04 March 2006

521) Turkish Taxi Drivers and the "Genocide."

A letter I received from an Armenian reader informed me that when this woman was in Turkey, a Turkish taxi driver ordered her to leave, once he found out she was Armenian. This kind of story makes me feel ill; although Turks are known for their friendliness and tolerance, they run in all stripes, just like any other member of the human family... the family Armenian Propaganda has done its utmost to tell us the Turks really don't belong in. As I responded to the reader, unfortunately, idiots are there to be run into, no matter where one goes.


It seems, however, that Turkish taxi drivers form a common bridge between these two polarized pro and anti-genocide forces. Let's take a look at two accounts featuring these hacks.


Forgiveness and Transcendence: My Journey With the Turkish Taxi Driver


By Anie Kalayjian

— Taxil Taxil I yelled out as I leaned on my right crutch and pointed my left in the air, attempting the challenging task of stopping a taxi in Manhattan. Our group consisted of three people, and I was the one ambulating wilh crutches after my. knee surgery; therefore I sat in the front, next to the taxi driver. The driver was a pleasant young, man in his eariy thirties, with a familiar accent. Although I was curious about his nationality, I didn't want to make assumptions so I asked him directly:

— I detect a familiar accent, where are you from?

— Turkey, he answered, but qualified quickly that he had been studying in South Africa for about ten years.

Immediately I began speaking in Turkish, and went ahead to ask him if he was Turkish. His reply was a definite yes — which was what I had felt all along. Then he asked smiling::

— My name is Ahmed. Are you Turkish too?

Before he even completed his sentence, in a tone expressing urgency, ! replied:

— No, I am an Armenian!

My response must have been so strong and definitive that Ahmed quickly said:

— I have many Armenian friends here in New York. they are from Istanbul. He went on to tell me about Garo, one of his Armenian friends, who one day had invited him to his house for dinner. When Garo's elderly mother found out that Ahmed was Turkish, she threw him out of her house, telling him: "Your government massacred my people and my family, I don't want you in my house."



Prof. Anie Kalayjian

My initial, gut reaction was "Yes! Good for her, you deserve to be thrown out; if I wasn't walking with crutches I would. jump out of your taxi right now." My heart was beating faster and faster, my body was feeling hot. and my hands cold and clammy, as I felt my anger escalating. Indeed, this was a very familiar feeling. I felt this anger surging in January I997, when I first read. Sami Gulgoz's "Letter to the Editor" in the Observer, the American Psychological Society's Newsletter. In that letter, Gulgoz, from Koc University in Istanbul, objected to the Organizational Profile on the Armenian American Society for Studies on Stress and Genocide:

"The organization presented has described 'Coping with Ottoman Turkish Genocide' as one of their research projects," he wrote. "Whether there has been a genocide or not has been a matter of scholarly debate for years, and there is strong evidence against the existence of such an event in the Ottoman land."

I remembered reading the letter with my feelings of anger, rage, resentment, disappointment and hopelessness escalating. This was a letter written by a scholar, a professor from a reputable university in Turkey, What could I expect from this taxi driver? While I was submerged in those negative thoughts I realized that Ahmed was still talking; in fact, he was. trying to say something. I looked at him with anger, resentment and disappointment, as he said:

—I wish it (the Genocide) didn't happen: it is very sad and bad that it happened; many innocent people died for no reason. Ahmed sounded genuinely sad. He grew more anxious as I sat silently, processing my feelings. I thought I had resolved my anger about the Genocide ten years earlier, when I had the opportunity to meet and work with Viktor Frankl, a Viennese psychiatrist who was a Nazi concentration camp survivor and the author of Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl had urged me to forgive the Turks within myself; he urged me not to wait for the Turkish government's admission of the Genocide before my forgiveness. In order to empower yourself, he said, you must be the first to forgive. Forgiveness. is a personal choice.

I fell a variety of mixed emotions;

— Anger, on one hand. with the Turkish government that has vehemently denied the Genocide and attempted to rewrite history, and

— Happiness, on the other hand, that Ahmed. as a Turk, was acknowledging the Genocide and validating my feelings, by showing sadness and some remorse.

— Guilt on one hand, for engaging in a dialogue with our "collective enemy" and

— Sadness. on the other hand, for not having more of us, Armenians and Turks, engage in meaningful dialogues such as this one.

Ahmed grew more uncomfortable in the silence and attempted to protect himself as he continued:

— But it is not my fault; I didn't do it.I don't want to be punished for something I didn't do.

I then comforted him by saying:

— Of course, I know you didn't commit the "Talan" (meaning ransacking, but used for the Genocide). Do your other Turkish friends from Turkey know about the "Talan" and talk about it?

His answer was very quick, as he said:

—Well, you know, we don't talk about it in Turkey.

Ahmed, as. a Turk. initially stirred some leftover anger and resentment in me, similar to Gulgoz's letter to the editor. Unlike Gulgoz's denial, however, Ahmed's admission helped me to achieve a new level of understanding, forgiveness and hope.

As I lecture around the world on man-made traumas and forgiveness in order to achieve closure, I meet many skeptics. Many Armenians especially confuse forgiveness with forgetting, and in this process turn their anger against me as they exclaim: "How could you even think of asking fellow Armenians to forgive the Turks?" Forgiving does not equate forgetting.

Forgiving does not mean stopping the research on the Genocide;

Forgiving does not mean to conceal the truth and to forget our human rights.

Forgiving means freeing oneself of the chains of anger, unlocking the locks of resentment and undoing the cycles of hatred.

I challenge you to love the truth, but to know how to forgive, for "He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass." (George Herbert) and because "Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it." (Mark Twain).


Dr. Anie Kalayjian is a Logotherapeutic Psychotherapist in New York and New Jersey. She is the author of Disaster and Mass Trauma; a Professor of Psychology at Fordham University and the College of New Rochelle; and Founder and President of the Armenian American Society for Studies on Stress and Genocide.

Mirror Spectator, Aug. 16, 1998

Holdwater Reaction


I had written Dr. Kalayjian a letter when the TAT site first got completed, after running into a message where she had provided a few genocidal thoughts. I wanted to correct her on a few nonsensical claims, such as there having been three million Ottoman-Armenians before WWI, when there was only about half that number. (Even the Armenian Patriarch didn't go as far as Kalayjian, stopping at 1.8 or 2.1 million, depending on his mood.)

Unfortunately, the last thing too many genocide advocates care for are the historical facts, and that goes double for the so-called "genocide scholars." Like Israel Charny, Dr. Kalayjian's specialty is in the field of psychology; such people are highly unqualified to judge matters of history. These genocide forces care much more about the emotional issues; they hypocritically make up their minds which of the countless examples of ethnic cleansing throughout history should receive our attention, usually focusing on their own people, and paying only the briefest lip service to a couple of the more famous and established genocides.

Don't you get the feeling from the article that Dr. Kalayjian has major issues with this one topic that stirs her deepest passions, no matter how much she tries to sell us on her "forgiveness" ideas? Definitely the genocide-obsessed Armenians have immense psychological needs to attend to, but here I sense is a case where the psychologist herself is (or was; the article is from a good few years back) in need of psychotherapy.

And what a cushy position she is operating from, as a professional psychotherapist, so she can pursue propagandistic themes such as 'Coping with Ottoman Turkish Genocide.' What a great way to con outsiders that this mythical genocide is an established fact.

Needless to say, Dr. Kalayjian never bothered to write back. Over a year later, I saw her on a 2005 television show where she again
repeated the claim that there were three million pre-war Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Assuming she read my letter, she completely ignored the unbiased evidence as to why this three million figure couldn't even enter the realm of possibility. She may have a Ph.D, but that is most irresponsible of her as a supposed scholar. A woman of science cannot afford to make decisions based mainly upon faith.

Is it any wonder that when the Turkish scholar disagreed with her genocidal views, her response was one of "anger, rage, resentment, disappointment and hopelessness"? She's implying in this article that this man could not deserve the title of "scholar," for daring to question her life-giving genocide. The reaction of any true scholar would be, hey wait a minute. What is this "strong evidence" that negates the genocide? If she could bring herself to behave as a dispassionate scientist, it would be plain to see this voluminous evidence comes from sources with no reason to be untruthful, even sources that are Armenian. (Unlike her sources, practically all of which had good reason to lie.) But Anie Kalayjian appears to be unable to bring herself to do so.

A few specific observations, regarding her article.

I'm highly impressed with her ability in spotting Turks. We know of the distinctiveness of many ethnic groups when they try their hand at English, but Turks speaking accented English would sound like "generic foreigner" to most.

Pretty creepy of that Armenian mother to throw Ahmed the cab driver out of her home for being Turkish, wasn't it?

Quite a far cry from Edward Tashji's Armenian mother, whose words Tashji had related before continuing with his own:

My son, we had everything in Turkey. We owned our own homes, our farm lands, shops, and businesses. We were free in our schools, our churches, and our press. On religious holidays Christians and Muslims would exchange greetings, flowers, and baskets filled with all kinds of foods. After having so much, for so long, WHY should the Turks decide to destroy us?! WE, my son, WE were responsible beyond any doubt, for the misfortune that befell our people! WE, the Armenians, were not loyal to our homeland, Turkey! - Many years later, when several Turkish Naval Officers visited our home In Queens, New York, my mother had said to them, “Welcome my children — this is your home, welcome...” She had become their “mother” and we their family in the United States. THIS Is humanity! THIS Is God’s wish for all of us! THIS is the only answer if we are to give our children a world free of hatred! THIS Is what I have found In the Turkish heart; I stand in awe of their compassion, of their warmth, their humanity.

Tashji's mother wasn't making anything up; her reasons for what befell her people were seconded by the first President of Armenia, Hovhannes Katchaznouni, himself. And what proof does the hateful mother of Garo have that the Ottoman "government massacred my people and my family"? That claim lies at the very crux of the genocide debate, doesn't it. There is no evidence that the Ottoman government was behind an extermination plan. There is however, plenty of hearsay and "emotional" evidence. The word of this mother, for example, is enough for Armenians. ("Why would my grandmother lie?" is the best Armenian readers who write in usually have to offer.)

So what does our scholarly taxicab passenger do? When Ahmed tells her he was kicked out of this Armenian home, Ani Kalayjian's "initial, gut reaction was 'Yes! Good for her, you deserve to be thrown out; if I wasn't walking with crutches I would. jump out of your taxi right now.' My heart was beating faster and faster, my body was feeling hot. and my hands cold and clammy, as I felt my anger escalating."

It's honest for Kalayjian to admit her strong feelings, but they are far from laudable. No Turk would even dream of faulting her for the heinous crimes of her fathers, for slaughtering in the most inhumane manner the lot of over half a million Turks, Muslims, and others. This is the difference between those who were raised by feelings of hatred, and those who were not.

Note when Ahmed gave his "quick" (translation: "guilty") answer, "Well, you know, we don't talk about it in Turkey," Kalayjian implies the reason was that Turkey is trying to cover up its crimes. The fact is, Ataturk made the highly noble and mature decision not to harp on past ills, so that Turks would not be raised in hatred; this was the best path to proceed in brotherhood, and love. (Who would have imagined many Armenians would still make this mythical genocide the cause for their existence?)

Ahmed confused our emotional scholar when he sadly declared, "I wish it (the Genocide) didn't happen: it is very sad and bad that it happened; many innocent people died for no reason." He reflected the feelings of most Turks. This was a terribly tragic episode of history where everyone died and suffered. But note Kalayjian is accepting the word "genocide" for "it." She is hearing what she wanted to hear.

Not to say Ahmed may not be a believer of this genocide. Turks weren't schooled in this topic, and when they emigrated to Western countries where they get bombarded by this propaganda, it's difficult not to get suckered in. Ahmed sounds like he could have been a believer, when he was quoted as saying, "But it is not my fault; I didn't do it. I don't want to be punished for something I didn't do." (Then again, he might have read the anxiety of the ticking time bomb beside him, and said what he thought would be the best thing to calm her down.)

Kalayjian used every ounce of her will power, fighting her initial reaction of hatred, and comforted him (as if she were his judge and jury) by saying, "Of course, I know you didn't commit the 'Talan' (meaning ransacking, but used for the Genocide)."

Her Turkish must be very good, as I had never heard of the word "Talan" to describe the genocide. Maybe she meant to say "yalan."

So Ahmed the taxi driver helped trigger in her "a new level of understanding, forgiveness and hope." Too bad the only thing that affects genocide-obsessed Armenians is admissions of guilt. One could best gain understanding and hope through the pursuit of genuine historical truth. Forgiveness? Establish the crime first, something even the British failed to do during 1919-21 with the Malta Tribunal process, and then be honest enough to determine whether granting forgiveness would be a deserved role.

But this kind of honesty is difficult to expect from those who operate from the level of a religious fanatic. With this kind, what's the best that can be hoped for? Kalayjian advocates forgiveness, with the stipulation that "Forgiving does not equate forgetting."

There is a reason for the axiom, "Forgive and forget." If one does not strive to forget, one can never truly forgive. Imagine permitting oneself to seethe with hatred and rage while making sure not to forget. What kind of "forgiveness" would that amount to? One would have hoped this basic logic would have been covered in the introductory "Psychology 101" course Kalayjian probably took as a college freshman.

"Forgiving does not mean to conceal the truth and to forget our human rights."

But it would be helpful to strive for the real truth in the first place. And also to keep in mind "human rights" is not a concept for select and preferred people, but for all humans. These include the other side of Kalayjian's coin, featuring examples as the following:



"I arrived in Bayburt on August 8, 1917. What I saw was terrifying. Armenians under the Russian administration were committing horrifying, wild atrocities against Turks in Bayburt and Ispir. The rebels named Arshak and Antranik, slaughtered the children in the orphanage I worked at with their daggers. They raped young girls and women. They took away 150 children with them while they were withdrawing from Bayburt and killed most of them while they were still on the way."

Red Cross Attendant Tatiana Karameli, student of Russian Medicine School, serving at Russian Red Cross 1917-18, memoirs. Ottoman Archives BOA HR. SYS. 2877/1


When Dr. Kalayjian winds up with, "I challenge you to love the truth, but to know how to forgive," it sounds terribly hollow. She closes with a quote from Mark Twain, but my favorite Twain passage is the one where he nailed the Armenians to a tee. (This may be read, appropriately, in TAT's Psychology page.)

Anie Kalayjian touches on the flack she receives from intolerant Armenians, as she expounds upon her peculiar "forgiveness" ideas. Joseph Vosbikian explored this "Armenian Anie Attack" somewhat more in a commentary of The Armenian Reporter, Jan. 29, 2000, entitled "A Breath of Fresh Air." The article also described Dr. Kalayjian's visit in June 1999 to Istanbul, which happened to be the locale for the Sixth European Conference on Psychotraumatology, Clinical Practice and Human Rights (What? I thought Turkey was not a European country), where she tried to push her genocide. (The article stresses how her life was threatened by Turks. Perhaps there were a couple of nut jobs, but I can't help feeling there wasn't some exaggeration, as I have never run into cases when the "genocide" was publicly covered in Turkey, and where death threats were part of the picture. For example, this 1990 conference with Levon Marashlian.)

The writer tells us Kalayjian "gradually transformed her inner attitude toward the Turks, from total hate to some forgiveness — forgiveness at least for those who grew up in total ignorance because of their Turkish government's criminal denials..." Whew! Looks like there are a lot of hoops to jump through in order to get some of that precious Anie Kalayjian "forgiveness."

And what does this pseudo forgiveness get her? Vosbikian writes, "she had to endure a lot of public abuse from her own Armenian people who called her a 'traitor' and 'Turk lover,' among other things." Now I'm beginning to feel for the lady. I wouldn't want anyone to be on the radar of hateful Armenians. This is why Armenians who know this genocide to be one big fraud are afraid to publicly speak... it's the old "Armenian Curtain of Fear" doing its familiar, Dashnak dirty work. Giving the tiniest nuance that's out of line with "Hai Tahd," or the Armenian Cause, is an invitation for a beating. Even diehard Hai Tahders such as Ara Sarafian and Vincent Lima found this out.

The article tells us that villain of villains, the Turkish government, asked Kalayjian (twice) to come and lend a hand with trauma victims in the aftermath of the August 1999 earthquake. Regardless of how much her decision helped with her "journey of forgiveness and transcendence" (hey! She used the title of her taxi driver tale), it was most laudable for her to take such a step.



Elif Shafak's Run-In with a Turkish Taxi Driver

"I know I don’t make much sense. But nonsense is just as far removed from deception as truth. Deception turns truth inside out. As for nonsense, it solders deception and truth to each other so much so as to make them indistinguishable."

Elif Shafak
The Flea Palace (2002)



Istanbul conference on Ottoman Armenians

Opinion by Elif Safak
Turkish Daily News
Sunday, September 25, 2005

On May 23, 2005, I arrived in Istanbul from Berlin to participate in an event that was going to happen for the first time in Turkey: A conference on the Ottoman Armenians. Having thus arrived at Istanbul airport, I grabbed my bags and hailed the first cab waiting in line.

`Look at this mess! Traitors!' remarked the cab driver as soon as we took off. He was listening to national radio and when he realized I had no idea what he was talking about he turned the volume up. All of a sudden a fuming voice thundered inside the cab that belonged to Cemil Çiçek, Turkey's justice minister. He was delivering a speech about the upcoming conference. I flinched in my seat as I heard him declare that such a malevolent gathering could not possibly be permitted since it was tantamount to "treason." Then he added: `These so-called intellectuals are stabbing our nation in the back. If only I had the authority to prosecute them I would do so without any hesitation whatsoever. I urge the Turkish nation to watch the conference proceedings closely...'

`Could you please turn that thing down,' I asked the cabdriver when I could muster my courage and voice. `Actually, why don't you turn it off completely? The minister is talking nonsense.'

The driver, a young, hefty man with astute eyes looked at me in the rear view mirror from which a glittering Turkish flag, a miniature Koran and the picture of his baby boy were dangling side by side. His face was marred with incredulity and disappointment. `How would you know? You just walked off the plane?'

`I know because I am one of those traitors he just mentioned,' I heard myself mutter, as if that needed to be revealed. A deep silence ensued in the cab as we inched our way through the snaky side streets of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. For more than 10 minutes we did not exchange a single word. I sat there uncomfortably fearing being kicked out of the cab with my suitcases.

Finally, at a red light, he said to me: `You guys are playing with fire. What you are doing is detrimental to the interests of the Turkish state. If you accomplish this meeting it will mean you accept the Armenians' allegations of genocide. Is that what you want? You guys are educated thanks to our tax money. We expect you to help this nation. However, what do you do instead? You ruin it!'

He uttered these words as effortlessly and easily as if we were having a chat about the weather. It took me some extra seconds to fully sense the fury buried within.

`We want to organize this conference because we believe it is essential for the development of Turkish democracy,' I replied, trying not to sound either patronizing or enervated but failing in both, adding: `What does the minister know about this conference? We never circulated our papers. I myself do not know what the other participants are going to say. How can you call something a crime that has not as yet even occurred? Why is it such a taboo to talk about the deportation and killing of Armenians in 1915? Did it not happen?'

The driver softened a bit. `Look, you intellectuals are famous for being naïve. You live in your books. Nevertheless, the real world is different. You will be exploited by the great powers, the capitalist media, the CIA and all that,' he said.

It was precisely then that I received a call on my mobile phone. It was from a colleague in the conference organizing committee. The cab driver became all ears without even pretending not to overhear. `We should all draft a petition to protest at this infamous attack on academic and intellectual freedom,' my colleague and I agreed before I hung up.

`Intellectual freedom! I'll tell you what boils my blood,' the cab driver said, adding: `You are free to say whatever you want as long as you say it here in your motherland. However, our writers and scholars always do the exact opposite. They keep quiet here in Turkey and talk a blue streak abroad. Why is that?'

`Well, if that's what you think then isn't it better that we have this conference here in the heart of Istanbul,' I asked as we pulled aside, having arrived at the address.

There came no answer. I reached out for my purse getting ready to pay.

`I have decided I am not going to take your money,' the driver said calmly.

The rest is history. As everyone interested in the subject now knows, the conference was postponed.

— On Sept. 23, I came to Istanbul again. On the same day at 5:00 p.m. we learned about a legal maneuver to stop the conference. Back to square one! As in every state mechanism within the Turkish state, there is a reactionary line against every endeavor that might disturb the status quo. Challenging the official historiography is a struggle and it is not an easy one. Nevertheless, thank God things are not as black and white as Westerners tend to think sometimes; there are other shades in Turkish civil society, and other cab drivers in Istanbul...


Holdwater: That certainly gives new meaning to genocide advocates getting a free ride.

And it's not only "Westerners" (in quotes for those who insist Turks have not been Westernized) who tidily narrow Turkish matters down to black and white. That "legal maneuver" from late September must have been totally toothless, for as Shafak's soul sister, Fatma Muge Gocek, explained in a "Horizon Weekly" interview: "When September 2005 came around , [the ruling] AK Party expressed its desire that the postponed conference ought to actualize before the EU accession talks on October 3rd." More on this conference, which took place soon afterwards, and Ms. Shafak may be read on this page.





AN OPEN LETTER TO ELIF SAFAK


The following open letter explores, among other matters, Shafak's encounter with the Turkish cabbie. (Her name in Turkish is spelled without the "h.") The paragraph breaks are Holdwater's.

Dear Ms. Safak:

I have noticed that you, as a young Turkish academic, have joined the ranks of Taner Akçam et al. You are already a coveted participant in Armenian forums, and my congratulations to you for that distinction. As a novelist-cum-historian-cum-columnist, you write weekly columns in an English-language Turkish newspaper, and that is how I came to know you. If you were not one of a kind in your class, Ms. Safak, I would not waste my time writing this piece. But you are rather special.

Apart from your haughtiness and your elitist views on the so-called Armenian genocide, you have frequently carped about Turks — "especially those living in U.S. "— that disagree with you. Below you will find my views on your carping, and a piece of advice on the side. I offer my advice totally gratis.


Elif Shafak

You first came to my attention from your article (duly reproduced on one of the Armenian websites) on the discredited Armenian conference that took place in Istanbul in late September. It was the conference where Turks were treated as the accused but denied self-defense — similar to the myriad conferences held or sponsored by the Armenian lobby. The disgracefully one-sided, but impeccably choreographed conference, where almost every invited participant from speaker to listener was an advocate of the alleged Armenian genocide, was ridiculously hailed as a "scientific" or "scholarly" meeting and justified in the furtherance of "democracy" and "freedom of speech." Not a single historical document was presented during the conference to shore up the genocide claim. But the Armenian lobby loved the conference, just as you did.

What evidently prompted you to pen your article, Ms. Safak, was the experience you had with the taxi driver after you had arrived at Istanbul airport from abroad to attend the conference. After striking a conversation of sorts with the driver, and expressing your elitist views on the alleged genocide, you, with a condescending demeanor, tried to educate the driver about the sanctity of "academic freedom" and "democracy." The taxi driver, obviously not an erudite man, but proud to be a Turk, and having enough common sense to recognize snobbery, and separate deceit from truth, was so incensed with your "enlightened" stance that he refused to accept taxi fare from you. That should have sent a powerful message to you and hurt your pride. But I doubt your pride was bruised in any way. The air of arrogance surrounding you was so thick; you could cut it with a knife. And that probably prevented the message from passing through.

Just to let you know, Ms. Safak, I would have wanted to kiss that noble taxi driver on his forehead. Soon followed another article by you in which you declared your open support and admiration for Hrant Dink. Notwithstanding his views on the genocide issue, we had come to know Mr. Dink, the editor of the Armenian weekly Agos published in Istanbul, a friend of Turks, a liberated Armenian living in Turkey and valuing Turkish citizenship.

In October, Mr. Dink was given a six-month suspended jail sentence by the court for insulting Turkishness. Speaking high-mindedly of minority rights in Turkey, you claimed the sentence was discriminatory. But cleverly, you did not disclose what Mr. Dink had written. In the February 13, 2004 issue of Agos, Mr. Dink, in describing the Armenian identity, made reference to "poisoned blood spilled by the Turk," contrasting it with "clean blood in the noble Armenian vein." There was an allusion to Kemal Atatürk's hallmark address to the Turkish youth after the War of Independence, which made his allegory all the more provocative. No matter how one spins it, and Mr. Dink subsequently tried to do that, the allegory was clearly racist and insulting.

But that did not bother you. Nor did it bother EU, which had the gall to criticize Turkey for not respecting Mr. Dink's freedom of speech, in total disregard of the fact that in France and Switzerland, mere denial of the alleged Armenian genocide is a crime. Prof. Bernard Lewis, Prof. Yusuf Halacoglu, and the leader of Turkey's Worker's Party Dogu Perinçek know it too well. A message in EU's criticism was that that the freedom of speech is a principle that should be respected or ignored depending on the occasion. The double standard, the duplicity, was nauseating. Since when is racism protected under the "freedom of speech"?



But Ms. Safak, you did not merely express solidarity with Mr. Dink. In criticizing the court's decision, you inveighed: "Hrant, you did not commit any crime. It is those who make you feel like a 'foreigner' in your own land that have been committing a crime for centuries." Committing crime for centuries? And who might those criminals be? The terrible Turks? Or those infamous courts? Hmm! A gem of observation that could be included in the Annals of Slander — if there were ever one. That sure would have been another avenue to give you fame.

If you really wanted to know an Armenian that was a true friend of Turks, Ms. Safak, you should read the book titled "I Am Called A Friend of Turks — The Truth Must Be Told — An Autobiography" by Edward Tashji — a man of high integrity and rare courage, free of hatred, born and raised Armenian, married Armenian, lived, prayed and died Armenian — now resting in New Jersey.

In his book, Tashji, recounting the dark days of World War I in Anatolia as told by his parents, who lived through the madness of it all, debunks convincingly the bogus claims of genocide. Even a die-hard pro-genocide elitist like you would be moved by that book. I assure you.

In your later articles you complained that many Turks living abroad ("especially those living in the United States") have been sending you uncomplimentary, even hateful, e-mails (I swear, I was not one of them), one person even calling you "so-called citizen of Turkey" (the label you found particularly offensive). You thought these people are narrow-minded and bigoted, slow to change. You called them "aggressive nationalists." In contrast, you implied, you are a "critical thinker," destined to trigger "social transformation" in Turkish society. Such exemplary modesty on your part!

Acceptance of the genocide claims by Turks, you insinuated in one of your columns, is one of the "transformations" you would like to deliver to the Turkish society — two other "transformations" apparently being removal of the ban on the use of Islamic turban and undoing the Kemalist reforms. Quite a tall order, and Turks better not underestimate you! You even made the baffling observation that "aggressive nationalists" and supporters of President Bush's foreign policy in Iraq have "something in common." (How the Bush connection came into the picture is a mystery).

I will not attempt to make sense of these outlandish claims. But I would earnestly ask you, Ms. Safak: Considering your stance, what, exactly, do you expect from the Turkish community? Letters of admiration? A bouquet of flowers? Perhaps you would prefer that your readers keep their mouths shut and not react. But honestly, a reader has to be dim-witted or brain-dead not to be provoked by your writings. If affection, admiration, and even acceptance, are what you are seeking, I would assure you that you will not — with some exceptions — find them among Turks. Turks, Ms. Safak, are tired of being wrongly accused of crimes they did not commit, of tragic episodes they did not instigate, of feckless, ethnic-pandering politicians that try to legislate history, and of dishonest academics that make obscene analogy between the Jewish holocaust and the 1915 events. The last thing that Turks want to hear is someone of their own feeding them the same garbage.

To be blunt, Ms. Safak, Turks do not need the likes of you to "transform." And the reason Turks living abroad ("especially those in U.S.") do not accept you is because they have been witnessing year-in, year-out the fraud that is being perpetrated in their midst — a fraud that you may be oblivious to, but in reality are contributing to — on the Armenian issue. Unlike what you think, Ms. Safak, those Turks, by and large, are neither bigoted nor narrow-minded, and many are remarkably progressive and far-sighted. Some of them may even shame you to narrow-mindedness. You should also realize that those "aggressive conservatives" have as much right to express their views — including admonishing you — as you do expressing your own. You are not beyond reproach. You should stop moaning and bemoaning, and get on with your life.

A columnist should be prepared for criticism from those who disagree. It is part of the territory of being a writer. If you cannot take the heat, you should quit. You should be grateful that you are not receiving threats of violence from your detractors — something the Armenian hoodlums did not hesitate doing against e.g., Prof. Stanford Shaw, Prof. Turkkaya Ataöv, Judge Sam Weems. You should also be grateful that, as you have noted, you have been receiving conciliatory, complimentary messages, "mostly from Armenians," that give you peace of mind. I hope such messages will continue. No one with sane mind would oppose reconciliation. But interestingly, Ms. Safak, all your Armenian admirers spoke of "the Armenian genocide" as a fact. You are certainly in good company with them.

Finally, Ms. Safak, since you so eager to enlighten your readers on the Armenian issue, I had hoped that by now you would have written an op-ed to inform your readers of a special conference you attended last month. The conference was held at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) on November 6, and was organized by Prof. Richard Hovannisian, a renown anti-Turk who holds the Armenian Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Armenian History at UCLA. The topic was, not surprisingly, "Armenian genocide."

The speakers were all Turks: Drs. Taner Akçam, Fatma Müge Göçek, and you. We do not quite know what the esteemed thinkers like yourself said at the conference, but the 800-strong Armenian audience loved what they heard and repeatedly interrupted the speakers to give a big applause. Of course, and as usual, there were no opposing views. And no doubt, acts of the fifth-column Armenian gangs during those turbulent times, if they were ever mentioned at all, were reflected or perceived as valiant acts of loyal, upstanding citizenry.

At the end of the conference Prof. Hovannisian told the audience that the issues of reparations and territorial demands from Turkey would be taken up in a future conference. How fitting! No doubt you and your Turkish colleagues at the conference will not want to miss that meeting. Was this a "scientific" or "scholarly" conference, Ms. Safak? Perhaps you would opine in one of your future columns. And while at it, Ms. Safak, could you comment on rumors that the speakers were handsomely compensated for their efforts?

Your admirer,

Ferruh Demirmen

December 19, 2005, The Turkish Forum

Holdwater: What a fantastic piece; bravo to Mr. Demirmen. In my opinion, rumors of compensation belong in the same category as rumors of an Armenian genocide; only those matters supported by solid evidence deserve respect, as anyone can offer speculation. Space for conferences from universities is usually granted for free, when the conference directors belong to the university. Someone has to cough up the money for the speakers' travel expenses, but other than that, the speakers in these conferences don't need the payola. They gladly participate, since their rewards materialize in other ways; the clout and fame that keep getting reinforced from such engagements can lead to or sustain book deals and university positions, the latter sometimes supported by Armenian foundations, as in the case of Taner Akcam. In addition, as a minor correction, the final title of Edward Tashji's autobiography is "Armenian Allegations -- The Truth Must be Told."


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