What did Prime Minster Erdoğan Really Say?

The Prime Minister of Turkey, Tayyip Erdoğan, gave an interview to the BBC, and the BBC writes about it:

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the BBC that of 170,000 Armenians living in Turkey “70,000 are Turkish citizens”.

“We are turning a blind eye to the remaining 100,000… Tomorrow, I may tell these 100,000 to go back to their country, if it becomes necessary.”

Thousands of Armenians, many of them women, work illegally in Turkey. Most do low-skilled jobs such as cleaning.

Here is what Reuters (the Russian version) is saying about the same interview:

“На данный момент в стране проживает 170.000 армян. Только 70.000 из них имеют турецкое гражданство, однако мы терпим остальные 100.000. Если будет необходимо, я буду вынужден сказать этим 100.000 отправиться в свою страну, так как они не мои граждане. Я совсем не должен оставлять их в своей стране”, – сказал Эрдоган в интервью турецкой службе ВВС.

“At the given moment 100,000 Armenians live in the country. Only 70,000 of which do have the Turkish citizenship, however we tolerate the other 100,000. Should it become necessary, i will have to say to these 100,000 to return to their country, because they are not citizens of my country. I do not at all have to send them back to their country.” (my tranlation)

And finally, here is the Turkish version of what Prime Minister Erdoğan said:

“Bakın benim ülkemde 170 bin Ermeni var; bunların 70 bini benim vatandaşımdır. Ama yüz binini biz ülkemizde şu anda idare ediyoruz. E ne yapacağım ben yarın, gerekirse bu yüz binine ‘Hadi siz de memleketinize.’ diyeceğim; bunu yapacağım. Niye? Benim vatandaşım değil bunlar… Ülkemde de tutmak zorunda değilim. Yani şu anda bizim bu samimi yaklaşımlarımızı bunlar bu tavırlarıyla ne yazık ki olumsuz istikamette etkiliyorlar, bunların farkında değiller.” dedi.

“You see, in my country there are 170 thousand Armenians of which 70 thousand are my countrymen. But at this moment we overlook the 100,000 in our country. Now, what will i do tomorrow, will I say to these 100,000 ‘now go back to your country’. If necessary I would do it. Why? My countrymen they are not  … I do not have to keep them in my country.  Besides, their stance now has a negative impact on our sincere approach, that they are not aware of.” he said. (my translation).

OK, so I used my language skills and I am clearly not proficient in Turkish or Russian, but I think I am pretty close to what Prime Minister Erdoğan really said in the interview with BBC Turk. In my words, he says

“Not sure why they are bringing this up now. We were on a good way resolving the issues with Armenia. Besides, 100,000 Armenians do live and work illegally in Turkey, which so far we don’t mind. However, these resolutions are creating problems which may well lead me to have to say to them [Armenians] that they had to leave.”

This does not seem to me to b a threat. Turkey has a jobless rate (March 2010) of 13.5%, so their might be some pressure on the government not to tolerate 100,000 illegal immigrants anymore. Especially so, if the United States is continuing to create a problem where there was none before. This, even if well intended, can create problems for the Turkish government.

Now, the “problem” refered to above is H.Res. 106. A House resolution in which the killings of Armenians in 1915 is labelled a “genocide” committed by the “Ottoman Empire”.
What happened then and there was a grave violation of human rights, no doubt about that. However, the United States may want to deal with its own history first, before pointing fingers at others.

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