear that admission will lead to massive claims for reparation and restitution. d) To overcome fears of social fragmentation in a society that is still very much a state in transition. e) A ‘logical’ belief that because the genocide was committed with impunity, so denial will also meet with neither opposition nor obloquy and f) An inner knowledge that the juggernaut denial industry has a momentum of its own and can’t be stopped even if they wanted it to stop.
Notwithstanding the above dealing with the genocide on a bilateral basis, the largest problem the Greek people face has to do with the nationalist hysteria referred to earlier and the fact that our history with Turkey is different to that of Armenians or the Assyrians. In striving to explain how we are the innocent victims of genocide, we shy away from exploring how it was that the Turks could be incited to commit genocide in the first place – a topic if vital importance if our intention is to ensure that genocide never takes place again, rather than achieve an ascendancy over the Turks. We also airbrush out our own history in the region. In particular we ignore the role played by Turkish refugees from the Balkans, who, dispossessed and resentful, were easily manipulated into taking out their frustrations against the Greeks of Asia Minor. We also forget that the Greek army, assisted by native Greeks in Anatolia, during the Asia Minor campaign, also took part in massacres, though on an extremely smaller scale and in markedly different circumstances. We are silent on these, though need to examine them and put them in perspective, for the Turkish response to our claims is always that we also committed massacres and or genocide, so that if they did perpetrate the genocide, we are no better than they and thus, all things are equal. Once we have examined our own role, and understand the motivation behind it, we can then condemn all acts of racial violence and brutality wherever these are committed, including our own, separating these and not linking them to the Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire against the Christian of Asia Minor. Next week, we will examine the massacres the Greek army committed in Asia Minor and consider how these impact upon Turkish views of the Greek Genocide.
First published in NKEE on Saturday 31 May 2014