09 March 2006

532) Poem for an Armenian girl

There are some unforgettable moments in people's lives. If I asked you now, I'm sure you'd be able to tell me some unique stories, wouldn't you?

I would be. Last night was one of them. The New Anatolian's Editor In Chief Mete Belovacikli and I were with Rahsan and Bulent Ecevit in the library of their home in Oran. The highest parts of Cankaya were covered in snow and there was a freezing wind blowing outside, but we four enjoyed an incredibly warm talk.

First let me share a verse from a poem which Rahsan Hanim read for us,

Purple violets in the gardens,
Ahchek, you've made me crazy for you,
May you become Muslim,
Or shall I became Armenian? (*)
Rahsan Hanim added:

"The poem was written years ago by a village boy in a Turkish town for an Armenian girl named Ahchek. Can you imagine what relations between Turks and Armenians were like at the time?"

At that moment I remembered that Bulent Ecevit during his last premiership (1999-2002), with Mumtaz Soysal as foreign minister, took several initiatives to ease relations with Yerevan, and commented:

"Armenia is faced by incredible difficulties and poverty. I've seen this with my own eyes. There's a line a kilometer long in front of the U.S. Embassy all the time, and I've been told that every day 20 families abandon Armenia to try and emigrate to other countries. So if we tried to help them financially and, for example, allowed them to visit Agri and made it easier for them to visit Mt. Ararat, opening the border gate with the country, would we lose anything?"

Armenians buying Turkish land

Of course everyone is aware of the efforts by the Armenian diaspora, but I meant relations with Armenian people living in Armenia who are really suffering.

Ecevit didn't want to comment directly on the issue but Rahsan Hanim referred to recent land purchases by foreigners in sensitive areas of Turkey, and said:

"Apparently Greeks are collectively purchasing land along the Aegean, the Jews are doing the same in the Southeastern Anatolia Project [GAP] area, and there's speculation that land in the east is being collectively bought by Armenians."

I replied that I'd worked very hard on that story but that it's been denied by state officials. She replied that such transactions are carried out using different names and in collaboration with some Turkish citizens.

Under Ecevit's premiership

But then Bulent Ecevit shared some memories with us:

"Years ago, when we were young, we [he and Rahsan Hanim] spent a few months in the U.S. We were in Watertown. After a while some of our friends told us that there were some Armenian grocery stores in the area and that if we ever hankered after Turkish food, we could buy some specialities there. So once we went to one. The owner was an old lady. There were all kinds of delicacies on the shelves, like 'pastirma' [pastrami], 'sucuk' [Turkish sausage] and there was even white cheese. While we were trying to choose, she said that we didn't look American and eventually realized that we were Turkish. First she expressed all her prejudices towards Turks and Turkey, but then we became good friends. Three months later, when we said goodbye, she hugged us and burst into tears."

Ecevit also shared another memory with us. After the Cyprus Peace Operation (1974), which then Premier Ecevit ordered, he organized a tour in the U.S. to explain the Turkish position to several different platforms. During one of his speeches hundreds of Armenians gathered outside the conference room and protested Turkey. He explained:

"They were carrying banners and shouting slogans against us but in front of the protestors, I noticed a handsome young man. He was also carrying a protest banner but once we looked into each others' eyes, he shouted at me in Turkish, 'May you protect the Armenians of Istanbul; we trust you."

At that moment I saw tears in Ecevit's eyes and I felt emotional as well.

All these things show us the real relationship between Turks and Armenians. If the diaspora wasn't trying to provoke and spread hatred among the two peoples, things would definitely be a great deal better than now and of course the Armenians in Armenia would be a lot happier.

(*) Bahcelerde mor meni [menekse],
Ahcik, deli ettin sen beni,
Ya sen Islam ol Ahcik,
Ya ben olam Ermeni.


Nursun Erel


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