577) Turkey’s Armenian community in between two loved ones

‘We are attached to Turkey with a bond of citizenship and attached to Armenia by ethnic bonds,’ says Armenian Patriarch Mutafyan in an effort to explain the dilemma faced by Turkey’s Armenian community..
Kayseri, a central Anatolian province that once had a large Armenian population, last week hosted a very appropriately titled symposium -- “The Art of Living Together in Ottoman Society: The Case of Turkish-Armenian Relations” -- which reflects both the Armenian and the Turkish people's yearning for those old times when the Armenians and Turks were singing each others' songs without any feelings of resentment.

Turkish Armenian Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan's speech at the symposium, hosted by Erciyes University, drew strong interest from Turkish dailies, describing the speech as “revolutionary” since Mutafyan explicitly asserted that it would be “ethically wrong” for one of the parties to put the entire blame for the painful events -- referring to what Armenians allege was a genocide -- on the other party, although the responsibility of the two sides, Turkish and Armenian, is not equal.

“Reflecting truth without distortion is most of the time a matter of courage, [thus] it necessitates freedom. If we are stuck in a certain pattern, if we have become slaves to a certain ideology and particularly if we have a nationalist, racist and pro-military nature, then we have difficulty in speaking the truth and reflecting [the truth] to new generations,” Mutafyan said, with remarks capturing the essence of the issue -- clichés deeply rooted in both the Armenian and the Turkish societies due to strong doctrines that nourish nationalism of both sides.

Reflecting his disappointment, Mutafyan complained of re-enactment demonstrations held in Anatolia marking the liberation of several provinces during the War of Independence. During those re-enactments, Ottoman Armenians are usually portrayed as traitors and are killed by Turks.

Who is essential, who is secondary?:

“The inconsideration during those demonstrations is nothing more than uncivilized implementations that are seeding enmity. There should not be any discrimination among a country's own children. I believe that even the expression of ‘Turks and Kurds are the essential components of this country,' is a discrimination,” Mutafyan said, referring to an argument based on an expression attributed to �smet �nönü, second president of the Turkish Republic and comrade in arms of the Turkish Republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

“The Kurds and the Turks are the essential components of the Republic of Turkey. The Kurds are not a minority but a nation” is the expression �nönü is attributed as saying in Lausanne during meetings ahead of the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

“We are attached to Turkey with a bond of citizenship and attached to Armenia with ethnic bonds,” Mutafyan emphasized, in an effort to explain the dilemma faced by Turkey's Armenian community.

“We are the ones who have remained in between two beloved ones.”

The patriarch's sincere remarks particularly drew attention on the eve of the 91st anniversary of an alleged genocide of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire on April 24, as he called on both Turks and Armenians to distance themselves from the narrow window of nationalism and racism.

Turkey categorically denies that Armenian subjects under its predecessor, the Ottoman Empire, were victims of genocide in the last century but acknowledges that at least 300,000 Armenians and as many Turks died in civil strife during the last years of the empire.

Mutual respect key for starting dialogue':

Mutual respect will play a key role in starting a dialogue between the Turkish and Armenian peoples and for the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia, Mutafyan said, and offered acceleration of historical and scientific studies that introduce the concept of living together with concrete examples instead of nostalgic expressions concerning good relations between Turks and Armenians in the past.

“Dialogue is indispensable for breaking free from today's dilemma in relations, and for dialogue, the building of mutual trust is indispensable,” he said while emphasizing that, more than new interpretations, new resources were necessary at the current stage of deadlock.

The Armenian patriarch also pointed out the difficulty in bringing parties together if those parties are humiliating each other and directing verbal insults at each other.

Facing a mounting Armenian campaign to get international recognition for the alleged genocide, Turkey last year called for a joint committee of Turkish and Armenian experts to study the allegations.

In a statement made on April 24, 2005, the 90th anniversary of the alleged genocide, U.S. President George W. Bush also praised Turkey's proposal.

Despite pressure from Armenian-American groups, Bush has until now avoided using the word “genocide” to describe the killing of Armenians during World War I and is not expected to use the word “genocide” in a statement that will be issued tomorrow from the White House to mark the tragedy.

April 23, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News


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