The Turkish government has voiced its anger and said that there will be ‘consequences’ after the German government voted to recognises the slaughter of the Armenian people in Turkey in 1915 as a genocide. The Turkish government have long disagreed that it should be recognized as such and have gone so far as to make it illegal to talk about the massacre in Turkey.
In 1914, there were roughly 2 million Armenians living in Turkey. In 1915 a year into the war, Ottoman leaders declared a ‘holy war’ against Christians who were not allied to Turkey in the war. They also believed that the Armenians were helping the Russian army fight the Turkish army, by sending the Russian supplies and ammunition. The genocide began in April 1915, when hundreds of Armenian intellectuals were arrested and executed. It lasted for 8 years, ending in 1922. There were just 322,000 Armenian people left in Turkey in 1922.
The Turkish government denies that this was genocide because they had declared war on the Christian Armenian people, which placed them as enemies of Turkey and so the slaughter was a necessary war measure. More than 20 nations, including global powers such as Russia and France, have voted on and now recognize the killings as genocide. In 2010, America joined that list and Germany became the latest nation to recognize it as genocide this week. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all officially recognises the genocide, but England has not as of yet, although certain political parties and leaders have referred to the events as genocide.
It is important that Germany now recognizes the genocide because, when the war ended in 1918, the leaders of the genocide fled to Germany, who promised not to prosecute them. The vote is also significant because both countries had difficulty in the first half of the 20th century and many German officials spoke of this during the vote. To many Armenians, this vote is a sign that Germany now formally recognises it’s and Turkey’s histories to be what they are.
Turkey have threatened consequences and while this won’t come in an openly aggressive way, Turkey can do a lot to make life difficult for many EU countries, including Germany. The migrant crisis means that European nations need to work together and work closer than ever to try to resolve this crisis. Turkey and the EU recently struck up a deal to ship thousands of migrants to Turkey, where the Turkish government would build them homes and help them to restart their lives.
If Turkey flat out refuses to take in any more migrants and/or co-operate with the EU as a result of the vote, it will make handling the migrant crisis much harder for the EU nations. Germany took 1.1 million migrants last year, by far the highest number in Europe, but Turkey’s geological position means that it is well positioned to give migrants a safe passage into Europe. If Turkey refuses to do this and turns migrants away at its borders then migrants would have to brave the unpredictable Mediterranean Sea, or try to go through Iran into Azerbaijan, which remains the only country other than Germany to flat out deny the Arminian genocide.
Sadly, it is doubtful that the Turkish government will ever recognize the genocide, but it is doubtless a positive that more and more governments do. Turkey need to look past Germany recognising it. European co-operation is so important at this point in history, neither Turkey nor the EU need to be challenging each other on this.