TURKISH – ARMENIAN RELATIONS ON A SOCIAL BASIS
Dimpool Analysis Team
13 July 2011
International arena has a great space for conflict and peace; we all know, relationship between Turkey and Armenia has remained tranquil and shaking since Armenia was declared an independent state in1991. New states become a problem because of boudaries’ issue for neighbourhood and Republic of Armenia became an issue when it became a neighbour for Turkey in the region after an era of conflicts. Conflictual relations caused official and unofficial diplomacy. Many actors tried to influence countries’ interaction and diplomatic affairs.
Two countries challenged each other to change or at least normalize their relations in foreign affairs; but this process is difficult because countries try to protect their own interests at the state level. Some private organizations and non-governmental organizations try to influence relationships optimistically with common conferences, platforms, festivals, concerts, but the relationship did not visibly change after the Turkey elections. Sides cannot forget their prior lives, but they should try to forgive. 1915 events are a key factor for Armenians, and recovering from that pain is hard for the Armenian people.
Politically, both countries have some issues surrounding them, such as the beforementioned events of 1915 or the Armenian occupation in Nagorno-Karabakh that began in 1988 as a conflict creator, since Karabakh became an insecure environment. However, countries have different methods of normalizing relationships with another country. For example, a football diplomacy was organized by Abdullah Gül to indicate how relations can be normalized, and consequently, football was practiced to try to integrate both countries’ citizens.
In 2009, a protocol meeting emerged on the agenda aimed to establish an international commission to research 1915 events, and the Armenians recongized boundaries that were determined in the Treaty of Kars from 1923. Therefore, burdens continue and include problems regarding opening the border, historical commission, and researching the events of 1915, with another conflict arising in the suggested parties and their chosen protocol.
Structural Violence in Turkey
In addition, in Turkey there is the issue of minorities living in the country, and some Armenian people live surrounded by structural violence within territories. This structural violence indicates itself in political, media and societal levels, working slowly but surely to erode humanistic values and impoverish human lives. Structural violence emerged by means of disadvantaged positions within common territories.
By contrast, direct violence generally works much faster and is more visible and dramatic, but structural violence harms peace among groups. Structure has a factor that shifts people’s standards, and these standards consolidate perception in their minds. Perceptions create fear, fear results in structural violence, all because individuals begin to focus on their personal security, like where they live, and they focus on their standard of living (which is a natural human right).
The Importance of Interaction
Turkey offers a great opportunity to harbor different religions or cultures, and this cultural prosperity is a way to develop peace. In this country, citizens have a chance to meet with “others” and interact together. Why is interaction so important? Because people live common pains, grieving together in the same country; and Turkey represents common emotions for different people. Turkey is a multicultural country and a multi-civilization in an international environment.
However, differences always seem like difficulties when they protect stability. Turkey does have her own faults, though, such as how her approach influences relations with Armenia, especially Armenians who live in Turkey, whom they challenge with internal pressure. The media promotes hate crimes with hate language, which is the most significant tool for structural violence.
Hate crimes involve prejudgment, racism, fear against “others”, taking sides, discrimination, sexism, homophobia etc. For Armenian relations, journalists prefer to use headlines, and these headlines include a pessimistic approach or derogatory style. If we look at samples from a media level, Ertuğrul Özkök has written an article with the headline “These Armenians do not grow to be a man”. He introduced that article with his father’s words and continued by “confirming” all the hateful words regarding Armenian people.
Media develops hate language day by day, especially derogatory phrases such as “offspring of Armenian” that are used towards one who belongs to that nation. Actually some newspaper have slogans such as “Hürriyet” that translates as “Turkey belongs to Turks”, which is a reason for feelings of alienation from communities within the same territories. In Turkey, especially in particular periods, hate language is becoming widespread against some groups, causing structural violence, because these practices are based on misperceptions, misunderstandings, and misidentifications but these practices lead to other events. A columnist should be objective in order to prevent conflict or hostility. Because these kinds of experts are perceived as “elite”, their words dictate the unfortunate hostile acts of others.
A bill drafted about Armenian Genocide in the U.S. Congress became a national agenda in the Turkish media generally speaking. On this issue, the media prefers to use basic consolidated forms: Turkey’s external enemies, so-called Armenian Genocide, groom, betrayal, negligence, and mason. This style of speech is consolidated in daily life: “seed of Armenian, therefore you are Armenian”…and so on. If they mention external enemies, it means that there should be internal enemies also mentioned.
Vakit Newspaper already explained “Armenian’s domestic grooms” in its new edition. Nationalism is the most dangerous weapon to prevent peace among groups, and a nation’s disloyalty rhetoric is consolidated in daily life. Nationalism emerged to unite people after bloody wars, but at the same time nationalism became a reason for bloody wars. Therefore, in multicultural countries, experts, journalists, and citizens have to be attentive when they mention people who are dissimilar.
On a societal level, faults are developing at the same time as “elites” try to construct an interaction. “BIR TURK DUNYAYA BEDELDIR” (One Turk is worth the entire world) and “NE MUTLU TURK’UM DIYENE” (What a happiness to say that I am Turkish) became the slogans of the day. These sentences exclude “other” groups and also became a reason to elevate a special nation by nationalist groups. It is not criticism when groups express their superiority, but Turkey contains multicultural structures, which means prosperity for civilization. Therefore Turkey excels overall, except at this kind of behavior.
After 1992 (the Karabakh issue), slogans became visible on the walls of Armenian schools in İstanbul, such as “You will pay the bill” or “Karabakh will be your grave”. You can read many samples to follow historical reality in the book “I’m not Racist, but…” One speech made by Turkish President Turgot Özal in 1993 stated that it was the wrong approach against Armenian minority in Turkey and caused corruption in relations between Armenia and Turkey. Özal’s explanation: “They (Armenians) learn nothing from history. In Anatolia, they also tried it. But they got an incredible slap in the face. And they have not forgotten the pain to this day. If they try it again here, relying on this or that foreign country for help, they have something coming.” This type of speech is not professional, diplomatic language to provide integrity, peace and stability in Turkey.
In closing, the relationship between Turkey and Armenia changed, but during this period there is no drastic change or development of relations. Before all else, relations should change at the domestic level and non-governmental organizations rarely work to prevent hate language or hate crime, including “Say Stop to Nationalism or Racism (Dur de), Association for Social Change” and the list goes on. Differences of religion, language, and color are not important to interact with someone or feel like a citizen in the territory. People should have a feeling of security where they live. People have to construct a secure community without human rights violations, and a new order against dominant security and threat perceptions by leaders in the international arena. The highest priority is to develop a cultural understanding, which is more effective for establishing peace.
 Hate Crimes on National Press, Foundation of Social Change, p: 15.
 Erturğrul Özkök, Hürriyet, 31.01.2006. Information was reached from the book “I’m not Racist, but…” by Eser Köker-Ülkü Doğanay, IHOP.
* Tugce Ercetin is a volunteer expert of Dimpool – Web Based Policy Center. Currently, she is an MA student on international relations.
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