First account on the apology campaign

The campaign was launched Monday. The thoughtful, caring and humble language of the two sentences of apology, as well as its being an individual expression of consciousness, infuriated the negationist camp. But it also disturbed many editorialists who like to talk through their hats.

As it has always been, discussions over taboo-like issues proceed in two parallel, yet sometimes tangent, courses. The first is common primitive recitations and reactions of people who are loyal to the taboo.

The other is a discussion over the content of the demand, what it should be about and what it should be not, and how it is voiced. The first group of reactions is the statement of the obvious. These are nothing but cliches, defenses, statements and the rhetoric over the denial based on plenty of martyrs and traitors.

During the last century the negationist camp advocated that the Armenian question is a complete fabrication, meaning essentially that Armenians vaporized in a few years from Anatolia where they had lived for 4,000 years. But of course, the guardians of the temple, i.e. the state and pro-state politicians, are behind such attitude. Their unique criterion is to love the country in the only way they know how. People who act against this are accused of treason, labeled as traitors. This has been so for exactly a century, since the hawkish pro-military wing of the Committee of Union and Progress took over power in 1909. No change has been seen in the content of warnings, threats and insults.

The other group consists of people who like to disapprove and to give constant advice. Constructive discussions are always useful and they should be maintained. But the support and participation in the campaign have dragged the intellectual debate into a completely different ground. The participants have changed the debate into something different from a classical debate between intellectuals and they have opened the Armenian issue into discussions on a level unheard of before. On the Armenian question, a new and different word, other than the discourses of denial or sadness, is being uttered in Turkey.

As for the Armenian world, be it in Turkey, Armenia or among the diaspora, a deep sense of gratitude is visible together with some kind of annoyance, especially in the diaspora institutions. The debate continues over there as well.

In the end, the real determinant here is the people of Turkey, of any age and from any cities or profession who have listened to their voice of conscience and participated in the campaign.They pitched into the campaign by knowing that what a terrible taboo this issue is and that the communities they may belong to will not approve this at all. They had the guts to sign, especially in a country where apologizing is regarded generally as a dishonorable act, and in a intellectual environment where even the most ambitious pen-slingers fail to apologize while agreeing with the rest of the text.

To curb the desire of change and normalization in Turkey that started in 1983 is impossible. The process can only be interrupted; and as a matter of fact there is such danger nowadays. But in the long-run, water always finds its course and the past realities that have been ignored since the formation of the nation-state will come back to the agenda.

That, the European Union membership process is certainly the most essential vector of the "Turkish Enlightenment" and the murder of the Armenian Turkish journalist Hrant Dink are perhaps the turning-points of this enlightenment.

This campaign is not a discussion over the genocide. It is the participants’ voice of conscience. It is not the campaign of a few intellectuals and writers as put by the Prime Minister. These people have only initiated the opportunity and offered the medium. From now on, in Turkey and abroad, in Armenia and in the diaspora, everyone taking up the Armenian issue will have to pay attention to the existence of 14,000 people from Turkey who listened to their voice of conscience and participated in the campaign. From now on, they will be the new factor of this century-old dispute and discussion.
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