23 March 2007

1534) Whose Identity Is Problematic?

An article by Areg Savgulian appeared on some Armenian websites on Jan. 26, soon after Hrant Dink was killed. The title was "Who are the Turks and who are the Armenians?" As the mindset of its author is widespread among the Armenian diaspora, . . it may be useful to briefly study his article. Savgulian spoke out against the signs carried by the crowds attending Dink's funeral, the ones reading, "We're all Armenians, we're all Hrant." "You cannot become Armenian simply by shouting and applauding," he writes. "You can only be born Armenian. (...) We couldn't live with you. Dink couldn't live with you because he lived in a country where he was hated."

Savgulian, who argues that the problem takes its roots from the identity of Turks, adds, "They are Turks but they consider themselves 'Armenian,' they call themselves 'Armenian' but continue thinking like Turks, they officially deny the genocide but follow the funeral procession mourning, they kill with one hand and put flowers with the other. This is the peculiarity of the Turkish identity."

Savgulian underlines that Dink "was a [Turkish] citizen but his views did not coincide with the historical and political perspective of the government" and asks whether "this mean(s) that he should be murdered because he lived in an environment that falsifies reality and reinvents history."

Immediately afterwards he questions if it is a revolution in Turkish society when people shout, "We're all Armenians, we're all Hrant." Then he responds, "They are ready to even reject their nationality if only they can avoid recognizing the genocide."

The writer claims that the Armenian question was raised in Istanbul in 1915 and solved through the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians and argues that the very same problem continues in Istanbul in a more "civilized" manner (in the form of killing Dink).

After posing self-answering questions like "Didn't Turkey understand that the problem is not the Armenian question but Turkey itself? Didn't it understand that the struggle is not about exterminating the Armenian identity but re-evaluation and recreation of its own identity?" he concludes the article as follows:

"We are more interested in your Europeanization than you yourselves since if you get civilized you might realize that what you did was a genocide. Tell the truth with the same enthusiasm with which you are knocking on Europe's doors. Turkey is looking for its salvation in Europe but the latter does not promise any miracles but state it cannot save someone whose problem lies in his identity, in his genetic inferiority complex and barbarism, in the inherited capacity to commit genocides."

How do you like it?

Here are the main points of the article.

Those who felt very bad about the Hrant Dink murder, attended the funeral and shouted, "We're all Armenians, we're all Hrant," out of good will did not please the Armenians.

These Armenians do not have a problem only with Turkey's official history that rejects the genocide allegations. They accuse the entire Turkish public of having committed genocide. They implicate Turks with murdering Hrant Dink with one hand and laying down flowers with the other. For them our sole aim is to look civilized through pretending to be Armenians while denying genocide through pretending to mourn Hrant Dink. The author interprets the Turks' chanting 'We're all Armenians' as readiness even to sacrifice our nationality for the sake of the show.

Savgulian is right in putting identity at the very center of the problem between the two sides. However, he is wrong to confine it to Turkish identity. True, Armenian genocide allegations spark identity problems in Turkey. Who wants to be known as a genocidal people and face such allegations? However, Armenians are the ones who have the real identity problem.

If a people leaves aside all the historical and cultural assets of its identity and defines itself merely as a society which was subjected to genocide by Turks, it must be suffering a grave identity crisis.

The author reacts with disgust to Turks chanting 'We're all Armenians," for the mixing of Armenian identity with the Turkish one, considered the victimizer of the Armenians, would contaminate the purity of Armenian identity considered victimized. Therefore we should stick to the boundaries of our identity even when trying to empathize with the "other."

But more importantly, Savgulian claims that Armenians are born civilized and oppressed, in exactly the same way as the barbarian and genocidal nature of Turks is genetic. This is a stark example of racism and racial hatred. Indeed, the Armenian gangs in 1915 attacked the Turks with similar impulses. Now Savgulian projects onto us the Turks his racial hatred he nurtures deep in his soul, whence his secret wish to exterminate us through genocide.

Gunduz Aktan
23 March 2007
New Anatolian

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