January 30, 2012
According to Turkish law, anyone who acknowledges the Armenian Genocide will be subject to a jail sentence and a fine. According to the new French law, voted recently by both legislative chambers and soon to be ratified by President Sarkozy anyone who denies the Armenian Genocide or the Holocaust will be subject to a jail sentence and a fine.
I guess, not just because I am an Armenian, I am a criminal in Turkey but not in France!
The 1915 Armenian Genocide that killed approximately 1,500,000 people has been recognized by an overwhelming majority of world historians. The independent International Association of Genocide Scholars in a letter to Turkey’s current Prime Minister Erdogan wrote:
“On April 24, 1915, under cover of World War I, the Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire began a systematic genocide of its Armenian citizens - an unarmed Christian minority population. More than a million Armenians were exterminated through direct killing, starvation, torture, and forced death marches. The rest of the Armenian population fled into permanent exile. Thus an ancient civilization was expunged from its homeland of 2,500 years.”
Yet the Turkish Government continues to deny the Armenian Genocide and punishes those that acknowledge that it did happen. The government even arrested and jailed its 2006-Nobel Prize Literature winner Orhan Pamuk for making a reference to it in a newspaper.
Denial is a very basic human reaction. Sofia K. Ogden, author of Psychology of Denial explains that denial is essentially a defense mechanism that helps us deal with anxiety and unpleasant realities. This attitude leads us to give ourselves excuses for our behavior and/or blame others for our mistakes. Aaron Ben Ze’ev, author of The Subtlety of Emotions believes that denial is a mean of coping with shame. “In denial, we usually de not deny the occurrence of the shaming situation - something that is very difficult to do (apparently the Turkish Government has no problem there!) - but rather that our own activity in that situation violated any norm and hence there is no reason to feel shame.
However denial is not sustainable because truth (or reality) will ultimately prevail, sooner or later.
In the Jewish and Christian tradition, recognizing our faults (sins) is the first step towards forgiveness and redemption.
Acknowledging and taking responsibility for our mistakes is liberating and allows us to learn from them and move on.
President Obama said in a speech to the Turkish parliament:
“History is often tragic but, unresolved, can be a heavy weight. Each country must work through its past. And reckoning with the past can help us seize a better future.”