The Armenian Genocide is discussed in the Turkish Parliament extremely rarely these days. Even rarer are the calls for its recognition. But on January 14, 2016, two of the three recently elected Armenian members of the Parliament courageously raised the issue of the Armenian Genocide in their remarks.
Selina Dogan from the opposition Kemalist CHP Party (Republican People’s Party) stated the following: “Since this issue concerns not only Armenians but also Turkey, it should be raised in the Turkish Parliament and not in other parliaments. Otherwise, on every April 24, we will continue making trite statements and hastily rid this topic from our minds. I am convinced that none of us is interested in doing so. I would like to remind you that during a 2015 public rally in Erzurum, the Prime Minister clearly stated that the deportation is a Crime against Humanity.”
Garo Paylan from the Kurdish opposition HDP Party also touched upon the forbidden topic: “One hundred years ago, the Armenian people were uprooted and exterminated by a decision of the State. My family — grandfather and his family — also suffered from these events. My grandfather was orphaned, having lost both parents. I am from the generation of orphans and leftovers of the sword, living in this land. My race is massacred.”
Several members of the Parliament disapprovingly shouted while Paylan was giving his speech. “We are in the Turkish National Assembly. No one can say that genocide was committed. Such rudeness is unacceptable!” warned Baki Shimshek, a member of the ultra-nationalist opposition MHP Party.
While this indeed was an unusual discussion, those were not the first affirmative statements on the Armenian Genocide in the Turkish Parliament. For instance, Sebahat Tuncel of the HDP Party proposed a resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide in November 2014.
The resolution urged President Erdogan to come to the Parliament and acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and other mass crimes and apologize for them. It also requested the president of Turkey to apologize once again publicly at one of the sites of mass killings, as well as declare April 24 as an official Day of Mourning. The Parliament was also asked to form a Truth Commission and publish all the documents in the state archives relating to those crimes. Lastly, the resolution demanded moral and material compensation for the descendants of the victims. Unsurprisingly, the resolution was quickly turned down.
But Tuncel’s resolution to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide was not the first proposal submitted to the Parliament. On November 4, 1918, the recently-established Ottoman Turkish Parliament argued over the crimes committed by the government of the Young Turks. In particular, it was stated: “A population of one million people guilty of nothing except belonging to the Armenian nation were massacred and exterminated, including even women and children.”
“It is the intention of the government to cure every single injustice done up until now, as far as the means allow, to make possible the return to their homes of those sent into exile, and to compensate for their material loss as far as possible,” responded Minister of Interior Ali Fethi Okyar.
The shortly established Parliamentary Investigative Committee then collected all relevant documents reporting the actions of those responsible for what was then known as “Armenian deportations and massacres” and passed them to the Turkish Military Tribunal. Those found guilty were hanged or given long prison sentences.
Additionally, quoted by the Los Angeles Examiner on August 1, 1926, the first President of the Republic of Turkey Kemal Ataturk stated, “These leftovers from the former Young Turk Party who should have been made to account for the lives of millions of our Christian subjects who were ruthlessly driven en masse from their homes and massacred.”
And the combination of the parliamentary motion in 1918, conviction of the guilty by the Turkish Military Tribunals, and the condemnatory words of Kemal Ataturk make Turkey the first country to recognize the Armenian Genocide!
This means that Armenians should seek restitution for their losses as promised by Minister of Interior Fethi Okyar rather than demand the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.