Interview with Altug Yilmaz, Turkish editor of Istanbul-based Agos Weekly
In one of your interviews you stated that Turkey is not a democratic country and still has a long way to go. What changed in the past year after the elections? What do you think about democracy in Armenia?
I do not consider myself competent to speak about democracy in Armenia. Although it should be noted that there are problems with democracy in both Turkey and Armenia. Improving the level of democracy also depends on how you evaluate the past, as well as the present. If you ask me about positive change, I haven’t noticed any change in Turkey in the past years. But if you ask me what has changed in the past 10 or 50 years about democracy in Turkey, then yes, pretty lot has changed but Turkey is not a democratic country and has a long way to go before it becomes one.
Which country in this region is closer to democracy? Georgia seems to be highlighted.
I am not well-aware of the Caucasian region, the situation in Georgia and Armenia is complicated, there are a lot of problems but I can say that Turkey is more advanced in some aspects.
What do you think about the continuation of the Armenian and Turkish protocols?
What we can see now is evidence that nothing moves forward. There is no progress regarding the protocols, the reason is the relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan and there are also other reasons but we should not forget that the centennial anniversary of the genocide will be marked in 2015, and some change may be expected. Turkey will not recognize the genocide unless it becomes a more a democratic country.
Do you think the process of liberalization and democratization will affect the Armenian and Turkish relations? Will there be changes?
When? In 2014 when Turkey will be electing president?
Of course, steps are made towards democracy but I don’t think that Turkey will take steps towards the recognition of the genocide, and it will hinder the process of reconciliation. I don’t expect serious change till 2015.
Do you think the implementation of protocols is possible without the settlement of the Karabakh issue?
Karabakh remains the key issue between Armenia and Turkey. But I don’t expect any change about it in the upcoming 4-5 years. But in this period, the key issue remains the 100th anniversary in 2015, Karabakh is not being viewed as primary.
You noted that democratization is underway. Do they promote freedom of media and speech in Turkey?
In Turkey the media are having tough times, a lot of reporters are in jail and it is pretty hard to talk about freedom of the media in Turkey. Only democratic processes will help solving this problem.
In your opinion, why did the genocide of Armenians happen?
Since the Armenians were the most progressive class of the society and were a minority, at the same time the Moslem majority dominated over the Christian minority, besides Turkish nationalism overwhelmed the country, and there could be no word about democratic values. At the same time, Turks tried to build a nation state.