Friday, April 24, 2015

Reparations for the Armenian Genocide

If the goal is to actually get money for the descendants of the genocide survivors this makes sense. But if the goal is really just to further shame Turkey into acknowledging the Armenian genocide, as a purely practical matter demanding reparations is not going to accomplish that objective. If reparations are on the table, it gives Turkey a massive incentive to never acknowledge what really happened and will further support conspiracy theories that the entire story of what happened between 1915 and 1923 is an anti-Turkish plot.

As I said last week, if reparations are not a factor, the Turkish government's refusal to call the Armenian genocide a genocide does not make sense and ultimately harms Turkey more than acknowledging it would. Demands for reparations change that calculation considerably.

That is not to say that reparations are not deserved. Actually, I am not sure where I come down on that question. We are talking about an atrocity happened 100 years ago and (I believe) none of the victims who survived the genocide are alive today. Also both the political movement (the Young Turks) and the country (the Ottoman Empire) that perpetrated the genocide no longer exists either. It comes back again to the question of what the reparations are for. Is it to compensate the current Armenian community for the losses they sustained from that atrocity? Or is it a way to make a statement that genocide is a terrible thing and to force Turkey to recognize that dark chapter in its history? If it is the latter, I don't think reparations are a strategy that can work.