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22075 C h a p t e r 5 Turkey’s Dual Problem: Between Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora Nava Löwenheim For over ninety years a debate has been waging over how to define the tragedy of the Ottoman Armenians during World War I, referred to here as the Armenian genocide. The Armenian genocide was the culmination of an intrastate conflict between Armenians and Turks that began in the nineteenth century and escalated during World War I, when the Ottoman Empire lashed out at the Armenian minority that resided within its borders. The Ottoman Armenians were forcibly deported from their homes to the Syrian and Iraqi deserts, and under these harsh conditions many of them perished.1 The use of the term “genocide” to refer to this tragedy later became sacrosanct to Armenians and taboo to Turks (Akçam 2006: 9). Indeed, Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, refuses to recognize the Armenians’ suffering during World War I as genocide and considers claims of its responsibility for this wrongdoing to be absolutely false. The Turks deny that any intention or program to deliberately destroy the Armenian people even existed, let alone was executed by the Young Turks regime, which ruled the Ottoman Empire in that period. The Armenian fatalities during World War I have been ascribed to intercommunal conflict, hunger, disease, and other mishaps that usually occur during war. Indeed, when Turkish officials make reference to this episode, they call it “the so-​­ called Armenian genocide” or “the Armenian question.”2 For decades, Turkey invested much effort (and millions of U.S. dollars) in attempts to ward off claims about the Armenian genocide. It not only exMiodownikBarak_NonstateActors_TX .indd 106 6/12/13 8:18 AM Turkey’s Dual Problem 107 22075 cluded these events from its own state memory but also launched an aggressive campaign to induce other states to follow suit (Göçek 2008: 102; Tavernise 2009). The result has been an unresolved historical and political conflict between Turks and Armenians over the fate of the Armenians in the period 1915–​­ 1917. More precisely, it is an “identity conflict,” which relates to existential issues (considered so at least by one side), and as a result is considered particularly obstinate (Auerbach 2005: 42, 51, 2009: 294–​­ 95; Seul 1999: 553, 564).3 An important development in this context occurred in 2008 with the attempts to normalize relations between Turkey and the Republic of Armenia. Until 1993, Turkey and Armenia (which was established in 1991, following the disintegration of the Soviet Union) had no diplomatic relations and their shared border remained closed. Moreover, both states have been involved in the conflict over Nagorno-​­ Karabakh (a disputed enclave within Azerbaijan with an Armenian majority; from 1988 to 1994 a violent struggle raged over this region). However, in September 2008, Abdullah Gül became the first Turkish president to visit Armenia, and he and his Armenian counterpart, Serge Sarkisian, watched a football match between their national teams in the FIFA 2010 World Cup. This “football diplomacy” was the culmination of over a year of secret negotiations (beginning in 2007) between Turkey and Armenia on the renewal of diplomatic relations between the two states (Lindenstrauss 2009). On October 10, 2009, Turkish and Armenian representatives met in Zurich and signed protocols aimed at reopening the borders between the two states and establishing economic cooperation (Lima 2009; Garbis 2009).4 The agreement, reached through Swiss mediation, was a display of considerable political will by the Turkish and Armenian governments (Iskandaryan 2010: 4). However, the ratification process has not advanced in either state (Lindenstrauss 2010b: 3), and in April 2010 Armenia decided to suspend the procedure of ratifying the agreement’s protocols. One of the factors complicating the Turkey-​­ Armenia interplay was that this was not merely a relationship between two sovereign states. Turkey faces two main protagonists with regard to the Armenian question: the state of Armenia as well as Armenian diasporic groups (which are sometimes backed by their host-​­ states). This chapter focuses on the triangular relationship involving Turkey, Armenia, and the Armenian diaspora. I argue that in addition to the difficulties posed by these relations, both Turkey and the Armenian diaspora have rigid collective identities that sustain the continuation of the controversy. For Turkey, any acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide and MiodownikBarak_NonstateActors_TX.indd 107 6/12/13 8:18 AM 108 Nava Löwenheim 22075 of its predecessor’s responsibility for it challenges its state memory and thus its national identity...


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