Turkish scholar Cengiz Aktar‘s Al Jazeera opinion piece suggesting that, one year before the centenary of the Armenian genocide, Turkish civil society is pushing to acknowledge the genocide is hopeful.
Today, there is an ever growing awareness regarding the bad as well as the good memory. Public actions, perhaps not so numerous, but certainly momentous, are building up at all levels. So far unhampered by the authorities, they primarily rely on voluntary citizens’ initiatives. These memory works take place in four major areas: academia and publishing; individual and collective memory search; public awareness and visibility; religious and cultural discovery.
Regarding academic interest, following pioneering publishers, many publishing houses now produce works in connection with the painful memory, but also in relation to the rich cosmopolitan past of the Ottoman Empire.
On the individual and collective memory search, many people proudly seek, discover or rediscover ancestors of non-Muslim origin in their families.
Public awareness and visibility is growing by the day. Non-Muslims literally discover themselves and are “discovered” by the society. Since 2010, April 24 is commemorated in more and more cities. Moreover, accounts on righteous people who saved their neighbours’ lives, descendants of Armenians who had to convert to Islam to save their lives are made public.
On religious and cultural area, remnants of monuments that survived are painstakingly taken care of, masses are celebrated again in Anatolia and the cultural heritage is dealt with.
It should be noted that the emergence of this process wasn’t due exclusively to the external push and the government’s early reformism. The society has paid a substantial price for it, probably symbolised by the murder of Armenian Turkish journalist Hrant Dink. Social maturation and empowerment is Turkey’s key to facing the challenges of the aching past.