Leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli, an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has said the Ottoman Empire’s deportation of the Armenian population during World War I was the right decision and the Armenians would face the same thing under similar circumstances today.
Bahçeli, who spoke at a meeting of his party in the Turkish Parliament on Tuesday, said the Ottoman Empire decided to deport the Armenians for important and urgent reasons to maintain domestic security, while he accused the Armenians of betraying the Ottoman Empire due to provocation from foreign countries.
“The 1915 deportation decision was exactly the right decision. The same action would be taken today [under similar circumstances],” he said.
As many as 1.5 million Armenians are estimated to have been killed from 1915 to 1917 during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, which suspected the Christian minority of conspiring with adversary Russia in World War I.
Armenian populations were rounded up and deported into the desert of Syria on death marches in which many were shot, poisoned or fell victim to disease, according to accounts at the time by foreign diplomats.
Turkey categorically rejects the 1915-16 killings of more than a million Armenians as genocide.
Bahçeli said Turkey is proud of its history and that everyone should look at their “bloody histories.”
Turkey, which emerged as a secular republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, acknowledges that 300,000 Armenians may have died but strongly denies that it was genocide.
US President Joe Biden infuriated Ankara a year ago when he became the first sitting US president to describe the massacres as genocide. He had informed Turkish leader Erdoğan of the decision the day before, in a move seeking to limit anger from the NATO ally.
Erdoğan in the aftermath denounced the genocide recognition as “groundless” and “destructive” and warned Washington could lose a friend in a key region.
The strained relations gradually steadied, with the two leaders meeting last June and Erdogan hailing a “new era” of constructive ties with Washington.
Biden used the occasion of Armenian Remembrance Day on Sunday to describe past mass atrocities by Ottomans as genocide, repeating his controversial description from a year ago when he ended decades of American equivocation.