Turkey’s Historical Responsibility
Turkey’s government should stop responding angrily to those who use the word “genocide” to describe the killing of 1.5 million Armenians a century ago. The best way for a country to rehabilitate its reputation is to accept responsibility for the misdeeds of the past.
NEW YORK – One hundred years ago, on April 24, 1915, officials of the Ottoman Empire rounded up some 250 Armenian leaders and intellectuals in Constantinople and prepared them for deportation. It was the beginning of a historic massacre, in which as many as 1.5 million of the two million Armenians living in the empire were killed.
In the weeks leading up to the tragedy’s centenary, the debate over whether the killings amounted to genocide has predictably flared anew. Pope Francis and the European Parliament are among those who have lent their voices to those who say they did – drawing the condemnation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and others in his government.
Reactions like Erdoğan’s are unfortunate. Turkey has long portrayed the massacre of the Armenians as uncoordinated and unfortunate acts resulting from the chaos of World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. It would be wise to reconsider this position. The stance taken by Erdoğan and others fosters anti-Turkish sentiment in Europe and elsewhere, by encouraging the impression that modern Turkey’s leaders and people, though not responsible for the crimes themselves, are guilty of denying them.