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Turkey Faces Tough Anniversary


A string of violent attacks against elderly Armenians in an historically Armenian quarter of Istanbul (one woman has already died of her wounds) is making headlines in Turkey. The despicable violence is forcing Turks to do some soul-searching on their troubled history of mistreating Armenians. The New York Times reports:

[T]he attacks have awakened fears—rooted in past episodes of repression that residents say had waned in recent years as Turkey became more accommodating toward its minorities.

“The community is always living with fear because the Armenian community has always been under pressure,” said Rober Koptas, the editor of Agos, an Armenian newspaper here that has devoted several issues to coverage of the attacks. “We were always regarded as foreigners, as second-class citizens.” […]

This is only the latest flare-up in a conflict that goes back centuries, reaching a peak in the Armenian Genocide of the early 1900s and slowly simmering since then.

Turkey has never honestly faced up to the horrors of the genocide, but two things are now forcing a reckoning. First, the calendar: 2015 will be the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the horrors, and the world is going to be talking about this. Second, modern Turkey has aspirations to a much greater role in its neighborhood and has begun to lay a claim to political and cultural leadership of the Islamic world. That means Turkey’s dirtiest laundry is going to be aired in plain view of an often unsympathetic public.

This is going to be an important event in Turkey’s history that could either catapult the country to a better position in global culture and politics or leave it battered, bruised, rejected and, quite probably, embittered.

We wish Turkey well, and urge our Turkish friends to see this challenge as an opportunity.

[Armenian civilians, escorted by armed Ottoman soldiers, April 1915, courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

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