Red-faced Turkish Prime Minister Threatens to Deport 100,000 Armenians

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If genocide denial doesn’t work, maybe mass deportation will.  Or so goes the apparent logic of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Incensed that Sweden and the United States have recently decided to call the WWI era massacres of approximately 1.5 million Armenians “genocide,” Erdogan told the BBC’s Turkish service yesterday that, “If necessary, I may have to tell… 100,000 (Armenians) to go back to their country because they are not my citizens. I don’t have to keep them in my country.”

Despite Turkey’s aspirations to join the European Union, Erdogan also recalled Turkey’s ambassadors to Stockholm and Washington and, according to Reuters, “warned they could hurt a fragile effort to reconcile with Christian Armenia after a century of hostility.”  This echoes Turkey’s recall of its ambassador to Canada last year after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper dared to mention the genocide.

Turkey denies that 1.5 million Armenians were killed in Turkey, although it concedes the killing of Christians as the Ottoman Empire collapsed almost a century ago. As more historians and foreign governments join together in condemning Turkey’s actions and its denial of genocide, the pressure is mounting on Turkey to admit to the sins of the past.

Erdogan has so far been incapable of anything but weaksauce rants about the “Armenian diaspora” that he claims is spreading falsehood and tarnishing Turkey’s reputation.  So far his behavior is amounting to international embarrassment for Turkey as Erdogan’s deportation threats are seen as overblown and petty, as well as being fairly hollow.  According to Reuters,  Aris Nalci, an editor at Turkish-Armenian weekly newspaper Agos, said such remarks are not new for Erdogan. “We are not taking it as a serious threat,” Nalci said.

Serious or not, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarksyan replied with the understatement of the year: “This kind of political statement does not help improve relations between the two states.”  Last year, Armenia and Turkey made the progressive decision to start diplomatic relations and open their shared border.  Neither government has ratified the deal though and there has already been furious back and forth with both governments accusing the other of rewriting the text of the original agreement. Erdogan’s latest antics will no doubt add to the fun and further complicate any chance of success.

But let’s not be too surprised at Erdogan’s badly chosen words.  Prior actions prove him well-deserving of The Atlantic‘s description as “sometimes-dyspeptic.” At last year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland,  The Atlantic reports that “the roughest moment came when Erdogan accused Israel’s Shimon Peres of being a killer. ‘Peres, you are older than me,’ Erdogan said. ‘Your voice comes out in a very high tone. And the high tone of your voice has to do with a guilty conscience. My voice, however, will not come out in the same tone.’ He went on, ‘When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.’ ”

Peres tried to respond but, as this YouTube clip faithfully captures, it was too late: Erdogan had decided to storm off the stage.

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Bjorn Karlman

6 thoughts on “Red-faced Turkish Prime Minister Threatens to Deport 100,000 Armenians”

  1. denial seems to be the name of the game these days in international politics. ignore the facts and hopefully the media will shift their focus elsewhere. Anyone know what’s happening in Sudan? What about the Koren in Burma? So many people are suffering today and we hear more about superstars having affairs or going in and out of drug rehab.

  2. Erdogan has a big, sloppy mouth. He wants to deny the Armenian genocide ever occurred? All of history knows it happened. The voice of one man, even a president, cannot deny this. It’s would be a shame to let Erdogan offset the tedious progress that Armenia and Turkey have made towards reconciliation and working for their mutual benefit as nations.

    For the sake of comparison Adolf Hitler was directly responsible for the murder, imprisonment and torture or six million Jews and other political prisoners. Yet the world has largely forgiven Germany. America wiped out how many millions of Native Americans with war and smallpox? Not to mention the forced importation and slavery of millions of Western Africans. America has admitted its wrongdoings and moved on, we also pay and give substantial benefits to those populations that were oppressed. It’s only a personal opinion but Erdogan isn’t doing Turkey any favors by trying to deny the past.

  3. Unfortunately, denial is not simply something Erdogan is guilty of but a position that has been held for decades by the Turkish government. This alone hurts Turkey’s credibility. Add belligerent, inflammatory babble like threats to deport 100,000 Armenians and you set yourself up for humiliation.

  4. I have to say, if I was an Armenian living in Turkey, I might be relieved. Some of them might be able to get a special ‘persecution’ status that could expedite their migration to a country that doesn’t want them dead.

    Seriously though, I can’t imagine wanting to live in Turkey as an Armenian.

    I also must say, it seems easy to rag on this guy from my perspective, but I personally deny that America was involved in a holocaust or genocide against the Native Americans. I really just don’t think the facts are there, but a lot of people (who I must say know a lot less about early American history than I do) get really mad when I say that. Is it the same thing? I have no idea. I really hope not though.

  5. David, I haven’t researched the slaughter of Native Americans so I don’t feel qualified to say much on the latter point. As for the first, a lot of Armenians settled in Turkey after a major earthquake devastated Armenia in ’88.

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