Who completely denies the genocide of the Armenians?

Trouble over Joe Biden's declaration of genocide in Anatolia : The forgotten massacre

The eastern Turkish city of Van is a desolate place despite its spectacular natural scenery of mountains and lake, and that is not only due to the earthquake ten years ago. Not much has been left of the three thousand year old city of culture since the bloody massacres between Armenians and Muslims here in April 1915 provided the Ottoman government with the pretext to expel the Armenians from all over Anatolia - the “epicenter of genocide” was Van, as the historian Yektan Türkyilmaz put it.

There are no Armenians living in Van today, and US President Joe Biden's declaration on genocide was received with bitterness here. "The world looks completely one-sided on our story of suffering," said Ikram Kali, editor-in-chief of the local newspaper "The Voice of Van". The suffering of the Muslim population in those years is ignored.

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That is the reason why many Turks react so defiantly to Armenian resolutions, says Sinan Ülgen, director of the Edam think tank in Istanbul: “When the West lectures about 1915, it is always about the fate of the Christian Armenians, without anybody Sympathy for the Muslim Turks, who also perished in large numbers at that time. ”Ülgen's family also comes from Van: His grandmother was orphaned in 1915 at the age of five when her parents were massacred by Armenian partisans. She later mainly remembered the long trek across Anatolia that brought her to Istanbul, says Ülgen; Her own grandmother died from the exertions on the way, and she then grew up in the orphanage.

History is a reflection of the fate that happened to hundreds of thousands of Armenians at that time: massacred, expelled, died on resettlement marches. But if he wants to tell Western colleagues about his grandmother, it will be interpreted as an attempt to relativize or deny the genocide, complains Ülgen; one story does not exclude the other. "With this attitude you only cause people to close themselves off." He feels that this is the case himself, as "the international perspective is so one-sided that it negates my own life story - which I know is true".

They are horrific stories

Ikram Kali in Van asks why only the suffering of the Armenians is seen in the West. His family, says Kali, fled Van from the Russian troops and Armenian partisans in 1915. "For months my grandparents were fleeing through Anatolia on foot, the family was scattered all over Asia Minor, my grandparents finally ended up in Kirkuk," he says. “My mother and her siblings were born there, but they lived miserably as refugees. After the war they returned to Van, but the way back was long and arduous and again took months. When they finally arrived in Van, there was nothing left, the city was destroyed and no one was there anymore - they were only awaited by new misery. "

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Kali founded a local history association in Van that recorded the memories of Muslim residents in 1915. There are horrific stories - of sawed off heads, dismembered babies and massacres of entire villages by their long-term neighbors from the next village. The international public is doing a disservice to coming to terms with the past in Turkey if they ignore this part, says think tank director Ülgen. "That doesn't mean we should compete on a scale of personal tragedy," he says. "On the contrary, we should all be more honest and acknowledge the tragedies that have befallen all these people - especially the Armenians, of course, but not just them."

Both Kali and Ülgen remember with sadness Hrant Dink, the Armenian-Turkish champion of a reconciliation between Armenians and Turks, who rejected the resolutions of third countries as counterproductive and relied on mutual understanding and compassion on the part of Turks and Armenians. "When dealing with the past, I say from the bottom of my heart", Kali quotes a well-known statement by Dink: "Whoever the Armenians killed back then, Turks or Muslims - I share the pain of their families, from the bottom of my heart." But Hrant Dink was murdered in 2007, and both sides have been divided in pain ever since.

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