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22.2.14

Perception of Turkey: Good, Bad and Poor Armenians

Aline Ozinian
It was talked about for a long time. The “dirty” population you call the Armenian diaspora were forced from their homes, their land, and were once called the Anatolian Armenians.(*)
It was said that there was nostalgia, that the Turkish words left behind by their grandparents were still in their lives, that they had not forgotten their homeland. It was said that this diaspora was not from Armenia, but rather that these people were the subjects of the Ottomans. Do not divide Armenians into groups like poor Armenians, bad diaspora members or miserable Turkish Armenians. It was said do not develop politics in accordance with this, for they are not a monolith. But apparently no strides at all were taken in the end.

Before we were able to fully digest Abdullah Öcalan's “Islamic synthesis” Nevruz words, we encountered the “Armenian and Greek lobbies” rhetoric from Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) leaders Bese Hozat and Rıza Altun. We weren't actually that surprised. As we witnessed when there was talk about who was responsible for the Paris massacres, the Armenian diaspora was turned into the fake enemy of this so-called Islamic synthesis that was trying to be created.
And so it is that the kind of leftist jargon that we thought was out of fashion -- phrases and terms such as “capitalist modernity,” “international capital,” “finance-capital and nationalism” -- oh, and of course “lobbies” for those who still didn't grasp what was being described, were being used to talk about the Armenian diaspora. One doesn't have to be too smart to get this.
It was with great expertise that Öcalan firmly placed the “Armenian lobbies” as factors in the “parallel state” that he declared “did not wish to see a solution to the Kurdish issues.” So much so that it was not really reasonable to expect an apology from Öcalan after Hozat's statements. All right, but if this wasn't a letter of apology, what was it? To whom was it written?

A Letter Written on Anniversary of Hrant Dink's Death

The letter, approved by the Justice Ministry, far removed from any sense of self-criticism and full of ambiguous expressions, was clearly written on the occasion of Hrant Dink's death anniversary. But later, it became clear that for Öcalan, “Armenian people” actually meant readers. The Anatolian Armenians living in İstanbul were “brothers,” while those Armenians forced to live abroad from early ages were the “dirty actors” involved in “capitalist monetary action.” In other words, lobbyists.
Agos Did the letter talk about genocide? It did. Did it talk about Turkey facing up to its history? It did. Are there those who are pleased? There are. But the rhetoric, the implications, the sentences, they are all theoretical. One of the great genocides that took place on this land is the Armenian one, so it's up to you to guess about the others.
In the end, this rhetoric is “blurred." Every paragraph seems to contain fantasy concepts that are not clearly explained, things like “the provocation of capitalist forces,” and “imperialism.” But there was no mention made of Hamidiye, of the Armenians forced to take on Kurdish personas, of the children married off, of the Armenian orchards, gardens and cemeteries that were looted and destroyed; while talking of Kurdish cities and towns regaining their Kurdish names, there was no mention made of old and now-forgotten Armenian place names. In short, no mention was made of what happened in Western Armenia, referred to herein as “Kurdistan.”
Though this stance may be shrouded in the outer covering of leftist jargon, its reality smirks through from underneath. What we are really facing with this kind of rhetoric is actually very powerful and dominant language. Let us take a moment to recall the slip of the tongue made by Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Muş deputy Sırrı Sakık two years ago: “Get yourselves together. It was the Kurds and not the Armenians that you massacred in 1915; it was the Kurds and not the Greeks and Jewish citizens that went through the tyranny of September 6-7.”  
There is little question that the Kurds are one of the most important dynamics at play in these lands, and that as such, finding a solution to the Kurdish problem would be one of the most important aspects of the democratization process in Turkey. But at the same time, the Kurds are neither the only absolute factor at hand nor should everything be based on the paranoia of “let's not harm the peace process."
Pushing these problems aside for a moment, there is another topic which we either are not noticing or do not wish to focus on. Is the genocide really a problem that can only be solved with the help of the Armenians living in Turkey today? Is it really only the "readers of the Agos newspaper" who should be reading and thinking about a letter pointedly written for Armenians? It is true that, as Öcalan said, Dink was the “final Armenian” to be mistreated in Turkey, the final Armenian to be oppressed and even massacred?
Unfortunately, the history of the republic includes the terrible events that happened to Armenians as well as other minorities. And of course, facing up to history does not just mean dealing with the events of 1915. There are also factors like the Varlık Vergisi [Wealth Tax], the “Vatandaş Türkçe Konuş” (“Citizen, Speak Turkish”) campaigns, the events of Sept. 6-7, 1955, the Turkish military's move on Cyprus, the 1980 military coup and all the people who left Turkey because of these and more political turbulence.
Sevag Balıkçı was killed on the morning of April 24, 2011, “by mistake.” Single Armenian women in Samatya are still very nervous. With only a short amount of time left until 2015, Sevan Nishanian feels uncomfortable in Turkey. This is normal. The diaspora was dismissed, was labeled as an “enemy to Turks,” was accused of being a “parallel state,” of being a “lobby.” Which is why it is just not possible to bring down tensions where the diaspora is concerned. As it is, its Armenian wing has been blocked for a long while. After years of a freeze in the protocol process that might have resulted in non-conditional (i.e. without acceptance of the genocide) diplomatic relations, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in recent months invited some “Armenian journalists from Turkey” onto his airplane as he headed off to attend an Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) meeting in Yerevan, with clear hopes that the “good Armenians” would have an effect on the “miserable Armenians.”
When Davutoğlu's proposal was not accepted -- “You pull out of two villages in Karabagh, and you'll see that we might just open up one corner of the border” -- the protocols were put right back on the dusty shelves from which they had recently been removed.

2015 around the corner

In the end, with only a short time to go until 2015, the Turkish Armenians appear to be the “Achilles heel” of the larger Armenian spectrum when it comes to solving these problems. This is the way the cards are falling on the table, and even if accepting it is painful, Öcalan is trying to help the government when it comes to “2015 Turkey Politics.” This is why the suggestions remain at the level of “the state needs to face the realities.”
But those same Armenian citizens who have been working on this "facing up to history" business for years now are identified as those who would have Turkey fall into a “racist, nationalist trap.” In short, the Armenians who are outside Turkey are not counted as a side in this debate-compromise situation.
When a land like Turkey -- with multiple layers of ethnic identity and so many religions -- makes a mistake in its history by underscoring, “We are local, you are foreign, we are the true nationals, you do not belong,” and then try to solve the problem with inspiration from “1,000 years of Islamic brotherhood” and “the Misak-ı Milli” or “National Pact of 1920,” it only adds another useless layer to the 100 years lacking a solution.
Perhaps most important is that the stale stance of yesteryear -- typified by comments such as “We used to have Armenian neighbors, we loved them so much, what great topics we talked over with them, why did they go away?” -- has been replaced by a new method of exculpation that can be summarized by a comment such as, “The Armenians were so-so, but we really loved Hrant Dink.” And so it is the Good Armenians versus the Bad Armenians. Perhaps no one really goes this far, but it boils down to something like, “The best Armenian is a dead Armenian.”
As 2015 approaches, what we need to grasp is that this pain belongs to all Armenians and that every Armenian has a voice in this. All Armenians need to be listened to, and all Armenians deserve to be noticed. I'm afraid that a situation typified by simply saying, “I loved Dink, I like Agos readers” just won't cut it.
Note: There is no need to try and fit Ayşe Kulin's words in with the Armenian politics of today in Turkey. Her calculations are much simpler, actually. If a book that says, “We cut up the Armenians,” sells this well, then a book that says, “We cut them, but was it for nothing?” would sell even better.

"Today's Zaman," February 21, 2014

(*) Needless to say, there was no such thing as "Anatolian Armenians." They were called "Western Armenians." Even though the author mention it once, those words are taboo in Turkey because they go against the artificial perception of Western Armenia as "Eastern Anatolia" ("Armeniaca") 

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