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Turkish politicians unite to oppose US Armenian genocide recognition

In rare moment, Turkish politicians unite to oppose Armenian genocide recognition by US
3 min read
24 April, 2021
Turkish politicians from across the political spectrum are in uproar over the Biden administration's reported decision to recognise the Armenian genocide.
Opposition leader Kemal Kiricdaroglu said Armenian genocide recognition could "irreparably damage" Turkish-US relations [Getty]
Turkish politicians have come together in a rare moment of unity to reject the Biden administration's anticipated recognition of the 1915-23 atrocities against Armenians as a genocide.

All but one of Turkey's major political parties has spoken out against the recognition that will reportedly take place on Saturday, which marks the 106th anniversary of the killings and forced deportations.

If President Joe Biden used the term "genocide" to describe the killings of 1915, it would be "unrighteous, uncalled for, and unjust", opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said in a statement.

The move could cause "irreparable damage" to already tense American-Turkish relations, said Kilicdaroglu, who leads Turkey's largest opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP).

"Statesmen make history, historians write it. People in positions of authority taking on the act of writing down history is unacceptable," he added.

Other Turkish political figures agreed that designating the atrocities as a genocide should be left to historians or the courts.

The 1915 "events", as they are often referred to in Turkey, meet "none of the legal requirements for a genocide", parliament speaker Mustafa Sentop said on Saturday.

Meral Aksener, leader of the right-wing opposition Good Party (IYI), echoed calls for Biden to avoid the designation lest he risk relations with Turkey.

"Prioritising short-term calculations will harm relations," Aksener said. "Governments are temporary, but in the end, the relations between Turkey and the United States, and the friendship between the Turkish and American peoples, are permanent."

'Face the shame'

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is the only faction which has not opposed the move by the Biden administration.

In a statement on Saturday, the party called on Turkey to "face the shame of the Armenian genocide".

"The Armenian genocide took place in these lands and justice for it must be enacted in these lands," read the statement, which urged politicians not to utilise the massacres as a tool of "domestic political reckoning" or foreign policy.

Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish presidency's director of communications, condemned the HDP over the statement.

"Our long and glorious history is a source of pride. Your short and dark history is full of shame," Altun said in a tweet referring to the party's alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish militant organisation that Ankara describes as a terrorist faction.

Earlier this week, Altun issued a statement describing the "so-called 'Armenian genocide' allegation [as] nonfactual slander".

Turkey describes the 1915 atrocities as part and parcel of warfare, saying losses were faced by all sides during World War I. 

Armenians claims as many as 1.5 million people were killed during a campaign of massacres and forced deportations between 1915 and 1923.

Ankara puts the death toll at 300,000 and point to some Armenians' collaboration with Russian forces as the cause behind the killings and deportations. Turkish officials frequently point to atrocities allegedly committed by Armenian seperatists. 

The number of Armenians living in Turkey fell from two million in 1914 at the onset of the war to under 400,000 by 1922.

The killings and deportations are recognised as a genocide by most scholars of the issue.

April 24 is marked as Genocide Remembrance Day by Armenians across the world. On that date in 1915, 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders were rounded up by Ottoman authorities in Istanbul. Many of them were later deported or killed.

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