April 18, 2007


While Armenia is enmeshed in an election campaign for the National Assembly, things are also heating up across the border in Turkey in a lead up to the nomination of candidates for a new president.

Last weekend some 300,000 so-called secularists converged in Ankara to protest any presidential aspirations of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan, whom many view as a closet Islamist. Many secular Kemalists (followers of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of ther modern Turkish Republic) feel threatened by the possibility that Erdogan's Justice and Development Party will use its majority in parliament to elect an Islamist to the post of president. (In Turkey the parliament elects the president.)

Erdogan is seen as the leading contender for the presidency despite not having declared himself as a candidate. And what would an Erdogan presidency mean for democratic reform in Turkey, and by extension a reappraisal of the Armenian Genocide of 1915?

When Erdogan was Istanbul's mayor he compared democracy to a bus..." You ride it until your destination and then you get off."

Of particular interest is how political pundits and government analysts in the West view developments in Turkey. It appears that the dominant view in the ruling circles is that despite all its flaws Turkey remains the best model for Islamist and secularist coexistence within a 'democratic' state that is friendly to the West. Simply put....better the devil we know than the democrat we don't.

For many in the West, Turkey's strategic importance in the Middle East cannot be minimized in a post 9/11 world. In other words Turkey , if managed correctly, could serve as a cooperative proxy for various western interests in the Middle East and the Caucasus.

Thus, the introduction of Armenian Genocide recognition legislation in the United States and genocide denial bills in France only serve to alienate Turkish popular opinion even further against the West. Continued pleas for some form of "closure" vis-a-vis Turkey's responsibility for the Armenian Genocide are viewed as mere irritants to be dismissed in the context of keeping Turkey as a major ally in the U.S.-led global war against terrorism and the neo-cons fantasized concept of democracy building through regime change.

Redressing the wrongs of the past may seem the right thing to do after all these years of collective silence and official neglect. But for the politicians and their moneyed backers, such periodic urges remain no more than that. Nice sentiments with no real chance of being realized.


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