Last week, the Turkish public agenda has been busy with three main topics.
First was the US President Joseph Biden’s official pronunciation of the so-called Armenian Genocide and the responses from both inside and outside of Turkey.
Second was the beginning of a new phase of the operation Pence-Simsek (Claw-Thunderbolt) and operation Pence-Yildirim (Claw-Lightning) in Northern Iraq.
Third was the ongoing vaccination efforts and complete lockdown against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Responses Against Joe Biden’s Statements on So-Called Genocide
US President Joe Biden on Saturday the 24th made a statement on the so-called “Armenian genocide”.
“Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” Biden said in an official statement.
Shortly before Biden’s statement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said that the debate over the Armenian claims, which have been politicized by third parties and turned into tools of interference, has helped no one.
“We cannot allow the centuries-old culture of coexistence of Turks and Armenians to be forgotten,” Erdogan said in a letter to Sahak Mashalian, Head of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey.
Turkey’s Communications Director said Fahrettin Altun in a statement on Saturday “Turkey rejects and strongly condemns US President Joe Biden’s definition of the 1915 events as genocide. We consider the statement, which is devoid of all legal and scholarly legitimacy, as null and void”.
Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement “We strongly reject and condemn this statement, which reflects the slanders of those who are malicious and whose only agenda is hostile to our country”.
Kalin emphasized that the so-called “genocide” allegations lack any basis or scholarly evidence as required by international law.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli said on Twitter “The history of the Turkish nation has seen neither genocides nor massacres. Turkey’s history is faultless in this regard as on other issues and it owes no proof to anyone in this context. The slanderous campaign founded around the events of 1915 is both unfounded and untrue. The reason for the need for the deportation of Armenians, and the needs and national security considerations from which has arisen, should be interpreted primarily in the context of the dark, bloody conditions of World War I. History has made its judgement and the chapter of the justified, legitimate act of the state in 1915 is essentially closed”.
Leader of Vatan Party Dogu Perincek has also condemned Joe Biden via an open letter. In his letter Perincek said:
“After three separate decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which is an international court, no politician can talk about the so-called Armenian Genocide in any way. Your office duty as the President of the United States does not give you the power to make such illegal claims. I recommend you to study on the court decision of the 2nd Chamber of the ECHR on December 17th 2013, and the decision of the ECHR Grand Chamber on October 15th 2015, as a part of the “Perincek vs. Switzerland Trials”.
Secretary of the Vatan Party had made some proposals for the government, as retaliation to the statements from Biden. These proposals against the United States include:
- The US-used Incirlik Air Base in Turkey should be taken under full control of the Turkish Armed Forces immediately.
- Diplomatic contacts should be initiated with Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan for the international recognition of Crimea and Abkhazia together with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
- In order to end the PKK in the entire region, military cooperation with the Syrian Arab Republic should be started.
- HDP, which is the puppet of the US backed PKK terrorist organization, should be shut down immediately.
Dogu Perincek had gone through a series of trials against the Switzerland between 2007-2015 on the rhetoric of so-called Armenian Genocide. Perincek has been fined 3000 Swiss Francs and sentenced to 90 days of imprisonment for defending the Turkish theses on the issue. Later on, when the case was carried to the European Court of Human Rights, Perincek was found innocent for defending Turkish theses, according to the Article 10 that guarantees freedom of expression. The court decided Perinçek’s expressions it did not violate the Article 17 concerning the abuse of these freedoms.
Immediately after the Perincek vs. Switzerland case, the ECHR signed a verdict that vetoed the denial of the Holocaust. The court found a French comedian who denied the Holocaust and used anti-Semitic expressions, guilty, and the French Court fined of 10 thousand euros. The Comedian claimed that he was actually doing “dark humor”. However, the court ruled the statements containing hate speech cannot be considered within the scope of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression. Thus, the ECHR has again distinguished the 1915 events from the Holocaust at the legal level.
The French Supreme Court had also cleared the difference between the Holocaust and the events of 1915 with a decision taken on January 8th 2016. The court, which approved the sentence given to a French citizen who denied the Holocaust, rejected the request of the Armenian groups involved in the case. This way, the court has reaffirmed the distinction made by the ECHR.
The International Court of Justice has found that the acts listed in the Genocide Convention were committed regarding both Croatia’s and Serbia’s theses, but concluded that it could not be proven that these acts were committed “with the intention of partially or completely destroying the Croatian or Serbian population”. Thus, it was decided that there was no specific intent sought in order to admit that the crime of genocide was committed.
International condemnations of Biden’s statement
Many international condemnations also came against the statements of Joe Biden.
The Secretary-General of the Turkic Council Baghdad Amreyev said in a written statement “I am very saddened by the statement of the US President regarding the events of 1915, which clearly bears political motivations at the expense of historical facts and damaging the hopes of cooperation and stability in the region,” on Saturday.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said that the US President Joe Biden’s remarks on the events of 1915 are “unacceptable” and is a “historical mistake”.
The Azerbaijani leader said the US president’s remarks would “seriously damage cooperation in the region,” stressing that Baku will always stand by Ankara.
In a joint statement, 48 political parties in Azerbaijan said that Armenians had lost their lives due to harsh conditions of World War I, famine and diseases, adding more Turks lost their lives during the same period, but this fact “was intentionally overlooked.”
If the goal is an objective study of historical facts, the historical reality should not be distorted for political purposes and this work should be entrusted to specialized international research institutions and well-known historians.
“Turkey has repeatedly stated its readiness to open its archives to historians and proposed the establishment of a joint commission to find out the truth,” the statement read.
On Sunday the President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Ersin Tatar said in a written statement “I strongly condemn Mr. Biden’s statement, which distorts historical facts”, adding that the Turkish nation protects minorities in every region it is present in, ensuring their rights and freedoms.
“Those who try to slander the history of the Turkish nation for the sake of political purposes; if they are looking for genocide, they shall take look at the systematic atrocities carried out by the Greek Cypriot terror organization EOKA in 1963-1974 against the Turkish Cypriots,” he added, referring to the violence that led to Turkey’s intervention to protect Turkish Cypriots.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stressed his country’s support for Turkey against US President Joe Biden’s controversial remarks in a phone call with the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish Foreign Ministry stated on Sunday.
“We believe that one-sided approaches and political categorization of historical events could undermine trust and lead to polarization between nations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said in a statement.
The statement also praised Turkey’s constructive approach on the subject including Ankara’s proposal for a joint historical commission to explore the facts.
Turkish Armed Forces Operation Over Northern Iraq
Turkish land forces have hit nearly 400 targets and over 60 more by air during anti-terrorism operations started in northern Iraq, Turkey’s defense minister said on Saturday.
Operations Pence-Simsek and Pence-Yildirim, launched on Friday in the Metina and Avasin-Basyan regions in northern Iraq, are continuing, Hulusi Akar said as he addressed military commanders.
Dalokay Sanli, codenamed Sinan Mirhan, a so-called senior PKK member, was neutralized during the operation, said an anonymous source.
A large amount of ammunition was seized by Turkish security forces during the operations, the National Defense Ministry said.
Some of the items which were seized and destroyed included mines, 24 IEDs, light and heavy weapons including their ammunition, a rocket launcher and its ammunition and mortar/artillery ammunition.
Earlier on Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the operation aims to completely eliminate the terrorist threat along Turkey’s southern borders.
“This operation, carried out with respect for Iraq’s territorial integrity, will contribute to the establishment of peace and security in the region,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a video conference with the Operations Pence-Simsek and Pence-Yildirim command center.
During the conference, Erdogan spoke with National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Chief of General Staff Yasar Guler, and various force commanders.
“We are determined to eradicate terrorism and completely free our citizens from the scourge of terror,” he said.
He underlined that Turkey now, as ever, is continuing its fight without the slightest deviation from human values such as rights, law, and justice.
Vaccination Efforts and Lockdowns against the Coronavirus Pandemic
In the face of rising cases and fatalities in Turkey, special measures had been in effect for the first two weeks of this month.
Turkey will enforce a full lockdown from Thursday evening until May 17 to stem the spread of coronavirus, the country’s President announced on Monday.
Speaking to reporters following a three-hour Cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said all workplaces will suspend their activities or shift to work-from-home models during the restrictions, except those excluded by the Interior Ministry such as food and manufacturing sectors.
Erdoğan said cafes and restaurants will only offer delivery services, while chain supermarkets will be closed on Sundays. All intercity travel will be subject to permission, whereas public transport will operate at 50% capacity, he added. Accommodation reservations do not provide an exception.
These new restrictions imposed a slight slowdown in daily coronavirus cases, which now stands at 38,553 (2801 symptomatic) as of Sunday, down from the all-time high 63,082 the week before.
The country recorded less than 40,000 cases for the first time since March 31.
Turkey’s overall case tally is over 4.62 million, while the nationwide death toll reached 38,358 with 347 more fatalities over the past day.
More than 4 million patients have won the battle against the virus so far.
Over 45.88 million coronavirus tests have been conducted, and the latest figures show that the number of COVID-19 patients in critical condition rose to 3,590.
Since January 14th, Turkey began a mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign, and has so far administered over 21.19 million doses.
More than 13.2 million people have received their first doses, while more than 7.9 million have been fully vaccinated.
Cafes and restaurants only provide delivery and takeout services, while wedding halls, sports centers, and game halls remain closed until the end of Ramadan.