Turkish parties show inability to come to terms with Armenian issue - Dr Aykan Erdemir

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not an outlier when it comes to reacting to genocide recognition by foreign powers, Dr Aykan Erdemir, senior director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (FDD) in Washington D.C., told Nervana Mahmoud for the podcast series Turkish Trends.

“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” said U.S. President Joe Biden, in this year’s April 24th Armenian Remembrance Day statement. Turkish politicians from both ruling and opposition parties condemned Biden's use of the term genocide.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has for decades spent time and energy to fight against similar decisions across the world. Several countries have moved towards recognition in the last decade, joining the growing chorus of calling the 1915 events a genocide. This can in part be attributed to decades of activism by Armenian diaspora communities worldwide, Erdemir said.

Erdoğan's authoritarian domestic policies, crackdown on independent institutions within Turkey, and his aggressive foreign policy have corroded relationships with many countries, including the United States, the analyst said. Ankara has seen practically all of its friends in Washington disappear and stop defending any of Erdoğan's policies, with the exception of a handful of lobbyists.

Only Turkey's second largest opposition bloc, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), called on the Turkish state to recognise the events as genocide and face up to the past, Erdemir said. Other than the HDP, the parties across the entire Turkish political spectrum have shown an inability to come to terms with the Armenian issue.

There is an absolute lack of empathy in an average Turk for the enormous pain Armenian communities and individuals suffered, he said. In his view, this denial is more concerning than what word they would use to describe the events of 1915.

Erdemir, agreeing with many other Turkey experts in the United States, said Biden's statement was well crafted so as not to cast blame on today's Turkey, by specifically referring to Ottoman authorities and Constantinople instead. The statement appeared to be seeking reconciliation but so far, looking at the reaction coming out of Turkey, Erdemir is unsure if that aim has been achieved.