According to Turkish understanding are as minorities only the “non-Muslim minorities of Armenians, Greeks and Jews within the monarchical and theocratic structure of the Ottoman Empire as” were organized Nations “(millets)… and in Articles 37-45 of the Treaty of Lausanne are recognized as minorities. ”(Source: Memorandum from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey to the Vatican State Secretariat). In addition, there are also other Christian religious groups, for example Aramaic Christians, also called Arameans, who do not benefit from the special status.
Genocide or deportation – opinions differ on the terminology. While the murder of hundreds of thousands of Armenians (estimates range from 300,000 – 1.5 million) by Ottoman troops during the course of the First World War (1915-1916) is clearly a genocide for many states, Turkey is having a hard time with it. In the historical consciousness of the Turks this process is called “resettlement” and negates the extent, the brutality and the intention of the violent action. Armenia is seen as an opponent who, with the help of Russia, has tried to endanger the unity of the Ottoman Empire through secession tendencies. In the right to self-defense and the need of an attacked state, Turkey legitimizes the procedure of murder, deportation, persecution and expropriation.
According to oxfordastronomy, there is more to this posture than the risk of losing face. With the processing of the events, the founding myth of the Turkish nation could be shaken. Because the officers and military involved in the atrocities may have assumed high duties and offices after the state was founded. What would happen if you had to prove self-interest to the founding heroes?
In any case, the number of Armenian citizens decreased continuously. Before the massacres and expulsions, about 2-2.5 million Armenians lived in the area of the Ottoman Empire. Today there are still 60,000 to 70,000 Armenians in Turkey, most of them in Istanbul. There they have their own infrastructure with an Armenian Orthodox patriarchate, 42 own churches, 17 elementary schools, two high schools, a kindergarten, 53 community foundations and 2 hospitals. In addition, two Armenian-language daily newspapers and one weekly newspaper appear in Istanbul.
The subject has long been a taboo in Turkey. Anyone who commented on this was exposed to the risk of offending against Turkishness and ending up in prison. Since the murder of Hrant Dink in 2007, the editor of the Armenian newspaper Agos, there have been increasing voices calling for solidarity with the Armenian minority. The voices “We are Hrant Dink” can still be heard when numerous demonstrations against his murder by an ultra-nationalist Turk took to the streets. The processing began with a postcard exhibition that was sent to their family members at the time of the expulsion of the Armenians. Finally, another aspect has entered the public discussion. The forced Turkishization of mainly Armenian girls who were able to survive and who today report about it as grandmothers.
At the state level there was a long silence: no diplomatic relations and closed borders. Since a World Cup qualifier between the two countries, the ice age has at least thawed a little. It was decided to partially open the border and to form a joint historians’ commission to deal with the events. This process is currently on hold.
Greek Orthodox minority
The members of this religious community are known as rum (as Roman / Byzantine Greeks). At the end of the Ottoman Empire, the community was the second largest after the Turks themselves with 2.5 million members. According to estimates, only 2500-3000 Greeks still live in Turkey today, almost exclusively in Istanbul. Through population exchange, displacement and pogroms the Greeks preferred to leave the country. The legal status of the ecumenical patriarch of Istanbul, who as Primus inter Pares is head of the Orthodox world, is problematic. This is not recognized by Turkey. In their eyes he is only the head of the Greek Orthodox in Turkey. What plagues the religious community is the lack of young priests, because the training centers have been closed for decades and, according to Turkish law, all priests must be Turkish citizens. It is hoped that the seminary on Princes’ Island in the Marmara Sea will reopen as part of the EU accession reform. The community also has a cultural infrastructure such as churches, schools, children’s homes, community foundations, hospitals and newspapers.
The Jewish minority
For more than 500 years it has been settling in Turkish territory without any threat to its own existence. The community has a total of 20,000 people. The chief rabiner lives in Istanbul. There are synagogues, community foundations, schools, hospitals and old people’s homes.
The relationship with the Turkish majority population has long been very good, and the relations between Israel and Turkey were marked by cooperation in security policy, military and economic terms. The relationship has been fragile since the 2nd GAZA war in 2008/2009 and the military action against the ship convoy with aid deliveries for Palestine.