Post-Assassination Con Games

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By David Boyajian

Make no mistake: Turkey and its friends are turning the assassination of journalist and human rights activist Hrant Dink to their advantage.

With few exceptions, the international community and media have put most of the blame on the destructive atmosphere created by Turkish “nationalists” and “ultra-nationalists.”

True, Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and his Islamic AKP Party came in for some criticism, but only because these allegedly “moderate,” “reformist” sweethearts were supposedly not standing up to the big, bad “nationalists.”

It’s the old “good cop – bad cop” routine: We’re now all supposed to trust the “good cops,” Erdogan and the AKP.

Never mind that the AKP is a strongly conservative, right-of-center - hence nationalist – political party. Never mind that it was an AKP-majority parliament that enacted Article 301, the law against “denigrating Turkishness” under which Dink had been convicted.

Never mind that Erdogan has called for a beefed-up campaign of Genocide denial. Never mind that he’s dispatching AKP member and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and AKP parliamentarians to the U.S. to demand that Congress defeat the Armenian Genocide resolution.

Con Games

Another con game that Turkey’s friends are playing goes like this: ‘Yes, Dink’s murder was unfortunate. But it’s just a bump in Turkey’s road to reform. The Turkish government needs your sympathy and the help of the European Union (EU) more than ever.’

That’s no exaggeration. Read part of the EU’s reaction to the slaying: “Turkey will steadfastly continue along the path towards … freedom of expression.”

And like much of the media, the Wall Street Journal Europe remained in a state of denial: “Turkey’s democracy is as healthy and vibrant … as never before.” Fascinating. Assassinations and prosecutions of dissidents are apparently signs of political health.

Count on the West to continue babbling about “reforming” Turkey while providing it ever more political support, money, and weapons.

Not Just 301

Governments and media worldwide are attempting another post-assassination con job by calling for repeal of Article 301, as if that would be a cure-all. As if prior to 2005, when 301 was enacted, Turkey was a shining example of freedom.

Turkey has long had numerous laws that stifle dissent. Laws against separatism, for instance, are used to prosecute Kurdish political activity. And Article 216, which outlaws “enmity … towards another group,” is currently used against those who acknowledge the Genocide. Even Turks point out that the government has plenty of laws it can use if 301 is repealed.

For some Armenians, Dink’s huge funeral march of Turks, Armenians, Kurds, and others, stirred hopes for cooperation and reform.

The march was mainly about Turkish civil rights in general, however, not necessarily Genocide acknowledgment or Armenia. Moreover, nearly 200 years of Turkish “reforms” have proven disastrous for Armenians.

Reform’s Tragedies

Turkey’s Tanzimat decrees of 1839 and 1856 promised equality for all Ottoman citizens, including Armenians. They were largely failures.

The Ottoman Armenian National Constitution, approved in 1863, did little to improve the lives of ordinary Armenians. The Turkish Constitution was suspended soon after it was proclaimed in 1876.

The Treaty of Berlin (1878) promised European oversight of reforms in the Armenian provinces. It, too, failed. Continuing “reforms” culminated in the 1890’s massacres of 300,000 Armenians.

In 1908, the empire’s Armenians, Turks, and other ethnic groups raised banners hailing the “reformist” Young Turk revolution and literally embraced in the streets. Somewhat like the Dink funeral procession.

The following year saw 30,000 Armenians slaughtered in Adana. Eerily similar to what Erdogan would do 98 years later, the Young Turks apologized – insincerely – but blamed ultra-nationalists.

A European plan to supervise reform in the Ottoman Armenian provinces in 1914 never got off the ground. Under the cover of WWI, Turkey then used genocide to “reform” the Armenian provinces.

After the war, Kemal Atatürk, the well-known “modernizer” and “reformer,” massacred and expelled most remaining Armenians and attacked the just-born Armenian Republic.

“Modern” Turkey continued mistreating its remaining Christians using discrimination, labor camps, riots, and confiscation, down to the present day.

Imagine that each of the foregoing example of “reform” were to take place in today’s Turkey. The world – including some Armenians - would stand up and clap. As we can now look back and see that tragedies have followed each Turkish “reform,” it might be wiser to hold the applause.

Nevertheless, will the EU successfully reform Turkey, and might Turkey then amend its policies toward Armenia?

The EU Looks East

Though the EU has affirmed the Genocide, it has rejected any requirement that Turkey itself must do so before joining. That shows bad faith towards Armenia.

Reforming Turkey isn’t the EU’s primary interest anyway. Rather, the EU – pushed along by Washington and London – wishes to use Turkey to reach into the massive oil and gas reserves of the Middle East, Caspian Sea basin and Central Asia, and to surround Russia.

The EU will subsidize and re-invigorate the Turkish economy. Turkey’s value to the West, as well as its military power and belligerence, can only grow.

But might Turkey, as an EU member, orient itself to Europe and thus turn away from adventures to the east that could harm Armenia? Probably not. As the West wishes to dominate the Caspian, Turkish policy will necessarily be directed even more assertively to the east, where sits Armenia. Such an eastern orientation bodes ill as the West has always, in the final analysis, sided with Turkey against Armenians.

It would be tragic if the prospect of Turkish reform, and the hope now felt by some Armenians over the amity displayed during Dink’s funeral, made them forget the hard lessons of history.

END

The author is a freelance writer based in Massachusetts