09 June 2007

1738) We Cannot Afford to Lose Our Armenians!

I wish I had Armenian neighbors living in my block of flats. I wish I . . could see a Turkish colonel of ethnic Greek origin in the Turkish military talking about the relations between the Turkish and Greek militaries. I wish I could hear a Jewish judge in a Turkish courtroom reading her judgment with a Jewish accent.

If I move to Istanbul I may have Armenian neighbors, but my latter two wishes seem unlikely to be granted in the near future. Once, Armenians lived all over this country and we had a huge population of Jewish and Greek Ottoman/Turkish citizens. They seemingly vanished and now we are facing the risk of losing even the remaining handful of non-Muslim citizens of this country.

After the murder of Hrant Dink threats against our non-Muslim citizens have intensified. Reportedly youths from these communities have started preferring new lives in foreign countries. I am afraid that new attacks and new murders, which unfortunately are not unlikely, will speed up this migration.

I would like to bring to your attention a new kind of threat especially directed towards Armenian schools, which evidently aims at scaring away Armenians from Turkey. I would like to quote from a recent threat letter received by Armenian schools.

The following text was on the first page of the message: "This was sent to all institutions concerned with the matter. This movement was started for the sake of Turkey's future and its unity."

The following pages featured a long text, entitled "The Last Warning and Ultimatum," accusing Turkish Armenians of separatism and efforts to ruin the Turkish state.

The message also mentioned the murder of Hrant Dink: "…exclamations saying ‘We are all Armenians, we are all Hrant Dink' are examples of extreme chauvinism and summons for revolution. Do not forget that besides the Armenian citizens of Turkey, there are also Armenians from Armenia in our land, and they number over one hundred thousand. Both their addresses and their workplaces are well known. Henceforth we hope to see our Armenian citizens as advocates of truth, concerning the Armenian genocide or any other matter, and as defenders of the Turkish statehood.”

“We shall keep an eye on how the Armenians are playing this role. Otherwise, the Armenians shall be those to lie in the grave and count how many Armenians and how many Turks there were in the ‘ages long past'. This land has never pardoned treachery and shall not. Who does not stand for our paradise homeland is against us and shall be vanquished."

The text ends with the following words: "There is no defense line. That line is the entire territory. Anything else is just a trifle when the fate of the homeland is concerned. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk…This is the last ultimatum. It is not to be repeated."

It is a shameful insult to Kemalists that such a racist hate speech document refers to Atatürk's remarks. Kemalists should take into account that some “sheep” among them may be turning into “wolves” in the night!

Recognizing and excluding these racists from their circles is the most urgent and foremost duty of the Kemalists in this country. They should be on high alert for racist rhetoric among their members.

It is also quite thought provoking, isn't it, that this racist letter threatens Armenians with a total extinction if they talk about the Armenian genocide—“Do not talk about genocide or you may be the victim of a new one!”

In the face of these threats we see no serious preparation to protect our citizens of Armenian origins. There are very urgent steps that the Turkish government should take to protect their lives and well-being.

I would like to urge the government and state officials that we cannot stand any new attack on these vulnerable groups. Protecting them is the highest moral obligation of the Turkish Republic and no other priority should prevent Turkey from fulfilling this responsibility.

Our minorities are not able to take public positions. We do not see them as police officers, as soldiers, or as judges. What a pity! They are forced to live an isolated life in their ghettos.

Already long ago we lost the richness the minorities contributed to our lives. But losing even the last members of these communities to foreign countries would be unbearable.

For some, homogenization of Turkey might be the final goal, but I assure you the side effects of achieving it will make this country unlivable, unlovable and primitive.

I also believe that security measures provide only a temporary relief, not a cure, for this racist disease. In the long term we need to take a lot of other serious steps.

One of these steps is that Turkey must start confronting its past. Without this, without having an honest and open discussion about our history, we will never heal and we will never able to put a mirror in front of these racists, which means that we will be seeing the same nightmares again and again.

See you next week!

June 8, 2007
Orhan Kemal Cengiz
orhan.kemal@tdn.com.tr
ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

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