Some of you might remember. It was about 40 years ago… Willy Brandt, the then Chancellor of Germany, paid an official visit to Poland. During this trip, he did something that no one expected. He suddenly kneeled before the monument to the memory of the victims and remained on his knees for a minute, with his head bowed, apologizing in the name of the German state. He asked for forgiveness from the peoples of the world. TV channels across the world broadcast that moment. Willy Brandt apologized on behalf of the German people. By doing so, he glorified Germany. He helped the German people gain esteem.
Let us also remember that our neighbor Bulgaria’s Stalinist president Todor Zhivkov had decided to get rid of Bulgarian citizens of Turkish origin. In Turkey, Özal was in power back then. Turgut Özal had said “We shall welcome those people.” More than three thousand refugees arrived in Turkey. People were uprooted from their homeland. And today. It has been more than twenty years. Three years ago, the democratic parliament of Bulgaria, which is now a EU member, took a unanimous decision with 122 votes. The Bulgarian state apologized officially from Turkey, the Turkish people and those sent in exile back then. Only three parliamentarians abstained from the vote. There had been no demand for excuse, neither from Turkey, nor from anyone else. The Bulgarian parliament took a unilateral decision and apologized.
A similar event took place two years ago. In Germany, eight people of Turkish origin were murdered, but the incidents were covered up by the police. In time, the truth was revealed. It turned out that the murders were committed by Turkophobic neo-Nazi groups. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not attempt to deny the events. She assumed her responsibility. She apologized officially from the victimized Turkish families, on behalf of the German state.
The entire German people, that is 80 million individuals, observed a minute of silence in memory of the victims. Thereby, Angela Merkel glorified the German people and gained worldwide esteem. She also won hearts in Turkey.
Social peace is enjoyed exclusively by societies which have bravely come to terms with the dark moments in their past, by throwing aside the dark veil that covers the truth. That is, the call “Never again!” must reverberate in the streets, across the society, for peace and serenity, and the state must make an apology to preserve social cohesion.
Let us go back to the German and Bulgarian examples and ask ourselves the following: Why cannot we be as just and humane as Bulgarians or Germans?The official apologies by Germany and Bulgaria are just two examples. We have counted up to 150 such steps taken by states with a view to installing social peace and harmony.
This exhibition brings together 8 cases from Chile to the USA, from Australia to the UK, so that we do not see ourselves as a hapless people or think that our country is under “exceptional circumstances.”
We cannot step into the shoes of the general public, opinion leaders or decision makers. However, we would like to invite everyone to a process of rethinking.
With this digital version of our “Never Again! Apology and Coming to Terms with the Past” exhibition, it is our privilege to share the inspirational stories of those who made history by the amends they made and their acts of taking responsibility for the wrongdoings in their past.
July 2012: The initial idea of the exhibition began to take form with the discussions being carried out at the Open Society Foundation, as the conflicts, the peace-making processes and official apologies that took place in USA, Germany, France, Britain, Australia, Chile, Serbia and Bulgaria were all clinically reviewed.
September 2012: The Open Society Foundation and Anadolu Kültür came together to work on what would go on to become the “Never Again! Apology and Coming to Terms with the Past” exhibition, with the chief aim being to encourage people to rethink their past by drawing inspiration from cases with similar roots to the political issues being faced in Turkey.
November 2012: The Open Society Foundation and Anadolu Kültür staff, with the addition of curator Önder Özengi, began their several months long journey of arduous and meticulous work. With the academic counsel provided by Prof. Dr. Elazar Balkan, who is a globally renowned academic on the subjects of societies' and governments' steps towards restoring peace, over 150 apologies from recent history were taken into consideration and 8 historical cases were picked in the end.
A very vast scaled international research took place for the 8 cases which would, in turn, constitute the “Never Again! Apology and Coming to Terms with the Past” exhibition, which in turn garnered great interest from press and public alike upon its opening at Tophane / Depo in İstanbul on November 24th, 2013.
The research included findings, photos, documents, documentaries, videos and witness statements that best shed light on how the public faced the conflicts, mass killings and genocidal practices; how presidents and politicians apologised to their people and those who were wronged.
In the light of these selected cases, the exhibition began to be moulded into three stages; the event that caused the expectation of an apology in the first place, the struggle that took place to get to the stage of apology, and how the apology itself transpired, respectively. The exhibition also presented information about the truth commissions, international penalty courts, memorials and memory foundations, each an example seen in the individual cases included.
November 2013: In addition to the exhibition, the project later evolved into a book, which, published under the same name, aimed to provide a different insight on how the topic reflected on Turkey and around the world.
December 2013: We began working on building an online version of the exhibition to expand its reach and make its effect more lasting.
April 2014: With the 3 month collaboration between the Ocelott Interactive Communications Team and the exhibition staff as well as our curator, our digital exhibition came to life.
We aim to share the inspirational stories of those who made history by taking responsibility and making amends. With our now digital “Never Again! Apology and Coming to Terms with the Past” exhibition, our hope is that we are now one step closer to the answers.
“Never Again!: Apology and Coming to Terms with the Past”, is a joint project of Open Society Foundation and Anadolu Kültür.
Photographers and documentary film makers
Fred Hoare, Robert White, Marcelo Montecino, Paulo Slachevsky, Marcela Briones, Patricia Alfaro, Marco Ugarte, Behiç Günalan, Dusan Vranic, Irina Nedeva, Andrey Getov, Leslie Woodhead, Mick Csaky, Jon Jones
for sharing their photographs and documentaries.
Mémoires d’Humanité (L’Humanité Gazetesi Arşivi / Archives of the newspaper L’Humanité); Ministère de la Défense - ecpad (Fransa Savunma Bakanlığı - ecpad Arşivi / French Ministry of Defence – ecpad Archive); INA (Ulusal Audiovisuel Enstitüsü, Fransa / National Audiovisual Institute, France); Getty Images Turkey; National Archives of Australia (Avustralya Devlet Arşivleri); Parliament of Australia (Avustralya Parlamentosu); The Library of Congress (ABD Kongre Kütüphanesi); Bundesarchiv (Alman Devlet Arşivi / The Federal Archives of Germany); Museum of Free Derry, Derry (Özgür Derry Müzesi, Derry); Birleşik Krallık Parlamentosu (UK Parliament); UTV Ltd, Belfast; Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago (Bellek ve İnsan Hakları Müzesi, Santiago / Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Santiago); Bulgaristan Devlet Ajansı Arşivi (Bulgaria State Agency Archives); Bulgar Ulusal Radyosu, Sofya (Bulgarian National Radio, Sofia); The Red House, Sofia; Lost Bulgaria, Sofia; Associated Press; Humanitarian Law Center, Belgrade (İnsani Hukuk Merkezi, Belgrad); Antelope Films; Directors Cut Films
for sharing their archives.
Murat Çelikkan, Meltem Aslan, Gökçe Tüylüoğlu, Özlem Yalçınkaya, Pelin Bardakçı, Aslı Çetinkaya, Irazca Geray, Urszula Wozniak, Gökhan Gençay, Christian Bergmann, José Manuel Rodríguez Leal, Adrian Kerr, Marijana Toma, Irina Nedeva, Peyo Tzankov Kolev, Tanıl Bora, Zeynep Moralı, Şengül Ertürk, Ahmet İnsel, Mithat Sancar, Ozan Erözden, Necati Sönmez, Burçak Muraben, Nazlı Gürlek, Hilal Ünal, Fahrettin Örenli, Muhsin Akgün
for all their generous help and support.
The Never Again! exhibition was first opened at Depo / Tophane and it stayed open between the dates October 25th and December 15th, 2013. The exhibition had a total of 22.413 visitors.
The exhibition’s next stops were the İzmir Kültürpark Art Gallery between May 2nd and 25th, as well as the Sümerpark Amed Art Gallery in Diyarbakır between June 4th and 29th.
Apology and Coming to
Terms with the Past
Apology as Historical Dialogue - Elazar Barkan
A Restorative Justice Approach between the Past and the Future - Turgut Tarhanlı
"I Apologize Before All People" - Tanıl Bora
Apology, Confrontation, Mourning - Yetvart Danzikyan
The Apology Dilemma for Uludere - Yıldız Ramazanoğlu
Let the State Apologize and the People Listen to Each Other - Karin Karakaşlı
Psycho-politics of Yüzleşme - Murat Paker
Genocide – Such a Difficult Word - Marijana Toma
Please choose a country.
Erica Harth (der.), Last Witnesses: Reflections on the Wartime Internment of Japanese Americans, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001.
Greg Robinson, By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2001.
Leslie T. Hatamiya, “Institutions and Interest Groups: Understanding the Passage of the Japanese American Redress Bill”, When Sorry Isn’t Enough: The Controversy over Apologies and Reparations for Human Injustice içinde, Roy L. Brooks (der.), New York: New York University Press, 190-200, 1999.
Nancy F. Cott, Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation içinde, Kindle Edisyonu, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2002.
Roger Daniels, “Redress Achieved: 1983-1990”, When Sorry Isn’t Enough: The Controversy over Apologies and Reparations for Human Injustice içinde, Roy L. Brooks (der.), New York: New York University Press, 189, 1999.
Roger Daniels, “Relocation, Redress, and the Report: A Historical Appraisal”, When Sorry Isn’t Enough: The Controversy over Apologies and Reparations for Human Injustice içinde, Roy L. Brooks (der.), New York: New York University Press, 183-186, 1999a.
Roy L. Brooks, “Japanese American Redress and the American Political Process: A Unique Achievement?”, When Sorry Isn’t Enough: The Controversy over Apologies and Reparations for Human Injustice içinde, Roy L. Brooks (der.), New York: New York University Press, 157-162,1999.
Sandra Taylor, “The Internment of Americans of Japanese Ancestry”, When Sorry Isn’t Enough: The Controversy over Apologies and Reparations for Human Injustice içinde, Roy L. Brooks (der.), New York: New York University Press, 165-168, 1999.
“Kniefall angemessen oder übertrieben?”, Der Spiegel 51: 27, 1970,
“The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising”, US Holocaust Memorial Museum,
Adam Krzeminski, “Der Kniefall”, Point. Portal Polsko-Niemiecki, Deutsch-Polnisches Portal.
Alexander Behrens, “‘Durfte Brandt knien?’ – Der Kniefall und der deutsch-polnische Vertrag”, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Online Akademie, 2010,
Elazar Barkan, Alexander Karn, “Group Apology as an Ethical Imperative”, Taking Wrongs Seriously: Apologies and Reconciliation içinde, Elazar Barkan ve Alexander Karn (der.), Stanford: Stanford University Press, 3-30, 2006.
Markus Kornprobst, Irredentism in European Politics: Argumentation, Compromise and Norms, Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Mithat Sancar, Geçmişle Hesaplaşma: Unutma Kültüründen Hatırlama Kültürüne, İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2007.
Ruti Teitel, “The Transitional Apology”, Taking Wrongs Seriously: Apologies and Reconciliation içinde, Elazar Barkan ve Alexander Karn (der.), Stanford: Stanford University Press, 101-114, 2006.
Valentin Rauer, “Symbols in Action: Willy Brandt’s Kneefall at the Warsaw Memorial”, Social Performance: Symbolic Action, Cultural Pragmatics, and Ritual içinde, Jeffrey C. Alexander, Bernhard Giesen ve Jason L. Mast (der.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 257-282, 2006.
Willy Brandt, My Life in Politics, New York: Viking, 1992.
A. Dirk Moses, “Official Apologies, Reconciliation, and Settler Colonialism: Australian Indigenous Alterity and Political Agency”, Citizenship Studies, 15:02, 145-159, 2011.
Danielle Celermajer, “The Apology in Australia: Re-covenanting the National Imaginary”, Taking Wrongs Seriously: Apologies and Reconciliation içinde, Elazar Barkan ve Alexander Karn (der.), Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006.
David Miller, “Holding Nations Responsible”, Ethics, 114 (January): 240-268, 2004.
Ali Dayıoğlu, Toplama Kampından Meclis’e: Bulgaristan’da Türk ve Müslüman Azınlığı, İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2005.
Huey Louis Kostanick, “Turkish Resettlement of Refugees from Bulgaria, 1950-1953”, Middle East Journal, 9(1): 41-52, 1955.
Julian Popov, “Bulgaria, Turks and the Politics of Apology”, Al Jazeera English, 26 Ocak, 2012,
Lilia Petkova, “The Ethnic Turks in Bulgaria: Social Integration and Impact in Bulgarian Turkish Relations, 1947-2000”, The Global Review of Ethnopolitics, 1(4): 42-59, 2002.
Svetla Dimitrova, “Bulgaria Apologises to Its Turks for ‘Revival Process’”, SE Times, (18 Ocak, 2012,
“Chirac attacks ‘history’ law”, The New York Times, 4 Ocak 2006,
“France recognises Algeria colonial suffering”, Al Jazeera, 20 Aralık 2012,
“Sarkozy in Algeria, calls French colonialism ‘profoundly unjust’” The New York Times, 3 Kasım 2007,
“Sarkozy tells Algeria: No apology for the past”, Reuters, 10 Temmuz,
Bruce Crumley, “Sarkozy confronted by Algerian anger”, Time, 3 Aralık 2007,
Claude Liauzu, “At war with France’s past”, Le Monde Diplomatique, Haziran 2005.
Clovis Casali, “Hollande says no apology for Algerian colonial past”,
Declaration on the Right to Insubordination in the War in Algeria (The Manifesto of the 121) 1960,
Gregory Viscusi, “Hollande Calls France’s Algerian Rule Brutal; No Apology”,
Jean Paul Sartre, “1961 Tarihli Baskıya Önsöz”, Frantz Fanon, Yeryüzünün Lanetlileri içinde, Şen Süer (çev.), İstanbul: Versus, 2005.
Jean-Luc Einaudi, Octobre 1961: un massacre à Paris, Paris: Fayard.
Julie Fette, “Apology and the Past in Contemporary France”, French Politics, Culture and Society, 26(2): 78-113, 2008.
Martin Evans, “French Resistance and the Algerian War”, History Today, 41(7), 1991,
Martin S. Alexander, Martin Evans, J.F.V. Keiger, “The ‘War without a Name’, the French Army and the Algerians: Recovering Experiences, Images and Testimonies”, The Algerian War and the French Army, 1954-62: Experiences, Images, Testimonies içinde, (der.) Martin S. Alexander, Martin Evans ve J.F.V. Keiger, New York: Macmillan, 1-39, 2002.
Mohammed Harbi, “Massacre in Algeria”, Le Monde Diplomatique, Mayıs 2005.
Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison, “Liberty, equality and colony”, Le Monde Diplomatique Haziran 2001.
Raphaëlle Branche, “The State, the Historians and the Algerian War in French Memory, 1994-2001”, Contemporary History on Trial: Europe since 1989 and the Role of the Expert Historian içinde, (der.) Harriet Jones, Kjell Östberg ve Nico Randeraad, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 159-173, 2007.
Robert Aldrich, “Colonial Past, Post-Colonial Present: History Wars French Style”, History Australia, 3(1): 1-10, 2006.
“İngiltere ‘Kanlı Pazar’ İçin 38 Yıl Sonra Özür Diledi”, bianet.org,
Brian Conway, Commemoration and Bloody Sunday: Pathways of Memory, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Eamonn McCann (der.) The Bloody Sunday Inquiry: The Families Speak Out, Londra: Pluto Press, 2005.
Patrick Joseph Hayes ve Jim Campbell, Bloody Sunday: Trauma, Pain and Politics, Londra: Pluto Press, 2005.
Elizabeth Jelin, “Silences, Visibility, and Agency: Ethnicity, Class, and Gender in Public Memorialization”, Identities in Transition: Challenges for Transitional Justice in Divided Societies içinde, Paige Arthur (der.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Ercan Eyüboğlu, Türkiye İşçi Partisi: Parlamento’da, 40. Yıl, İstanbul: Tüstav Yayınları, s. 15-19, 2006.
Ernesto Verdeja, Unchopping a Tree: Reconciliation in the Aftermath of Political Violence, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009.
Supreme Decree No. 355, paragraph 9.
James Petras ve Morris Morley, The United States and Chile: Imperialism and the Overthrow of the Allende Government, New York: Monthly Review Press,1975.
James Smith, “Compromise with a Democratic Vision Takes Over Sunday in Chile”, Los Angeles Times, March 10, 1990.
Mario I. Aguilar, “The Disappeared and the Mesa de Diálogo in Chile 1999-2001: Searching for Those Who Never Grew Old”, Bulletin of Latin American Research, 21(3): 413-424, 2002.
Mark Obert, “Şili’nin En Büyük Stadyumunda Hayatını Geçiren Manuel Medina’dan ve Manuel Medina’ya Dair Anılar: Ulusal Stadyum’dan Sağ Çıkmak”, çev. Mithat Sancar, Birikim, 215: 99-107, Mart 2007.
Mithat Sancar, Geçmişle Hesaplaşma: Unutma Kültüründen Hatırlama Kültürüne, İstanbul: İletişim, 2007.
Patricio Aylwin, “Chile: Statement by President Aylwin on the Report of the National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation”, Transitional Justice: How Emerging Democracies Reckon with Former Regimes içinde, Neil J. Kritz (der.), Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 169-173, 1995.
Daniela Mehler, “Understanding Normative Gaps in Transitional Justice: The Serbian
Discourse on the Srebrenica Declaration 2010”, Journal of Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, 11(4): 127-156, 2012.
İlhan Uzgel, “Balkanlarla İlişkiler”, Türk Dış Politikası, Cilt 2 içinde, Baskın Oran (der.), İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2001.
Jasna Dragovic-Soso, “Apologising for Srebrenica: The Declaration of the Serbian Parliament, the European Union and the Politics of Compromise”, East European Politics, 28(2): 163-179, 2012.
Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik, “Knowledge, Acknowledgement and Denial in Serbia’s Response to the Srebrenica Massacre”, Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 17(1): 61-74, 2009.
Marjina Toma, “Genocide: Such a Difficult Word”, bu kitapta, 2013.
Olivera Simic ve Kathleen Daly, “ ‘One Pair of Shoes, One Life’: Steps towards Accountability for Genocide in Srebrenica”, The International Journal of Transitional Justice, 5: 477-491, 2011.
Remembrance and Reconciliation, edited by Robert Gildert and Dennis Rothermel, Rodopi, 2011.
The Age of Apology: Facing up to the Past, edited by Mark Gibney et.al., University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.
Forgiveness: A Philosophical Exploration, Charles L. Griswold, Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies, John Paul Lederach, United States Inst of Peace Press, 1997.
Taking Wrongs Seriously: Apologies and Reconciliation, edited by Elazar Barkan and Alexander Karn, Stanford University Press, 2006.
The Guilt of Nations: Restitution and Negotiating Historical Injustices, Elazar Barkan, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.
When Sorry isn’t Enough: The Controversy over Apologies and Reperations for Human Injustice, Roy L. Brooks, NYU Press, 1999.
Reconciliation in Divided Societies: Finding Common Ground, Erin Daly and Jeremy Sarkin, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.
Closing the Books: Transitional Justice in Historical Perspective, Jon Elster, Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Unsettling Accounts: Neither Truth nor Reconciliation in Confessions of State Violence, Leigh A. Payne, Duke University Press, 2008.
Mea Culpa: A Sociology of Apology and Reconciliation, Nicholas Tavuchis, Stanford University Press, 1991.
Political Reconciliation, Andrew Schaap, Taylor and Francis, 2012.
The Politics of Official Apologies, Melissa Nobles, Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Reconciliation(s): Transitional Justice in Postconflict Societies, edited by Joanna R. Quinn, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009.
Taking Responsibility for the Past: Reparation and Historical Justice, Janna Thompson, Polity Press, 2003.
Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics, Jennifer Lind, Cornell University Press, 2010.
I was wrong: The Meaning of Apologies, Nick Smith, Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Reconciliation After Violent Conflict: A Handbook, IDEA, 2003.
Geçmişle Hesaplaşma: Unutma Kültüründen Hatırlama Kültürüne, Mithat Sancar, İletişim Yayınları, 2007.
The spirits that were called the Bloody Sunday inquiry and the reconciliation process in Northern Ireland / Katharina Ploss, 2006, Sanat ve Sosyal Bilimler Fakültesi, master tezi, tez danışmanı Esra Çuhadar Gürkaynak.
Making Peace with the Past?: Memory, Trauma and the Irish Troubles, Graham Dawson, Manchester University Press, 2007.
The Turks of Bulgaria: The History, Culture and Political Fate of a Minority, Kemal Karpat, University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.
Turkey’s Neighborhood, edited by Mustafa Kibaroğlu, Foreign Policy Institute, 2008.
“When sorry isn’t good enough: Official remembrance and reconciliation in Australia”, Damien Short, Memory Studies, 5(3): 293-304, July 2012.
“Report on Redress: The Japanese American Internment”, Eric K.Yamamoto and Liann Ebesugawa // article used in The Handbook of Reperations, edited by Pablo De Greiff, Oxford University Press, 2008.
Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys, Jeffrey Herf, Harvard University Press, 1997.
“Hakikat, Özürler ve tazminatlar”, Immanuel Wallerstein:
“Requests and Apologies: A Cross-Cultural Study of Speech Act Realization Patterns”
“Dünyada Özür Politikaları ve Türkiye”, Adnan Ekşigil, Birikim, no. 240, 2009.
“Geçmişle Hesaplaşmak: ‘Söyledim ve Vicdanımı Kurtardım’dan Ötesi”, Tanil Bora, Birikim, no. 248 (Geçmişle Hesaplaşma Kolay mı? sayısı), 2009.
“Tarihle Yüzleşme”, Taner Akçam, Birikim, no. 193-194 (Bir Zamanlar Ermeniler vardı!.. sayısı), 2005.
Our exhibition featured a “Sorry Book” for all our visitors to express their thoughts.
The visuals below are examples taken from that book.
Your thoughts are important to us. If you have anything you would like to share, please fill out the form below.
Japanese Americans were subjected to discriminatory practices ever since they settled in the USA. Naturalization Act of 1790 granted the right to American citizenship only to free white persons which put the immigrants from Japan in a difficult position. In time, African Americans also acquired the right to citizenship but the Asian immigrants could not benefit from these achievements for a long time. Tensions between the USA and Japan in the aftermath of the First World War escalated with Japan's invasion of Manchuria in 1931. Tipping point of these tensions focused on the Pacific Ocean was the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941 that started the war between the two countries. Long before the USA declared war FBI had already prepared lists of Japanese suspects in the country. Following the Pearl Harbor raid, these people namely Buddhist priests, journalists and teachers were put under surveillance.
Executive Order 9066 signed by President Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, bestowed the Minister of War with the authority of declaring certain areas as military zones from which any or all persons may be excluded. In line with this authority, Internment Camps were established in the states of California, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. In these camps, where constitutional citizenship rights were suspended, soldiers imprisoned 120,000 Japanese people, 77,000 of whom were American citizens. In 1980 President Jimmy Carter signed the law for the establishment of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) in Congress. In 1983 the Commission published a report of recommendations calling for the Congress to officially apologize for the wrongs committed and pay reparations to the survivors.
The Civil Liberties Act signed in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan paved the way for the reparations to be paid to the victims. On December 7, 1991 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, President George H. W. Bush wrote a letter of apology which was sent to the surviving Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in the camps. President Clinton also published a letter on October 1, 1993 apologizing to the Japanese Americans for their sufferings.
During their period of rule the Nazis killed approximately 6 million people, the vast majority being Jews.
Prior the Second World War, in all invaded territories Germans had adopted the policy of establishing ghettos wherein Jews were segregated from the society and stripped off their constitutional citizenship status. Between 1941-43 Jews living in the ghettos had created close to a hundred resistance groups. The most resounding resistance organized by these groups was the resistance in Warsaw Ghetto. From this isolation area, which by the summer of 1942 was filled with close to 500 thousand people, around 300 thousand Jews were taken and sent to the extermination camp in Treblinka. The ensuing resistance in the Ghetto was able to hold out for one month.
During the first post-war years in Germany, the Nazi past did not want to be remembered. By 1960s, Federal Germany was being shaken with demonstrations that dared question this tainted history. Youth organizations of 1968 were starting new debates, demanding a genuine disclosure of that which underlay the Nazi mentality. Amidst the claims of transitioning to democracy, it had emerged as sine qua non of the demand for social democracy to expose the Nazis still on active duty in numerous branches of bureaucracy and the secret service, and question the mass support that carried Nazis to power in the first place. Through these struggles the past was raked up and it was acknowledged that genocide had been committed.
The aforementioned process of coming to terms with the past continued, spread over the years. One of the most significant moments of this process took place in Poland, where Federal Germany Chancellor Willy Brandt had gone to sign the Treaty of Warsaw as an indication of Germany’s rapprochement with Eastern Bloc countries and especially Poland. On December 7, 1970, during his visit to the monument built in memory of the people killed by Nazis in the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto, at a completely unexpected moment Brandt knelt on his knees before the monument and waited in silence.
Brandt’s gesture of apology went down in history as a turning point in coming to terms with the past. Brandt was granted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 for his works in the service of peace.
German state officials apologized from Israel and the Jewish people multiple times, and Germany paid reparations to Israel and the Holocaust survivors.
Australia was colonized by Britain towards the end of the 18th century. As of this date, the population of the native people shrank rapidly. The colonial administration that invaded the continent disregarded peoples‘ cultural values and accumulations and instead chose to assimilate the native “elements“ of the invaded lands. One of the methods employed in line with this objective was the integration propaganda. It was the forced separation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. These children torn from their families would later be known as the “Stolen Generations“.
The “Protection and Management of Aboriginal Natives“ act passed in 1869 had established complete control over every detail of Aboriginals‘ lives including where to live, whom to marry or how to farm their land. Aboriginal children were placed in missionary dormitories where they received the “necessary“ training to serve the white families that they would later be given to. It is estimated that through 1869-1969 one out of every three Aboriginal children, that is around 100 thousand children, were taken from their own families.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission started an investigation into the children taken from their families, and in 1997 released a report on the “National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families“. This report titled Bringing them Home addressed in detail the racist and colonialist practices that were continued until the 1970s.
The Commission‘s demand for an official apology was partially met and in 2001 all state parliaments published texts of apology for the “Stolen Generations“. The Federal government on the other hand, due to the Prime Minister John Howard‘s insistence, refused to apologize on grounds that in practice peace had been instituted. On the path to apology in Australia, the civil society that organized campaigns such as the National Sorry Day, Sorry Book and Journey of Healing played an extremely important role.
With the Labor Party victory in the February 2008 elections, Kevin Rudd became prime minister and made an official apology to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In his apology speech he put an end to the racist, colonialist settler politics of the past and emphasized the vision for a new future that embraces indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.
Following the official recognition of new Bulgaria by the Ottomans in 1909, Istanbul Protocol was signed between the two states guaranteeing the rights of the Muslim Turkish minority in Bulgaria. The minorities whose rights were expanded with the 1913 Treaty of Constantinople and 1919 Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine were able to continue their existence in Bulgaria without confronting any adversity.
Todor Zhivkov, who came to power in 1954, proceeded to change the constitution to the detriment of minorities as of 1971. Policies of the “Process of Rebirth“ put in effect in 1984 launched the “hard assimilation“ era manifested with arrests, exiles and forced labor practices. All Turkish names were changed to Bulgarian ones. It was prohibited to speak Turkish in public spaces, workplaces and schools. Among the bans were daily prayers, circumcision, as well as Islamic wedding and funeral rites. Turkish minority responded to the government“s sanctions by organizing a resistance. In 1985, a secret organization led by Ahmet Doğan and called the Turkish National Liberation Movement (BTMKH) was founded in Varna. This movement constituted the origin of the Rights and Freedoms Movement that later organized legally and is currently a coalition partner of the present government. Around 140 Turkish demonstrators lost their lives in the organized protests and campaigns. In 1989, 360 thousand Bulgarian citizens of Turkish descent had to immigrate to Turkey; this was the largest mandatory mass migration in Europe since the Second World War.
As a result of the ever growing reactions, Zhivkov had to resign in 1989 and was replaced by Mladenov who brought an end to the assimilation politics. Improvement of policies regarding the Turkish minority played a significant role in Bulgaria“s European Commission and European Union memberships and the efforts to amend relations with Turkey.
Bulgarian Parliamentary Committee of Human Rights and Religious Freedoms declared that Bulgarian citizens of Turkish descent were displaced with the aim of ethnic cleansing and called for the perpetrators to be punished.
An official declaration of apology was adopted in the parliament on January 11, 2013. In the declaration, the practices that the Turkish minority was subjected to in the recent past were defined as “ethnical cleansing“.
The Algerian War of 1954-62, wherein severe rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law of war were committed in cold blood, has an important place in the history of French colonialism.
France invaded Algeria in 1830 and gave it a constitutional status which opened the entire land to the French settlers. Due to its constitutional status Algeria had an exceptional position within the overseas French territory. However, the status of the people here was that of colony subjects rather than citizens. Obtaining citizenship status was subject to certain conditions such as pledging not to adhere to sharia laws. French colonialism had collapsed the social and economic infrastructure of Algeria; unemployment and poverty was widespread. Impoverished Algerians had no choice but to immigrate to France in masses.
The National Liberation Front (FLN) was founded in 1954. FLN had the capacity to implement all methods of struggle to reach its goal of independence and was organizing urban guerrilla actions as well as peaceful demonstrations. The legitimacy FLN attained among the people made the masses, which supported the Algerian people’s struggle, take to the streets also in France. On October 17, 1961 the protest attended by 30,000 demonstrators in Paris was attacked by the French police who killed around 200 protestors who were beaten to death or thrown in the Seine River and drowned. The dirty war tactics of France gained legitimacy for FLN in the international platforms. In 1959, General De Gaulle opened to discussion Algeria’s right to self-determination. The talks between FLN and the French army were started and as a result of the negotiations the Evian Accords was signed in 1962. In line with the Accords, Algeria’s colonial status was declared defunct, and Algerians gained the right to self-determination. However, neither the one million Algerians killed during the war nor the war crimes committed by France were confronted with. The notion of establishing inquiry commissions to investigate the Algerian War did not come to the agenda until 1990s. In order to keep the memory of war crimes alive, a group of Algerian immigrants organized demonstrations in 1991 calling attention to the ìduty to rememberî.
Prior his visit to Algeria in 2007, President Nicolas Sarkozy said that the French presence in Algeria caused a lot of sufferings, and that colonialism was against the core values of France, but he did not take responsibility for the war crimes. In 2012, President François Hollande described the colonization of Algeria as “brutal and unjust” and said that he recognizes the sufferings inflicted by colonialism; but he too refrained from making an apology.
On January 30, 1972, a march was organized in the Derry city of Northern Ireland attended by around 20 thousand people. Supported by the British army the government had long been suppressing opposition of all kinds, and it was the government“s 1971 decision to ban all marches and parades that lit the fuse of this demonstration. Upon this ban, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) made a call to defend the right to peaceful protests. Demonstrators gathered in the Derry city center on Sunday, January 30 came face to face with the army forces; soldiers opened random fire on the crowd and 14 people lost their lives. For the Irish people this day would go down in history as “Bloody Sunday“.
Bloody Sunday became the symbol of the violent suppression of Irish struggle for freedom passed on from one generation to the next.
In order to subdue the reactions to the event, a court was established under the supervision of the British administration. This court for show headed by Lord Widgery did not even dare convene in Derry; testimonies of eye witnesses were not taken into consideration and the military personnel were acquitted. This process led to the further escalation of conflicts in Northern Ireland. While NICRA“s passive resistance lost blood, IRA became the legitimate representative of the Catholic Irish; a total of 3,673 people died in the conflicts that lasted more than thirty years.
IRA“s ceasefire in 1994 followed by the Belfast Agreement signed between the British government and IRA in 1998 created a peaceful environment wherein the official discourse on Bloody Sunday would been questioned. With the momentum gained by broad-based democratic campaigns such as the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that a new inquiry into the events would be opened. The peace process contributed to the investigation, which in turn along with the ensuing apology contributed to the peace process. The “Saville Inquiry
The “Saville Inquiry“ chaired by Lord Saville became the most comprehensive inquiry in the history of Britain. The report published on June 15, 2010 established that the soldiers gave no warning before opening fire at the crowd, that they were under no attack whatsoever, and that some protestors were shot in the back indicating that they were trying to run away. It was the Prime Minister of the time David Cameron who expressed the apology in the parliament, one that was awaited by the people of Northern Ireland for the past 38 years.
The September 4, 1970 presidential elections in Chile marked a first in the history of South America: Left-socialists united under the roof of the Unidad Popular coalition led by Salvador Allende, and came to power through democratic elections. A new socialist construction period was thus launched in the country. Conservative powers that wanted to bring end to this state of affairs mobilized with the involvement of CIA and the financial support of the USA. The “Holy Alliance“ settled on the method of military coup in order to block the Unidad Popular that had come out victorious from the 1973 elections as well.
On September 11, 1973 the military junta led by General Pinochet gave an ultimatum to the government to resign within twenty four hours. Allende and his friends did not succumb. Army forces that bombed the Presidential Palace killed Allende on the second day of the coup. The parliament was dissolved and a mass scale manhunt was started across Chile. Thousands of people were taken under custody, put through violent tortures and brutally massacred in the operations carried out by the death squads. Military dictatorship took it upon itself to extinguish any and every center of opposition. A series of economic decisions were adopted for integration with international capitalism. However, the violations of the military junta continued to stir reactions across the world. A referendum was held in 1988 for Chile“s de facto ruler Pinochet to remain in office for another eight years, and despite the oppression 55.99% of the people voted “no“.
Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin, who became the next president after Pinochet in 1990, aimed to soften the coup regime and build a bourgeois democracy. To this end he first had to expose the severe crimes against humanity committed during the coup years. Thus, with Aylwin“s directive the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation was established with the mandate of investigating the rights violations. In frame of the 3,400 cases it investigated, the Commission established that the army and the government forces were responsible for 95% of the rights violations committed during the coup era. Speaking at the Santiago Stadium, which was used as a torture and massacre site during the first days of the coup, Aylwin promised that human dignity would never again be violated in Chile, and later in his televised speech on March 19, 1991 he officially apologized to the people of Chile. It was the struggle of the Chilean people and foremost the victims“ loved ones that brought about this apology.
In 1990s with the dissolution of Yugoslavia, religious-nationalist movements started to rise among the different ethnic communities that constituted the federation and voice demands for independence. Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence one after another. On March 3, 1992 the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, where Muslim Bosniaks and Orthodox Serbs constituted the majority of the population, declared independence; thereupon Bosnian Serbs founded the Republika Srpska. Bosnia-Herzegovina was recognized by the European Union and the USA however the Bosnian Serbs were objecting to the decision of independence. Supported by the President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic and the Yugoslav army, Bosnian Serb forces declared war against Bosnia-Herzegovina on grounds of establishing the unity of Serbian territory. The Bosnia-Herzegovina war lasted four years; during the war that reached its most intense point in 1995, nearly 100,000 people lost their lives, 2 million people were displaced.
Following the Serbian army“s four years long siege of Bosnia-Herzegovina“s capital Sarajevo, Bosnian Muslims started to escape to areas under United Nations protection. In the summer of 1995, a horrid atrocity was committed in Srebrenica, which was under the protection of UN soldiers as a town where disarmed Bosniaks could take refuge. The town declared as a “safe haven“ by the UN was besieged and despite the presence of Dutch UN peacekeeping soldiers was captured by the Serbian paramilitary forces known as the “Scorpions“. In the course of a few days the Scorpions killed over 8,000 Bosniak men. The killed were buried in mass graves. Bosnians were subjected to tortures and inhumane treatments in the concentration camps
Decisions of the international courts and the EU were influential in Serbia accepting its responsibilities with regards the Srebrenica massacre. In 2009 the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Srebrenica, reiterating the full cooperation with International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as a requirement for the EU integration of countries in Western Balkans. Both the truths unveiled by courts and the initiatives of EU were forcing Serbia“s hand to confront with its own past. The democratic opposition was also pressuring the political power to recognize the verdict of genocide.
Through the efforts of President Boris Tadic, on March 31, 2010, the Serbian Parliament adopted the declaration “Condemning the Crime in Srebrenica“. In the apology issued for the Srebrenica massacre, the events that took place were not described as genocide, and no reparations were paid to the victims. Both the ICTY and the local criminal courts fell short of punishing the perpetrators.
The September 11 attacks and developments immediately thereafter can be considered a milestone with regards the neoliberal “national security states”. 9/11 attacks caused the existing “national security” discourses to be reshaped with discourses of “antiterrorism”. A new and very complicated era has been embarked wherein if it is a matter of “terror” all fundamental rights and freedoms and primarily the right to fair trial can be suspended; furthermore this is the case not only in the USA but across the globe. USA’s “Guantanamo Camp” in Cuba came into service as an exceptional venue of the modern legal system. The Guantanamo prison, where the relevancy of crime and punishment has become obsolete and the time and more importantly the alleged crimes with which the imprisoned will be tried are ambiguous, is in fact a concentration camp since law here is nullified. Muslim minorities in the USA are also potential suspects who might be locked up in this camp any moment. However, the USA did not put this concentration camp into force upon the 9/11 attacks, the starting point of this practice dates a long way back. After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Americans living in the USA were subjected to a variety of discriminatory treatments, stripped of their citizenship rights, and deprived of their freedom by being locked up in concentration camps.
Discriminatory practices against Japanese Americans correspond to the period they settled in the USA. Naturalization Act of 1790 granted the right to American citizenship only to “free white persons”. Democracy would advance step by step, influenced also by social struggles, and the right to citizenship would gradually expand to include blacks and slaves as well. However, the Japanese who had to immigrate to the USA were falling victim to this notorious law, they were either not recognized as legal citizens or their entry to the country was prevented from the start at the borders. The Japanese immigrants (Issei) in 1880s were the last group of immigrants who would be discriminated by being denied the right of naturalization. Nonetheless, another unfortunate situation was awaiting the Japanese Americans in the near future. Following Japan’s defeat of Russia in 1905, the term “yellow peril” was coined across the world implying the Japanese. Before long this discourse started to affect the Japanese Americans’ daily lives. The Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 signed between the Japanese and American governments prohibited the migration of unqualified Japanese to the USA. In 1913, immigrants’ right to purchase land was repealed. Most Japanese Americans tried to overcome this situation by purchasing land in the name of their children. Again during this period, in eight states it was illegal for whites to marry the Japanese or the Chinese. Full-fledged discriminations were committed wrapped in this or that justification.
Meanwhile the real danger would present itself after the First World War which was to break out a year later. In 1920s the American navy decided that a final war in the Pacific Ocean was inevitable. USA started to prepare for battle against Japan. The National Origins Act of 1924, which would remain in effect until the 1965 Immigration and Nationalization Act, introduced severe restrictions on immigration to the USA from various countries including Japan but this time with justifications different from the ones coined in 1907. Along with Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and the start of the Pacific War, American public opinion was rapidly turning against the Japanese. During the war years most Japanese Americans were living in big cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle or in reclusive rural communities.
On December 7, 1941 Japan launched a surprise air attack on the American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, killing around 2.400 people. Prior the attack, FBI had already prepared lists of community leaders deemed to be “dangerous” such as Buddhist priests, newspaper editors and Japanese teachers on the West Coast. Upon the attack these people were immediately arrested and imprisoned in remote places in Montana and North Dakota. Neither they nor their families had any idea as to where they were taken. A month went by in such an uncertainty. In the meantime military officials such as Colonel Karl Bendetsen and General John DeWitt convinced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to banish all Japanese people. However, President Roosevelt had already asked Curtis Munson to prepare a special report on the same subject of Japanese Americans who were deemed “dangerous”. Unlike the allegations of FBI, this report had concluded that Japanese Americans posed no threat whatsoever. Ministry of Justice was at first opposed to the soldiers’ recommendations but the FBI was adamant. Furthermore FBI was claiming that it would handle the possible problems that could arise. The political polemics and strife between power blocks developed in favor of FBI and lit the fuse of the process wherein Japanese American citizens would be rounded up and imprisoned in concentration camps.
On February 19, 1942, about two months after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed the “Executive Order 9066”. The order bestowed the Minister of War with the authority of declaring certain areas as military zones “from which any or all persons may be excluded”. The Order did not specify the preconditions for starting criminal investigations against the accused. As the Order went into effect, the Japanese Americans living in the West Coast and southern Arizona, which were declared military zones, were forced to hastily store or sell their possessions and properties. At first, Assembly Centers were established in racetracks and fairgrounds. Later a total of ten Internment Camps were established, two each in California, Arkansas and Arizona and one each in Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. The detained Japanese Americans were rounded up in the camps. Before long 120.000 Japanese, 77.000 of whom were American citizens, were imprisoned in internment camps based on military directives –though the Order itself did not directly target them.
Assembly Centers were run by the Wartime Civil Control Administration (WCCA). The detainees were deprived of their right to fair trial. The camps consisted of tar paper barracks of one small room for each family. Some detainees were able to leave the camp as seasonal workers. Similarly students, who could find schools willing to admit them, were able to study at universities in the East Coast or the Midwest. Gradually disagreements emerged between the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), which tried to prove their allegiance by conforming to the administration, and those who believed that remaining passive was wrong. The American government was taking advantage of these disagreements: based on polls, it was releasing the “loyal citizens” to find jobs in the Midwest and East Coast; while sending the “troublemakers” to the Tule Lake camp in California. Those living in the camps were feeling like prisoners of war or convicted inmates. In fact they were not wrong to feel as such since the barbed wires surrounding the camps, watch towers and armed guards were reinforcing the feeling of being a prisoner of war. Guards were ordered to shoot anyone who tried to leave the camp without permission or did not heed to the warning to stop. In 1942 an investigation was started concerning this order. An immigrant had been shot by a soldier on patrol. The investigation revealed that the person was shot from the front. It was not a case of not heeding to the warning to stop as was claimed by the guard.
Consequently, as sites where constitutional citizenship rights were suspended the Internment Camps were the manifestations of a government mentality in America’s recent past the effects of which still continue today. The reparation of damages inflicted by this mentality also harbors a unique experience in terms of coming to terms with the past and practices of official apology.
What were the political relations that led to the Executive Order which deprived the Japanese Americans from their constitutional right to fair trial? The answer to this question can be found in the report prepared by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) established by Congress in 1980. The Commission reached its decision after hearing the testimonies of 750 witnesses in its sessions. According to the report, the Executive Order was carried out not due to military necessities but was motivated with “racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership”. The Commission report pointed at the difference of practices implemented in Hawaii as it provided further proof of this fact: In Hawaii, only 1 % of the Japanese Americans, who constituted 35 % of the Hawaiian population, were detained.
In line with the Japanese American Claims Act passed by Congress and signed by President Harry S. Truman in 1948, it was decided to settle the property loss claims and pay reparations. A budget of $38 million was appropriated to settle the claims of 23,000 people for damages totaling $131 million. In 1952, racial and ethnic restrictions in immigration and citizenship acts were abolished, and immigrants including Japanese Americans received the right to become naturalized as US citizens.
With their socioeconomic achievements the children of immigrants had joined the ranks of middle class by 1960s. This new generation -surely also with the effect of the Vietnam War- started to question the previous generation’s conducts in the Second World War. They were criticizing their parents for remaining passive and not struggling enough for their civil rights. While they tried critically to account for the past they also placed more emphasis on their ethnic origins. The struggles were panning out: Japanese Americans attained their first democratic gain on February 10, 1976 with President Gerald Ford’s Proclamation 4417. In the aforementioned proclamation President Ford described February 19, 1942 as a sad day in American history. An unlawfulness of the past was officially acknowledged by the authority. With the following words President Ford declared that the Executive Order was repealed:
“I call upon the American people to affirm with me this American Promise -that we have learned from the tragedy of that long-ago experience forever to treasure liberty and justice for each individual American, and resolve that this kind of action shall never again be repeated.”
Despite the official discourses of President Ford, it would take as long as 12 years for the reparation package to be prepared. In 1980 President Jimmy Carter signed the law for the reestablishment of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) in Congress. The Commission Report published in June 1983 made five recommendations to the Congress: 1) that Congress pass a joint resolution offering a public apology; 2) that the President pardon those convicted of curfew violations and review other wartime convictions based on discrimination due to race or ethnicity; 3) that Congress direct agencies to review applications for restitution of positions, status or entitlements lost as a result of wartime events; 4) that Congress appropriate monies to establish a foundation to address the nation’s need for redress, including a fund for educational and humanitarian purposes beyond individual reparations; and 5) that Congress establish a fund to provide redress of $20,000 to each of the remaining 60,000 surviving persons of Japanese ancestry incarcerated during the war. All these recommendations were legislated with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. In 1980s Japanese Americans were a politically inactive minority that constituted less than 1 % of the entire population. Furthermore, in terms of reparations they were divided between the legislative and judicial courses of action. Moreover they were demanding a total of 1.25 billion dollars in reparations at a time when the federal budget deficit had reached record-high levels.
There was a serious vein of opposition against reparations. Especially certain veteran groups were opposed to the reparations. On the other hand, groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion never officially opposed the reparation act. Though they did not lobby in favor of the law, in their meetings they passed decisions supporting reparation. The reason behind this was the Japanese Americans who were stationed in the North Africa and Europe front and in the Pacific working in intelligence units. These veterans who served while their families were in the concentration camps convinced their colleagues with regards reparations. The sole group opposing the law was the Americans for Historical Accuracy based in California and led by historian Lillian Baker. Claiming that they are against the distortion of American history and are working to this end, the group organized letter-writing campaigns along with certain demonstrations and testified at the Congress sessions. On the other hand, the fact that senators and representatives were able to cast their votes freely regarding the law and that parties did not apply coercion was an important factor in the creation of the reparation package. Japanese Americans did not stop striving to pass the reparation package. They were getting in contact with other organizations such as Asian American groups and civil rights groups. They were making use of these groups’ contacts, members, resources and political expertise in order to put pressure on the Congress.
Finally the Civil Liberties Act was signed in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan and the path to reparations was opened. On December 7, 1991 that marked the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, President George H. W. Bush wrote a letter of apology. On September 27, 1992 he also signed into law the Civil Liberties Act Amendments of 1992, appropriating an additional $400 million to ensure all remaining internees received their $20,000 redress payments. Surviving detainees of the camps received checks of redress payments along with a letter of apology signed by President Bush. The following words towards remembering and confronting the past are from the formal apology issued by Bush on behalf of the US government in 1991:
“In remembering, it is important to come to grips with the past. No nation can fully understand itself or find its place in the world if it does not look with clear eyes at all the glories and disgraces of its past. We in the United States acknowledge such an injustice in our history. The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry was a great injustice, and it will never be repeated.”
Following Bush’s letter, President Bill Clinton also wrote a letter of apology on October 1, 1993. Along with letters of apology and reparation payments another process was carried out in the USA in line with coming to terms with the past. It was decided to appropriate funds from the 2001 budget to transform the Internment Camps into “national historic sites” and preserve them as landmarks of remembrance:
“Places like Manzanar, Tule Lake, Heart Mountain, Topaz, Amache, Jerome, and Rohwer on which the detainee camps were set up will forever stand as reminders that the American nation failed in its most sacred duty to protect its citizens against prejudice, greed, and political expediency.”
It cannot be denied that all these activities of apology and confrontation with the past had a positive effect in the USA especially during the post 9/11 processes. Such that, American-citizen Muslims -though there was a certain sense of threat in effect- were treated with the lessons learned from experience. The term “never again” has indeed been actualized in real life.
During their rule Nazis killed approximately six million people, the vast majority Jews. On November 20, 1946 the International Military Tribunal was established by the allies in Nuremberg and the leading figures of the Nazi rule were tried and punished –with sentences including capital punishment. These military trials though constituted a legal basis or a starting point for processes of coming to terms with the past were not enough for a social and general confrontation. After the tribunal, Adolf Hitler and his associates and followers became the focus of fascism. Atrocious operations of the Nazi regime were relegated to Hitler, while the German society was being spared as innocent citizens led astray by ideologies. These differentiations were maintained for a long time: Auschwitz trials held in mid-1960s in Frankfurt and again the Eichmann trial held in 1961 in Jerusalem would personalize the crimes of the past and sustain the narrative of “singular criminals among decent Germans”.
In Germany during the first years after the war the Nazi past did not want to be remembered. Nevertheless, it was not possible to erase the societal memory completely. Therefore the processes of forgetting and remembering were operating intertwined with one another. In this framework, the word “genocide” was adamantly and skillfully avoided in public discourses like commencement speeches at the universities, in its stead terms that mitigated historical facts such as “race mania” and “mass killings” were used, and the word “Jewish” was rarely mentioned. It was acknowledged that certain crimes were committed in the past but it was asserted that these crimes were not genocide as alleged by some.
The period of 1945-49 went down in history as a time when the past was discursively suppressed. The suppression of the past brought along an exemption from collective responsibility. Many factions from the people in the lowest social ranks to the top level political representatives were saying that the actual victims were not the Jews but on the contrary themselves. Ignorance was claimed regarding the gas chambers and death trains, thereby trying to elude the feeling of social responsibility. Having the Germans visit the concentration camps, and the preparation and circulation of documentaries on the subject invalidated the excuse of “ignorance” before long. The German public had to solemnly confront the past: the facts were plainly manifest in the concentration camps without a shadow of doubt.
The 1960s marked the beginning of an era when the societal silence in Germany gradually started to dissipate. Both domestic and international democratic pressures were now mandating the suppressed past to be laid out on the table. Contrary to Federal Germany’s official politics of forgetting, the socialist East Germany constantly kept its Nazi past on the agenda and asserted that the political personnel in the West were Nazi dregs. Though it “discarded” its Nazi past by externalizing and pinning it completely on the West, the fact that East Germany could not hinder the underhanded reproduction of the Nazi mentality would only be seen after the Berlin Wall came down and the two Germanys united. Emergence of the 1968 youth movements had an impact in Germany that begot a more significant factor with regards the questioning of the Nazi past. The young generations were ethically condemning the previous generations, creating discourses for a genuine and real confrontation, and striving to uncover the truths. Tribunals were opened again. Truths were being spoken candidly, the denied crime of genocide was being acknowledged. Billions of Marks were paid in reparations. Monuments reminding the past were erected in every region. Certain days of the year were earmarked for ceremonies to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. In coming to terms with the past, another important development took place -at a completely unexpected moment- and brought some comfort to the victims: Federal Germany Chancellor Willy Brandt’s gesture of apology before the monument to the victims of Warsaw Jewish Ghetto on December 7, 1970 went down in history as a kind of turning point in coming to terms with the past. Apology could be made not only verbally but also physically. As a matter of fact, Brandt kneeled before the monument and apologized from the victims through his body. This gesture of extremely high symbolic value was actually meant not only for those in Warsaw but for all Jews who lost their lives in the politics of “Final Solution”. The representation had long exceeded the boundaries of an individual body: Willy Brandt’s body transformed into the representational body of Germany.
Germans’ politics prior the Second World War had taken on the following course: ghettos were established in all invaded territories whereby Jews were segregated from the society and stripped off their constitutional citizenship status. As a matter of course, resistance networks were organized against the Nazi rule’s domination politics nourished by colonialism. Between 1941-43 Jews living in the ghettos had created close to a hundred resistance groups. The most resounding resistance organized by the aforementioned groups was the resistance in Warsaw Ghetto. Until the summer of 1942, the Warsaw Ghetto was one of the isolation areas filled with around 500 thousand people. In the summer of 1942, around 300 thousand Jews were taken from the ghetto and sent to the extermination camp in Treblinka. Word reached the ghetto that the people sent to the camp were massacred and this news created a certain wave. Also with the duress of this news, a group of mostly young people led by the 23 year old Mordecai Anielewicz founded the Jewish Combat Organization (ZOB). The organization issued a proclamation calling for the Jewish people to resist going to the railroad cars. On January 18, 1943 the German army started a second deportation campaign but was met with the armed resistance of the organization. After violent clashes lasting a few days, the Germans had to retreat. Repelling the Germans boosted the morale of the resistance. On April 19, the German soldiers and the police corps organized a new operation to evacuate the people living in the ghetto. The resistors, who were numbering around 750, were able to hold out in the ghetto for about a month and on May 6, 1943 the resistance was quashed. Around 56 thousand Jews were taken captive. Seven thousand of the captives were executed by fire squads, the rest were sent to execution camps. In the slaughter of Jews across Europe, Poland was engraved in the Nazi rule’s crime log as a country of grave importance. Therefore, in line with the discourse of coming to terms with the past it was no coincidence that Willy Brandt chose the Warsaw Ghetto.
Willy Brandt spent a part of his life running away from the Nazi rule’s exile and execution politics. Born as Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm, Brandt joined the Socialist Youth in 1929, the German Social Democrat Party in 1930 and later on the Socialist Workers Party, and practiced politics actively during these years. In 1933 in order to escape the Nazi persecution he took shelter in Norway as a political refugee, and adopted the pseudonym Willy Brandt not to be caught by Nazi agents in Norway. In 1939 Brandt was arrested in Norway by German troops but was not recognized as he was wearing a Norwegian uniform. Upon his release he escaped to Sweden where he lived until the end of the war. He continued to use his pseudonym Willy Brandt after the war as well.
The secret to the political influence of Willy Brandt’s kneeling should be sought in his commitment to democratic values and the fact that he personally suffered from fascism, and moreover was not involved in the crime. His political character made it impossible to slander this symbolic gesture of apology as a duplicity or political scheme. The gesture of apology was also pertinent to his Eastern Politics (Ostpolitik). It would be cruel to construe it as an apology made with pragmatic motives, or more precisely as an “instrumentalized” apology. Besides, in Brandt’s eyes the two processes -Eastern Politics and apology- complemented one another. Let us expand on the Eastern Politics to better understand the affirmative essence of this genuflection.
Through his Poland visit, Brandt wanted to ease relations between the Eastern and Western blocks that emerged in Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War. The Potsdam Agreement signed after the war had ceded to Poland the pre-war German territories such as East Prussia, West Prussia, Pomerania, Brandenburg, Silesia and Upper Silesia. It was guaranteed to Germany that there would be no loss of territory without a peace treaty. Germans living in the aforementioned territories immigrated to Germany. The Poles living in Poland, which was incorporated into the Soviet territory, were settled on the evacuated lands. Until the Eastern Politics, pioneered by Willy Brandt, the Federal Republic of Germany had not abdicated its claim to sovereignty on these territories. “Surrender is Treason” (Verzicht ist Verrat) was the line adopted by mainstream politics since the Christian Democrats in 1960s to the Social Democratic Party of Germany which Willy Brandt was a member of.
In 1961 the Berlin Wall was built. American President Kennedy had reacted favorably to the building of the wall as a process mitigating the Soviet-American tension. Accordingly, from now on the zones of influence between the two “super powers” would be evident. All these developments based on the separation of East and West impelled Brandt, who was the Mayor of Berlin in 1961, to deliberate on the necessity of a different approach. Following the 1969 elections, the Social Democratic Party and the Free Democratic Party formed a coalition government. In his June 17, 1970 speech before the German parliament (Bundestag) as Chancellor, Willy Brandt made the following remarks regarding Eastern Politics:
“If we want European borders to lose their divisive function over time in a historical process, then we have to acknowledge the existing borders first, de facto and politically. The objective of Eastern Politics was to institute German foreign policy on a realistic ground. Through this politics it was aimed to improve relations with primarily Eastern Germany and also the Eastern Bloc countries such as the Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Brandt’s visit to Warsaw intended to launch the process of rapprochement between Germany and Poland. In the Treaty of Warsaw signed on December 7, 1970, it was decided that both parties would commit themselves to nonviolence and recognize the existing Oder Neisse border. Brandt’s Eastern Politics was welcomed by the international public opinion. Surely there was also opposition to this politics. Conservative circles close to the Christian Democrats and associations organized by ethnic German migrants from East Germany were opposing Brandt. Meanwhile, Günter Grass and other intellectuals close to Brandt were among the most important supporters of Eastern Politics.”
After the Treaty of Warsaw was signed, Willy Brandt visited the Ghetto Monument with a wreath that bore the black, yellow and red colors of the German flag. After laying the wreath on the monument, in a moment unexpected by anyone, he dropped to his knees on the wet stones of the monument. He respectfully folded his hands before him and looked at the monument in silence with his head held a little low. The impact of this gesture that shook not only those present but the entire world was summarized by one who had participated in the Warsaw resistance:
“I saw Willy Brandt kneel before the Warsaw Ghetto monument. This is what I felt at that moment: I no longer have hatred inside! He knelt down and raised his people. Brandt’s gesture had created a shock effect among the people present. At first no one was able to make sense of this act. It was not a predetermined action. There were even some who thought he fainted. While some people interpreted the gesture as a sincere act others questioned its sincerity. For years Brandt was subjected to questions on the reason and motivation behind his act. Perhaps due to this situation, in his book titled My Life in Politics published in 1989 he mentioned this gesture again. Before his visit to the Warsaw Ghetto, Willy Brandt had spent the night in the Wilanow Castle bombed by Germans. He had spent a sleepless night in this castle that still bears traces of the war. In the book Brandt explained that night and his memories of kneeling as follows:”
“I have often been asked what the idea behind that gesture was: had it been planned in advance? No, it had not. My close colleagues were as surprised as the reporters and photographers with me (…) I had not planned anything, but I had left Wilanow Castle, where I was staying, with a feeling that I must express the exceptional significance of the ghetto memorial. From the bottom of the abyss of German history, under the burden of millions of victims of murder, I did what human beings do when speech fails them.”
Brandt’s Eastern Politics and symbolic genuflection were received quite favorably in many other countries and especially the USA. Time magazine put Brandt on the cover of its January 4, 1971 issue as the “Man of the Year”. Meanwhile reactions within Germany were mixed. According to a Der Spiegel survey at the time, 41% of the participants found the “Kniefall” appropriate while 48% thought it was excessive. It was noteworthy that the youth and the elderly supported Brandt more than the middle-aged. Eastern Politics was criticized by especially the right wing. Bild newspaper saw no harm in publishing the letter of a housewife by the name Erna Hannebauer: “With what right are you giving away one fourth of Germany without receiving any concession in return?” Newspaper’s editor in chief Peter Boenisch was also criticizing Willy Brandt in a sharp tone: Catholics know that a person kneels only before God. However, a socialist probably separated from the church comes from the West and kneels down. This genuflection moves the people. Fine but wonder if this genuflection would move the victims of Stalinism as well?
Christian Democrat Parties (CDU and CSU) openly opposed Eastern Politics and claimed that it was unconstitutional. Despite all the reactions from the right wing, an influential and steadily growing minority in CDU was convinced that for the normalization of relations with the East and specifically with Poland, the border arrangement was inevitable. Willy Brandt’s Eastern Politics brought a de facto end to the existing hostility between the two countries. Brandt’s genuflection at the Warsaw Ghetto increased the prestige of both Eastern Politics and Germany’s foreign policy. Willy Brandt was granted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 for his works in the service of peace between Eastern and Western blocks.
Beyond being a sensational event with wide media coverage, Willy Brandt’s genuflection was an action that essentially opened a new era in the German societal memory and identity and transformed the Germans’ ways of confronting and coming to terms with the Nazi past. The apology had both a personal and political quality. It was a courageous act that was undertaken also in the name of the people who could not kneel before the past. In time, Willy Brandt’s genuflection became a significant symbol conveying the desire to come to terms with the past both in Germany and in international politics.
German state authorities apologised on several occasions from Israel and from the Jews, and Germany has paid extensive reparations, including nearly $70 billion to the state of Israel and $15 billion to Holocaust survivors.
“Kniefall angemessen oder übertrieben?”, Der Spiegel 51: 27, 1970,
“The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising”, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Adam Krzeminski, “Der Kniefall”, Point. Portal Polsko-Niemiecki, Deutsch-Polnisches Portal.
Orjinal metin için: Polityka 49.
Alexander Behrens, “‘Durfte Brandt knien?’ – Der Kniefall und der deutsch-polnische Vertrag”, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Online Akademie, 2010,
Elazar Barkan, Alexander Karn, “Group Apology as an Ethical Imperative”, Taking Wrongs Seriously: Apologies and Reconciliation içinde, Elazar Barkan ve Alexander Karn (der.), Stanford: Stanford University Press, 3-30, 2006.
Markus Kornprobst, Irredentism in European Politics: Argumentation, Compromise and Norms, Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Mithat Sancar, Geçmişle Hesaplaşma: Unutma Kültüründen Hatırlama Kültürüne, İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2007.
Ruti Teitel, “The Transitional Apology”, Taking Wrongs Seriously: Apologies and Reconciliation içinde, Elazar Barkan ve Alexander Karn (der.), Stanford: Stanford University Press, 101-114, 2006.
Valentin Rauer, “Symbols in Action: Willy Brandt’s Kneefall at the Warsaw Memorial”, Social Performance: Symbolic Action, Cultural Pragmatics, and Ritual içinde, Jeffrey C. Alexander, Bernhard Giesen ve Jason L. Mast (der.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 257-282, 2006.
Willy Brandt, My Life in Politics, New York: Viking, 1992.
In settler states such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, USA and Argentina the fundamental issue for the “natives” has been to preserve their existing identities against the assimilation policies of the colonialists. In course of establishing political sovereignty, these states that practice colonialism in parallel with settler policies have resorted to the assimilation of native “elements” on the lands they have invaded. Natives have been subjected to assimilation politics in various forms, which led to a vast accumulation of rights violations. The acts carried out by settler colonialist states are both in violation of present-day criteria of morality and justice and also constitute an important problem with regards the dominant national identity. The collective feeling of guilt begotten by assimilation politics was at first tried to be overcome through the rationalization of past actions. However in the eyes of many groups -taking into consideration the various inequalities targeting the natives- this attitude fell short of being sustainable. How the practices of the past are to be confronted today when these practices contradict the current criteria of morality and conscience constitutes yet another crucial issue. In states founded on settler colonialism mentality, contemporary identity discussions continue to be among the fundamental problems. One of these countries where identity discussions run parallel to processes of coming to terms with the past is Australia, a state that implemented cruel assimilation politics especially on children.
Australia was colonized by Britain towards the end of the 18th century. As of this date the population of the native people shrank rapidly. Dominant colonialist structure brought into use an unprecedented method to diminish the native population: in line with the assimilation politics nurtured by the discourse of integration, children were forcibly snatched away from their families. Indigenous children were taken from their families and put to work. However, in the early periods of colonialism, the practice of taking the children from their families was neither systematic nor institutional. Gradually the forced separation of children started to be practiced by a complex power network comprised of churches, missionary dormitories and the government. In other words, the aforementioned practice took on an institutional quality in late 19th and early 20th century. The institutional process lasted from 1909 until 1969. “Objects” of the assimilation politics, that is the indigenous people, were the children of Aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islanders. These children forcibly torn from their families would later be called the “Stolen Generations”.
In 1869 the colonial administration passed the “Act for Protection and Management of Aboriginal Natives”. This law established complete control over the indigenous population, regulating most all social and individual states of existence including where and how the Aboriginals would work, whom they would marry under which conditions or how they would plough their lands. The Aboriginal Protection Board established with the 1869 Act administered the assimilation politics. The Board gained further power with the Aborigines Protection Act of 1909 which authorized the Board to remove the children from their families without prior court orders. Indigenous children forcibly separated from their families were first trained in missionary dormitories and then given to Australian white families.
Strategic objective of this implementation was the complete assimilation of the “not full-blooded” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in framework of the White Australia policy put in effect in 1901, when Commonwealth of Australia was formed and Aboriginal people are excluded from the census and legislative powers of the Parliament. The aim was to raise the indigenous children like white children first in institutions and after 1950s with white families. Having the children work as laborers or maids once they have grown up was yet another objective. Therefore not much was invested in their education; for instance, girl children were raised by the Board at homes so that they would learn how to be a maid. Siblings separated from each other, children separated from their parents never saw each other again. There are still tons of people in Australia who do not know their real families. The number of children taken away from their families is still a mystery; because a vast majority of the records kept have either been lost or destroyed. However, it is presumed that one out of every three Aboriginal children has been subjected to this practice. In the period between 1869-1969 around 100 thousand children were forcibly taken away from their families.
It can be said that the Australian white families were content with the colonialist rulers’ assimilation politics. The general perception in the society held that the forcible separation of the children from their families was essentially the “right” manner of conduct. According to this general perception, the Aboriginals were extremely poor people who could not provide their children with opportunities for a decent life, therefore it was in the best interest of the children for the state institutions to handle them. There were also those who took this approach operating on the axis of relative optimism and extended it to racist discourses: Aboriginals were “naturally” wicked and savage people, and mothers were incapable of taking care of their children. Aboriginals were opposed to civilization, incompatible with the concept of citizenship and an obstacle before the development of the nation. Children raised in the institutions and with white families were prohibited from speaking the Aboriginal language. Their origins were hidden from them. Even the color of their skin was explained away by saying they came from Southern Europe. The children who spoke their mother tongue had their mouths washed with soap, only while being punished were they reminded of their Aboriginal heritage through insulting imputations.
In 1925, Australian Aboriginal Progress Association (AAPA) was established. As the “first Aboriginal political organization to create formal links between communities over a wide area” it paved the ground for future leaders of indigenous peoples. AAPA campaigned for “freehold title to land, the cessation of the removal of Aboriginal children and the abolition of the Aborigines Protection Board”. Nevertheless it was not possible for Aboriginal families to object to the colonialist assimilation politics or take their children back from the whites. Until 1960s the indigenous people had no say in democratic politics, they were isolated from the political field.
On Australia Day 1938, a Day of Mourning was held by the indigenous organizations, which marked the first of many Aboriginal protests against inequality, injustice, dispossession of land and protectionist policies. The manifesto “Aborigines Claim Citizen Rights” and Abo Call newspaper were also published the same year.
In 1948 “Australian Citizenship” was given to all Australians, including all Aborigines, though they continued to be discriminated legally at the state level. In 1949 Aboriginal people were given the right to vote in Commonwealth elections, only if they were registered for state elections or had served in the army.
In the referendum of 1967, an overwhelmingly majority (91%) of Australian voters endorsed the amendment to the Constitution which proposed to enable the automatic inclusion of Aboriginal people in the national census, and the Commonwealth parliament to legislate with respect to Aboriginal people. To this end, the Office of Aboriginal Affairs was formed. For the first time in 1971 Neville Bonner an Aboriginal was assigned to sit in the Commonwealth parliament, to fill a vacancy in the senate; he was elected to the Parliament the next year. The House of Representatives on the other hand had its first indigenous member only in 2010. However the path to democratic struggle was opened and the Aboriginals had started to be visible in the public space they were excluded from, and to make their voices heard by the sovereigns. In 1972 Aboriginals adopted their own flag, and on July 14 the National Aboriginals Day nationwide strikes and marches were held by the Aboriginal people. The White Australia policy was abolished the same year. Certain progress was also made regarding Aboriginal Land Rights during 1970s and 1980s, including investigation into mining practices, reports on dispossession and relocation, return of property and titles, and compensation in the form of tax refunds. On Australia Day 1988, tens of thousands of people marched through the streets, which indicated a significant rise in awareness on Aboriginal issues.
1990s became a positive breaking point for deepening democracy. Founded in 1987, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody presented its comprehensive report of 339 recommendations to the Commonwealth Government in 1991. The Commission recognized the problems of indigenous people as a public priority and recommended the government to undertake a formal reconciliation process. This recommendation proved effective. In 1991 the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation was established with a ten-year mandate and the Australian Labor Party government started the official reconciliation process. In 1992 Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating realized a first and during his speech at the Redfern Park he voiced the crimes committed against the indigenous peoples. Social perceptions were rapidly changing owing to the peace talks, and the ice was melting as those that had not been said before were now being discussed. However the negotiations were interrupted towards the 200th anniversary celebrations of the British settlement in 1998. Meanwhile John Howard, known for his anti-apology stance, had become the Prime Minister following the 1996 elections; describing the grave mistreatment of Aboriginals as the “most blemished chapter” in Australia’s history, Howard continued his anti-apology stance even after his term ended in 2007. In the meantime indigenous leaders’ demands to have a share in sovereignty, right to self-determination, and autonomy as well as demands in field of customary law were deemed unacceptable by the parliament. In 1998, however, the federal parliament passed a declaration of “deep and sincere regret” for the past injustices to Aborigines. By merely using the term “regret” introduced by Prime Minister Howard, the parliament was refusing to assume any responsibility for the past actions.
Following an intense period of research, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission established in 1995 released its report titled Bringing Them Home: National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families in 1997. The report addressed in detail the colonialist politics that was continued until the 1970s. It explored the issue through the aspects of cultural genocide, official apology and reparation. The Commission’s demand for an official apology was partially met. State parliaments, churches and the police apologized. However the conservative federal government refused to make an apology. Referring to the welfare state policies the government claimed that in practice it was an experience of peace. Accordingly apology was unnecessary.
Bringing Them Home report exposed the effects that the politics of separating the children from their families had on the children and their families with its sociological and psychological dimensions. It established that children were subjected to cruel practices including sexual harassment at the institutions wherein they were placed. Commission made use of direct testimonies in the preparation of the report. Testimonies in the report ascertained that the children were bought and sold like slaves, sent off to the provinces to be employed in care works, and that in order to protect their children mothers ran away to forestry areas. The report further put forth that there were racist approaches behind these assimilation politics which aimed the total annihilation of the Aboriginal people, namely genocide.
The destructive effects of the separation politics had continued after the implementation was ended as well. According to an analysis used in the report, the separated children discovered their Aboriginal identity much later in their lives, and had great difficulties building social relations based on trust. Many victims did not exactly know if they were white or black. They were in quite a disadvantageous position in comparison to the children of “normal” families: their rates of attending university, enjoying stable conditions of living, quality of work were low as opposed to their rates of geographic mobility, drug use, police arrest and imprisonment which were high.
In many respects the report had established important findings with regards Aboriginal rights. However the government did not fulfill the recommendations of the report right away. The struggle for Aboriginal rights continued until the 2000s. In 1997, thousands of people -primarily the Aboriginal children forcibly separated from their families- gathered in front of the parliament building to draw attention to the rights violations committed against the indigenous people. During this democratic demonstration a “Sea of Hands” was arranged where all protestors at once raised in the air big plastic hands that were in the colors of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island flags. This symbolic gesture of apology was among the most important civil actions organized since the demonstrations against the Vietnam War. However this gesture of apology had attracted the reactions of some Australians who said they were being held responsible for crimes they did not commit. The basis of this objection was the protection of the individuals from collective crimes of unspecified responsibility. Despite reactions, the indigenous peoples’ demand for apology from the political authority continued to be voiced through various occasions as the essential objective of democratic struggle.
While public debates continued the Aboriginals founded a group called National Stolen Generation Working Group. They invited non-Indigenous people to set up a National Sorry Day Committee (NSDC). State committees and support groups organized most everywhere across Australia were holding a range of events centered on the demand for apology. On Australia Day 1998, the advocacy group Australians for Native Title launched a Sorry Book campaign, which created the opportunity for hundreds of thousands of Australians to make their personal apology. On May 26, 1998 the first Sorry Day was realized. On May 26, 1999 the Journey of Healing was started for the survivors of “Stolen Generations”. Through this initiative Aboriginals, Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians came together. Throughout the ten years following its inception, NSDC strived for the implementation of the 54 recommendations in the Bringing Them Home report as well as the redress of injustices and traumas established by the report. In 2000, over 300,000 people joined People’s Walk for Reconciliation across Sydney Harbour Bridge; Prime Minister Howard refused to take part in the walk.
Efforts of various nongovernmental organizations were affecting the political power, by exerting democratic pressure to confront the truths. The primary focal was none other than the nongovernmental organizations that pushed the political power to speak up about what happened in the past, asserting that it must apologize for the deeds committed. Nongovernmental organizations’ efforts were yielding results both at the political power level and within social life, the field of its discourse was gradually broadening.
However, there were also anti-apology movements and discourses positioned against the expanding social support. Conservative Prime Minister John Howard was the spokesperson of the anti-apology movement:
Telling the Australians that they are personally responsible [for the politics of Stolen Generations] and that they should feel ashamed about these events would mean to sentence them with an irrational and unjust punishment.
Prime Minister Howard was resting his argument on a liberal understanding of law that refuses the concept of collective responsibility; he advocated that apology could be valid only for singular actions and individuals who caused these actions. He was also warding off the genocide allegations again through this liberal understanding of law. Accordingly, apology should be expected from the one responsible for the action. In fact Howard had reversed the justice of apology in line with the liberal theory of law. He was bestowing justice on the white Australians who were now made victim because they were accused of an action which they had not perpetrated. According to this approach, the ones who committed the injustice by voicing allegations of genocide and demanding an apology were the Aboriginals and those who supported their claims.
Even though Howard reduced the crime to singular actions, Bringing Them Home report had established that the crime took place within the national culture and therefore had a social basis. The practices of forcibly removing the children from their families had been realized on historical, social, legal and cultural grounds. On the other hand, politics of denial and assimilation towards the Aboriginals constituted a contradiction in terms of the Australian identity which had built its legitimacy on the opposition of “anti-civilized and savage indigenous people”. Undoubtedly the crimes and injustices against the Aboriginals were rooted in the racist culture that enabled the perpetrators to view these crimes as rightful acts.
The object of the racist hierarchy in Australia was the Aboriginals while its subject was the whites. Perpetrator model of the liberal theory of law, where the perpetrator intentionally causes the act, was inadequate in explaining this complex social case. Debates on apology had to inevitably instigate discussions on the history of Australia. These were discussions unwelcomed by the political power. Claiming that the injustice committed against the Aboriginals had not only an individual but also a collective dimension was indicative of a critical point in understanding the existing racism in Australian society. According to the pro-apology movements, the sole source of injustice was neither the individuals’ thoughts nor the institutional structures. It was rather the political culture that enabled the interaction between the two. This is why they insistently pointed at the collective responsibility.
Demand for an apology was among the political initiatives recommended in the Bringing Them Home report. An act of apology that included social and political messages on history, identity and rights was going to be a significant intervention in the sense of the apologizing party taking responsibility for the humiliation and exclusion of the other, and at the same time recognizing the other party and confirming its dignity. While Howard’s concept of apology was a punishment geared towards the past, the apology recommended by the report implied a reconciliation towards the future. Apology was not a punishment but a promise of normative commitments to equality and the future. Aboriginal Michael Dodson who chaired the National Commission expressed the content of the apology as follows:
“[Apology] is not only about our national pride but also the legacy we want to leave our children and grandchildren. Are we to go down in history as an Australian generation that denied the truth placed in our hands? Are we to go down in history as a generation that could not manage to confront the mistakes of the past and redress them? Are we to be known as a generation that participated in the continuing dispossession of the indigenous Australians? Or are we going to be a generation that insisted on entering our nation’s new century honestly by accepting the humiliation of our history’s pieces that fill us with shame? And courage – are we to proceed with courage, honor, maturity and above all with dignity?”
By 2001 all state and territory administrations in Australia had published texts of apology for the “Stolen Generations”. The federal government, on the hand, did not apologize due to the resistance of Prime Minister John Howard. The general elections were approaching and Howard’s political rival Kevin Rudd was now mentioning official apology among his campaign promises. Conservative government’s intervention in Northern Territory indigenous communities based on allegations of sexual abuse of children, violence, alcohol, drugs and suicide, was affecting the tone of Kevin Rudd’s campaign speeches. Apology campaign was also an important factor in voicing the promise to make an apology. Kevin Rudd came out of the elections victorious and in February 2008 made an official apology to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the name of the state and the government. The fundamental objective of the speech was to put an end to the racist, colonialist settler politics of the past and envision a new future that embraced the indigenous and the non-indigenous. Though criticized for failing to mention genocide or issues of reparation and placing emphasis on a “single nation”, the speech was in general received very favorably.
The nation-state construct grounded on homogeneity-uniformity- in political organization of social life has caused the emergence of numerous problems that pose legal challenges. Particularly the majority and minority perceptions shaped with ethnic codes have created unique exclusion and inclusion mechanisms in political power relations, and minorities as the victims -“others”- of these mechanisms have been subjected to coercive measures of the dominant ethnic element. These victimizations have taken on a universal quality at the rate of the universality of the modernity experience. One of the aforementioned victimizations took place in Bulgaria. The problem of Turkish and Muslim minorities in Bulgaria started with the establishment of the Principality of Bulgaria resulting from the Treaty of Berlin signed in 1878. As of this date, the ratio to the general population of the Turkish and Muslim minorities that used to constitute almost half the population gradually declined. Determinant factors in this population decline were both the simultaneous wars in the region and the assimilation and migration based minority politics in Bulgaria. According to the final census of 2011, around 747,000 Turks still live in Bulgaria, that is 9.4% of a total population of 7,364,570 people.
Bulgaria declared independence in 1908. The Ottoman State official recognized the new Bulgaria in 1909. Istanbul Protocol was signed between the two states. As accorded by this protocol the Muslim Turkish minority’s rights in Bulgaria were defined and guaranteed. The recognized rights were expanded with the 1913 Treaty of Constantinople following the Balkan Wars and the 1919 Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine following the First World War. The Agrarian Party led by Stambuliski won the 1919 elections which conduced to the development of positive policies towards the Muslim Turkish minority most of whom were farmers: with the Education Act adopted in 1921, Turkish schools were allowed to buy property, found school funds and receive a fair allocation from the state budget. Public School of Turkish Teachers was founded in 1918, followed by the Nüvvab School in 1922-1923, which was an institution of higher education for mufti and teacher candidates. The Turkish Teachers Union founded in 1906 increased the number of its branches during this period. Sports clubs started to be established in the same years. In short, the minorities were able to take care of themselves especially in the field of education, their physical assets were not under any threat. Nevertheless, these periods of relative prosperity for the minorities where their rights were expanded and guaranteed, would soon be replaced with new and other processes due to changes in political power.
The Stambuliski Government was overthrown in 1923 also marking the beginning of a formidable process for the minorities. A new phase was embarked wherein the existing democratic rights would become obsolete. As of 1923 Turkish schools were closed down and turned into state schools. Minority foundations were incapable of preserving the existence of closed schools since the government had introduced heavy taxes in this sphere. In 1937 it was made obligatory for Turkish children -even if they were attending official Bulgarian schools- to pay taxes for Turkish schools. Most of the children were deprived of an education due to these taxes. The constriction of existing rights would no doubt provoke reaction among the minorities. In the face of constantly increasing pressures, the Muslim Turks of minority status held their first National Congress in 1929. Meanwhile the discriminatory policies were continuing incessantly. Minority members were banned from certain professions, the few university and high school graduate students had to inevitably immigrate to Turkey. The Turkish Teachers Union was shut down in 1933 followed by the Turan Community in 1934 which was an extension of the Turkish Sports Union. Organizers and participants of the National Congress were subjected to severe oppression. The coup of May 1934 caused the oppression of the minorities to increase ever more. Through 1934-1944 most all Turkish schools were shut down. Turks were forced to attend Bulgarian schools. Administrative committees of mufti offices and communities were rendered subject to the government. Publications in Turkish were banned and Turkish intellectuals were exiled. Foundations were brought under the jurisdiction of the coup government.
After the Second World War, the Communist Party of Bulgaria (CPB) dominated Fatherland Front coalition of social democrats, liberals, agrarians and independents came to power and Bulgaria was declared a people’s republic in 1946. The constitution based on the Soviet model was accepted in 1947. Through 1947-71, national minorities living in Bulgaria to have education in their mother language and cultivate their own national cultures was recognized as a constitutional right. A Turkish Minority Commission was established within the Fatherland Front. The commission started to publish a Turkish newspaper named Işık (Light). Albeit certain rights of the minorities, primarily in the field of education, were recognized and safeguarded in the constitution, with the duress of change in political relations a new epoch called “soft assimilation” was embarked politically over a short span of time.
In scope of the “soft assimilation” politics, with a directive issued on August 12, 1950, quarter of a million Turks was ordered to move to Turkey within three months. By the time Turkey closed its borders on November 8, 1951, a total of 140,000 refugees had already entered Turkey. The Bulgarian government had based the legal grounds of its decision on the 1925 Ankara Treaty signed between Turkey and Bulgaria. As its justification the decision asserted that the deported people spoke Turkish, followed Turkish customs and therefore were not Bulgarian but Turkish. The 1925 Treaty had regulated the population exchange of Turkish and Bulgarian minorities who wanted to immigrate voluntarily. The Communist Party that came to power in 1944 had tried to prevent the migration of Turks, however, its policies on religion and also other subjects such as land collectivization had run counter to the Turkish minority especially the land owners around Dobruca. Thus, as of 1950, the Bulgarian government again started to encourage the Turks to immigrate. Here the following situation should also be underlined: throughout the 1950s other Muslims in Bulgaria, who were not Turkish, were also subjected to the assimilation politics. For instance, between 1948-1952 the names of Pomaks were changed to Bulgarian names, followed by the Roma between 1953-1954; in 1956 the Macedonian minority was pronounced Bulgarian.
In 1958 the Communist Party politburo introduced a change in its politics regarding Turks. Until 1958, Turks were allowed to go to schools that provided education in Turkish and could make publications in Turkish. In 1958, however, a new implementation was launched wherein Turkish schools and Bulgarian schools were merged and hours of Turkish lessons were cut. By 1974, education in Turkish was abolished completely. On the other hand, in 1962 a new wave of assimilation had started targeting the Roma, Pomaks and Tatars; however the name conversion activities were halted in 1964 for a while upon the reactions of the Pomaks, nevertheless it was back on the agenda between 1970-1974. Due to all this oppression and in line with the 1968 Close Relatives Immigration Act, around 130,000 minority members immigrated between 1969-1978.
In 1954 Todor Zhivkov came to power. In 1971 Zhivkov changed the 1947 Constitution. The new constitution recognized the right of citizens, who were not of Bulgarian descent, to learn their mother tongue. However the concept of minority was not included in the constitution. Despite the relative softening in the bilateral relations of Bulgaria and Turkey towards 1968, the cultural rights of the Turkish minority were continued to be restricted. Between December 1984 and November 1989, a policy called “hard assimilation” was shaped targeting the Turkish minority. This practice also referred to as the “Process of Rebirth” did not allow any life space, as it were, to the Turkish minority: all Turkish names were replaced by Bulgarian ones. Speaking in Turkish was forbidden in public spaces, work places and schools. Turkish theaters were shut down. Turkish broadcast of the Radio Bulgaria was stopped. It was prohibited to listen to Turkish radios, Turkish books were confiscated. Turkish site names were changed. Weddings and celebrations in the Turkish custom, folkdances and singing in Turkish were forbidden, and Turks were hindered from communicating with their relatives in Turkey. Some children were taken from their families and sent to boarding schools.
Those who refused to abide by the prohibitions were arrested one by one, were sentenced to prison or sent to the concentration camps in Bulgaria, foremost the Belene Camp. In 1985 there were around 1,000 Turks imprisoned in the Belene Camp. The detainees were imprisoned without any form of trial. After a while the detainees would be exiled to some other place in the country, or made to work in the mines, or put on trial and then behind bars. On the other hand, parallel to all these practices, ideological efforts were also continued. In 1970s there were “scientific” researches underway suggesting that Turks were actually “pureblood Bulgarian”.
Oppression of the Turkish minority’s religious freedom had also intensified during the hard assimilation period. Many mosques and places of worship were closed down and turned into museum or granaries. Some mosques were demolished. It was prohibited to announce the call to prayer with a volume that can be heard from the outside, Quran courses were closed down. Performing the prayer during the Ramadan and Eid holidays, circumcision and fasting were among the prohibitions. Children in the circumcision age were checked by officials on a regular basis; those who had their children circumcised were sentenced to prison or monetary fines. With a new regulation adopted in 1986 it was declared that the mother and grandmothers of the circumcised child would be sentenced with up to five years imprisonment. Traditional clothes and religious weddings as well as funerals with Islamic burial rites were prohibited. CPB officials attended the funerals to inspect whether these rules were being followed or not. Turkish graves were being ravaged, and sometimes completely demolished because the desire was to have the Turks buried in common graves.
The Turkish minority started to hold demonstrations and organize against the Bulgarian government’s “hard assimilation” politics. Streets demonstrations were being organized for various reasons and the government was being protested. In 1984, a protest was organized against the forced conversion of women and children’s names in Kırcali. However, the protest was quashed with violence, fire was opened on the crowd. Three Turks were killed, including an 18 months old baby, and 40 people were injured. Especially this incident resulted in ever more growing reaction among the Turks.
In 1985, a secret organization called the Turkish National Liberation Movement (BTMKH) led by Ahmet Doğan was founded in Varna. This movement would constitute the origin of the subsequent Rights and Freedoms Movement (HÖH) that would be organized legally. The Liberation Movement had adopted nonviolent methods. Its program declared that it was based on unarmed war and passive resistance. In line with its passive resistance it called on the minority members: to hinder state affairs, not sign official papers, not work beyond necessary to meet personal needs, not produce more than the necessary amount of meat and milk, produce poor quality products, not subscribe to Bulgarian publications, not participate in CPB activities, not vote or cast invalid votes in the parliamentary elections. Along with BTMKH, organizations such as the Independent Human Rights Association of Bulgaria, Democratic Union for the Defense of Human Rights and 1989 Vienna Support Association were also working towards the demands of the Turkish minority. Though the demonstrations practiced a politics of passive resistance, the government did not fail to suppress these protests with violence. Around 140 Turkish demonstrators lost their lives in these protests and campaigns.
Despite the deaths, injuries, prison and exile sentences the Liberation Movement continued its passive resistance. In May 1989 hunger strikes came to the agenda, again as a mode of passive resistance. Turks and primarily the prisoners in Belene Camp went on a hunger strike in numerous parts of the country. The openness policy (Glasnost) started by Gorbachev had put the Jivjov administration in a tough spot. Hunger strikes started to have an impact also with the influence of the openness policy. The repealed rights started to be won back: human rights organizations were established founded by Turks, it was allowed to broadcast in Turkish on the radio and place international telephone calls. Upon the death and injury of many people during the peaceful protests in May, Zhivkov said that Turks are free to leave Bulgaria and asked Turkey to open its borders. Thereupon the largest mandatory migration in Europe since the Second World War took place and 360,000 people immigrated to Turkey.
On November 10, 1989, Zhivkov had to step down from office due to pressures from both the USSR and within his party. Zhivkov’s successor Mladenov brought an end to both soft and hard assimilation politics. He released the imprisoned Turks, accorded the right of return to those who had immigrated. Nearly half of the immigrants came back to Bulgaria upon the improvement of the conditions. In the post-Zhivkov period, various political leaders declared that the policy of changing names was essentially a mistake and that everyone in Bulgaria has the right to freely choose their own name, religion and language. Despite the pro-normalization politics of the transition period, Bulgarian nationalists were organizing demonstrations. In December 1989 and January 1990 mass demonstrations were organized with high levels of participation.
The transition to multi-party system paved the way for Turks to enter legal politics. In March 1990 the Liberation Movement turned into Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and was registered as a political party in April. Gaining strength in a short span of time, MRF became the third biggest political party with 23 seats in the Founding Parliament elections. Parliamentary mode of politics did not run smoothly due to the reactions of the Bulgarian nationalists. Terror acts were committed targeting the party. Along with these acts of terrorism, certain parliamentarians were collecting signatures and applying to the Constitutional Court to shut down the party. Despite all this, MRF achieved significant electoral success in 2001 and entered the government as coalition partner.
The ardour of the 1990s that was marked by the transition process was coming to a close in the early 2000s. Bulgaria sought to integrate with international organizations and especially the European structure. As an important indicator of Bulgaria’s democratization, MRF was contributing to the cause of integration with Europe. Bulgaria became member of the Council of Europe and party to the European Convention on Human Rights in 1992. In 1995 it applied for European Union (EU) membership and was accepted as a candidate in 1997. It recognized the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in 1998. In 1999 it ratified the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. In 2004 Bulgaria became a member of NATO and in 2005 signed the Treaty of Accession to the EU. Bulgaria’s improvement of its politics regarding the Turkish minority had an important role both in terms of its Council of Europe and EU memberships and efforts to mend relations with Turkey. EU was monitoring Bulgaria closely with regards the Turkish minority, and this monitoring had a considerable effect on democratization.
In the 2005 elections MRF again managed to remain in the coalition. However the racist Ataka (Attack) Alliance, noted for its hate speech against Turks and the Roma, was an influential group that also achieved significant electoral success in 2005. Ataka Alliance wanted the names to be reconverted to Bulgarian, and was talking about the cease of Turkish publications. On the other hand, RFM was pursuing an active politics that championed for minority rights; rather than division and separation it insistently emphasized the political unity of Bulgaria. Politically it advocated not nationalism but democratic egalitarianism. Furthermore, in time it had also managed to eliminate the radicals within. Despite the obstructions set by the Ataka Alliance MRF was not backing away from its struggle: it procured achievements such as, the restoration of Turkish names, provision of elective Turkish classes in the curriculum, opening imam hatip (religious) high schools, opening Turkish Language Departments in the Sofia and Shumen universities, publication of Turkish newspapers and magazines, sanctioning radio and television broadcasts in Turkish, opening Turkish culture associations and theatres, and the restitution of private property confiscated in the CPB period.
These legal gains of Turks led to certain reactions among the Bulgarian nationalists. Turks’ culture and identity, ranging from their attires to various customs, were considered to be in contradiction with modernity and as Medieval remnants legacy of the Ottoman era. The concern over Turks rapidly multiplying in Bulgaria and that at this rate they would demand autonomy, constituted the emotional basis of the nationalist reactions. Sanctioning of Turkish classes in education had mobilized the nationalists. In 1991, nationalists in Kırcali went on hunger strikes against the Turkish lessons, and organized a series of actions including the prevention of students from going into the school. The boycott campaign led by the nationalists broadened out with the participation of Bulgarian students and teachers. However, despite the reactions, the government continued the implementation of Turkish classes.
In the post-Zhivkov period as the Bulgarian democracy developed and the social and political activity of the Turkish minority broadened, the Bulgarian officials started to bring the subject of apologizing for the practices of the past to the agenda. Bulgaria and Turkey signed the “Sofia Document” in 1991 and the “Edirne Document” in 1992 and agreed on collaborating in the field of military training and not monoeuvring at the borders. In 1992 a Confidence Treaty was signed between these two countries. All these were practical steps paving the way to an apology. Finally in 1998, the President of Bulgaria Petar Stoyanov apologized from Süleyman Demirel the President of Turkey.
The official apology was made but the past had not been judicially accounted for. In the new period of post-1989, the Bulgarian society was not trying to remember the past, but to forget it. The Socialist Party of Bulgaria (SPB) which was an extension of the CPB, was acting slowly weighed under the feeling of institutional guilt, therefore political parties refrained from bringing the subject of apology to the agenda for many years. In 2010, the Bulgarian Parliamentary Committee of Human Rights and Religious Freedoms made a declaration condemning the efforts of forcefully assimilating the Turkish population in the CPB period. The declaration stated that 360,000 Bulgarian citizens of Turkish descent were displaced with the aim of ethnic cleansing, and called on the judiciary to take action against those who implemented this policy. However, this call was not welcomed by SPB that asserted the need for addressing more contemporary problems. Finally on January 11, 2012, a declaration of apology proposed by the right-wing Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria was adopted in the Parliament of Bulgaria with the backing of 112 of the 155 parliamentarians that attended the voting while the remaining three abstained. This text, which was adopted without any prior pressure from Turkey or the European Commission, defined the past offenses against Turks as ethnical cleansing.
The 1954-62 Algerian War, wherein extremely severe rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law of war were committed in cold blood, has an important place in the history of French colonialism. The war between the Algerian Independence Movement and France arose from the buildup of over a century. In other words, the war was the manifestation of a continuance. On the pretext of fighting piracy and a ‘diplomatic slight’ to their consul, France invaded Algeria on January 30, 1830. The various alleged pretexts aside, the aim of the operation was to help restore prestige for the French monarchy at the brink of revolution as well as to challenge the British dominion in the Mediterranean. The July Revolution of 1830 did cause a change of regime, however, the Algeria project was continued as is by the new regime as well. In December 1840, the army under the command of General Thomas Bugeaud, who was just appointed governor of Algeria, embarked on its work by deporting the villagers en masse. The intervention of the army virtually aimed to annihilate the local people: They raped the women, took children hostage, stole the harvest and livestock, and destroyed the orchards. King Louis-Philippe and Napoleon III saw no harm in awarding the responsible commanders with promotions.
Algeria had an exceptional position within the overseas French territory as it was given a constitutional status. However, rather than a citizenship status people in Algeria were conferred the status of the colonized. Obtaining citizenship status was subject to certain conditions such as pledging not to adhere to sharia laws. French colonialism had collapsed the social and economic infrastructure of Algeria; unemployment and poverty was widespread. Impoverished Algerians, who had lost their lands to the French settlers, had no choice but to immigrate to France in masses.
In parallel to the escalating financial and emotional damage, the unrests caused by being subject to the colonial rule were rapidly increasing. Following the First World War, Algerian nationalism started to be mobilized for independence. Nazi occupation of France had changed the fate of politics in the Algerian territory as well. Relying on the anti-colonial discourse of the Atlantic Charter, in 1942 the nationalists organized under the flag of the Algerian People’s Party (PPA) in line with the discourse of independence. In April 1945, the leader of PPA Messali Hadj was abducted and taken to Brazzaville. PPA decided to participate in the May 1 demonstrations as a separate cortege along with the French and Algerian communist parties, which remained silent on the issue of the national question, and the French general confederation of labor (CGT). The street demonstrations and protests were gradually increasing. Police and some Europeans who were disturbed by the protestors in Oran and Algeria opened fire at the crowd. Let alone reducing, these interventions were increasing the frequency of the protests. Demonstrations voicing the demands for Algeria’s independence were organized at every opportunity, despite the deaths, injuries and arrests. Thousands of Algerians lost their lives during the clashes in Sétif and Guelma. Europe was now rid of fascism. Victory of the allies was being celebrated all around. The fall of the Nazis was a turning point for France. Algerian nationalists had raised their demands for reform each time France experienced a turning point in 1871, 1914 and 1940. In 1871 and 1914 there were uprisings quashed with violence, however in May 1945 there was no evidence indicating an imminent uprising. Waters were unruffled, interventions to the mass demonstrations were routine and it was not deemed likely that it would beget a large scale war. Nevertheless, France’s years-long colonial politics had reached the saturation point in Algeria, and war, so to speak, was only a matter of time.
The National Liberation Front (FLN) and its armed wing the National Liberation Army (ALN) were founded in 1954. The Algerian society was economically, politically and culturally separated on the basis of racial differences both before the war broke and during the organization of FLN. So much so that, there were one million French settlers and nine million Algerians living within the borders of the country. The number of Algerians living in France had reached 200,000. FLN was organizing among the migrant workers most of whom worked in the construction and steel sectors. Workers were among the foremost groups that financed FLN’s struggle. As an organization of the front, FLN was the organizer of mass street protests, it held numerous demonstrations in France with various causes. On October 17, 1961 the police forces in Paris attacked around 30,000 Algerians who wanted to hold a demonstration to support FLN and protest the curfew imposed on Algerians. In this attack, according to the official numbers, 70 people were killed, according to some researchers the number of people killed by the police was more than 200. The protestors had been beaten to death, thrown in the Seine River and drowned, and tortured to death under custody at the police stations. The war was waging on both Algerian and French soil simultaneously and in various forms.
The war between France and Algeria led to the collapse of the Fourth Republic in 1958. Legitimacy of the Algerian nationalists was gradually increasing in the international arena as well. On the other hand, the legitimacy of France was eroding with every passing day for waging a war that was the continuation of the colonialist mentality. This loss of legitimacy, caused General De Gaulle to utter, albeit grudgingly, the words of Algeria’s right to self-determination in 1959. Meanwhile, slight movements had started to kindle in the French society in favor of supporting FLN. Certain French people were helping the Algerians in France to get their support across to FLN. According to the French who supported FLN, the principle of resistance against fascism necessitated aiding the Algerians. A group of French intellectuals ferrying arms, men and documents to the Algerians who were struggling against the French army, were arrested and were to go on trial on September 6, 1960. The day before trial, 121 intellectuals released a text that has come to be known as the ‘Manifesto of the 121’. The Manifesto referred to the Algerians’ diplomatic and military struggle directly as a ‘war of independence’; and asserted that 15 years after Hitler, France had brought back torture and restored it as an institution in Europe. This striking Manifesto was concluded with the following words:
“We respect and judge justified the refusal to take up arms against the Algerian people. We respect and judge justified the conduct of those French men and women who consider it their obligation to give aid and protection to the Algerians, oppressed in the name of the French people. The cause of the Algerian people, which contributes decisively to the ruin of the colonial system, is the cause of all free men and women.
Publication of the Manifesto tried to be prevented by government censorship. However, the censorship attempts could not stop the spread of the Manifesto. In 1961, one of the signatories of the Manifesto Jean Paul Sartre was calling out to the French people in his preface to Franz Fanon’s book titled The Wretched of the Earth as follows:”
“It is not right, my fellow-countrymen, you who know very well all the crimes committed in our name, it’s not at all right that you do not breathe a word about them to anyone, not even to your own soul, for fear of having to stand in judgment on yourself. I am willing to believe that at the beginning you did not realize what was happening, later, you doubted whether such things could be true; but now you know, and still you hold your tongues. Eight years of silence, what degradation!”
Both due to the violence of the war and the pressure of the public opinion, in 1961 De Gaulle started negotiations with FLN. Along with the negotiations a new era was now embarked. Algerians were on the brink of independence. In 1962, the Evian Accords was signed. The Accords put an end to the French rule in Algeria. Colonial status was defunct, and Algerians had gained the right to self-determination. All the same, one million Algerians had lost their lives during the war that lasted eight years. Scores of war crimes and rights violations had been committed. Putting the notorious violations on the agenda and investigating them on a judicial plane was of great importance for France to confront its recent past. However, as a ceasefire proclamation to end the war, the Evian Accords had a hindering function with regards confrontation with the past. The treaty contained a general amnesty provision that prevented both the Algerian insurgents and the French soldiers, police and politicians from standing on trial for the crimes committed during the war. As a matter of fact, until 1990s the subject of war crimes was an issue of interest only for special lobby groups. The Algerian War was not investigated by comprehensive and authorized commissions of inquiry. Efforts geared towards grasping the war crimes were nourished by antiracism and the human rights perspective, but the Algerian War never created a Holocaust, in other words, a ‘never again’ effect in Europe; rather than the expression of ‘genocide’ the focus was on singular cases.
Until questioned in the 1970s, the Vichy period was evaluated around a myth of resistance by the prevalent Gaullist ideology. Accordingly, France had resisted against the Nazis, and the anti-Semitic politics were essentially imposed by the Nazis. Therefore, the Vichy regime had to be considered as an exception in French history. The war was brought back to the agenda in 1980s; the veil of silence though very slowly and unsteadily was being lifted. In November 1984 an international conference was organized on the war in Algeria. By the end of 1980s the National Center for Scientific Research in France strived for the recognition of war as a legitimate field of research. The Institute of Contemporary History and Jean-Pierre Rioux held three important conferences that examined the relations between war and the Christian public opinion, intellectuals and the French.
Finally, the discussions on the Algerian War emerged within the framework of deliberations regarding the Nazi occupation of France and the Nazi collaborator Vichy regime. The Algerian War was intertwined with discussions on fascism. The common denominator of the two discussions was the Vichy regime and ‘crimes against humanity’. In 1987, during his defense of a former Nazi named Klaus Barbie, lawyer Jacques Vergès established parallels between the conducts of Nazis in France and those of the French in Algeria. The definition of ‘crimes against humanity’ was brought back to the agenda in consequence of this analogy. However, the Supreme Court narrowed the definition of crimes against humanity. The Court declared that this crime can only be committed ‘in the name of a State practicing a hegemonic political ideological’. According to the Supreme Court, France had not practiced a policy of political hegemony in Algeria. Therefore, the crimes committed could not be evaluated in scope of crimes against humanity. Jacques Vergès on the other hand was adamant on the necessity of classifying colonialism as a policy of political hegemony. In an article he wrote in Le Monde, the historian and ancient Greece specialist Pierre Vidal-Naquet, who was in the struggle against torture in the Algerian War since the beginning and also testified in the trial, claimed that the French committed crimes against humanity both in Algeria and earlier in Indochina and Madagascar. He called for the annulment of the amnesty in order for the French politicians and military leaders to stand on trial. However, the Supreme Court was determined to maintain that no crime against humanity was committed; there was no need for France to apologize from Algeria, to open an investigation or pay reparations for the losses. The debates were ended only to be restarted in coming years.
In 1991, on the anniversary of the 17 October 1961 events, groups of Algerian migrants called attention to a ‘duty to remember’ (devoir de mémoire) the Algerian War. Commemoration events were keeping the memory alive, and creating grounds for the crimes to be laid on the table. Historian Benjamin Stora’s four episode documentary titled The Algerian Years was broadcasted on a state channel, which in turn opened to discussion the French experience of the war. The Vichy past of France was questioned more radically. As such, the François Mitterand biography published by Pierre Péans in 1994 revealed that the socialist politician was affiliated with the extreme right in 1930s and was awarded by the Vichy regime. In 1995, Chirac apologized for the anti-Semitic practices of the Vichy regime. Nevertheless, a similar apology for the Algerian War was still not expressed, the silence was continuing.
In 1997, more comprehensive investigations into the Vichy regime were carried out. The trial of Maurice Papon, who was stationed in Gironde through 1942-44 and accused of sending four Jewish convoys from Bordeaux to the death camps, paved the ground for the shrouded truths of the Vichy regime to be brought to daylight. The Papon trial became a case where not only a single individual but also the state was put on trial. The fundamental question of the Papon trial was the extent of responsibility individuals had in crimes against humanity committed in the name of State. The trial had exposed a second similarity in the analogy of Vichy and the Algerian War: the official practices of discrimination that the French state implemented towards the Jews and the Algerians were essentially the same. This was particularly disconcerting as it showed that besides the republican France founded on principles of freedom, equality and fraternity there was also a colonial France. Following the Papon trial, while the Vichy period was left in the background, the question of Algeria started to move back to the center of interest in 2000s.
There was yet another significant factor that prevented the Algerian War from being addressed in scope of coming to terms with the past. Up until 1999, the period between 1954-62 was legally defined not as ‘war’ but as a ‘public order problem’ and counterinsurgency operations. To name the FLN militants, the political power had opted to use concepts like ‘bandit’, ‘insurgent’, and ‘terrorist’, rather than ‘enemy’ which has a different status. The veterans of the war demanded the definition of war, which was long espoused by the French public opinion, to be officially adopted so that they too could benefit from the rights accorded to veterans. Finally in October 1999, representatives and senators officially accepted the definition of war. In 2000, deputies of the Communist Party called for a parliamentary commission to investigate torture during the Algerian War, propose repentance by France and compensation for its victims. Prime Minister of the time Lionel Jospin rejected the Communist Party’s demand. Though he rejected the proposal for a commission, Jospin had drawn attention to the importance of reaching the past as he claimed that “the national community is not weakened by the act of remembering but, on the contrary, is reinforced”. In this framework, a prime ministerial decree was issued in 2001. Six ministries were given directive to facilitate access to official documents on the war.
In February 2005, a draft bill that imposed the teaching of colonialism’s positive aspects was passed by the parliamentary majority of the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), which caused great controversy. The justification of the law is worthy of note as a manifestation of remembering the past as is, rather than through critical motives: thanks to this law, France would pay her debt to those who served her in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Indochina. According to article four of the act, “syllabuses must recognize the positive role played by the French presence overseas, particularly in north Africa, and must accord the prominent position that they merit to the history and sacrifices of members of the French armed forces”. The law would without a shadow of doubt have a negative effect on the immigrants. In June 2005, a group was organized calling themselves The Natives of the Republic. The Natives of the Republic were emphasizing particularly the issue of cultural discrimination experienced in France. They issued a manifesto demanding the compensation of problems stemming from economic exploitation and deprivation of social rights: “We, descendants of slaves and African deportees, daughters and sons of colonized people and immigrants” have launched a struggle against the oppression and discrimination practiced by the postcolonial Republic. Three months after the publication of the manifesto, an uprising of broad participation erupted in the suburbs of big cities across France. A total of 10,000 vehicles and 200 public buildings were burned and three people lost their lives during the uprising of immigrants. On January 1, 2006, Jacques Chriac said that the law divided the French people and had to be rewritten. Chirac sent the law amendment to the Constitutional Council. He had the law repealed on grounds that the regulation of school books is an administrative matter, not a legislative one.
Prior his visit to Algeria, the next president of UMP Nicolas Sarkozy uttered cautious words regarding the history of colonialism. Noting that there were certainly a lot of sufferings and injustices during the 132 years France spent in Algeria, he said, “I am for a recognition of the facts but not for repentance, which is a religious notion that has no place in relations between states”. The notion of apology specific to politics was thus equated with repentance which was claimed to be a religious notion. Sarkozy accepted that colonialism negates the three important concepts of the republic, namely, freedom, equality and fraternity. However, he claimed that France will not assume responsibility for the atrocity of the war. In December 2012, speaking at the parliament during his visit to Algeria, President François Hollande described the French colonization of Algeria to be ‘brutal and unjust’, and said that he recognizes the suffering the colonial system has inflicted. Hollande condemned the massacre at Guelma, Kherrata and Setif, where nationalist demonstrations at the end of World War II were quashed by French forces. He said, “On May 8, 1945 when the world triumphed over brutality, France forgot its universal values”. However, he refrained from making an apology for the crimes France committed as a colonial power.
On January 30, 1972, a march was organized in the Bogside area of Derry city in Northern Ireland attended by around 20 thousand people. The aim of this demonstration organized with peaceful motives was to protest against the Northern Ireland government’s August 1971 decision sanctioning the “internment without trial of suspected terrorists” and the ensuing imposition of a “ban on [mass] marches and parades”. Military measures were taken -as per security discourses- in order to prevent the march that was organized in line with democratic criteria. However, the political power had made yet another important annotation to the wording of “marching ban”. Accordingly, there were two irreconcilable elements in the demonstrations: The nonviolent, “innocent” people, and to the contrary, the “rebels” who might hurl Molotov cocktails at the security forces. The shadow of the “terror” discourse was thus cast upon the demonstrations organized with reference to democratic rights and freedoms. Despite this shadow the demonstrators did not step back from their decision to hold the march. The government and army circles mobilized in order to prevent the march wherein peaceful protestors and “rebels” would be mixed together. The army was planning to arrest the organizing leaders of the demonstration right after the rally but then it was decided to intervene with the protest before the march was over, that is, before the “innocent” protestors and the “rebel” leaders separated from one another. Indiscriminating among the “innocent” and the “rebels”, the First Battalion of the British Parachute Regiment opened fire on the crowd, and as a result of this fire 14 people lost their lives on Sunday, January 30th. The 17 year-old Jackie Duddy was one of the people who died during the demonstration. The white handkerchief that bishop Daly waved as he led a group carrying the wounded Jackie Duddy to the hospital was engraved in the memories as an iconic image of the Bloody Sunday. Jackie Duddy’s sister Kay, who has kept Jackie’s bloodstained handkerchief for years, is absolutely sure that her brother was innocent:
“He had not done anything, never gotten mixed up in any trouble. What devastates me most is that they claim an innocent person was preparing to throw a nail-bomb when he was shot down… He was completely innocent and had not done anything. They opened fire on an innocent person and there is still no apology for that.”
This not forthcoming “apology” that Kay complains about would eventually be expressed by political authorities albeit years later. In this respect, Bloody Sunday corresponds to a sort of breaking point for the peoples of Ireland and England. Surely one must take a closer look at the historical tension between Ireland and England in order to understand this breaking and transformation moment and render its effects visible. The process leading up to Bloody Sunday did not transpire overnight, the incident that caused the death of 14 people, and the injury and arrests of numerous others, broke out with the crushing pressure of the dynamics of the past.
Historical roots of the Bloody Sunday but also, before that, the tension between England and Ireland go back to the settlement of English and Scottish populations in Ireland in the 17th century. Ethnic tensions were being fueled also by religious sectarian differences. The local people were Catholic and the later settlers were Protestant. The tension and conflicts among different groups continued until the 19th century. By the 20th century, along with religious divisions, pro-independence movements had emerged in Ireland bringing national discourses to the fore. Before long, this emergence led to the creation of new factions, sides. The Scottish and English settlers living in the nine counties of Ulster province and around Dublin were acting in line with the United Kingdom, and following Unionist politics.
While the separation between different camps continued, the Easter Rising broke out during the First World War. The Anglo-Irish War of 1919-1921 ended with the partition of Ireland in 1921. In 1920 the Government of Ireland Act was passed by the parliament of the United Kingdom. According to this act, the island was divided in two wherein the six counties of Ulster with a majority population of Protestant settlers formed the Northern Ireland, and the rest was Southern Ireland. These territories were accorded with self-government, home rule authority. This Home Rule, which was implemented only in Northern Ireland since the South had gained its independence, continued until 1972. The Irish Free State (South) established in 1922 though independent in many aspects was actually in a dominion status. The Irish Free State comprised the entire island, but the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 had allowed Northern Ireland to “opt out” of the Irish Free State. In accordance with this right, Northern Ireland exercised its opt out and separated from the Irish Free State, and rejoined the United Kingdom. Irish Free State’s remaining official ties with the British monarchy were ended with the Republic of Ireland Act signed into law in 1948 and put into effect in 1949. This partition between the Irish Free State and the UK caused Northern Ireland’s second biggest city Derry to be cut off from its natural economic hinterland. As ethnical and religious differences were compounded with economic/class differences, the historical tension acquired new aspects.
By the 1960s, a Civil Rights Movement had emerged against discrimination in employment, housing, and voting rights. Parallel to the expansion of the movement, the violence of state and paramilitary forces was put in play. Demands of the Northern Ireland Catholics focused around the slogan of “houses, jobs and votes”. The political arena was divided between the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP) advocating constitutional nationalism and the Provisional IRA. Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was founded in 1967 modeling itself on the African Americans civil rights movement and adopting civil resistance.
The democratic demonstrations organized by NICRA were being attacked by the Unionists and Northern Ireland police forces. In 1969 the city of Derry had become the site of intense and violent clashes between the protestors, police and Unionists. There were also the IRA campaigns targeting police forces. Political space had further contracted in this process when a riot erupted on August 12, 1969 known as the “Battle of the Bogside”. The riot spread across a significant part of the city. The local people participated in the riot for three days and resisted against the police forces. When the riots sparked uprisings also in Belfast and the rest of Northern Ireland, the Stormont government asked Westminster for assistance. Thereupon the British army was deployed to the area to institute public order. The post-riot process was indicating the beginning of a comprehensive oppression period in the political arena.
As a matter of fact, a big wave of detentions started on August 9, 1971 with the support of the army. Over a period of three months 1,882 people were taken under custody, most of them Catholics and all of them Irish republicans. The number of detainees reached 2,400 by 1972. This politics of detention aimed to deal a major blow against IRA in a period of its being relatively weak. However, the detentions were rapidly increasing the existing support for Provisional IRA that had split from the official IRA in 1969. Another important development took place at this point: The talks between the Provisional IRA and Westminster government were ended. The balance-sheet of the street demonstrations, clashes and riots was severe: In 1969, 18 people lost their lives, in 1970 it was 26, and in 1971 it was 186. The number of losses in the clashes through 1966-2001 is worth noting in terms of demonstrating the dimension of the tension: A total of 3673 people died in the clashes.
The riots were suppressed, demonstrations were diminished, and the rebels were “neutralized” either by being killed or detained. The military and political oppression was followed by the process of legal oppression. The political power brought to the agenda a six months-long ban on marches and demonstrations. Henceforth, demonstrations and marches of all kinds would be considered illegal. A democratic right safeguarded by the constitution was being put on hold as per the understanding of public order and security. This antidemocratic ban did not serve any purpose except to escalate the existing tensions. NICRA decided not to heed to the ban especially in the Derry city center. The fuse of the process leading up to Bloody Sunday was thus ignited and would not be put out.
Street demonstrations were continued to be organized despite the ban. Attacks of the paramilitary forces and the police were keeping abreast of the demonstrations. Meanwhile IRA’s acts of violence were rubbing salt in the wound of the existing tension. The week before Bloody Sunday, clashes broke out between the army and the protestors who wanted to walk to the camp in Magilligan near Derry where the detainees were being held. The First Battalion of the British Parachute Regiment was engaged for the first time to intervene in the clashes. This battalion of the special forces and infamous for its harsh interventions in civil/democratic demonstrations was arousing hatred across Northern Ireland. Though no one was killed in this intervention, the use of extreme violence by the 300 soldiers had further fueled the tension.
On Sunday, January 30, 1972, a crowd of 20 thousand people surged to the Derry city center. Demonstrators had started to walk in order to listen to the speeches demanding an end to the detentions. Dust was yet to settle on the Magilligan event. Demonstrators anticipated a clash but no one expected the army to increase the level of violence to such an extent. Demonstrators and the army came face to face at the barricades. The army opened fire indiscriminately on the crowd and 14 people were killed.
After Bloody Sunday, the Stormont administration was abolished. Direct rule was initiated and Northern Ireland started to be governed directly from Westminster. The British government relegated the Bloody Sunday to the security discourse; labeled the people who died during the demonstration immediately as “armed people and bombers”. February 2 was declared national day of mourning in Ireland. Ireland’s ambassador in London was withdrawn.
In the midst of all this, reactions were pouring in from Derry, Dublin and the international circles. The reactions were pressuring the Westminster Parliament to establish a court with the objective of inquiring the events. In order to subdue the national and international unrests, the Prime Minister Edward Heath appointed Britain’s second highest judge Chief Justice Lord Widgery. Lord Widgery was a former officer of the British Army. The tribunal convened far away from Derry in the Unionist town of Coleraine. Nevertheless, Widgery also laid the blame on the organizers of the illegal demonstration. He specifically steered clear of investigating the decisions made by security authorities and political authorities. Meanwhile, the tribunal was not pressing on the issue of conflicting evidences; the conclusions reached were not corroborated by the facts. Widgery did not take into consideration the statements of nearly 700 eye witnesses gathered by NICRA either. The tribunal secretariat was very close with the government and they directly intervened in the writing of the report. Families were not provided with much legal support. Conflicting statements of the witnesses from the army were also being altered depending on the situation. The tribunal prepared a report in haste. The personnel on duty were acquitted while the responsibility of the event was laid on the victims. Prime Minister of the time Edward Heath’s counsel to Lord Widgery is actually a summary of the situation: “never forget it is a propaganda war we are fighting” in Northern Ireland, not only a military war.
Criminal investigations into the event were obviated in 1972 by the Criminal Investigation Department, families were given insignificant remunerations. In 1973, the legal investigation means were obstructed by Northern Ireland codes of criminal procedure. For all intents and purposes, the Widgery Tribunal and the subsequent events became a process feeding the sense of unfairness and injustice felt by the family members and the public at large. Following the Bloody Sunday, there were recurrences of trauma symptoms in the families of the victims. Implementations of the political authorities operating with institutional support abandoned the Bloody Sunday case to a deep oblivion and silence, social traumas were tried to be repressed by drawing a veil over the truths.
The Widgery Report constituted the official memory regarding Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday and the subsequent processes in its aftermath had eradicated Northern Ireland government’s legitimacy and caused the Civil Rights Movement to lose power while increasing the people’s support for IRA. In a fragment where the spaces of democratic and legal struggle were further constricted, and the field of politics was disciplined by politics of oppression and fear, IRA was escalating its acts of violence against the British government. On the other hand, London continued to describe the Northern Ireland problem as a security issue. These developments rendered IRA the strongest political movement in the region. Through 1973-75, the Bloody Sunday commemorations witnessed a process of competition between the discourses of NICRA and Sinn Féin that represented IRA’s political wing. NICRA was realizing its commemorations with activities and discourses on civil rights, democracy and civil disobedience against discrimination. NICRA’s approach of democratic struggle was replaced -also as the clashes escalated- with Sinn Féin’s actions and discourse based on armed struggle against British colonialism. By 1975, the commemorations were being organized by Sinn Féin. There was no end to the armed protests.
While bilateral agreements kept falling short and clashes continued, the demographic transformation in the 1990s disturbed the balances of politics. Catholics had both increased in number and had grown confident in themselves. Meanwhile, with the Workers’ Party coming to power, there were cautious steps taken away from the security oriented traditional politics towards a politics of reconciliation. An important initiative to end violence was surely the ceasefire of 1994. The negotiations between IRA and the London government were concluded with the Belfast Agreement in 1998. The Belfast Agreement initiated a process wherein the Bloody Sunday was questioned again, this time in a different way, and the threshold of silence was overcome. Finally the possibility had emerged to talk about the unspoken and remember the truths abandoned to oblivion. A new phase was embarked wherein social traumas would be addressed and wounds would be treated. Entry to the peace process played an important role in the creation of this phase. The peace process was of vital importance in terms of confronting the past. Bloody Sunday commemorations were now realized not with violence but in line with NICRA’s initial peaceful practices. According to the commemoration organizers, the environment of conflict had placed the war with Britain in a central position, which in turn prevented the case from being addressed through the universal human rights perspective. The interpretation of Bloody Sunday adopted by Sinn Féin throughout the 1970s and 1980s had not been embraced by all the families and the people of Derry. Commemorations organized in the 1990s’ conditions of peace were moving away from the Republican rhetoric and this was reinforcing the demands for justice and revelation of the truth.
One after another activities were being organized to accomplish the deepening of the peace process, the proper institution of democracy, the confrontation with social agonies and a democratic regeneration. Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign was one of these activities. The democratic public opinion formed with a broad social participation demanded the case to be reinvestigated.
On January 29, 1998, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that a new inquiry into Bloody Sunday would be opened. As such, the Saville Inquiry began on April 3, 1998 became the most comprehensive and costly investigation in Britain’s history. The inquiry was conducted by an international tribunal of judges chaired by Lord Saville. The tribunal heard from over 900 witnesses. Saville Inquiry had also assumed the mission of revealing the truths. The families kept a close watch on the tribunal. The political power was accounting for the past and in doing so it was abandoning its classical discourses. Deep-seated discourses were being transformed. Actually the demand of the victims and the public opinion was also very clear. The placard placed at the monument during the Bloody Sunday commemoration of 2008 expressed this demand most explicitly:
“[political power] still owes the truth and justice to the victims, to those who lost their loved ones and to the people Derry. British army, British judiciary, British government and Stormont regime – they all must accept their responsibility in Bloody Sunday and its consequences. Only then can the wounds of that day finally heal.”
Bloody Sunday investigation was concluded at the end of two years and a comprehensive (nearly five thousand pages long) report on the incident was prepared. The report established that the soldiers gave no warning before opening fire at the crowd and contrary to earlier claims they were under no attack whatsoever, and that some protestors were shot in the back indicating that they were running away, and moreover it found that many of the soldiers had lied. The report was published on June 15, 2010. Prime Minister David Cameron apologized in the name of Britain with the following words:
“Some members of our Armed Forces acted wrongly. The Government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the Armed Forces. And for that, on behalf of the Government – and indeed our country – I am deeply sorry.”
The head of the army General Sir David Richards also gave full support to Prime Minister David Cameron’s statements. The families who lost their relatives in Bloody Sunday along with thousands of conscientious people gathered at the square where the incident took place, with the photographs of the dead protestors in their hands. The Prime Minister’s statements were welcomed by the public opinion. An incident that was tried to be buried in the dark and the truths clustered around this incident were at last brought into the light, putting at ease the hearts of especially the victims’ loved ones.
Chile has a unique importance in the history of socialism. The socialism experience of Chile has displayed an exceptional quality among the socialist movements that started to rise in the 19th century and “seized” political power in various countries and geographies of the world by the 20th century. This exceptional quality pertains primarily to the grounds of the socialist struggle. In an environment where the pulse of revolutionary struggles was beating in favor of violence, socialist Salvador Allende (1908-1973) appeared on the stage of politics in Chile. Salvador Allende was keeping “revolutionary violence” outside the political struggle of the working class, and was planning to realize a nonviolent transition to socialism without bloodshed. Allende, who had a medical degree, was a politician well-liked by the people. He was elected to the Chilean Congress as a deputy in 1937 and became the Minister of Health in 1939. He led a politics of health that served the socially inferior, he felt a genuine love towards the low-income sectors of the society. Perhaps due to this love, Allende was referred to as “the president of the poor” among the people. In 1943, he was elected Secretary General of the Socialist Party of Chile. His popularity was evermore increasing. In the 1952 Presidential elections, he ran for presidency as the candidate of Popular Action Front (FRAP) that had united the dispersed organizations of the left in Chile. He came out of the elections defeated having received only 60 thousand votes. However, this defeat did not curb Allende’s perseverance to struggle. FRAP expanded the breadth of its organizing. In the 1970 presidential elections this time he ran as the candidate of Unidad Popular that was founded to unite under the roof of a single coalition those groups that split from the Communists, liberals and Christian Democrats. He still saw no harm in resorting to peaceful methods that the Marxist revolutionary theory did not hold in great esteem. It was possible to transition to socialism by struggling on a democratic and constitutional grounds rather than leaning on tools of violence. However, his opponents in the left/communist wing were vehemently against these convictions of Allende. According to radical leftist fractions (especially the Revolutionary Left Movement-MIR), transitioning to socialism through the exhaustive implementation of democratic rights and freedoms stipulated by the constitution or through the elections was nothing short of building castles in air. According to these fractions, Salvador Allende’s politics meant “submissiveness” and “passivism”. At times they were even accusing him with severe allegations such as “treason”. Ignoring these denunciations and accusations, Allende kept working nonstop. While polemics continued within the left, he won the 1970 presidential elections and marking a first in the history of modern socialism seized political power through elections. This unprecedented experience of socialism made its mark on the recent past of Chile in many respects.
Early 1970s correspond to an important moment of transformation with regards to the historical development of capitalism. Global capitalism was forced to invent new methods to solve the crises (especially the 1971 oil crisis) that it fell into. Both the international capital and the modern nation-state apparatuses entered a neoliberal reconstruction phase in the 1970s. Chile became the first, so to speak, experimental victim in the institution of neoliberal order at the hands of fascist juntas. The dress rehearsal of the military coups, which would spread across in waves, was held in Chile against a socialist government who had come to power through elections. Democracy and law were put on hold, a brutal politics of oppression and extermination was carried out against the socialists. Chile’s strong union organizations were abolished, most all left/democratic politics were crushed. In this process of systematic extermination, the anti-communism rhetoric of the Cold War was feeding the junta’s discourse. As a matter of fact, Augusto Pinochet, one of the four founding generals of the junta in Chile, did not hesitate to allude to a metaphor often used by Hitler: the country would be cleansed of the “communist vermin”. What were the phases that brought about this project of social slaughter where severe crimes against humanity were committed in cold blood, rights were violated incessantly with no end or limit, and a muzzle was put on constitutional rights and freedoms; how did Chile overcome the nightmare that befell the country?
USA regarded the socialist Allende government as a serious threat to its regional interests because Allende was advocating the nationalization of copper mines and the banking sector. He had a socialist program entailing reforms in fields of education and health. For global capitalism, especially this program was the final straw. International capital groups and primarily the American ITT (International Telephone and Telegraph) in Chile started to finance the legal as well as the illegal anti-Allende movements. ITT and CIA were holding meetings on how to sponsor the conservative and Christian democrat anti-Allende candidates. To this end, the Forty-Committee chaired by the National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger was founded. The Committee was comparing Allende’s victory and the socialist government established thereafter with similar movements in Argentina, Peru and Bolivia; it deemed the existence of a legitimate government that had come to power through democratic election as the very rise of communism in Chile. The spread of communism had to be prevented. As the first order of business, by applying economic pressure they tried to convince the Christian democrat deputies not to endorse Allende’s presidency. However they did not succeed with this alternative. Thereupon, the CIA and ITT strategy to prevent communism swayed to the military intervention option. However staff and troops were needed for a military intervention. René Schneider, who was the Army Commander in Chief at the time Allende became the president, was defending that the army should never get involved with politics. Within an organization where the highest person in command was ruled by such a mentality, it would be difficult to procure the necessary staff to stage a coup. The mentality at the top had to be eliminated. On October 24, 1970 Schneider was assassinated and killed. Carlos Prats replaced Scheider but shortly afterwards resigned from his duty. Finally, Augusto Pinochet took the post of the Army Commander in Chief. Pinochet was virtually tailor made for the concocted fascist coup. Pinochet, who advocated the National Security Doctrine, waited for the opportune moment, and seized power on September 11, 1973 with a military coup. The National Security Doctrine constituted the ideological basis of the coup and provided legitimacy for its actual operations. Against the rise of communism, there was need to “protect the values of western Christianity”, cleanse the society from “internal enemies”, and “institute peace” in the society. Economic crises and the strikes organized were also brought to the agenda as preparatory measures for a military coup. This nightmare the effects of which still continue in Chile today was enacted in line with this perspective. The socialist government was overthrown, the parliament dissolved, and Salvador Allende died in the presidential palace that was bombarded by planes. The public opinion, which was supposed to uphold socialism and democracy and was expected to “stop the tanks” of counter-revolution advancing upon democracy, was smashed to smithereens by the terror operations of the “caravans of death” organized under Pinochet, all the voices in the society were entrapped. Before long, the coup had turned into a kind of slaughter machine. It had blustered and scythed across the society from one end to the other, leaving behind a streak of disasters. The coup rehearsal in Chile staged by the neoliberal politics’ coalition with international capital and militarist powers resulted in a very, tremendously heavy loss. ara el koydu. Ulusal Güvenlik Doktrini darbenin ideolojik temelini oluşturuyor, fiilî icraatlarına meşruiyet sağlıyordu. Komünizmin yükselişine karşı “Batılı Hıristiyan değerleri korumak”, toplumu “iç düşmanlardan” arındırmak, toplumda “huzuru tesis etmek” gerekiyordu. Ekonomik krizler ve düzenlenen grevler de askerî bir darbeye hazırlık olarak gündeme gelmişti. Şili’de etkileri bugün bile sürmekte olan bir kâbus, bu anlayış doğrultusunda yürürlüğe sokuldu. Sosyalist hükümet devrildi, parlamento feshedildi, Salvador Allende uçaklar tarafından bombalanan başkanlık sarayında öldü. Karşı-devrimin demokrasinin üzerine yürüyen “tanklarını durdurması” beklenilen, sosyalizme ve demokrasiye sahip çıkması gereken kamuoyu, Pinochet’ye bağlı “ölüm kervanları”nın terör operasyonlarıyla tuzla buz edildi, toplumdaki bütün sesler kıstırıldı. Darbe kısa sürede bir tür kıyım makinesine dönüşmüştü. Toplumu bir ucundan diğerine kesip biçmiş, ardında felaketler silsilesi bırakmıştı. Neo-liberal siyaset anlayışının uluslararası sermaye ve militarist güçlerle kurduğu koalisyonun Şili’deki darbe provasının bilançosu çok ama çok ağır oldu.
In the first weeks following the coup, the regime embarked on witch-hunts rounding up thousands of people and putting them into custody. The existing institutions were not enough to hold the masses of detained people; schools, military barracks and various state institutions were jam-packed. The “caravans of death” captured and tortured people in the barren regions of Chile, buried some of the ones they killed in mass graves in the desert, and threw the ones they flocked in the planes to the sea. Nevertheless, all this was still not enough to disperse the opposition forces. The military junta rolled up its sleeves for a broad and comprehensive sweep. Tens of thousands of people were taken into custody, put through torture on the racks, thousands of people were exiled, hundreds killed. Chile was turned into an open air concentration camp. In order to overcome the shortage of space, the junta put into service the Chilean National Stadium as a concentration camp. Around five thousand people, women, men, young and the elderly were imprisoned in the stadium. The Chilean National Stadium, where people were tortured crying and screaming in the locker rooms, along the corridors or under the stairs, where those snatched by the arm and taken away never returned, would in later years become one of the symbolic sites for confronting the past as it manifested the crimes against humanity committed by the junta. The socialist artist Victor Jara was among the people killed in yet another stadium.
Atrocities of the fascist military dictatorship continued for five years through 1972 – 1977 until not a single leaf of opposition could move in Chile. Throughout the 17 years they stayed in power, the coup leaders ruled the country with an incredibly oppressive regime. During the first year of the coup around 1,200 people had been killed. The deaths were not limited to the first year, they continued sometimes in greater sometimes in smaller numbers, it is estimated that a total of four thousand people lost their lives. The number of the disappeared people was also far from little. The institution of judiciary had kept quiet in the face of things that took place during and after the coup in Chile. Fortunately, independent human rights organizations had brought the illegal detentions and disappearances to court, thereby documenting and recording each case.
Pinochet, who had changed the constitution in 1980, had added an article to the constitution stating that he would remain as the head of the army until 1998 and would later become a lifelong senator. However despite all these preventive measures, Pinochet lost the 1988 referendum by a narrow margin and had to cede the political power that he was firmly holding onto. The opposition forces had organized a “No!” campaign during the referendum. In March 1990, Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin became the next president after Pinochet. Hopes had started to blossom with regards the transition from dictatorship to democracy and more importantly for the normalization of social life. An opportunity was born to bring the dark years of the coup to light, to take to court the perpetrators of the crimes against humanity who violated all human rights including that of to life, and to redress the victims’ pains, in short an opportunity to come to terms with the past.
Six weeks after taking office Patricio Aylwin established the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation by an executive decree. Eight people were assigned to the Commission, four were officials of the former Pinochet government and the other four representing the opposition. Chaired by the former senator Raúl Rettig, the Commission’s mandate was to investigate the instances of “disappearance after arrest, executions, and torture leading to death committed by government agents or people in their service, as well as kidnappings and attempts on the life of persons carried out by private citizens for political reasons”. To this end it was decided that primarily a report would be prepared. The Commission report would be prepared with the support of all its members. However, there was an interesting detail: The cases of torture that did not result in death were outside the scope of the Commission’s mandate. The Commission that had nine months to carry out its task began its work firstly by going through the records of nongovernmental organizations. Afterwards not sufficing with these records, it appealed to the testimony of the relatives of the dead and disappeared. The Commission with a sixty-people staff placed ads in newspapers around the world, asking for information from the Chileans on exile. On the other hand, as it did not have subpoena power the Commission was unable to receive any assistance from the Armed Forces to shed light on the cases. Finally, out of the 3,400 cases submitted to the Commission, 2,920 were determined to be within the scope of its mandate. In February 1991, the Commission completed its 800 pages long report. According to the report, over 95% of the rights violations were committed by the government; and around 4% by armed leftist groups. The report had completely invalidated the thesis used to legitimize the violence perpetrated by the army, namely that the country was in “civil war”. As recommended by the report, a reparation program was drawn up for the families of the people killed and disappeared under custody. A National Corporation for Reparation and Reconciliation was founded in order to start the reparation program by organizing and making public the commission files.
Patricio Aylwin who came to office with the first democratic elections after the coup, promised “Never again. Never again violations of human dignity” in a speech he made at the Chilean National Stadium which had become a site of remembrance. He received the Rettig Commission Report on February 8, 1991 and during a nationally televised address, where he could not hold back his tears, he made an official apology to the people of Chile on behalf of the state on March 19, 1991. In his statement of apology, President Aylwin referred to the incidents of disappearance under custody as “executions” committed by agents of the state. He condemned the violence perpetrated in the past, and underlined the importance of his respect and commitment to human rights. After proffering the formal apology, Aylwin shared his opinions on the report. He said that he regarded truth as the foundation of coexistence; wherever truth is not respected, he said, confidence among people fades away, doubt sprouts, objections grow and, consequently hatred and violence. According to Aylwin, “lies are the anteroom of violence and, therefore, are incompatible with peace”. Aylwin further added that threat of “terrorism” or “a state of internal war” cannot be invoked to justify the human rights violations; and that the future of Chile required a process of pardon and reconciliation regarding the irreparable wounds of the past. Stating that this pardon cannot be issued by the state but is to be developed by the victims of the violence, Aylwin added that pardon demands repentance from one party and generosity from the other. He underlined the shared responsibility of the state and the society that did not react to prevent the actions of the state. Aylwin made the promise of “Never again!” and said that he apologized as the President of the Republic assuming responsibility for the entire nation, adding that apology is necessary for societal peace.
Aylwin’s official apology was welcomed by the victims of the fascist coup. However, as to be expected, there were also groups that were disturbed by the apology. Pinochet issued a long statement in response to Aylwin. In his statement, Pinochet was embracing the classical theses of the National Security Doctrine and declaring that he had a fundamental objection to the very premise of the report. Accordingly, the army had intervened in order to defend the freedom and sovereignty of the country. He did not in any shape or form question the content of the report, the rights violations or the deaths. The human rights violations that constituted the content of the report had come to the agenda of the public in 1998 exactly when Pinochet left his position as the head of the army in order to assume his position as a senator. The same year the Spanish judiciary issued an international warrant for Pinochet’s arrest to enable his extradition to Spain to face trial on charges of human rights violations. Upon this warrant Pinochet was arrested in England. The Spanish prosecutor had based his indictment and the warrant of extradition directly on the Commission’s report. Meanwhile in Chile lawsuits on human rights violations had started to be filed. As a result of these lawsuits, by the end of 2009, a total of 779 former state officials were indicted with human rights violations, more than 200 of these officials were prosecuted, and 59 were sentenced to prison. Prosecutors conducting the trials had also based their indictments on the Commission records.
The report prepared by the Commission was subjected to criticisms as it paid too much heed to the sensitivities of the former regime’s political and military staff. It was most essential to deepen the investigations in order to enable the institution of social peace and reveal the suppressed truths. The limited scope of the Commission’s mandate and the exclusion of the tortures and other systematic human rights violations from the scope of the investigations were among the primary reasons giving rise to the criticisms. On the other hand, the Commission had not embarked on a direct investigation but had contented itself with merely the data of national and international organizations. Instead of mobilizing the public opinion and exerting pressure on the army, it had sought to compromise with the army. The prepared report had refrained from making a holistic evaluation of the systematic human rights violations, and even used concepts like “isolated cases”. In this respect the Aylwin administration represented an intermediate period where the neoliberal model forcefully imposed by the Pinochet regime would be consolidated with a democratic regime. Deficiencies of the Commission in coming to terms with the past were rooted in the very elements that identified the transition period’s continuity with the Pinochet regime. The Commission’s compromise with the former regime’s sensitivities and adherence to the maxim of “justice within the permitted framework” anticipated impunity for the perpetrators. Impunity did not amount to anything except to create another trauma on top of the feelings of pain, mourning and defenselessness incurred by the people seeking justice.
In the name of compensating the deficiencies, 11 years after the Commission report of 1991, a second Commission was established in 2003. This time, the cases of torture that did not result in death were also within the range of this new Commission’s work. The number of torture victims was placed at hundreds of thousands. In September 2003, also with the effect of the campaign organized by nongovernmental organizations, social democrat President Ricardo Lagos established the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture. Renowned for his human rights advocacy during the military regime, Bishop Sergio Valech was appointed chair of this eight-member Commission. The objective of the Commission was to identify the people taken into custody and tortured with political reasons during the military regime that lasted through 11 September 1973 – 10 March 1990, and to propose a reparation program concerning these people. Primarily a report would be prepared to this end.
The Commission collected written testimonies of 35,000 people. Some of these were testimonies sent through the Chilean consulates in nearly forty countries. Many of the witnesses were recounting their experiences for the first time. .
In November 2004, the 1,200 pages long report was prepared. The report was presented to the public by President Lagos in a televised speech. The President instructed the investigation to be continued. Accordingly, a complementary report was released in June 2005. The Commission identified 14 different forms of torture in Chile. It stated that torture was used to terrorize and suppress the society. According to the report, 28,549 people were arrested with political reasons. 1,244 of these people were under 18 years old; 176 of them were under 13 years old. One of the most common methods of torture was electric shock. Two thirds of the documented torture cases took place during the first months of the 1973 coup. The report found that 94 percent of the people detained in the first months were subjected to torture. In addition to the 300 locations listed by the Commission in 1991, the report identified 1,200 different sites, including schools and hospitals, that were used as detention and torture centers. The Commission also exposed the army, police and intelligence units that inflicted torture, withholding the names of the responsible officers. Names of the victims on the other hand were disclosed but the details of their testimonies were classified as confidential and kept secret for 50 years. As per its mandate, the Commission was not influential in the criminal investigations. No information was given to the prosecutors on purpose. However, the victims took their own testimonies to court and launched numerous criminal investigations. One day before the 2004 report was announced, the Army Commander in Chief accepted institutional responsibility for the punishable and morally unacceptable acts of the past. This statement was met with silence by the active and retired army officials. Following the publication of the report, President Lagos enabled all the victims identified by the Commission to receive reparations. Over the course of one year, 20,000 people were accorded a lifelong stipend of 190 USD per month.
The demand for apology regarding the human rights violations in Chile was also conveyed to the United States of America, which had an important role in the planning and implementation of the coup. The American archives are corroborative of the support given for the coup. However, the official discourse still holds that there was no direct intervention. The content of the archives maintains its importance. On his 2011 visit to Chile, during a joint press conference he held with the Chilean President Sebastian Pinera in La Moneda Palace, where Salvador Allende was killed, the American President Barack Obama made it clear that no apology was forthcoming, and said that instead of being “trapped by our history” the two countries should look at the future.
In central countries of Europe the humanistic essence of coming to terms with the past was crystalized in the motto “never again”. Henceforth, massacres, systematic rights violations, concentration camps and genocides would never be allowed, and all would be on constant vigilance against these. Various legal mechanisms were created to prevent the depreciation of human life. “Extremities” of history were being condemned with reckonings, checks and balances, trials, delayed penalties, compensations and surely official apologies, a vague belief was flourishing in that life would again flow through its normal course within the framework of democratic principles. Nevertheless, the nightmare of the politically and legally condemned past rose from the dead in early 1990s. The discourse of “never again” was once again and ghastly shaken by the peripheries of Europe in the remote Balkan territory. In the summer of 1995, a politics of slaughter was carried out against the Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The “ethnic cleansing” operations familiar from the totalitarian regimes that stepped on the stage of history after the first quarter of the 20th century were targeting the Bosniaks this time.
Based on the rights of increased autonomy recognized them in the 1974 Constitution, the constituent republics of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were acting almost completely independent of each other by the 1980s. A number of nationalisms were rising across the country, one of irredentism in Serbia, separatism in Slovenia and Croatia, one in Kosovo aiming for unification with the Albanians in Macedonia and Albania, and one based on different religious identities in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 1989 Milosevic overthrew the autonomous governments of Kosovo, Vojvodina and Montenegro, which together with his Serbia gave him the control of four votes out of eight in Yugoslavia’s collective presidency. In 1991, Serbia thus blocked the presidency of Croat Stjepan Mesić, who was constitutionally the next person to assume office in the rotating presidency. For the other republics, these developments led to the fear of a Serbia-dominated Yugoslavia. In 1991, first Slovenia and Croatia then Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina declared their independence.
In January 1992, Bosnian Serbs proclaimed the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the city of Pale, and declared to be part of the federal Yugoslav state. On March 3, 1992 the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence, which was recognized by the European Union (EU) on April 6 followed by USA on April 7, 1992. Thereupon Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence on April 7, 1992, adopting the name of Republika Srpska, and started to invade Bosnia with the support of the federal Yugoslav army made up of mostly Serbs. Meanwhile Croatians also invaded the regions predominantly populated by Croats. United Nations Protection Force set up in Croatia to ensure peace talks and secure demilitarized zones was moved to Bosnia to escort humanitarian aid and protect the safe areas.
Armed conflicts in Former Yugoslavia which then would turn into ethnic slaughters started in 1991, when bloody clashes took place in Croatia and Slovenia that were demanding secession from the central Yugoslav government. Clashes in Slovenia abated shortly afterwards. However, the clashes in Croatia showed a tendency to escalate into the stage of ethnic cleansing. Armed conflicts marked by tortures of the civilians, police forces’ acts of deporting people, and various war crimes were virtually the harbinger of the crimes that would be committed during the Bosnia-Herzegovina war in 1995.
Bosnia-Herzegovina war that lasted four years reached its most intense point in 1995. The devastation of the war was high: nearly 100,000 people had lost their lives, 2 million people had become refugees, left the country or been displaced within the country. Bosnia-Herzegovina’s capital Sarajevo was under siege, constantly being bombed. Bosnian Muslims, children and the elderly, were running for their lives trying to escape the Serbian army, rushing to the areas under UN protection. Some were being taken prisoner by the Serbian forces en route and slaughtered right then and there. The summer of 1995 witnessed yet another atrocity. On June 10-12, 1995, the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia- Herzegovina declared as a “safe haven” by the UN was captured by the Bosnian Serb armed forces and the Serbian paramilitary group known as the “Scorpions”. More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men were killed in the course of a couple of days. Men were the direct victims of the ethnic cleansing politics. Bosnian Serbs’ understanding of politics was to kill all the men in Srebrenica. The aim was to extinguish a generation through this means, which was parallel to the efforts to Serbify the territory. The killed were buried in mass graves, their bodies were disappeared. Concentration camps were set up all across Bosnia-Herzegovina. Women, men and children who were captured alive were tortured and subjected to various inhuman treatments at these camps. It can be said that this politics of ethnic cleansing had reached its goal in Srebrenica, seeing as the town of Srebrenica, where Bosnian Muslims constituted over 60% of the population, was ethnically cleansed in 1997 and there were almost no Bosniaks left in town. A war that broke for various reasons had gradually turned into civil war which then shifted to an ethnic course and reached the level of genocide. As a matter of fact, the post-war practices of coming to terms with the past would be guided by the term “genocide” and beget heated discussions.
At a time when the clashes in the region were yet to be ended, International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was founded in 1993 with the United Nations Security Council decision number 827. Transitional justice was trying to be instituted amidst the fire and dust of ongoing battles. The Council’s aim was to bring to justice the individual perpetrators of war crimes. ICTY was idle at first in some respects, because the states were negligent in apprehending the perpetrators responsible for the war crimes. Finally the war in Bosnia ended with the 1995 Dayton Agreement. Ending of the war had a facilitating effect on the trial process in terms of bringing the facts to light. Along with the hearings, new and important evidences emerged regarding the war crimes. The Tribunal, that is still continuing, ruled that the Srebrenica massacre constituted a crime of genocide with its 2001 verdict against Radislav Krstić who became the first person to be convicted of genocide at the ICTY in 2001, followed by Vujadin Popovic, Ljubiša Beara, Drago Nikolić in 2010, and Zdravko Tolimir in 2012. Also accused of genocide were Slobodan Milosevic, Milan Kovačević who died while on trial. In the “Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro)” in 2007, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) confirmed ICTY judgment that the Srebrenica massacre was genocide. As the principle judicial organ of UN mandated with settling legal disputes between states, ICJ stated that the genocide was essentially carried out by the main staff of the Republika Srpska army (VRS). ICJ found that Serbia was not directly responsible or complicit in the genocide but that it violated the Genocide Convention by doing nothing to prevent the genocide, and later by not cooperating with the ICTY to punish the persons responsible for the genocide. As a matter of fact, Serbia had yet to hand over the VRS Commander-in-chief Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, who were among the primary commanders responsible for the genocide. Upon being indicted for genocide by ICTY in 1995, Karadzic and Mladic lived as fugitives for years. EU was putting pressure on Serbia for the arrest of the aforementioned fugitive commanders to be brought before the court. General Ratko Mladic had disappeared after Slobodan Milosevic was submitted to the jurisdiction of The Hague in 2001. Karadzic, who was missing since 1996, was arrested on July 21, 2008 on charges of planning the Sarajevo and Srebrenica massacres. In 2011 Mladic was also arrested and sent to the court.
Slobodan Milosevic, who was the President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the Bosnian War, lost the first round of presidential elections in 2000 and though he refused to accept defeat and step down he was finally forced to resign due to massive street demonstrations organized against him. He was arrested in 2001 after much domestic controversy and actual clashes between the police and his armed supporters who prevented the police from entering and detaining him in his villa for nearly 36 hours. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic handed Milosevic over to the ICTY to be tried on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, marking the beginning of a new era. The denial of war crimes throughout 1990s was now being replaced with the painful acceptance of these crimes. These arrests reflected the change in the relations between the Serbian politics and the ICTY. To date the Tribunal has indicted 161 people for war crimes. Many local courts were also established to expose the crimes committed during the war. Along with the lawsuits, an intense effort was made also to locate the mass graves, and to identify the dead.
Both ICTY and the local courts had revealed a great number of truths and crimes committed during the war, however, with regards social confrontation the truths were still being denied by the Serbian people and its political representatives. It was not possible to realize a healthy process of confrontation due to this attitude of denial. Though not much institutional denial was encountered after Milosevic, the fact that the massacre could be talked about did not mean that the phase of acceptance had started. The prevalent discourse in 2000s was one that downplayed the importance of the massacre and the Serbs’ responsibility in it. Being informed about the war crimes had not steered the Serbian public towards recognizing the war crimes and taking responsibility. According to various research half of the population was suspicious about the Srebrenica massacre. In the public space the discussion was about whether Srebrenica massacre could be defined as genocide or not. The issues of discussion were, the number of victims, whether the Bosniaks declared dead were actually alive or not, whether the dead were civilians or not, if there were also warriors among them, whether the Bosniak fighters who were not killed in the massacre were buried in Srebrenica or not, how many of the victims had actually died with bullet wounds, and the role of Bosniak politicians in this process. Shadow of doubt was cast on the truths and in terms of social confrontation it was essential for this shadow to be lifted. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2001. However, this Commission was completely dysfunctional as it was established without consulting with the nongovernmental and human rights organizations, the associations founded by victims or the ICTY. Furthermore all members of the Commission were ethnic Serbs. The Commission was stillborn. The Commission was reinforcing not the information that would illuminate the truths but the doubts that begot denial; it was subjected to severe criticism exactly for this reason.
The progressive Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was assassinated on March 12, 2003. The desire was to replace the talks on genocide with silence. And this murder took its toll. After the assassination Serbian politicians started to beware of voicing their opinions on ominous subjects. Nevertheless, cooperation with ICTY and the court hearings were keeping the issue of war crimes on the agenda. Politicians afraid of sharing Djindjic’s fate and the parties alleged with complicity in war shifted the focus of discussions on the past, from war crimes to the questioning of ICTY’s legitimacy. Another way of discrediting the genocide allegation was to discursively weaken the de facto existence of the court that gave the verdict.
Decisions of both the international courts and the EU were influential in making Serbia accept its responsibilities with regards the Srebrenica massacre. In 2009 the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Srebrenica, wherein the Parliament reiterated the full and unrestricted cooperation with ICTY as a basic requirement for continuation of the process of EU integration for the countries in Western Balkans. It recognized July 11 as the day of commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide all over EU and called on all Western Balkan countries to do the same.
Both the truths unveiled by courts and the initiatives of EU were forcing Serbia’s hand to confront with its own past. As a third center of power the democratic public opinion was also pressuring the political power to recognize ICJ’s verdict on the Srebrenica genocide. Since 2005, nongovernmental organizations had been exerting pressure within the democratic framework on the Serbian parliament to make an apology for Srebrenica. Another important organization was one founded by the mothers. Mothers had taken on an active role in issues such as bringing past crimes before the court and apology.
Meanwhile a sort of breaking point took place in the realization of demands for an apology. In 2005, a video known as “Scorpions tapes” was broadcasted on television. The broadcasted images led to a significant transformation in the prevalent social perception based on denial. The images first broadcasted in Milosevic’s trial on June 1, 2005 showed the massacre of six Muslims in Tmovo village by the Serbian paramilitary forces, namely the Scorpions. It was most obvious that the executions, which took place on July 17, 1995, were connected to the Srebrenica massacre. It was now a matter of time for the existing veil of silence shrouding the massacre to be lifted and the apology to be uttered. Everything was blatantly out in the open. Even the conservative prime minister of the time Vojislav Kostunitsa, known for his unwillingness to cooperate with ICTY, condemned the massacre and published a text of apology. It was decided to participate in the Srebrenica commemoration on the tenth anniversary of the massacre.
The official apology created a shock effect among the Serbian public. According to the public opinion the priority was given not to the Serbian victims in Bratunac but to the Muslim victims in Srebrenica. Due to the intense public reaction the frankness at the beginning gradually disappeared. President of Serbia Boris Tadic’s participation in the Srebrenica commemoration took place without institutional support. War crimes declaration became obsolete as various parties objected to the term of “Serbian war crimes”. On July 9, 2005, one day before the tenth year commemoration of Srebrenica, the Serbian Radical Party organized a rally in Belgrade. Speeches delivered at the rally emphasized that the powers which could not obliterate Serbs during the war were now trying to destroy them through various accusations. With such discourses, it was claimed that those who kept the Srebrenica massacre on the agenda were conspirator foreign powers and their connections; it was asserted that war crimes were not the Serbs’ fault and that anyone who argued otherwise were traitors.
Nongovernmental organizations trying to keep the massacre on the agenda were also being subjected to various pressures. Threatening nationalist slogans like “It will happen again” and “Knife, wire, Srebrenica” were painted across the billboards defacing these posters of the Belgrade Youth Initiative for Human Rights that organized a campaign for the commemoration of the massacre in 2005. Parties like the Serbian Radical Party, Serbian Socialist Party and Serbian Democratic Party were constructing the public discourse on the dichotomy of patriot-traitor. They were emphasizing that the war was a defensive one, but that Serbs were being punished all the same. Various war crimes and practice of genocide were trying to be legitimized in the public discourse. Serbian citizens, who had not directly experienced the war, had a rough sense of the 1991-1995 war as follows: three ethnic clashes, NATO bombardment, dissolution of Yugoslavia, independence of Montenegro and Kosovo, successive elections, assassination of the first democratically elected prime minister, isolation from Europe and economic hardships. The public opinion perceived the war directly through its own pains and victimizations. With the influence of this victimization they were able to readily dismiss the Western narratives of the war.
In 2009, the Serbian politics was forced to seek a new political consensus regarding the Srebrenica genocide. Sanctions of EU and the international public opinion were affecting the dominant politics. On March 31, 2010, the Serbian Parliament adopted the declaration “Condemning the Crime in Srebrenica”. This certainly was an important step in coming to terms with the past. Similar declarations had been suggested by certain politicians back in 2005, 2007 and 2009 but all were rejected. President Tadic had brought the declaration to the parliament. According to Tadic, the official apology would open a critical door in Serbia’s integration process with the EU which was the strategic priority of the country.
The discussions in the parliament were broadcasted on television for 13 hours. Rather than the truth about Srebrenica, the discussions focused on whether the responsibility was collective or individual, the concept of genocide and the equality of victims by way of criticizing the international community for acting biased against the Serbian victims. Thereby the discussions were carried out not only pertaining to the war crimes committed by Serbs but also the crimes committed against Serbs. Transitional period justice was expressed with a discourse wherein Serbs played the role of both the executioner and the victim. Certain politicians who were trying to create a positive self-image were saying that Serbia is a country that aspires to pioneer stability and peace in the region; emphasizing that in this respect Serbia to redefine its relation with the past and condemn the crimes committed in the past would be an exemplary act for the other countries in the region as well. Through a consensus reached by a small majority, the parliament accepted Serbia’s responsibility in Srebrenica with a declaration that reflected the existing political balances:
“The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia most severely condemns the crime committed against the Bosniak population in Srebrenica in July 1995 in the manner established by the ruling of the International Court of Justice, as well as all the social and political processes and incidents that led to the creation of awareness that the realization of personal national goals can be reached through the use of armed force and physical violence against members of other nations and religions, extending on the occasion condolences and apologies to the families of the victims that everything possible had not been done to prevent the tragedy.”
President Tadic proclaimed this declaration to “the biggest patriotic act”. Western Europe and American media meanwhile regarded it as an important step for Serbia and the region and a milestone in Serbia’s European Union membership process. Relatives of the Bosniak victims on the other hand sharply criticized the declaration for using the word “tragedy” instead of “genocide”.
Taking the seat of presidency after Tadic, Tomislav Nikolic apologized for the Srebrenica massacre on April 25, 2013 during a televised interview on the Bosnian-Herzegovinian TV saying, “I am down on my knees. And I am asking for a pardon for Serbia for the crime that was committed in Srebrenica. I apologize for the crimes committed by any individual on behalf of our state and our people”. Pinning the responsibility of war on Milosevic and refusing to use the word “genocide”, Nikolic said that charge remained to be proven. Bosnian Serb government (Republika Srpska) had also issued an apology on November 10, 2004 regarding the crimes in Srebrenica saying, “The Bosnian Serb Government shares the pain of the families of the Srebrenica victims, is truly sorry and apologizes for the tragedy”.
Since the Serbian Parliament’s declaration represented a political consensus, it was limited with regards the acceptance of responsibility for the massacre and the apology. The process of coming to terms with the past was realized with its shortcomings. Compensation payments to the victims, for instance, were not made properly. Administrative compensation was allocated only to those with physical injuries – provided they can prove the injuries. Meanwhile most of the guilty individuals in judiciary and police forces were not removed from their duties.
The discourse of the Serbian nongovernmental organizations continues to be the bearer of the intent for a genuine confrontation with the history. In May 2010, a feminist nongovernmental organization called the Women in Black participated in the commemoration at the town of Visegrad where 3,000 Bosniaks were massacred by Serbian forces in 1992. In her speech the President of the organization Stasa Zajovic called out to the relatives of the victims with the following words:
“Thank you for having trust in us. You have honored us by allowing us to partake in your pain, offer our condolences, and show our empathy and solidarity. We thank you for accepting this small, humble gift of the most fundamental humane and moral duty. We may criticize the crimes committed in other countries or in our country, but we can feel shame and guilt only for the crimes committed by our country in our name. We thank you for helping us to be able to ease this horrible sorrow, shame and pain.”