Resolution as a contribution to reconciliation between Turks and Armenians - Tessa Hofmann

21:35 • 08.06.16

The lengthy text of the resolution could have been more explicit and could have done without constructing a hierarchy of victimization, but nevertheless our legislators indubitably stated that the Armenians‘ „destiny is exemplary for the history of massive destructions, of ethnic cleansings, expulsions and even genocides which characterize the 20th century in such terrible way. At the same time we know about the uniqueness of the Holocaust, for which Germany bears guilt and responsibility,” Mrs Tessa Hofmann, Berlin-based Prof. h.c. Dr. phil., scholar of Armenian studies and genocide scholar, Chairwoman of the “Working Group Recognition –Against Genocide, for International Understanding, said in an interview with

1. Mrs Hofmann, the German Bundestag has adopted the draft resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide. What do you think made Germany do it now?

The resolution is officially titled „Remembrance and Commemoration on the Genocide against the Armenians and other Christian Minorities 101 years ago”. But tellingly and evasively, in German media it is usually related to as “Resolution on Armenia” (“Armenienresolution”), not as a resolution on the legislative recognition of a genocide. It is difficult to tell the predominant motifs of the MPs who participated in the voting (about the half of a nominal total of 598 MPs). The resolution came as an unsolved in 2015 task of the German legislation, when three fractions of the German parliament had forwarded drafts on a resolution at the occasion of the centenary. All three contained the German synonym for the only legally obliging term ‘genocide’ (‘Voelkermord’). However, the executive, i.e. the Chancellery and the Foreign Office, abolished the mention of ‘genocide’ in the motion of the ruling conservative-Social Democrat coalition. Only after the address of Pope Frances of 12 April 2015 was the term restituted, but it was then too late for a regular voting on 24 April 2015. In May 2015, all three motions were forwarded for further debates and redaction to the parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs. On 25 February 2016, the Green Fraction formally withdrew its motion for the promise by the ruling coalition to draft an inter-fractional resolution, which was eventually issued on 2 June.

Following by the statements of MPs before and during the parliamentary debate, it seems easier to define what the resolution was not meant to be: a juridical verdict, or any condemnation of today’s Turkey or the Turkish nation. Instead, the Bundestag interprets its resolution as a contribution to the reconciliation between Turks and Armenians.

2. How you can evaluate the text of recognition? Are all the wordings accurate and can have a real influence on Turkey and on the process of international recognition?

The lengthy text of the resolution could have been more explicit and could have done without constructing a hierarchy of victimization, but nevertheless our legislators indubitably stated that the Armenians‘ „destiny is exemplary for the history of massive destructions, of ethnic cleansings, expulsions and even genocides which characterize the 20th century in such terrible way. At the same time we know about the uniqueness of the Holocaust, for which Germany bears guilt and responsibility.”

The current resolution also repeats the terms ‘expulsion(s)’ and ‘massacres’, which have already been used in the previous resolution of 2005, where they served as paraphrase in order to avoid a legal evaluation as genocide. This evaluation is now articulated, albeit in a somehow squint way. For the vast majority of Armenians and Aramaic speaking Christians (Arameans, Assyrians, Chaldeans) in Germany the resolution constitutes nevertheless a great relief, comfort and hope for improvements in the field of genocide awareness education in schools and in extended research on the history of the Ottoman genocides. Regretfully, the Ottoman Greeks have not been explicitly mentioned in the resolution, in difference to “Aramean/Assyrian and Chaldean Christians”, which are addressed to as co-victims of the Armenians. It is a weak comfort for the Greek communities inside and outside Germany that at least the Pontos Greeks were orally mentioned by several speakers during the Bundestag’s debate.

It is now too early to determine which influence the current resolution will have on the process of international affirmation or genocide recognition inside Turkey. As you certainly know, despite all oppression, restrictions and persecution this process had started in Turkey in the mid 1990ies. At many occasion Turkish human rights defenders and those who welcome recognition as scholars or authors have demanded a clearer stance of European countries and the USA in recognition issues; others, however, have articulated the opinion that the society of Turkey must by own means discover the historical truth. But without external impulses such approach may take ages. I therefore hope that the Bundestag’s resolution becomes a strong supportive impulse for Turkey’s discovery of its recent past and the horrifying crimes in the first half of the 20th century, including the Dersim genocide of 1837/8. These crimes have, since the foundation of the Turkish Republic, served as a positive role model of patriotism and subsequently caused repeated crimes against humanity until this day. 

To be continued

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