Regardless of their religion or ethnicity, people in these lands have lived as brothers and sisters for centuries, Turkey’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun says during a virtual conference on the Events of 1915 in Ankara.
Turkey opposes narratives seeking to sow hostility between the Turkish and Armenian people by distorting their shared history, Turkey’s communications director has said.
“Today, we face a narrative that tries to create animosity from history by distorting the shared history of the Turkish and Armenian peoples, who have lived together peacefully for centuries. And we are against this narrative,” Fahrettin Altun told a virtual one-day International Conference on the Events of 1915 on Tuesday.
In his opening remarks, Altun said the opinions shared during the conference will help reveal the truth about the events.
He said that the pains suffered in the past in every part of the world reach our day not only through history books but also with tales parents tell their children, as well as memories, but that unfortunately through time some events become myths and lose touch with reality.
Mentioning how the 20th century witnessed a very important event in that regard, he said at the end of World War I, three great empires – Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Tsarist Russia – dissolved.
He said the first global war claimed around 38 million lives, which caused great trauma on all sides.
“Tens of thousands of Turks and Armenians lost their lives as a result of the conflicts in eastern Anatolia,” he said.
“Amid these events, some Ottoman citizens of Armenian origin in the eastern provinces – who made the army's movements difficult, attacked the people, and harboured gangs cooperating with the enemy army – were subjected to a 1915 relocation to Syrian lands within the borders of the Ottoman Empire.”
These Armenians living in certain areas were relocated with the aim of protecting civilians and defending the lands under wartime conditions, he explained.
“While this security measure was being implemented, unfortunately, under the conditions of the war that lasted with all its violence, undesirable events also occurred. There were casualties and pains suffered by Turks and Armenians,” he said, outlining the background of the events of 1915.
“These events formed the basis of the debate and even slanders that have come down to our day,” he explained.
Altun said Turkey deeply feels the pain suffered during the implementation of the Relocation Act adopted by the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
"As President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated, we believe that standing in unity for pain and joy is a requisite to ‘being Turkey together’,” he said.
He noted that Turkey opposes narratives of hostility and added: “Regardless of their background, religion, ethnicity, or sect, we know very well that people have lived in these lands as brothers and sisters for centuries.”
Altun stressed the cause of ongoing debate over the events despite the passage of over a century since, decrying how some insist on making the events of 1915 into political and ideological fodder and using them for “imperial aims.”
“Decisions made by different parliaments on controversial historical matters don’t make them democrats but instead stubborn and tyrannical,” he said, referring to various parliaments passing ill-informed resolutions on the events.
Turkey’s sole aim on every issue is to serve truth and justice, he said, adding: “Our wish to reach the truth is not for political gain, but for the truth itself.”
'A call for truth’
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s oft-repeated call to open up all international archives on the 1915 events, and for a scholarly approach to the events, amounts to, said Altun, “a call for truth."
“Claims of a so-called Armenian genocide are the precursor of the current phenomenon known as ‘post-truth.’ Such claims have nothing to do with the facts and are based solely on political considerations,” he said.
Decisions by parliaments and the remarks of foreign heads of state on the issue have no credibility for Turkey, he said.
The main thing is to “have a rightful place in the hearts of the children of this land from past to present," Altun explained.
“We hope that this conference will play an important function to recall the historical background of the events of 1915 and prevent attempts to bring our country to its knees through the slander of the so-called Armenian genocide,” he concluded.
Academics, researchers, experts, and representatives of NGOs from Turkey and other countries such as the US, Russian, Germany, France, and Ireland will contribute to the conference, according to the Turkish Communications Directorate.
Turkey's stance on 1915 events
Turkey's position on the events of 1915 is that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces.
A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.
Turkey objects to the presentation of these incidents as "genocide," describing them as a tragedy in which both sides suffered casualties.
Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia as well as international experts to tackle the issue.