Turkish-Armenians and Armenian immigrants in Turkey fear retaliation and violence after the German parliament's decision to recognise the Armenian genocide. In a letter to Erdogan, Armenian archbishop Aram Atesyan says his people’s tragedy is being exploited. Although meant to protect his community from attacks, his statement is seen by many as a lack of courage.
Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The decision by the German parliament to recognise the Armenian genocide and Germany’s role in it has sparked a row in Turkey and elsewhere. In 1915, Germany was Turkey’s ally, and played a role in the destruction of the Ottoman Empire’s Christian communities: Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks.
Germany’s mea culpa has elated Armenians around the world, who are especially happy because Germany had every reason to continue to deny what happened 100 year ago. In fact, not only does it not have any significant number of Armenians, but it is home to some three million Turks.
For Turkey’s remaining ethnic Armenians, about 100,000, the story is very different. At present, they are caught in a nation gripped by resentment, fearful of possible retaliations on the part of ultra-nationalist groups who can benefit from the support of Turkish authorities, secret services and military.
Although expected, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s vehement reaction vehement has set off alarm bells. In fact, in a speech carried on television, the Turkish leader said he might expel the country’s Armenians, both those with Turkish citizenship and others.
Turkish-Armenians who spoke to AsiaNews said that a “climate of fear” prevails in their neighbourhood. The government’s media campaign is so “armenophobic” that unexpected reactions might be generated as was the case in the past, especially in Istanbul,
A retired Armenian teacher said that Turkey’s Armenians feel like “hostages”. As happy as they might be about the “the triumph of justice” and “Germany’s lethal strike at the vicious cycle of lies and denials, they have also refrained “from showing their joy” and expect to “pay a price”.
For the teacher, "What Turkey cannot accept is that Germany has admitted its own responsibility in the annihilation of the Armenian people, thus stripping it of its ability to deny its own share of responsibility." And "now we live in terror."
In an attempt to reduce tensions, the Armenian Orthodox Archbishop and Patriarchal Vicar of Istanbul Mgr Aram Atesyan – who would like to become the future patriarch with Erdogan’s backing – yesterday sent a long letter to the Turkish president.
In it, the prelate said that the resolution adopted by the German parliament "caused a deep regret in [the] Armenian nation (sic)" and that the "Armenian nation has been abused by imperialist powers."
The letter, which found a vast echo in the Turkish press, especially for the papers linked to the ruling party, the Armenian vicar said that “it is also questionable to what extent this decision expresses the feelings of German citizens.”
"As we stated on number of occasions, using this tragedy that traumatised the Armenian nation in international politics causes sorrow and pain,” the letter says, adding that the “historical pain of Armenian nation is considered a tool for accusing and punishing the Turkish state and nation.”
In his letter, the vicar simply echoes what the Turkish president said on Sunday when he lambasted Germany in words that German Chancellor Angela Merkel described as “unacceptable”. Yet, the vicar’s position is understandable. As a future patriarch in Istanbul, he has to protect his flock from the backlash of Turley’s nationalism and Erdogan’s Islamist extremism.
The Armenian press is less charitable towards him, especially by Diaspora publications run by the descendants of genocide survivors. For them, Archbishop Aram Atesyan’s letter “lacks the courage of a successor of the apostles of Christ", who should tell the truth "at all costs."
Diaspora Armenians urge Atesyan to act "as the true head of the Church of Christ" and learn from the pope the value of "courage." The reference here is to Pope Francis who called evil by its name when he marked the centennial of the Armenian genocide on 12 April 2015 in St Peter’s Basilica. (PB)