13 December 2006

1278) Yes, I'm a virus for Armenians

 © The New Anatolian From reading the last few days of The New Anatolian, you may have noticed that I was recently in Yerevan.

So what kind of impressions did I get from my 10-day visit to our neighbor?

Let me honestly share a few with you. . .

An Armenian non-governmental group, the Caucasus Center, invited me there; their aim for this project was discussing stereotypes in both societies. The British Embassy in Yerevan was among the supporters of the project.

So how did it go?

Well, it was perfect for proving the existence of certain stereotypes in Armenia (also in Turkey I believe), so it really reached its goal.

One example came on the second day of my program in Yerevan. I was supposed to meet with the journalism school students at Yerevan State University. But the long-planned meeting was surprisingly cancelled at the last moment by the university rector, Aram Simonyan. Sources told me that the rector gave a strange reason for the cancellation: "The Turkish journalist could spread some virus to the students."

But somehow the students of the Yerevan State University didn't share their rector's view, so they came to my hotel. We had a lot to say to each other, but while we were talking, all of a sudden they started to get strange telephone calls, and one by one they had to leave, apologizing and saying, "We have a problem at the university." Later I was told that the strange calls came from their professors asking them to leave the meeting and return to the university.

But if I could have talked to them more on that day, in fact I'd have been critical of the Turkish press. I would have given some examples of stereotypes trafficked in even by well-known columnists. How they make errors, and how they apologized later. I'd tell them about my peculiar experience investigating Ataturk's old speeches in the archives of the Turkish Parliament too.

I can hear you asking, "Why don't you tell those stories here?"

No.

First, because I don't want to infect your beautiful minds with my infectious opinions, with a virus called "tactlessness."

Secondly, I'm sorry that right now I'm very preoccupied desperately struggling to correct how my words were twisted by an Armenian weekly called Pan Armenian.

And thirdly, isn't it easier to have such prejudices towards each other?

So we don't have to remove any of our stereotypes.
Let's keep them in our minds.

I promise that I also won't say anything to my Turkish friends about Orhan Pamuk's image in Armenia, that none of his books has been translated into Armenian. I won't tell them that during my first three days in Yerevan, no one so much as mentioned the name of Pamuk, our recent Nobel winner. So let the Turks believe that he's a hero in Armenia because of his controversial remarks words about the Armenian "genocide."

Yup, it's very easy to live like a virus, with all our stereotypes, don't you agree?

Nursun Erel
erel@thenewanatolian.com
13 December 2006

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