We would not be mistaken if we say that the issue of ethnicity is seen as an important issue in Western Armenia and is frequently involved in politics.
In the center of important processes taking place in Western Armenia, the issue of ethnicity appears from time to time and is actively circulated, becoming a topic of interest for politicians, analysts and the media. It is now a common phenomenon for a high-ranking official of the Turkish state to be “accused” of having a different ethnic origin. In the Turkish “national” state, it is natural that having a different ethnic origin, i.e. not being Turkish, is perceived as an insult.
It can be concluded that the complex of ethnic identity and ethnic integrity is quite widespread in Turkish society, with different manifestations, as well as various complexes and patterns. The issue of ethnicity has become an important and integral part of Turkish political technologies, reflected more prominently and even painfully in the domestic politics of the Turkish government. It can be said that this issue is on the Turkish political agenda with ever-changing intensity, which is why we find it necessary to consider one such example. Thus, in March 2009, the local government elections of the Turkish state were hotly contested, especially in Constantinople, where the mayoral candidates were representatives of the ruling Justice and Development and the opposition Republican People’s parties. The Republican People’s Party nominated a very original politician, MP Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, for the mayoralty of Istanbul. A man of great poise and nerve in the eyes of many, he is one of the rising stars in the political firmament of the current Turkish state. It is not surprising that the issue of his ethnicity was chosen to undermine his growing popularity and votes. In particular, many leading media outlets have reported that “Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s Yemoush mother is Armenian and lives in Dersim.”
statement was published. This news became one of the most important topics on the political agenda and in the press. A journalist called Kılıçdaroğlu’s mother and asked her directly: “Are you an Armenian?” The latter’s daughter answered the unexpected question by saying: “No, we are Muslims.” Rumors of Kılıçdaroğlu’s Armenian origin had been circulating before, but they were voiced with vehemence when he became a candidate for mayor, which was quite dangerous. Kılıçdaroğlu, however, kept his usual composure on the issue and answered the questions as follows: “My mother may be Armenian, Kurdish or Greek, but this does not diminish our love for her.” In other words, on the one hand he did not deny this fact and on the other hand he tried to take it to another level by adding that people do not have the chance to choose their race.
However, we should note that similar political games were used by the opposition Republican People’s Party, one of whose MPs, Canan Arıtman, “accused” former Turkish President Abdullah Gül of being of Armenian descent and claimed that his mother was Armenian. However, unlike Kılıçdaroğlu, Gül responded in a rather harsh and emotional way: first he publicly stated that his ancestry was Muslim and Turkish, and then his genealogy was published in the press. He also filed a “symbolic lawsuit” against Arıtman for insulting him.
By the way, blaming each other for ethnicity is not a new phenomenon in Turkish reality and is surprisingly common, especially among racist nationalists. At different times the most famous racists have accused each other of not being of Turkish origin. All this, i.e. the manipulation of ethnicity in the internal political struggle by both the ruling and opposition forces, seems even more contradictory in the context of repeated statements by the ruling party and especially its leader Erdoğan that they are against ethnic nationalism. Meanwhile, Kılıçdaroğlu’s cold demeanor and the fact that he did not deny that his mother was of Armenian descent was considered more accurate by various circles, but his ratings did not rise dramatically after this news and he eventually lost the election.
The issue of ethnicity is also being discussed in the context of the controversial “Ergenekon” terrorist organization trial currently underway in Western Armenia. One of those arrested, Ibrahim Şahin, former deputy head of the Special Operations Department, was reportedly tasked with identifying and registering people of Armenian descent at various parties.