This is an inevitable process. After too much suffering and struggle, their pain and grief becomes the center of the world for them.
If they cannot divest themselves of this egocentrism, victims have a great potential to become perpetrators themselves.
This egocentrism makes things worse. Since they focus too much on their victimhood, they cannot see other victims. They cannot see the whole system, which makes them victims. And of course after all this they are only left with a blind hatred towards perpetrators, which in return has a great potential to make them perpetrators themselves.
In Turkey, almost every single group, except a tiny class of elites, have suffered from and become a victim of brutal persecution of deeply seated state traditions. We inherited them from the Committee of Union and Progress, which massacred Armenians and other non-Muslims when the Ottoman Empire was falling apart.
When we come to the republican era, exactly the same state mentality that carried out those atrocities against non-Muslims continued to persecute different groups. Devout Muslims, Alevis, leftists and Kurds have all suffered from the same state traditions.
But like I said above, being victims of mass human rights violations made these entire groups quite egocentric and blind to the suffering of others. I believe this vicious circle of egocentrism has been breaking down in Turkey in the last decade. Some non-Muslims realized that not only they but also Muslims were the victims of the same state traditions. Some covered women realized that exactly the same mentality that made non-Muslims suffer is also responsible for their own suffering.
Recently, I have been observing a kind of awakening among Kurds, which makes me quite hopeful for the future. First, Osman Baydemir, the Kurdish mayor of Diyarbakır, and very recently Altan Tan, a Kurdish member of Parliament, made some thought provoking remarks, calling everyone in Turkey to look at the past from different perspectives.
The first remark came from Baydemir, who said: “We should not forget that Armenians lived in this region, both in Mesopotamia and in Anatolia, for a long time. It is unacceptable that the relationship has not been normalized yet. … The present generation is not to blame for what happened but is obliged to say, ‘Yes, there was a massacre, and we are sorry about this’.”
In another interview, he also stated that “…Armenians suffered great pains in 1914 and were forced to leave the city. After they left, we became poor, but we were rich when together. This is not only my viewpoint, but the majority of city residents share my point of view.”
Altan Tan called on Kurds to question and to look at their own role in the massacres of Armenians. In his speech during a conference in the Southeast, he said: “Not all Kurds though picked up a sword. However, Kurds do have their serious share of blame in the genocide. … The government passed a decision of displacement [of Armenians]. Some Armenians died because of disease, some died from severe weather conditions and some were killed by violent groups. It doesn’t matter what happened to those people because the truth is one -- the Armenian people were annihilated.”
Encouraging his people to apologize for those victims, Tan said, “Call it genocide, massacre or disaster, one thing is clear: The Turkish population was at one time 13 million, and 1.2 million were Armenians. Now the population is 75 million, and only 40,000 Armenians live here.”
He also called on devout Muslims to make similar statements regarding Armenians:
“The religious segment thinks along the lines of the state where 1915 is concerned. While the Syriac massacre was taking place, [Islamic scholar] Sheikh Fethullah Hamidi delivered a fatwa saying, ‘It is forbidden to harm the lives, possessions and honor of Syriacs,’ thus saving the lives of 10,000 Syriacs. While there were Islamists who did this in the past, today there are Islamists who align themselves with the state.”
I really hope that Kurds questioning the past will deepen, and other groups, starting with devout Muslims in this country, will join them in this endeavor. I strongly believe that the future of democracy and pluralism is seriously linked to this questioning of the people of this country.