Tall Armenian Tale


The Other Side of the Falsified Genocide


  Is Turkey a European country?  
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Mahmut Ozan
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"To our Western Allies we shall always remain an outcast; they insist to keep seeing us as the barbaric, raiding Turk. To them, we are the thundering horsemen they have learned to shun.”

From "The Horseman," a novel by Kristina O'Donnelly

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The more Turkey can be put in the role of "The Other," the easier can all the many prejudicial beliefs regarding the Turks be accepted... which certainly goes against looking for the unifying concepts among the family of Man, so that we can all live as much as possible in brotherhood. That doesn't mean Japan, for example, should be considered a European country, but if a country is on European soil, has had long centuries of European history, has cities practically indistinguishable from those in Europe, and has their own people constituting large chunks of the populations of other European nations, anyone who chooses to regard Turks as being from outer space is being just a touch too snippety. (Granted, European chauvinism doesn't only apply to Turks... Western Europeans sniff at the "European-ness" of Eastern Europeans; but at least there is one unifying force between all these nations... their religion.)

Turkey is unique. Turkey is the bridge between East and West. This is why Turkey herself still suffers from an identity crisis. However, because there are eastern elements within Turkey... especially as one travels east... one cannot deny the western and European element that is firmly implanted within the nation.

On this page, we will explore several viewpoints, both pro and con. Let's begin with a leader of the Armenian butt-kissing French, and at least give him credit for saying out loud what the "Christian Club" of the Western European community believes, but rarely declares openly. Lower, the excellent article written by Michael Gonzalez — "Deconstructing Giscard" — lives up to the promise of its title.


Turkey is not a European country, says Giscard

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the forthright chairman of the Convention, has never been shy about putting forward his own views. This time, however, he has caused more of a furor than usual. In an interview with four newspapers including Le Monde and Handelsblatt, he stated "Turkey is not a European country, it is a country that is situated near Europe." He went on to add that "its capital is not in Europe and 95 per cent of its population live outside Europe."

It is for this reason that the Convention president is not expecting EU heads of state and governments to give a clear signal to Turkey on the start of accession talks at the next European Summit in December. The Frenchman's view runs contrary to the accepted position of the fifteen member state, which have given encouraging signals to Turkey. Just last Wednesday, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the current head of the Council, said that "Turkey must be treated like the other candidate countries."

 Supporting Turkish membership is against the EU

 Mr Giscard argues that supporters of Turkish EU membership have a different agenda. "Those who have most pushed enlargement in the direction of Turkey are the adversaries of the European Union." In reality, they are hoping that this will put an end to European integration, he says.

The Convention chairman went on to criticise the current debate on Turkey. It should not be about the democratic deficit in the country, he urges. Rather the question should be: "Should the EU expand beyond the boundaries of Europe?"

Dehaene picks up the pieces

 Mr Giscard did not hold his normal after-convention press conference on Friday. Jean-Luc Dehaene, the Convention vice-president was left to fend off the press. He said he was sure that Mr Giscard was expressing his "personal view." As to whether the president of a body debating the future of Europe should be making such comment at all, he simply said "I wouldn't have done it." However, he did concede that despite Mr Giscard's strong opinions on the matter, "deciding on enlargement is not a competence of the Convention."

"Turkey part of Europe for centuries"


A letter from the Turkish ambassador to the EU, Oguz Demiralp, refutes the Frenchman's comments. "Turkey has been a part of Europe since the tenth century." adding that "it is an unbreakable connection." The letter went on to say that Turkey did not think the Union was afraid of "opening" itself to diversity.

Mr Giscard's controversial comments caused raised eye brows elsewhere. The Commission enlargement spokesman was forced to say that it was Mr Giscard's "personal opinion" and the Commission cannot "ban" people from expressing their opinion.

Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, who recently spoke out in support of Turkey getting a date for starting accession negotiations, stuck to this position. Turkey is an "important partner land" and the "door" should not be closed to it, he said on Friday.

Press Articles Gazeta Jyllands-Posten Handelsblatt Le Monde
(August? 2002)


Holdwater: If geography is a criteria for European consideration, where Turkey falls short because only 5% of her land is in Europe (according to the Frenchman), then why was Cyprus allowed into the EU, with 0%?

I wonder if Monsieur D'Estaing felt the same way when he was a younger man in the late 40s and 1950s, in the heat of the Cold War, with the bully-boy Soviets threatening to rampage through Europe's gates, but sleeping more soundly thanks to tough big brother Turkey guarding their flank? At that time, I have a feeling Giscard was more eager to kiss thrice Turkey's cheeks, in true French style, making sure to not let Turkey forget she was one of them.

In 1878, a clergyman is quoted as having said:


"...The unspeakable Turk had ruined the countries over which he had ruled and ... the Turks had no business in Europe because the Turk was never properly Europeanized; he only pitched his tent in Constantinople"

During this period and later, the most vocal support in North America for the Armenian cause, aside from the Armenians themselves, came from Protestant clergymen. I don't know if the above is a direct quote, but it doesn't matter... countless times, I've run into the exact same idea by religious-minded Americans of the period (and later) — for example, the author of "The Blight of Asia," U.S. consul George Horton, expresses the idea of the Turks' "inadequacy" in the title of his book, itself). There must be a connection between such trains of thought then, and contemporary European opinions, as voiced by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. The European Union has been quick to include most if not all the countries under the former communist regimes for membership consideration, while Turkey (frequently vetoed by old buddy Greece over the years) is still waiting in the wings, a candidate for full membership since 1964.

It is funny that even though Turkey has definitely been "properly Europeanized" since 1878 (when she was merely "The Sick Man of Europe"), especially after the formation of the Turkish republic, the bigoted clergyman's views still stand. And what's that about ruining the countries the Turks had ruled? What a horribly unfair thing to say. If the Turks had followed the European example of forcing their ways down the throats of conquered nations, instead of following the humane "Millet" system, the Arab countries and half of Europe might be speaking Turkish today.

(The Turks whose honor and the dignity you have been pummeling and mauling lo these many years, were) "...far better men and far abler rulers than the wretched tyrants whom they suppressed....the Turks were in advance, not of their Christian subjects alone, but of the greater part of Christian Europe."”

Edson L. Clark (1827-1913), British anthropologist and historian, from his "Nations of the World" Series,1900, N.Y. (pp. 84,87.)

Voltaire: "The great Turk is governing in peace twenty nations from different religions. Turks have taught the Christians how to be moderate in peace and gentle in victory" 

Philip Marshall Brown: "Despite the great victory they won, Turks have generously granted to the people in the conquered regions the right to administer themselves according to their own rules and traditions" 

Arnold Toynbee: “The Ottoman institution came perhaps as near as anything in real life could to realizing the ideal of Plato’s Republic.”

"Paradoxical as it might seem, the Turks were the only Christians in the Balkans."

A "celebrated correspondent," on his return "from the seat of the last Balkan war," paraphrased by C.F. Dixon-Johnson, British author of the 1916 book, "The Armenians."





 A story published in German Die Welt daily December 2 (2002) says that “everyone (at least in Germany) is arguing about whether Turkey may or should or even must become a member of the exclusive club of European states.

Does Turkey belong to Europe culturally? Does not Asia begin just beyond the Bosporus? What does "cultural" really mean? And what is Europe anyway? I propose replacing the question "Does Turkey belong to Europe?" with a different question, namely: "Does Turkey belong to the West?" The West does not thereby mean a geographic position or a specific culture or constitutional form. Rather the West is characterized by the fact that it continually questions itself fundamentally.

Certainly liberal democracy is based primarily on parliamentary elections, separation of powers and freedom of assembly. But all of these nice things are a mathematical function of the capability of illuminating the dark, horrible, painful and tormenting events in one's own history. That is particularly important for Turkey because it is hiding a mountain of bodies in its historical cellar. In 1915, the Turks committed the first modern genocide, to which 1.5m men, women, and children fell victim. This genocide is well documented. There are the eyewitness reports from the German writer Armin T. Wegener (sic), from the American ambassador Henry J. Morgenthau Sen., and from the Austrian military envoy Pomiankowski. There are countless telegrams that show the crime from the point of view of the perpetrators. For a time after World War I, Turkey itself sought to punish the members of the regime who coldly planned and executed the murder. It soon resorted to denial, however. Basically this is absurd because legally the Turkish Republic bears no responsibility at all for what its predecessors did. Nevertheless, to this day the official version in Turkey insists that the genocide against the Armenians did not occur. The government's version is that during World War I the Armenians undertook a rebellion with Russian help and it was quashed. Massacres? Yes, certainly there were massacres — the Armenians massacred the Turks. Thus, the victims are killed again through lies.

Regardless of whether one speaks in an orthodox Freudian way of a compulsion to repeat or in an old-fashioned way of the curse of the evil deed: Turkey will not find inner peace as long as it denies the genocide. Certainly this country has gained an impressive degree of freedom — religion and state are separate and there is an elected parliament and even a halfway free press. But because the genocide against the Armenians remains a taboo, there will always be a temptation to resolve minority problems with the methods of the past. The Kurds can sing a sad song about this. If liberal democracy is a fruit of the effort to look at one's own shame, then it will be a while before it is harvest time in Turkey.


Holdwater: Apparently some Germans still feel an incredible kinship with their fellow Aryans from the W.W.II days.


  Deconstructing Giscard


November 20, 2002

Deconstructing Giscard

Eye on Europe


Listen to the silence. It's as if Valery Giscard d'Estaing had just set off a firecracker in the middle of a garden party and the other guests, after being momentarily aghast, are all now trying to make believe that they can return to their conversations. This newspaper and a few others such as the Times of London have written strong editorials condemning Mr. Giscard's remark that Turkey "is not a European country" and does not belong in the EU. But apart from that, the silence from "official" Europe has been deafening.

The 76-year-old Mr. Giscard is hardly an enfant terrible, however, and his comments should elicit a response, not just from politicians but from historians and others. His contention that Turks cannot be trusted to make decisions affecting "extremely sensitive points of a uniquely European daily life" is far from a prank. Dismissing it as another facet of LePenism would not do either, however, and a rebuttal should probe how well grounded his arguments are culturally and historically. Mr. Giscard is president of the convention tasked with proposing a constitution for the European Union, and he maintains that a majority in the EU agrees with him. Unless the air is cleared, the smoke from his explosion will hang in the air viciously.

We can start by going through all the criteria that the former French president may have meant when he spoke to Le Monde two weeks ago — geographic, linguistic, racial, religious, cultural, or economic — and see how strongly he stands on each. As John Stuart Mill said, you haven't won the debate until you have refuted your opponent's strongest arguments.

To start with the simplest, the linguistic argument can be quickly discarded. Turkish is indeed not an "Indo-European" language. But then again, neither are Finnish, Hungarian or Estonian, all of which, curiously, may be related to Turkish in the Uralic-Altaic family of languages. Neither is Basque Indo-European. Mr. Giscard can go and tell a Basque he is not a European if he wants to, but I wouldn't recommend it.

The racial issue is more complicated, but also a loser. There are always arguments as to what constitutes race, but advancements brought by the human genome project have allowed geneticists to isolate certain conditions that are more prevalent among certain peoples. These studies point to the existence of groupings whose members share some characteristics, but they only leave us with the large ones we learnt about in school: Caucasoid, Negroid, Mongoloid and so forth. Turks are in the first, sharing broad genetic characteristics with Europeans.

Even if your criteria for "race" is the one used in diversity recruitment drives in Britain — whether someone is a "visible ethnic minority," or VEM — it isn't certain that Turks would constitute a different group. There are many blond, blue-eyed Turks, but even the swarthier ones could easily be Spaniards, Greeks, Portuguese, Italians or even compatriots of Mr. Giscard. In truth, Turkey is a complicated country racially, a legacy of the cosmopolitanism of the Ottoman empire. The Central Asian Turkish strain in the national genetic pool is much diluted by now.

"The Turks have a very heterogeneous gene pool," says Stanford University geneticist Peter Underhill. "Ultimately we're all Africans, anyway, as we all came out of Africa less than 100,000 years ago."

The geographic consideration, brought up by Mr. Giscard in his interview, would seem to be the determining one for a regional grouping, but it is also tricky. It is true that the majority of Turkey's territory lies in what the ancients used to call "Asia Minor." But there's also a European part. And even at the other end of its "Asian" component, Turkey is abutted by Christian, indubitably European Georgia, which gave the rest of Europe one of its strongest bonds, the culture of the vine.

On the matter of geographical dislocations, Mr. Giscard's own country also has integral parts of it that are in the Caribbean or on the South American continent. Again, Mr. Giscard is welcome to go and inform the good people of Martinique that they are no longer part of the EU. Or he can tell the peoples of Malta and Cyprus — the first off North Africa, the second wedged between the Turkish and Lebanese coasts — that, no, they won't make it into the EU in two years after all.

Economically Turkey is doubtless behind Europe, having a $6,800 GDP per capita, or less than a third of the EU average. But of course, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Greece also lagged the average when they joined. Three of them still do. Membership brought them up.

Historically, too, Turkey played a central role in Europe while other empires — China, Persia, India — were clearly foreign. Not for nothing was the Ottoman Empire known in the 19th century as "the Sick Man of Europe."

Indeed, the more one looks at Mr. Giscard's contention the more one realizes that it rests almost solely on the cultural-religious argument. Though many would want to quickly dismiss this line of reasoning, especially in today's secularized, increasingly de- Christianized Europe, it is here that one must battle the convention president.

The idea that Christianity formed Europe — more than geography, ethnicity and so forth — is of old pedigree and cannot so easily be discarded. Before Mohammed there was "Christendom" and little notion of Europe. It was the emergence of Islam from the Arabian sands that made Europe fold back unto itself. The eminent Belgian historian Henri Pirenne put it best when he wrote, "Charlemagne without Mohammed would be inconceivable."

Even Voltaire, amongst many others, spoke about Europeans all sharing "the same religious foundation." In our era, T.S. Eliot, in a radio broadcast to Germans in 1945, expounded about "the common tradition of Christianity which has made Europe what it is.

"It is in Christianity that our arts have developed; it is in Christianity that the laws of Europe-until recently-have been rooted. It is against a background of Christianity that all our thought has significance. An individual European may not believe that the Christian Faith is true; and yet what he says and makes and does, will all... depend on [the Christian heritage] for its meaning." (my Itals).

Very well, then, does this mean that Mr. Giscard is ultimately right? No, not really. But it does mean that a response must address these issues. It could begin by noting that the notion of "Europe" has moved throughout the centuries and there's no reason it should remain static today. "We're building a new Europe in the 21st century not in the 16th century," I was told by the historian Norman Davies, who's delved in his books into the question of what it is to be a European.

"Turkey has been Europeanized by Kemal (Ataturk, father of modern Turkey) and it has been modeled on the European democracies," says Prof. Davies, bringing up the all-important political consideration. Turkey, geographically and historically in Europe, has made every effort to join up. What keeps it out, religion? But that would be most un-Christian. "The principle of Christianity is Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself," says Prof. Davies. "I see Europe as a very diverse continent, and Islam is very much a part of the diversity. Just go to London, or Paris," he adds.

There is, then, no clear definition of what is a European. (The Italian writer Luigi Barzini included Americans, and so would I sometimes). But Mr. Giscard has thrown down a gauntlet that must be picked up now by EU leaders and others.

I ran into a senior European official the other night at a hotel lobby here in Brussels, and the subject soon came up. "Giscard is a p***k," he said emphatically, adding that even if he had agreed with the convention president — which he said he didn't — this was the worst time to say it, for geopolitical reasons. It was all off the record, of course. But now is the time to start going on the record.

Write to Michael Gonzalez at mike.gonzalez@wsj.com

Letter excerpt to "The Economist":

Your treatment of Turkey ("A general speaks his mind", March 14th), while repeating same old EU-clichés about Turkey, adding nothing new, speaks volumes about the centuries old "crusader mentality", downgraded to "Christian Club" in the lst half of 20th century, which seems to be the driving force behind EU's actions. And actions do speak louder than words.

Consider these, for example:

When Turkey signed on the European Common Market in 1962, Spain, Portugal, and Greece were dictatorships. When Turkey applied for full membership in 1987, the Soviet Bloc countries like Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania were still considered "the enemy". Now the first 3 are about to enter the EU and the latter 2 are on their way. All of these countries, even Cyprus and Malta and others, passed Turkey by, simply because they were Christians. It seems, if you are Christian and you "breathe", you are accepted. And if you are not Christian, you are not accepted "...even if you can catch a bird with your mouth!" (A Turkish proverb).

While Turkey is asked to solve its problems with Greece over Aegean and Cyprus before entering EU, Greece had never been asked to do the same. Doesn't it take two to tango?

When EU asks Turkey to lift the embargo on Armenia, the aggressor which ethnically cleansed 1 million Azerbaijanis and still occupies 20% of Azerbaijan, the same EU sees nothing wrong with applying embargo on Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Isn't it about time that EU looked at its own doubles standards when EU is dealing with Turkey? EU didn't even include, for example, the most brutal terrorists like PKK and DHKP-C in their list of terrorist organizations, after Turkey lost a whopping 40,000 victims in war with terror. What is EU still waiting for? A European 9/11 to take place?

Ergun Kirlikovali (2002)


1944 Turks National Geographic

Who Are These Turks Speaking an Asiatic Tongue? Faces and Styles Suggest They Are Europeans
Out of Central Asia came their forebears, Seljuk and Osmanli Turks. Much of Asia Minor's original stock they absorbed, An Istanbul policeman (left) and soldier keep order during the coming of age party (Plate II). Between them, a woman has an old-fashioned black headdress, but no one wears fez or veil.

National Geographic Magazine, Oct. 29, 1944


Turks are not Europeans. What constitutes a European? I am not sure, are Armenians European? Are we talking race, culture, mentality or what? I am white but I was born in Africa. Am I European? I have a friend from Birmingham who is Asian — is she a European? Turkey is the "Sick Man of Europe"— or do you mean the Sick Man of Asia?

Nick, a Briton, in a guestbook, responding to an Armenian who stated, "Turks are not Europeans." (11/23/1999)

'Europe for Westerners only’ is a monstrous and a most impolitic claim, for, if titles go by continents, what standing have we Westerners, who have colonised the four quarters of the world, to our holdings in America, Africa, and Australasia? This is not a line of argument which Australians would like to present to the Japanese, or South Africans to the Bantus.

Arnold Toynbee, The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, 1922

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