Turkish Intellectuals Who Have Recognized the Armenian Genocide: Erol Özkoray
By Hambersom Aghbashian
Erol Özkoray (born in 1953 in Istanbul) is a bilingual (French and Turkish) political writer and journalist who is known to have accurate predictions. He studied at the Francophone Galatasaray High School in Istanbul, followed by Political Science and sociology education in Paris. He became Hurriyet’s Paris correspondent, and was awarded by the Contemporary Journalism Association in 1983. Erol Özkoray worked as the correspondent of Agence France Presse in Istanbul and Ankara, also as the Turkey correspondent of Span’s El Pais. He published a democracy and political culture magazine Idea Politika between 1998-2002. His magazine has been closed down once, collected twice. Erol Özkoray was a columnist in the Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem, he also wrote articles in Liberation, Politique Internationale and Les Echos. He was awarded with the Medal of Courage by the French Council of Coordination of Armenian Organizations for his work towards the recognition of Armenian Genocide by the Turkish Government. At present, he is one of the writers of Nouvelles d’Arménie Magazine published in France. In Turkey, he received the Award of Freedom of Thought and Expression by the Association of Human Rights in 2014. Erol Özkoray has published many books including “Turkey: A Totalitarian Farm”, “What is the army for?”, “Turquie: Le Putsch Permanent”, “The Phenomenon Gezi” and others. In his pursuit for the democratization and EU membership of Turkey, his opposing views against the Islamist government and the role of the military in politics caused him to be persecuted with total 18 suits since 2000 demanding a total of 50 years of prison, but he was acquitted from all the lawsuits.
On Tuesday, May 13, 2014, Jean Eckian of armenews.com wrote “Turkish journalist Erol Özkoray received the prize of freedom of thought and expression for the year 2014. Association of Human Rights in Turkey (IHD) presented the award to Özkoray for all democratic struggles he led against the state and the power in this country (against the military, against the monopoly of the press, against the Islamist power and recognition of the Armenian Genocide)”.
“It is morally and politically very important that this fight is finally recognized in my own country,” said Erol Özkoray noting that much remains to be done to achieve true democracy in Turkey. Özkoray had already received on April 24, 2013 in Paris Medal of Courage CFC for his work for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, awarded by the co-chairs Mourad Papazian and Ara Toranian under the patronage of the Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë. People like Hrant Dink, Orhan Pamuk and Baskin Oran were already awarded the freedom of thought and awarded
In his article ” Commentary:Why Is the Armenian Genocide Still a Taboo?”, Erol Özkoray wrote on May 29, 2010 “I heard about the Armenian genocide for the first time in Paris during the 70s, and the very logical question I asked myself and also expressed in my writing at that time (university papers, a reader’s letter I sent to Le Monde newspaper, etc.) was the following: if the Republic of Turkey is based on a rejection of the Ottoman Empire, then why is the 1915 Armenian genocide not being dumped on the Ottomans? Why is the Turkish Republic assuming responsibility for this scandalous event, which is the 20th century’s first crime against humanity and that century’s first genocide?”. He mentioned three reasons for that as follows.  Mustafa Kamal based his Republican regime on the nationalist ideology of a Turkic race whereby Anatolia had to be “cleansed” of all “foreign” elements. Policies of ethnic, cultural, economic and social cleansing eliminated much of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek groups albeit failed to do so with the Kurds – hence the Kurdish problem today.  The monies and goods confiscated from the Armenians helped finance the War of Independence and formed a new social class that owed its wealth to Armenian property.  some of the perpetrators of the genocide became the political and administrative elites of the new Republican regime, such as Şükrü Kaya (Minister of the Interior, Secretary General of the People’s Republican Party), Mustafa Abdülhalik Renda (President of the Turkish Grand National Assembly), Arif Fevzi (Minister), Ali Cenani Bey (Minister of Industry), Rüştü Aras (Foreign Minister). Mustapha Kamal feigned ignorance of such facts but he benefited from these people by offering them prominent positions within the Republic.(1)
Under the title “The Armenian Genocide, Our Lives Commemorate Their Deaths!”, Harry Hagopian wrote on April 24, 2010 about the continuous denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish officials. He added “Indeed, an ever-growing number of Turkish academics, thinkers, writers and activists, like Taner Akçam, Ragip Zarakolu or Erol Özkoray, as well as genocide scholars, historians and sociologists worldwide, have been challenging such denial. In fact, only today, the Istanbul branch of the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) are holding a gathering at the entrance of Haydarpaşa Station “to commemorate the victims of the 24th April arrests and to say Never Again.” (2)
According to Erol Özkoray, “the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, in its historical, political and intellectual dimensions, goes miles and miles beyond the capacity of the current Turkish Islamist government. Nothing can be accomplished with the protocols signed between Turkey and Armenia. The Turkish State, in its current structure, will repulse any solution, as there is no solution that it could accept. The problem can be solved – like the other problems of the country- only by a statesman with the highest intellectual credentials, who has internalized the culture of democracy, come to power through elections and formed public opinion in this direction. It is impossible for ordinary small persons to overcome Turkey’s gigantic problems. We need a Big Men”.