26 September 2006

1044) The Turkish journalist found a European country on Turkish border

Ece Temelkuran is a journalist working for Turkish “Milliyet” newspaper (it’s the second largest newspaper in Turkey after “Hurriyet”). She intends making a series from seven articles, which would present contemporary Armenia with its everyday life, problems, and mainly – the Armenian people. During the past week spent in Yerevan, she spoke to different people – from students to veterans, visited art galleries and musical clubs, trying to make the deepest possible imagination about this neighbor of Turkey. This is not the first such initiative: Temelkuran has already published such series about other countries around Turkey, like Iraq, Syria and so on.

We talked to her just before her departure to Istanbul. . .

- Did you find what you came for to Armenia
- It was extremely much more impressive than I expected. I expected to find a Middle East country, instead I found a European country, and it was quite interesting for me, and I think that most of Turkish people who doesn’t know where Armenia is, wouldn’t think about Armenia this way. I think that one of the informational cliché about Armenia is that “they are so poor”, but I’m sure they cannot picture the poorness. This poorness here is a dignified poorness: with all these gorgeous buildings, with all this art, with all this intellectual level that poorness doesn’t show me so tragic, it’s not like “The Miserables”. It’s totally different. I feel like I’m in a campus, a peaceful university campus.

- Do you think that the information about Armenia is something wanted for Turkish reader?
- I don’t know and I don’t really care about it. Information is something disturbing, because when you know, you are responsible to decide upon something, to have an idea. So information is quite disturbing, that’s why my job is disturbing universally. I don’t care whether they want to read about it, but I am going to write, because people must know about it. They must know that the government people and the politicians are speaking about this country, this people, which is so important. As far as I know, the general atmosphere and general psychology of Armenia is not known in Turkey. This affects the political attitudes. If they knew – the political attitude and the prejudgments would differ.

- You know rather well all neighbors of Turkey. Now you know Armenia, too, and imagine quite well the problems that two neighbors really have. Can you outline the possible ways for loosening the tension from both sides?
- In such issues I cannot find another way than the dialogue. I know that people already communicate over some commercial issues, sell and buy something, but I mean dialogue in other sense, of course, like – personal dialogue, community dialogues. I don’t know any other ways to loosen the tension. And why not try it? This is kind of a job- to try it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s going to work, we should try it.

- Can we make comparisons between Armenian-Turkish and Greek-Turkish relations? Are there similarities?
- Well, there are some similarities. There are, of course, some people in Salonika, who talk with big hatred about Turks. But I know that in Greece most of the people believe in dialogue, in friendship. On the other hand very often they are represented by some people who don’t believe in dialogue. As always, their voices are louder and more aggressive. Aggressive people are more courageous than the friendly people.

- And what percentage of friendly people did you meet here?
- Most of the people I met were quite friendly. There were 2-3 people, who were attacking me with words about genocide, and I can understand them: this is a big issue, and this is totally sentimental. But I can’t apologize, because I didn’t do anything. I don’t represent a nation and its history, I represent myself. And I believe in dialogue.

- What did you fail to see in Armenia?
- I couldn’t see Ararat because of the weather. Perhaps I couldn’t see it because I’m coming from Turkey? I couldn’t imagine that Ararat meant so much for Armenians.

- All you saw and felt – is going to be published in your newspaper. Is Turkish print media influential inside Turkey, does it affect minds of people?
- Yes, it is influential. When the print media chief leaders start talking about “those Armenians”, who are asking land from us, it always affects the people. It’s so easy to educate the people even with one word. Turkey is a moody country, and the press is quite influential.

Conversation by Lilit Bleyan



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