The Declaration of the National Congress of Western Armenians on
the Letter of Condolence of Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey
On 23 April 2014, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Republic of Turkey issued a condolence message to the descendants of the Armenian community of the Ottoman Empire during World War I: “We wish that the Armenians who lost their lives in the context of the early 20th century rest in peace, and we convey our condolences to their grandchildren.”
The National Congress of Western Armenians considers this statement a first step, and as the Chinese philosopher Lao Tze says, “A thousand-mile journey starts with a single step.” Mr Erdogan’s step naturally cannot and could not satisfy all the expectations of Western Armenians, who are descendants of the Armenian citizens of the former Ottoman Empire; nevertheless, we are hopeful that after this statement, the authorities in Turkey will join the constructive dialogue that has started between Turkish civil society and ourselves. The National Congress of Western Armenians pursues the aim of creating the full set of conditions for the restoration of Western Armenians’ rights, compensation for losses they suffered, and their return to the historical homeland.
The administration of Prime Minister Erdogan, and specifically the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu, have qualified the deportation of the Armenian citizens of the Ottoman Empire as “wrong and inhuman”. As a consequence of the deliberate racist and ultranationalist policies of the Union and Progress government of the Ottoman Empire, the two and a half million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 were subjected to forced deportations, indiscriminately of gender or age, mass murders, forced assimilation and deprivation of belongings. After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Republican Turkey systematically continued and completed the process of denying them their fatherland and their property.
Today’s Western Armenians, the descendants of the Armenian citizens of the former Ottoman Empire, more than anything else, expect the Turkish authorities to engage in a constructive dialogue with their representatives. In this sense, we await the Turkish authorities to take new and tangible steps taken in response to the civil society’s struggle for the country’s democratization, such as the revision of Article 66 in Turkey’s Constitution that deals with ethnic groups, the abolishment of the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code, and the re-opening (without preconditions) of the state border with the Republic of Armenia, where more than one million descendants of Western Armenians reside.
In keeping with the logic Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay expressed in his 30 April 2014 message about Prime Minister Erdogan’s statement, the National Congress of Western Armenians would like to believe that, as Turkey undertakes democratization processes in view of entering the European Union, it will, at long last, also start the long and complex process of acknowledging Western Armenians’ interests and restoring their rights.
We inform you that the National Congress of Western Armenians, in anticipation of these developments, is preparing a statement of claims addressed to the Turkish authorities and will soon make it public.
National Congress of Western Armenians
14 May 2014