27 July 2007

1832) " We are One and the Same " Armenian Turks Recite

Dikran Kevorkyan, a Turkish citizen narrates: A Turkish schoolmate of mine found me after 50 years. Isn’t this but friendship? How are you going to separate us? In fact, Armenian citizens we are in touch with are all angry with this description. They are reactive especially towards the description of Turkish citizen of Armenian descent and say “We are one and the same”. As to how they see it, the actual blame is on the education system for the distinction drawn between both sides. They point out that, 50 years ago there was not even a debate on genocide, let alone, fighting. They openly condemn the Diaspora. They are upset by the Hrant Dink murder but they do not hold back to say he wrote things that were wrong. Armenians, with whom we have been living together for hundreds of years, emphasize that everyone must stand hand in hand in order to live together for many more in the future.

One of them is Dikran Kervokyan of Istanbul. I am sure he will be angry with us when he sees himself being depicted as Armenian Dikran Kevorkyan. Kevorkyan was born in Buyukada and is 74 right now. After attending Buyukada Primary School, he continued on to St. Michael High School and from there to High Commerce Academy…He says he was always arm in arm with Turks as he shows photos from his school years. Hulki Boyner, one of the elderly of the Boyner Family and Izzet Kehribar for example, were his schoolmates. Kevorkyan retired after working as a financial consultant. He still maintains his office as the Board Director of the Kandilli 12 Disciples Church.

Reminding that he was arm in arm with his Muslim neighbors during his years at Buyukada, Kevorkyan recalls those times: “As I took off to school, Naside Gokturk’s grandmother would pray for me to be successful”. This is what we inherited from Ataturk. We learned to live together as Turks from our ancestors. We would never lock our doors. When I was going to start elementary school, there was a man called Ahmet Usta, may he rest in peace. He gave me pocket money. This is the way we were. We founded Freedom Party together with some friends in 1957. Back then no one said I was an Armenian. Now it offends me. These may seem like a fantasy to you but all of these were real. We would house the priest twice each year after Christmas and Easter time. There was a lady named Fatma, living next door. She would say “let me come too at time of the priests visit”. She would go back home feeling happy with those prayers. Then, she would worship according to her own religion. I had a friend called Gulseren in my class. She came and found me after 50 years. She is a Turk and a Muslim. I am an Armenian and a Christian. She asked the Patriarchate. Now we give a call to each other every bairam. This is friendship. How can you draw a distinction to this? How can you be a tool to this? Unfortunately those who have lived through this are dying one by one and reality is not recited to those coming from behind.

They created a non existent problem

The most important issue that distresses Kevorkyan is the invention of the genocide lie: “Such an issue never existed back then. It was not even brought up during the 1950’s. It was described as mutual sorrows and was never dwelled upon. This was because Ataturk’s Turkey was altogether trying to move forward. Turkey had aimed a very modern line during the Ataturk era. None of this was taken for real. These surfaced slowly in the following periods. Of course, there were wounds but they were healing in time. Now they are trying to open those wounds. Afterwards, they made up this event. To me it was never genocide, it was relocation. There were Armenians cooperating with the Dashnak and the Hnchak as well as the Russians. In fact, we can say that the innocent have suffered along with the guilty. The ones leaving then left their gold to the neighbors anyway because they of course believe they will be back but they cannot forget this land due to their love of Anatolia and Turks.”

Where were you when the martyrs came?

Kevorkyan heavily criticizes the motto “We are all Armenians”: “I will not say we are all Armenians because when I go out I am a Turk. If I walk on this land and benefit from its product I cannot call myself an Armenian. If one day Turkey fights against Armenia will those who say “we are all Armenians” go to Armenia? This is impossible. We have given 30 thousand martyrs. Why are 100 thousand people not standing up? Where is this society? What is the reason for their being so motionless? What was done at the funeral was an open reaction to the government, a revolt. Your freedom begins where mine ends. If you are a Christian you do not scratch the wounds. You try to work it out in a friendly way. When do I act like a man of this country if not at the most critical points?”

We waited for three days for Ataturk

When Kevorkyan was six, he recalls that they were so upset they did not know what to do when they learned that Ataturk was dead: “the first thing that came to my mind was we would be left unowned and that we would never see the one who protected us. Ataturk was so important for us that, at that age I waited at the seaside for 3 days to watch him go by with his battleship Yavuz. And I did. My wish came true.”

I was a staff officer during my army service

Kevorkyan comments on information regarding Dink was not even given the rank of sergeant during his service: “I was a logistics officer during my service at Sivas 59th Division 1st Department. I was third lieutenant. Think about it. The government trusts me with all the equipment of a whole division. How did this happen if I was an Armenian? The fact that Hrant was not a sergeant was a matter that was totally related with himself. Not everyone with good marks can become a sergeant. Assessment is very important as well.” Stating that Turkey is the county in which Armenians live in most comfort Kevorkyan asserts, “The most clean and civilized Armenians live in Turkey. Those in Armenia are literally like mountain people. When the French see us in the streets of France, which is believed to protect the Armenians, they shout “Nasty Armenian” straight to our face.”

Watch out for imperialism

Kerkovan says there is a common belief pervading among the Turkish people that “Armenians own the capital” and explains the reason: “Yes, the same thing counted for the jewelers. It was inherited from father to son. Therefore Armenians and the Greeks controlled the trade”. Kevorkyan wants to recount especially the classes of Nuri Oz, the head teacher of his elementary school, in order to cast a light on the present situation. “One day he made us write Mineral Research and Exploration. Then he said I will surround you with so much Turkishness that don’t you claim that there is no oil like the engineers at Mineral Research and Exploration Institute (MTA) do. After many years a friend of mine conducts a research. Mercury import then is three times the total of the Republic’s history. All of a sudden he sees that mercury is used to close up the oil reservoirs. Imperialist powers cannot take in our victory in the Independence War. Is there any other state in the world which rose from its ashes? One should consider as all these.”
The writings on our gravestones are in Turkish

Kartun, the chief of Vakifli village, entirely populated with Armenian-originated fellow citizens says “It is a privilege to have the ID of the Republic of Turkey. Even the writings on our gravestones are in Turkish”

Perhaps most of us are not even aware that there exists a village in Turkey utterly comprised of Armenian fellow citizens! Vakifli is a village located at the skirts of Mountain Musa in Hatay’s Samandag town. It looks aloft over Cevlik, a Mediterranean beach located at east most point. One can easily see the whole Cevlik Beach and Mountain Kel, which draws the border with Syria. Vakifli remained under French rule between 1918 and 1939 (which is the date the Republic of Hatay was founded). The French, while retreating from Hatay, took away with them the half of the villagers. But most of them stayed behind in Turkey saying “This is our homeland. We feel happy living under this flag.” CHP won the general elections in the village, followed by DYP, DSP and MHP. MHP managed to get 14 votes. While at the local elections AKP became the leading party, CHP the second, MHP and DYP the third…Votes for MHP remained at 21.

Vakifli is neighboured by Hidirbey, a “Turkish” originated, “Muslim” village. They play games together, visit each other and do businesses. Vakifli’s leading subsistence means is organic agriculture. Chemical substances are not allowed in into the village. Vakifli is famous with its walnut and bitter orange desserts, tangerine, syrup, liquor and honey. The church in the village is different from other churches. It has two bell-towers that are parallel to each other. The village has no priests. Istanbul Patriarchate sends priests on special occasions. The most eminent figure of the village of virtually 135 residents is Chief Berc Kartun… We had a chat with Berc Hartun on the murder of Hrant Dink and Turkey.

Here are Berc Kartun’s answers in response to our questions:

What is your opinion on the murder of Hrant Dink?

We reproached it. Hrant was a person who was devoted to this state and people. No person should be shot dead because of what he thinks. I was shocked when I first heard about it. I was unable to utter a word for half an hour. He never came to our village but he used to publicize Vakifli. Thanks to him that foreigners learnt about the Turkish tolerance. In our last meeting, he said “I will be there in May 2007” but he just could not.

Are you happy to live in Turkey and possess a Turkish ID?

Very much indeed. I adore everything about Turkey. In 1979 I realized that I cannot be away from Turkey. During those times, the right wing-left wing clashes used to claim lives and cause deep sorrows. The schools had constantly been interrupted. I was a student at 9th grade. When the turmoil rocketed, I went to Germany and stayed there around 6 months. I did not like it in Germany, I just could not. And when I understood that it did not work, I came back to Turkey. I am Turkish. I am happy to live in Turkey. Anyway, if we did not wish to live here, we would have departed. And we indeed have loads of opportunities if ever we wish to leave. Those who claim otherwise are just plotting and intriguing. There are 150 residents in this village. Nobody has a discourse or opinion any different than that of mine. It is a privilege and honour to carry on the ID of the Republic of Turkey. Those who want to hear me say this could call me and hear me say it with his or her own ears. Those who want to rouse sedition among us will not accomplish. Even the writings on our gravestones are in Turkish”

How are your relations with the Turks and Muslims?

First of all, discriminative attitudes are not tolerated here. Hatay is a city of tolerance. Everybody respects the preferences of one another. We share both the happy and sad moments. You could also witness this tolerant atmosphere if you visit Hatay on religious bairams . We visit each other both at Ramadan and Sacrifice Bairams and honour our guests with gifts and offers. As I am the chief of the village, I wake up early at Bairams and wish our Muslim residents a happy Bairams . We eat the meat of the animals sacrificed on the day of Bairams . Being an Armenian, Turk, Arab, Alleviate or Sunnite is a topic we discuss only when it is referred to. And that reference is always made by an issue raised in the television or the radio. Otherwise, we hardly talk about it.

Are you pleased with the services provided by the State?

Of course we are. The boarding house and government house are both built by the State. Without the prevailing tolerant atmosphere, would that be possible? Selim Capar, the sub-provincial governor who restored the ruined buildings was awarded as “The Sub-provincial Governor of the Year”. Without the prevailing tolerant atmosphere, would that be possible? No, it would not. Not matter from which State-run institution we demand something, we are always welcome and completely fulfilled. Actually, I sometimes think that we are even privileged.

What is your perspective on the topic of serving the country?

I completed my military service between 1982 and 1983. The service lasted 18 months then. I was a raw recruit in Amasya whereas my main service unit was Gole town of Kars. Then, one could not be promoted to sergeant rank, so I worked at the Military Cafeteria for 14 months. I was honoured to put that uniform on. Both my commanders and my friends at the troop showed me great respect.

How would you describe the point you have reached today?

It is different from how it was in the past. Yet the murder of Hrant Dink disgraced all the good things. Even those who once abandoned these lands are returning today. Lastly, 2 families from Germany joined us in our village. Turks working in Germany spend 6 months there and the rest of the year here. Nobody should expect to squeeze any gains from inciting discord on the “Armenian” issue. If things were what they seemed, then the final destination point would be Armenia.


Describing his 10-year neighbour Semiha, Mayram Torosoglu says “We drop in their house and they do drop in ours. We dine together; we share the happy and sad moments. We are very happy to be living in Turkey.”

We share happy and sad moments

Mayram and Hamparsun Torosoglu, residents in Yesilkoy, is one of the Armenian-originated families living in Turkey. We asked the couple who dwells at a flat of their own in Yesilkoy, about their opinion on the murder of Hrant Dink. The replies we got clearly indicate that there exists no problem at all between the Turkish and Armenian citizens.

Here are the frank answers provided by Mayram, 59, house-wife, her seven-year-older businessman husband Hamparsun and their close friend Semiha:

What does living in Turkey mean to you? How are your relations with your neighbours?
We get on well with every kind soul. We worship the same God. God created human beings who then spread around. The difference in beliefs does not matter. We are in close contact with our neighbours living at the apartment across us. We have incredibly great time with them. We share the same culture. We eat the same things and drink the same things. There is no difference among us. We lead the same life styles. The only difference is our religion. But eventually, we are all the same. For instance, Semiha is my neighbour from the apartment across. We love each other to such extent that we are almost like sisters. Our windows are facing each other. When we are not together, we communicate from our windows. We visit them and they visit us. We dine together and we share both happy and sad moments together. We are very happy to be living in Turkey.

Semiha, how would you describe your neighbours?

I moved into this apartment 10 years ago and that was when our friendship started. Frankly, I never had such a sincere bond with other people. They are really warm-hearted people…We love each other and frequently meet. I love them because of their personalities and humane attitudes. I never discriminate people for their religions, languages or race. We reciprocally respect and love each other. We gather at the same barbecue party and sing the same song.

Mrs. Torosoglu how do you feel about the demonstration at time of murder and afterwards? I believe the posters meant “we stand beside you”. The intention is what counts here. This is my rationale from the beginning. Those with good intentions feel this way. “We stand beside you. We share your grief”. This is the message we got. Tell you what, “I had an appointment with the doctor on the day of the funeral. When I walked in the doctor said: “I am deeply upset. The funeral came on a bad day and I could not cancel my appointments. If I could I was going to attend the service. My wife did though.” With these words he made us feel that we were all one and the same. I was greatly pleased with his attitude. I was filled with happiness. Besides, Hrant Dink was a very special person. He was very intellectual. It is a pity. But I know that both the Muslim and the Armenian shed many tears. We have been living together for years now. I cannot think of anyway else.

Are you happy to hold a Turkish ID?

Of course we are very happy. Would we live here if not? We have always lived in Turkey from our ancestors to our grandchildren and feel much pleased to be a Turkish citizen.

What do you do during the religious Ramadan and Sacrifice Bairams?

I visit my neighbors in Ramadan and Sacrifice Bairams and celebrate their bairam.

Mr. Torosoglu, where did you fulfill your army service? How was your relationship with the other servicemen?

I fulfilled my service in Malkara Kesan at 95th Infantry Regimen in the headquarter company. My service was very ordinary. I had very good bonds with the others.

A picture of unity and harmony.

Though very crowded, the Torosoglu Family has very close Muslim friends and neighbors. In fact, when we knocked on their doors for the interview, they greeted us together with their Muslim neighbor Semiha Gungor. They were standing next to each other as if to prove that Armenians and Muslim Turks were much happy as a whole.

Editor www.soykirimgercegi.com

Source: Tercuman Newspaper- February 5, 2007


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