Ethnic Conflict and Social Peace

As War Grinds On In Caucasus, Turkey’s Armenians Feel the Heat

The flare-up of a conflict in the southern Caucasus has an imminent fallout in Turkey where Turkish-Armenians face a loyalty test and hate speech once again.

Abdullah Ayasun
Nov 4, 2020 · 4 min read
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“Whenever something happens [in the southern Caucasus], we are immediately declared as disloyal to this country. Our patriotic love for Turkey can never be questioned. Stop portraying us as traitors!”

The Turkish public’s understandable solidarity with Azerbaijan in its bid to claim the control of a mountainous enclave that splintered from Baku’s jurisdiction after an inconclusive war in the early 1990s always take the form of social ostracization of Turkey’s own Armenians as if they were the instigators of this intractable conflict.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union gave birth to more than a dozen new independent states in Central Asia, southern Caucasus, in southern and eastern Europe. This transition mostly took place in a peaceful fashion. The southern Caucasus was, however, an exception. The transcendental building block of the Soviet Empire, which somehow buried old ethnic rivalries under the wraps for the sacred cause of Communist brotherhood, quickly vanished in the face of an ethnic question whose embers were rekindled right after the breakup. Yerevan and Baku plunged into a bloody, vicious war over the control of the mountainous region of Nagorno Karabakh that had a majority of Armenian residents with an Azerbaijani minority. The conflict with a shaky armistice remained unresolved to this day for nearly three decades until Azerbaijan finally took matters into its hands following its unconcealed exasperation with the impotence of the Minsk Group to resolve the protracted matter in a manner that would satisfy both sides.

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Kids play in the city of Shushi in Nagorno-Karabakh. (Photo: Getty Images)

The contested legacy of 1915 events forever remains a stain on the public view of Armenians in Turkey where all narratives other than the official account of what really happened are systematically banished from public discourse. This policy of censorship and the imposition of one licensed account, combined with the fixed discourse of the Turkish authorities regarding any matter related to Armenians, conceivably do not help to smoothen a rancorous relationship with one of Turkey’s oldest indigenous inhabitants and its largest Christian minority. And the revival of fighting in the southern Caucasus has unjustly created another loyalty test for Turkey’s Armenians to prove their fealty to their homeland of which they have been natural parts for two millennia.

As the owner of the tweet above explicated, they do not need to prove anything. She loves Turkey, no matter what happens out there. She is happy living in Istanbul and she feels greatly offended over the public questioning of her loyalty to this country.

The ethnic conflict in the southern Caucasus and Turkey’s unresolved matter with its Armenian citizens over the contested definition of 1915 massacres during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War are two separate issues that have little in common. Lumping both matters together under the same rubric with no heed to contextual differences only reinforces the toxic nationalist narrative about Turkey’s Armenian citizens who are never fully allowed to integrate into the body politic or national psyche due to the perpetual postponing of a long-overdue reckoning with one of the controversial chapters of modern Turkish history. Needless to say that this must change.

The relationship may be tormented by the painful legacy of history, but it could be healed by reconciliation, social peace, and a collective reckoning. It requires political will, prudence, wisdom, and mutual understanding that our smooth coexistence rests on these steps. And whatever the complexion of regional politics, Ankara should contain their negative fallout that unjustly turns some of its citizens into victims/pariahs in their homeland.

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse.

Abdullah Ayasun

Written by

Virginia-based journalist and writer. Politics, culture, art, and technology. American political affairs, Turkey, the MidEast, and beyond. Twitter: @abyasun

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse. Fundamentally informative and intelligently analytical.

Abdullah Ayasun

Written by

Virginia-based journalist and writer. Politics, culture, art, and technology. American political affairs, Turkey, the MidEast, and beyond. Twitter: @abyasun

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse. Fundamentally informative and intelligently analytical.

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