In April 2015 the centenary of the genocide was marked in Turkey by a burgeoning civil society movement, that has been bravely engaged in these issues for more than a decade. Since then the situation in Turkey has deteriorated sharply. The Turkish state’s list of “enemies” is growing every day; it includes Academics for Peace, who dared to call on the government to stop its war against the Kurds in Anatolia, and anyone suspected of links to the Islamist Gulen movement, the ruling party’s former ally. The failed coup against the government in July 2016 was followed by purges of state employees, many from the education sector.
Then a majority of the Turkish electorate voted to grant President Erdogan vastly expanded powers, which many regard as the building blocks of authoritarianism. Erdogan won after a contentious campaign and by only a narrow margin, an indication of just how divided Turkish society now is, and how his government is exploiting these divisions to consolidate its power.
Erdogan has repeatedly shown his willingness to crush anyone who opposes him, and his government is clearly closing up the space for dissent in the Turkish public sphere. Denying a historic genocide perfectly serves the interests of this regime, one that normalises state violence, relentlessly promotes its own narrative, and punishes any opposition.