Washington, DC, February 22, 2008 - By all accounts, the 2008 presidential election is about "change." Yet, the ongoing Armenian dispute with Turkey is being politicized to the point of becoming an issue in the U.S. election campaign. In recent weeks some campaigns have issued statements in support of a 2007 congressional resolution that sought to characterize tragic events during the waning years of the Ottoman Empire as genocide. Far from the desired change that Americans are calling for, this sadly appears to reflect old-style politics as usual.
Indeed, for several decades, some outspoken Armenian Americans have continued to politicize the events of 1915 rather than seeking the truth about them. In the context of the current election, it appears the rhetoric may be no different. But this process gets us no closer to the truth. In fact, it fans the flames of division and strays ever farther from what this election purports to be about: Change.
As Turkish Americans, we are getting involved, watching the debates, volunteering and voting in this election process. We believe there are solid ideas that might make real change not only possible, but actually help to promote our commitment to reconciliation with Armenia, our fellow Americans of Armenian descent, as well the shared desire of all Americans for peace and prosperity in the Middle East and the world at large.
Change should of course be heralded by constructive solutions. Turkey opened the Ottoman archives for academic research many years ago. Armenian archives that remain closed, including those in the United States , should be opened for examination by scholars. This would foster change by creating an impartial forum, free from the influences of domestic electoral politics to establish a more comprehensive narrative of the events of 1915. It is critical that this matter be handled by objective experts in the proper forum; it is our firm belief that historians should write history, not politicians.
As the tragic events of the past become almost 100 years old, the new generation emerging in both Turkey and Armenia should have dialogue broader than a fight over a single word. They should be able to reconcile their differences respectfully and grow to appreciate their common bonds.
Turks today mourn the loss of innocent life on both sides during World War I and would like to rekindle the bonds of brotherhood that existed between Turks and Armenians for centuries.
However reconciliation cannot flourish in the absence of dialogue and a willingness to search for the whole truth. For example, over five million Ottoman Muslims were victims of ethnic cleansing, massacres, and the ravages of war as they were purged from lands ranging from the Balkans, the Crimea to the Caucusus in the final years of the Ottoman Empire . These victims, including those who fell to Armenian rebels during the Armenian revolt (1885-1920) and these crimes also deserve a page in history and our human conscience.
The reconciliation of Turks and Armenians may need the helping hand of leaders who care about both the people of Turkey and Armenia , and herein lies the chance for real change. For the United States , this chance would mean to reconcile the issues raised by domestic constituencies, while also promoting and strengthening its partnership with strategic allies such as Turkey .
It is this kind of leader who promotes reconciliation among peoples, peace among communities and among nations who brings about change.
America deserves that kind of leader.
Signed by (as of February 28, 2008)
American Association of Crimean Turks Inc.
American Turkish Association of Houston
American Turkish Association of Indiana
American Turkish Association of Washington, DC
Anadolu Club Inc., New York
Assembly of Turkish American Associations
Azerbaijan Society of America
Delaware Valley Muslim Association and Selimiye Mosque
Federation of Turkish American Associations
Florida Turkish American Association
Istanbul University Alumni Association of USA
Karacay Turks Mosque and Cultural Association, New Jersey
Pittsburgh Turkish American Association
Society of Turkish American Architects, Engineers and Scientists Inc.
TC-USA Political Action Committee
Turkish American Muslim Culture Association, Pennsylvania
Turkish American Alliance for Fairness
Turkish American Association of California
Turkish American Association of Greater Kansas City
Turkish American Association of Louisiana
Turkish American Association of Milwaukee
Turkish American Association of San Antonio
Turkish American Association Southern California
Turkish American Cultural Alliance of Chicago
Turkish American Cultural Association of Florida
Turkish American Cultural Association of Georgia
Turkish American Cultural Association of Michigan
Turkish American Cultural Society of New England
Southern New England Turkish American Cultural Association, Inc.
Turkish American Cultural Society of Colorado
Turkish American Cultural Association of Washington
Turkish American Eyup Sultan Mosque and Islamic Center, New York
Turkish American Friendship Society of the United States
Turkish American Heritage Political Action Committee
Turkish American Society of Augusta and Aiken
Turkish American Society of Northeastern Ohio
Turkish American Association of Northern Texas
Turkish Children Foster Care
Turkish Coalition of America
Turkish Cypriot Cultural and Educational Association
Turkish Society of Rochester
Turkish Women's League of America
U.S. Azeris Network, Washington , DC
About TCA: The Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), founded in February 2007, is an educational and charitable organization established to foster a greater understanding of issues impacting the Turkish American community through public education both in Washington and across the country. For more information, please visit www.turkishcoalitionofamerica.org