By Derya Taskin – President of the Turkish Institute for Progress
Tomorrow, the Michigan State Senate Education Committee will take up HB 4493. HB 4493 would turn Michigan’s social studies and world history textbooks into a political playground. The disputed history of an international tragedy that took place over a hundred years ago should not be settled in Michigan schools.
While the Michigan Legislature is working to rewrite history, it is important to look back at history on the issue. Not one international court has recognized the 1915 tragedy was a “genocide.” In fact, 173 countries, the United Nations, and the European Court on Human Rights High Commission agree with that the 1915 tragedy was not a “genocide.”
What did Armenia’s first Prime Minister state about the 1915 tragedy in his 1923 manifesto? He said that “when the skirmishes had started the Turks proposed that we meet and confer. We did not do so and defied them.”
I am the President of the Turkish Institute for Progress, an organization formed to provide a forum for dialogue in pursuit of peace and cooperation between Turkey and the international community. It is crucial to reference facts in historical context so we can work together to look forward toward the next 100 years, inspired by the promise of renewed Turkish-Armenian relations under the true spirit of cooperation.
Unfortunately, the Armenian lobby is refusing to consider the historical facts in promoting legislation like HB 4493, only trying to score political points and embarrass the Turkish people. What the Armenian lobby doesn’t point out is that the Armenian community of the time took up arms against their own government, lured by Russia’s promise of an independent nation. During the conflict, 2.5 million Turks, Kurds and Arabs also lost their lives.
Today, the Russians are the puppetmaster once again as Armenia is one of Russia’s closest allies as Armenia hosts two Russian bases. Putin continues to utilize Armenia as a proxy to grow influence in the region and as former Deputy Chief of Staff to the NATO Secretary General James Foley stated in a recent Time article, Turkey “faces a burgeoning Russian military buildup across its border in neighboring Armenia, while simultaneously being squeezed by Russia’s military intervention across its border with an imploding Syria.”
With the future of the Middle East evolving on a daily basis, Turkish-U.S. relations are critical to regional security and the management of regional crises. The conflicts in Syria and Iraq have become salient issues of international security; the rising tensions in Iran and Saudi Arabia have added additional complexity to the situation as more regional instability presents itself.
Beyond international security, Turkey has also become an indispensable U.S. trade partner, constituting a large and growing market for United States exports. In 2015, Turkey was identified as Europe’s third-fastest growing economy, and Turkey does over $700 million in business with Michigan.
If the Michigan State Senate wants to weigh in on the 1915 tragedy, they should join the Turkish Institute of Progress in asking the Armenians to engage in a dialogue with the Turkish people about what happened and let the facts speak for themselves.
By voting to support HB 4493, the Michigan State Senate Education Committee will only impede pursuit of peace and cooperation between Turkey and Armenia and at the same time, it will be embarrassing an important ally in the fight against terror and an indispensable U.S. trade partner.”