Vice President of Bundestag and Green Party member Claudia Roth wrote about the debates between Turkey and Germany on Armenian Genocide law.
The resolution titled as “Remembrance and Commemoration of the Genocide against Armenians and other Christian Minorities in 1915-1916 in Ottoman Empire”, which was passed in Bundestag on June 2, was a milestone in regard to the confrontation with one of the most important parts of German history. This part in question is about German Reich’s role in annihilation and deportation of Anatolian Armenians and many other Christian minorities in Anatolia. There is no doubt that high-ranked German officers and diplomats took part in the planning and implementation of the genocide, as the documents reveal.
A moral necessity
The fact that all parliamentary groups supported this confrontation and acknowledged the responsibility of Germany is a clear message. It is not about sharing the crime by pointing at Turkey; Bundestag just wanted to reveal the crimes and express its attitude toward its complicity and define what happened properly. For us, assuming the responsibility of the complicity of German Reich is not only a democratic necessity, but also a moral issue. This clearly means that Bundestag is expected to have a leading role in confronting what happened and in the reconciliation process between Turkey and Armenia.
That is why people in Germany cannot understand the rage of Turkish nationalists and the resentment against German politicians. It is obvious that some circles in Turkish society and the Turkish government itself deliberately ignore the fact that the majority of German people considers a sincere confrontation with the past as a positive and necessary step in regard to the development of their own identity. They also ignore the fact that the confrontation with Holocaust and the horrible crimes of Nazis doesn’t make our society weaker; on the contrary, the confrontation made us stronger. Confronting the darkest moments of German history constituted the foundations of the democracy and state of law that we have today.
A resolution for Namibia as well
Some people in Turkey react against the fact that Germany hasn’t recognized the crimes committed against Herero, Nama, Damara and San people by colonialist forces in modern-day Namibia between 1904 and 1908 and I understand this reaction. According to the criteria of modern international law, those crimes were clearly an instance of genocide and Germany should recognize it. My party presented a resolution to the parliament about this issue and has been struggling for making Germany confront this historical responsibility as well. Germany’s responsibility in the genocide committed in Namibia has been discussed openly and democratically in Germany; the parliament, media, intellectuals and artists have been discussing it. No journalist or scientist is imprisoned or threatened because of talking about these crimes.
Turkey refuses to confront its history and has an official doctrine which shows Turkish history as consisting of glorious victories and heroic struggles; because of that, the road to a candid and democratic future becomes rocky. I honestly believe that confronting with the past comprehensively and not just letting but also promoting plurality would make Turkey stronger. This would also be a strong message to all minority groups living in Turkey, which says they belong there and they are not forgotten in the midst of the ruins of the past.
With this decision, Bundestag also sent a solidarity message to those people in Turkey who have been trying to form an honest and open relation with Turkish history.
The attitude is alarming
What we find strange and alarming is that the Turkish President himself has been inciting hatred against German politicians with Turkish origin; and the government and majority of public opinion support it. In this way, they are not only attacking the decision of a democratic parliament consisting of independent MPs, but also making the division in Turkish society get deeper; in fact, they make this division to be felt in Germany as well. The assumption that all Turks must think alike and anyone disagreeing with AKP is the enemy is absolutely antidemocratic and anti-pluralist in itself.
Open dialog and liberty of expression should possible in Turkey; people should be able to express their criticisms and reactions against Turkish government. Otherwise, the future of people in Turkey would be wasted.