Armenians and Turks must look for a shared future

Ceylan Ozbudak
Ceylan Ozbudak
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World War One went down in history as a terribly destructive bloodbath, during which millions of people from many nations perished. The Armenians were one of these nations: So were Muslim Ottomans, Jewish Ottomans, Kurds, Arabs, Anzacs, Greeks, Serbs, Germans, French, British, Indians and the list goes on. It was a merciless slaughter for all these people. All the lives lost in that war mattered, not only the Armenian ones.

Yesterday we watched Armenian commemorations everywhere throughout the world and many from the Armenian diaspora visited Yerevan to attend the commemoration service and take their bite from the media attention for the day. The Surp Asvadzadzin Church in Istanbul's Kumkapi district held a memorial service and as a goodwill gesture, government minister Volkan Bozkır attended. As we leave April 24 behind, the international media is going home, the social media craze about “bloodthirsty Turks” subsides and the lights go down. In a neighborhood like ours, Armenia, with a population of only three million, gets lonely again. This is what happens when a nation makes use of almost all its resources and the lobbying power of its diaspora in pursuit of a tragic event 100 years ago and not for those who are living today.

When we look at today’s “G-word” politics through an unbiased eye, we see that decisions made on the subject by some Western governments have been arrived on through the pressure of lobbyists and the media, not through a scientific investigation of historical data since Armenia objects to opening its archives for historians concerning WWI records. Turkey on the other hand opens its historical records, offers any data and archive access to historians who wants to study the subject and calls for the world to let history decide, not politics, anger or the demagogy of the lobbyists.

Make no mistake; Turks hold no grudge over the WWI against any nation. Ottoman Turks were the ones who were invaded, attacked and betrayed but the founders of modern Turkey urged the ravaged survivors of the wars to look forward, not back. We cannot build a future on the grounds of past grievances. So Turkey spent the twentieth century rebuilding its entire infrastructure, establishing sustainable democratic institutions, creating industries, re-engaging with its neighbors and the European nations and making peace with the past.

Rather than a diplomatic battle over one of the slaughters of WWI, why don’t we - as Armenia and Turkey - cooperate and find solutions for how to create jobs, improve health care and education, and deal with child poverty together?

Ceylan Ozbudak

April 25 is as important as – if not more important than – April 24. How will Turkey and Armenia look at their shared future as neighbors? Let’s not forget we cannot choose our neighbors but we can choose the sort of relationship we are going to have with our neighbors. Rather than a diplomatic battle over one of the slaughters of WWI, why don’t we - as Armenia and Turkey - cooperate and find solutions for how to create jobs, improve health care and education, and deal with child poverty together? Rather than spending a fortune on counting the bones on both sides why don’t we develop ideas and lobby together for stability and a sustainable peace in the Middle East? Hundreds of thousands of Muslims were expelled from the Balkans during the 19th and 20th Centuries: The Muslim population of Balkan Europe faced everything the Armenians faced – if not more – during this exodus. Forced conversion, death marches and massacres constitute a painful memory of Balkan Muslims. If Turkey can have sound relations and cooperation on many levels with the Balkan nations, why can’t Armenia and Turkey have the same relationship?

Finding solutions

Why should the only significant thing about our relations remain WWI enmity when we can find solutions together for the massacres going on today? Turkey and Armenia are the two countries that resisted Soviet prohibition of religion. Today, two million Armenians live in Turkey. Let’s not forget the European nations got back on their feet after WWII because they stood together and decided not to live on past murders. Armenia has been clinging to its losses of the last century, while England and France can thrive in a union after fighting wars, one of which lasted more than a century (The 100 Years’ War).

As Arman Grigoryan wrote in the Washington Post, “we can hardly hope to win their [Turkish people’s] solidarity if we continue to indulge in anti-Turkish rhetoric, glorify the Armenian terrorists who killed Turkish diplomats in the 1970s and 1980s or portray Turks as a race of bloodthirsty barbarians to our children in schools and summer camps. It is high time we reconsider these attitudes, not only because they are politically self-defeating but also because they are wrong.” Why can’t the youth of today’s Turkey and Armenia cooperate on how to have better lives instead of wasting time on reciprocal smear campaigns on social media?

In 1934, Ataturk wrote a tribute to the Anzacs killed at Gallipoli: “You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours ... You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

The slogan “never again” should apply to any war fought in the past and those going on today. War itself is a disaster for all nations involved. When a bomb explodes, when a bullet hits a body, when we hear a child cry, there is no Muslim, Christian, Jew or atheist; there is sorrow, pain and loss for everyone equally. Armenians and Turks need to find ways to look at the future together instead of spending time and means on the politics of revenge.

Ceylan Ozbudak is a Turkish political analyst, television presenter, and executive director of Building Bridges, an Istanbul-based NGO. As a representative of Harun Yahya organization, she frequently cites quotations from the author in her writings. She can be followed on Twitter via @ceylanozbudak

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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