The United States’ decision to officially recognize the Armenian genocide is fueling a debate that has been alive in the European Union for years. Sixteen member states, as well as the European Parliament, currently recognize genocide. Spain does not recognize it. 13 other countries in the world, in addition to the US, do as well.
The Armenian community in Belgium welcomes these recognitions, but says genocide education and the fight against denial are even more important.
“Not all historical events need to be recognized by all parliaments to be understood as fact. The Armenian genocide is simply a fact. This is no longer a campaign for political recognition, especially now that the United States has recognized it. Now it’s about understanding the consequences of denial and rejecting Turkey’s denial and aggressive policies towards Armenia. “, assures the president of the Committee of Armenians in Belgium, Nicolas Tavitian.
Between 1915 and 1916, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed or starved to death at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Despite the broad academic consensus that these atrocities amounted to genocide, the Turkish state has always rejected the term and the number of victims, arguing that there were mass murders on both sides.
This opinion is widely shared by the Turkish community in Brussels. Residents here believe that the recognition of the Armenian genocide is a political weapon used by the West to weaken Turkey. “This is a political decision. Turkey is progressing, it is becoming more powerful, especially in the arms sector, so there is a bit of envy.”, has defended Mesut Turkoz, who lives in Brussels.
Turkish President Erdogan has criticized the US decision, but even has now refrained from taking major action against its NATO ally. Something similar to what already happened when several European countries recognized the genocide.
According to the Turkish politics professor at the Free University of Brussels, Seda Gürkan, Turkey’s reaction has an emotional basis, and Ankara cannot afford to react strongly. “__Turkey is becoming increasingly lonely in international relations and its relations with countries in the region, such as Russia, Israel but also with the European Union, are very problematic and its economy is very fragile. So, it is a moment when that Turkey needs its partners, it desperately needs its partners, so we shouldn’t expect a very strong reaction from Turkey. “, the teacher explained.
Rather than a diplomatic reaction, this expert argues that Turkey could use the Armenian question to stoke nationalism at the national level. Something that could finally deteriorate its relations with the West and with the neighboring country of Armenia.