Ragip Zarakolu

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A Turkish Evocation of the Memory of the Armenian Genocide


Ülkede Gündem.
NEWS SUMMARY
December 1997


A Turkish Evocation of the Memory of the Armenian Genocide

ISTANBUL-Ragip Zarakolu, as a member of the Turkish Human Rights Association, had attended the Auschwitz Conference on the three genocides of the 20th century-the Armenian, Jewish and Tutsi-which was held in December. The conference was a project of the Youth University created by the European Youth Forum and was financed by the European Union.

Upon his return to Turkey, Zarakolu published a long article--entitled "To Know How to Learn from History"--in the Turkish newspaper Ülkede Gündem. Zarakolu comments on the significance of the conference for the world in general and for Turkey in particular and reflects on the enormity of the crime of genocide by virtue of which "the compatriots of Mozart and Goethe committed against the compatriots of Heine and Mahler a crime against humanity." After noting how Europe and the West allowed hundreds of thousands of Tutsi to be literally slaughtered in Rwanda, Zarakolu focuses his attention on the victims of the Armenian genocide. In a subdued and subtle tone, he evokes the memory of the massacred Armenians as he describes the lethal installations of the Auschwitz death camp, and notes Prof. Vahakn Dadrian's presence at the conference.

Zarakolu writes, "How I wish that we too could show to our people, to our youth, one by one, those valleys, those narrow mountain passes, those rivers still groaning, those public squares, into which were driven the multitudes only to be unloaded unto the routes of 'deportation' (tehcir), all of these places still reverberating with the screams and cries of the victims."

Using more explicit language, Zarakolu rebukes his country, Turkey, "whose governments not only are not officially recognizing the genocide, but are able to exalt as 'heroes' (kahraman) the chief architects of this crime. During World War II the remains of Talaat were transferred to Turkey from Nazi Germany and were reburied with official ceremonies. Enver Pasha, who was directly responsible for the genocide, for the death of millions of Ottoman citizens, be they Armenian, Turks, or Kurds, was likewise brought to Turkey >from Central Asia by the state authorities and reburied." Zarakolu wonders whether it is conceivable to accord similar treatment to Hitler, Göring, or Goebbels.

In comparing the educational functions of the Youth University's Auschwitz Seminar with the rampant racism, fascism and nationalism of the Turkish youth, Zarakolu deplores the support the latter is receiving from the authorities of modern Turkey. He writes, "The Security organs of the State are buttressing the Gray Wolves and through the tolerance of the government, army and bureaucracy, fascism has been growing in Turkey in the last thirty years. Otherwise, how could in our days three million Kurds be uprooted with such ease from their homes and villages and be deported? We have to learn from history and avoid denying the past tragedies, which should cause shame in us. Otherwise, history is bound to repeat itself."