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Books out of Print

PART I. Chapter 5: Conclusion and General Evaluation

Asst. Prof. Dr. Sedat LAÇİNER*
Art and Armenian Propaganda: Ararat as a Case Study
 

 ="justify">Midnight Express. One more thing, Turkey, unlike Germany and Japan, did not commit a genocide or a massacre.[1]

Today, states view arts and sports as an appendage of their foreign and security policies. As citizens take a more active part in governance, the effects of this trend intensify. Security and military agencies, which can invade homes, are firstly trying to invade the thought process of the people. In this context, Armenian interest groups have been using these tools effectively for many years. Ararat or another film or a novel, cannot be evaluated on its own. It is wrong to judge Ararat on its own and to conclude that it cannot be effective. It is equally wrong to neutralize its effectiveness and then to think that the troubles are over. Ararat is the latest product of a few decades long process. As explained earlier, organized and radical Armenian groups all around the world set aside approximately 50 million dollars for sports, art and education in order to use them to reach their political ends, This figure does not include donations and grants by state funds. Turkish public opinion and the media, which is use to conspiracy theories and nationalism being used daily for shameful purposes, might consider these as exaggeration or a plot by the state. According to some journalists Turkey seems to be in conflict with the world. They say that Turkey should start to find some faults of her own. While at first, these considerations seem valid, they do not take into account the load that history has placed on the shoulders of Turkey. No one should forget that the Armenian problem was never brought to surface by a single Turkish government. So much so that, until the mid-1970s Turkey did not seem to be aware of the existence of an Armenian problem. Even when Turkish diplomats were being killed one by one by the Armenian terrorist groups, like ASALA, the Turkish government still tried to solve the problem through negotiations. More importantly, never has the Armenian problem been discussed in its whole in public, even in the 1970s. The same situation can be witnessed in other issues. After this reflection, we see that the basis of the problem is the legacy the Ottoman Empire has left to Turkey and Turkey’s geographical placement. Almost all ethnic groups Bulgarians, Greeks and etc living as Turkey’s neighbors have won their freedom through rebelling against the Ottomans (They call them “Turks”). In this way, it is obvious that there is a historical distrust between the former Ottoman nations in the region. The same distrust is apparent in Turks, but not to the extent of the other ethnic groups. Those ethnic groups, who won their freedom the latest, are the ones who have the most problems with Turkey. Additionally, it is quite common to see ethnic groups, which do not have a strong national identity or a single uniting feature, have a trend to hate the dominant group. In this framework, it is not surprising to see Armenians, who never had a significant state and have always been scattered in a large area, hating the Turks. For those who still consider these statements as conspiracy theories or chauvinism, are advised to view the web sites and publications of Armenians and Greeks in Europe and the United States. On these sites Turks are described as “barbarians, dirty, wild or uncivilized”. It is also quite common the see the Nazi flag next to a Turkish flag in these publications. Cursing Turkey and cooperating with illegal groups in Turkey in order to instigate armed clashes are common facts. Additionally, in the past few years, refusals of many Armenian historians to Turkey’s invitations for opening a dialog clearly confirms that the historical prejudices are still there. The national interests in relations with the Turks are ignored by most of the Armenians and the emotional history approach dominate the Armenian art, politics and society in general. As discussed above anti-Turkishness also provides a practical contribution to formation of the Armenian identity. Facing with a strong assimilation process in the Western societies the diaspora Armenians feel their ethnic origin in anti-Turkish campaigns. Thus that a national identity has been based on hostility against another nation. This process has continued since the 1920s and now it is peaked. In this context, it is natural that art, sport and literature is in service of the political aims.

When considered the example of Ararat, we noticed that the movie is seen as a catalyst at a time when the restructured Armenian strategy is contemplating an intensification of so-called genocide accusations. At the presentations and in every activity to promote the movie, the ‘Armenian holocaust’ is mentioned. The showing of links to anti-Turkish sites at the official web page of the movie, to call Turkey to recognize the Armenian accusations and to call on other countries to pressurize Turkey shows that Ararat is not just another movie. Moreover, on the one hand the director of the movie has consistently accused Turkey, on the other hand he claimed that he was a constructive person and its film’s aim is to contribute peace and dialogue. It should be noted that insulting or accusing is not a good way to start a dialogue between the nations.

Can the Movie Really Damage Turkish Interests?

Yes, it can. We can even say that Ararat, with its quality and the timing, can be more damaging than the film Midnight Express. As mentioned earlier, Armenian campaigning was thought of as starting in 2000 and intensifying in 2001 and 2002. The campaign, which slowed down due to the events of September 11, and strengthened in 2002, and the film Ararat became one of the most significant parts of the international Armenian campaign. The film was shown in Cannes first, then in Canada,[2] Russia, Armenia and other states. in all of them the Armenian allegations were repeated and the Turks were accused for the tragedy.

In France in particular Turkey has been criticized a lot as a result of the film, Ararat, As known there is a strong Armenian community in France and they have influence on the French media. Another reason why the French media showed Ararat a special reverence is because the movie is a Canadian production. France, which has historical links with Canada, shows special attention to Canada. This might be the reason why Egoyan, even when he was an unknown, received his first praises in Cannes, France. However, Egoyan’s reception in Cannes was not what he and his associates expected. Ararat was not even accepted into the competition category. This development, which surprised the whole Armenian community, was an ‘injustice’ according to Egoyan. Egoyan, which accused the jury of being ‘political’, did not withdraw his movie but screened it as separately from the festival. According to Egoyan, the reason why Ararat was not chosen was due to ‘exaggerated reaction by Turkey and Turks’ about a movie that they had not seen:

“The movie is about an era, which has never been filmed.[3] ...I tried to be as fair as I can be, while recording this film. Ararat is not a Midnight Express... I cannot accept the trivialization of such a tragedy. That’s what is said in the movie.”[4]

People are discussing a movie they haven’t watched or scenes that have not been shot yet. Never has such a thing happened to me... Three of my movies were previously shown in the competition and were accepted by the jury. I believe that jury was under political pressure about a politicized movie... I believe that when the Turkish people watch this movie they will realize how just this movie really is. This movie has been compared to Lawrence of Arabia and Midnight express. It is definitely not a film like those... However, I am aware of my responsibilities of making a movie about such a period of time... I believe the genocide is true and there is nothing to discuss about it.”[5]

It is plain to see that Egoyan did not find in Cannes what he had expected. This shows the success of Turkey’s efforts against this movie. This also shows that if Turkey undertakes a disciplined and active lobbying operation, these types of movies or campaigns will not be as successful. Those who attempt to initiate such campaigns will realize that these efforts have consequences.[6]

Despite Ararat’s reception in Cannes, it is clear that the movie has been on the public agenda in the rest of France.[7] Apart from France the Armenian lobbies use the film in other European states, like Germany and the United Kingdom. Armenians, who lobbied for 4 months in order to enter the Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Day, renewed their activities with the coming of Ararat. Their supporters in the House of Lords have been trying to promote the Armenian accusations in the Parliament, even though it is not on the public agenda.

The appeal of the movie in the US and Canada can be easily guessed. The Canadian premiere of the movie was made during the Toronto Film Festival. Some Canadians considered the film as “a masterpiece by a master”, Egoyan, because its director is Canada’s most successful film director, and the film is one of the rare Canadian international film. In other words, Turkey faces a G7 nation’s pride and joy. If we consider that the reviews of the movie in the Canadian media have mainly centered on ‘genocide’ or ‘holocaust’, we can grasp the gravity of the situation. In the U.S., the movie has a good distributor and a million Armenians it can depend for free promotion. In addition to the theatre screening of the movie, sale and renting of DVD, VCD and videos of the movie are maybe even more important. These will provide the opportunity to enter the living rooms of the households. The producers of the movie also have steady connections with distributors in Canada, the US and UK and they use it.[8]

Considered the financial and political influence of Armenian Diaspora in the USA, we can easily realize how the film Ararat is going to be used. We do not know if at that time there will be an incident or war that might catapult Turkey’s strategic importance. Anti-Turkish lobbies will also be influential in promoting the movie. Right now, the illegal-terrorist Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), Greek and Armenian lobbies have been working as one. If one enters any of their internet sites, he she will be directed to other anti-Turkish web sites. For example if you enter a Greek Cypriot site, you also come across links to FKK, DHKP-C (Leftist Terrorist Group) or Armenian sites. It is also clear that Turkey is under threat of several groups, which are cooperating through their in financial and distribution networks. Other groups have also take aboard the recent Armenian ‘genocide’ campaign. Greek, who have for years claimed that Turks committed a massacre against them during the late Ottoman period, have started to talk about a ‘genocide’ of Greeks. According to the latest propaganda, Turks have always used ‘genocide’ as a political tool. This latest propaganda says, “These barbarians from central Asia cleared Anatolia from its Christian population by committing genocide against both Greeks and Armenians. Now they are doing the same against Kurds.” This claim has become so effective that separatist Kurds and Armenians, who have fought each other constantly all through history, are trying to portray themselves as brothers. The clearest example of this is the ‘London Kurdish and Armenian Genocides Seminar’.[9] In summary, as soon as Ararat was on screens, meetings, performances, ‘genocide’ exhibitions organized, followed by political activities. In other words, those who say that there is nothing to fear will see Ararat becoming a unifying theme of the Armenian accusations. Even though Turkey has suffered for many years of similar provocations, she is still unprepared. Another matter that impedes Turkey from acting independently is her economic crisis and her dependency on Western capital. If economic decisions concerning Turkey are made in Washington and Europe, it is clear that she does not have any bargaining power. Additionally, Turkey’s current status vis-a-vis EU, forces her to be a candidate without any excess baggage and this will create tensions between Turkey and one of the big three of EU, France.

Another direction in which the movie can negatively influence is the internal equilibrium of Turkey. Reactionary speeches and sudden outbursts will affect Turkey’s sensitive structure. As seen in previous examples Turkey can do damage to itself by anger under the guise of nationalist feelings. In this context, is we take reactions generated by the movie Salk?m Han?m’?n Taneleri as the norm, the biggest harm will be felt by Turkey herself.[10] Reactions against anti-Turkish activities overseas should not be directed against any ethnic group in Turkey. Especially, Turkish Armenians and other Turkish minorities should not be drawn to the dispute. Instead their cooperation should be sought. As has been seen the Turkish Armenians in particular have not accepted Egoyan’s style as a method in their relations with the other Turkish people.

Furthermore, reactions against Ararat or any film should not be directed to a foreign country such as Canada. To direct public hostility to a country can only be a last resort. It should not be forgotten that in a dispute, Turkey has much more to loose than the U.S., Canada, France or the UK. Moreover, Turkey should first inform than react instead of first react than making efforts to shift the public opinion in these countries. Additionally, propaganda actions coming out of these countries should not be accepted as that country’s fault. Any action should be replied to in kind.

Bans and censure cannot be a lasting solution. Therefore neither Ararat nor any other Armenian film or book should be banned. It is true none of the Turkish books can be translated and delivered among the Armenians since the radical groups do not allow to do that, yet any censure may damage Turkish democracy. Therefore Turkey cannot sacrifice her democracy, pluralism and liberalism for the Armenian or any other issue.

The movie was made primarily for propaganda purposes. Additionally, Egoyan handing over his talent to politics should be criticized. Even if his movie is not shown in Turkey, Egoyan should be invited and asked why he made such a destructive movie.

Can anything legal be done? This option should be considered carefully. Until now, this option was considered not to be viable. In other words, to use the legal route before the movie has been screened is not believed to be constructive. However, after the movie is being shown, Turks and Turkey can take legal steps to right the mistakes done to them. Persons and non-governmental organizations can take file lawsuits against the makers of the movie. Especially, the family of the governor of Van, Cemal Pasha and his military subordinates and those who had suffered during the Van uprisings can file for compensation in the West. Mehmetçik Foundation should not keep silent against the insults directed against the Turkish army. The movie, which might create ethnic tensions in Canada, the US and Europe, might be put on trial for violating the social balance of those countries. Additionally, Turkish associations in the West can hold meetings and seminars to inform the Western public of the real truth. Aware of the damage that the movie will cause, court rulings for the postponement of the public premieres of the movie can be attempted.

Last Words

In conclusion, it is very wrong and even maybe dangerous to underestimate Ararat as a personal, artistic or an unimportant event, It is also very important not to overestimate its worth in the wider picture, and to react in an extreme way. The issue is beyond being an Egoyan or Ararat problem. It is an Armenian problem and Ararat is a result of Turkey’s own inactivity and the propaganda of extremist Armenian groups. Turkey has always refrained from forming an organized and effective policy and instead depended on her sudden reactions. On the other hand, the extremist Armenian groups in Diaspora have tried to use Anti-Turkish feeling as a rallying call for their nation. In such an environment, it should not be surprising that a movie like Ararat has come to being. In other words, Ararat is just a part of a wider political Armenian campaign and Turkey should ready herself for the appearance of many similar films in the near future. First signs of these are being reported. ‘Armenian Genocide’ accusations are beginning to become an industry itself and it is attracting many artists who want to be heroes. The latest example of such an incident is French Director Robert Guediguian’s statement that, ‘my biggest dream is to make a movie about Armenians in Armenia’.[11]


[1] For Personal experiences: Gürcanl?, Ulusal...’; Kubilay Çelik, ‘Filimcilikte Devlet Politikas? (State Policies in Film-Making), Netbul.com, 6 December 2001.
[2] ‘New Egoyan Shoots Next Month’, Toronto Sun, 6 April 2001.
[3] These words are clearly uninformed or simply a lie. ‘Genocide’ accusation is one of the favorite topics of Armenian filmmakers and many movies use this subject. for more detailed information: Sedat Laçiner, ‘Ermeni Propa¬gandas? ve Ermeni Sinemas? (Armenian Propaganda and Armenian Cinema)’, Stratejik Analiz, Vol. 2, No. 24, April 2002, p.49-68.
[4] John Mckay, ‘Atom Egoyan isn’t Entering His New Film Ararat in Cannes festival competition’, The Star (Toronto),
24 April 2002.
[5] Robert crew, ‘Egoyan Defends Cannes entry’, Toronto Star, 25 April 2002,
[6] Egoyan and his associates are also worried about legal problems due to Ararat. ‘Atom Egoyan Film
Could face Legal challenge by Turkish government’, The Guardian (Charlottetown, Canada), 24 April 2002.
[7] Statements made about Cannes were true on 1 September 2002.
[8] For example the movie’s UD distributor Alliance Atlantis has close connections with 20th century Fox Home Enter¬tainment in UK: Sam Andrews, Billboard, Vol. 111, No. 33, 14 August 1999, p.91.
[9] Nora Vosbigian, ‘Kurdish and Armenian Genocides focus of London Seminar’, Armenian forum, 26 July 1999.
[10] Journalist Bardakç?, concerned about the reaction Salk?m Han?m’?n Taneleri generated, compares it with a possible backlash and to the dangers involved, ‘I interpreted this as a prequel to a serious anti-Armenian feeling in Turkey. I see a hurtful Armenian problem for the near future.’ Bar?? Bardakç?, ‘Üzüm Han?m Türk’tür, Türk kalacakt?r’, Ak?am, 7 December 2001.
[11] Roger Clarke, ‘Robert Guediguian: When Politics Gets Personal’, Armenian Daily, 25 October 2001.

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