07 October 2007

2032) Turkish-Armenian Youth Complain Elders Imposing ‘Chosen Trauma’ On Them

Turkish Armenian youth want their closed society to begin opening, and to achieve this they have formed a group called Nor Zartonk, meaning "new renaissance" in Armenian. As a first step they conducted a survey among Turkish Armenians, trying to gauge the attitudes of their society on topics ranging from politics to mixed marriages. . .
 © This content Mirrored From TurkishArmenians  Site

Turkish Armenian youth want their closed society to begin opening, and to achieve this they have formed a group called Nor Zartonk, meaning "new renaissance" in Armenian.


The spokespersons of Nor Zartonk complain that in their society the elders are trying to suppress the youngsters and are teaching them about the "chosen trauma." According to them, the involvement of third parties in the Armenian "genocide" claim is not helping anyone. They don't want to hide their identities any longer. Nor Zartonk is against the idea of immigrating elsewhere. They also want to see changes in school textbooks because they claim the books contribute to hatred.
 © This content Mirrored From TurkishArmenians  Site "We are a closed society, but we want to open up," says Hrant Kasparyan, a 25-year-old spokesperson of the Nor Zartonk group. "We are aiming to be viewed as democratic individuals who are respectful of our differences," Sayat Tekir adds, the other spokesperson of Nor Zartonk.

Kasparyan and Tekin mention that Nor Zartonk was actually established in 2004 but after the slaying of Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, it become more active. They say that Turkish Armenian youth, formerly hesitant to make themselves heard like the previous generations, now want some changes. The two spokesmen refer to Turkish society as "big society." For themselves they prefer to say "Armenian society" but they refuse to be called only a "community."

"Even in the laws we are described as the Armenian community, which is just a religious definition. But Nor Zartonk does not agree with this approach. To label us only a community paves the way to ignoring some of our problems. We have representation and administration problems; for example, the only representative of the Armenians is the patriarch.But Nor Zartonk does not agree with this approach. To label us only a community paves the way to ignoring some of our problems. We have representation and administration problems; for example, the only representative of the Armenians is the patriarch. But if Turkey is a secular, democratic state, it is not appropriate for the patriarch to show up in Parliament with his cross, crock and frock. As Dink put it, we are demanding a civilian delegation, which should be formed within the Armenian society, to represent us. This delegation should be there not only for problems but also for the management of the many common things that we share with the big society,” Kasparyan says.

To be against elders’ power

One of the main principles of Nor Zartonk is, to be against the gerontocracy, the power of elders over youth. According to Nor Zartonk, the gerontocracy in Armenian society is also helping foster the concept of chosen trauma (the mental representation of an event that causes a group to feel victimized. The group mythologizes an event and draws it into its identity, passing the mental representation, along with associated feelings and defenses, from generation to generation).

“In closed societies like ours, under the name of ‘respecting the elders,’ it is widely thought that youngsters don’t know anything. But there are proverbs also saying ‘wisdom is not from age but from the head.’ We are aiming to establish a democratic, non-hierarchic group which is aiming to help its members not feel like ‘strangers’ and help outsiders not view them as such. This cannot be achieved with feudal habits. We are a youth movement which is opposing imposition of one type of lifestyle upon us,” Tekir underlines. He adds that within the group the decisions are made by consensus after long discussions and persuasive efforts.

Kasparyan interrupts and elaborates on chosen traumas and the gerontocracy. “Of course it is not only the elders which make Armenian society a closed one. The generations that came before us witnessed military coups, the Sept. 6-7 events (attacks against the property of minorities in Istanbul in 1955) and the wealth tax. (During World War II mainly minorities had to pay heavy taxes or risk be sent to work camps.) They lost their surnames because of the Turkification policies. During the 1980s because of the radical groups overseas they experienced further difficulties (Armenian terror organization ASALA’s attacks on Turkish targets abroad). Of course all these events lead to trauma,” he says. Kasparyan thinks that these traumas led to the passivity of Armenian society, which Nor Zartong opposes.

Tekir adds that the young Armenian generation did not pass through these traumatic experiences personally, until the slaying of Dink. “Our elders are not defending the hostility at all, but they are always advising us to be cautions. In boxing, if someone is attacking you, you strike a defensive pose in order to scale down the target. This is what the Armenian society is doing. After the slaying of Dink, the elders were hoping for a change in the agenda of the country, in order not to be the subject of the agenda. They were remembering their former traumas,” Tekir says.

Both Kasparyan and Tekir mention that Armenian families are frequently warning their children to not become involved with anything. “In the globalized world it is impossible not to be involved with anything. We as society have to absorb the differences. I don’t mean that big society is not absorbing us. For example within Armenian society, there is homophobia; also women are treated as the lowest of all beings. The only way to overcome this problem is emergence of democratic, free-thinking individuals. People who grow up within the Armenian society have some difficulties in achieving this,” says Kasparyan.

To hide no longer

Tekir and Kasparyan think that the Armenian youngsters face several difficulties in taking initiative toward change. They both have had personal experiences with such difficulties. Tekir says that he hid the fact that he is an Armenian when he was attending university exam courses. He says, “I learned to be an Armenian not in Armenian school but when I go out of it, when I heard that the word Armenian is used as a curse word.”

Kasparyan adds that children who are educated in Armenian schools after graduation feel like “fish out of water” like himself. Kasparyan says after primary education when he was attending vocational school, it took him some time to adapt.

The spokespersons of Nor Zartonk are aware of the fact that the depolarization process is not only the problem of Armenian youth but also the youth in mainstream Turkish society. They also mention that in Turkish society, chauvinism is a very big problem among the youth.

Tekir thinks that this is all because of the 1980 military coup. “If you destroy all the freedoms and defenders of it as well as encourage racism, of course there will be many O.S.’s” (the 17-year-old killer of journalist Dink). Kasparyan mentions that when he meets with chauvinist youngsters, he does not want to speak with them. “I choose to just ignore them,” he says. Tekir adds that some youth come to them with questions, in which case it’s easy to engage in conversation. “If they approach with prejudices, it is impossible to talk with them. Dink collected all the intense hate toward Armenians upon himself and was killed. There is no one left to be killed after him,” says Tekir. He explains that he studied the same textbooks as O.S. “The ideas in the national security textbooks made me think ‘What an awful society I have, what we did. God damn me.’ But later I asked myself “Why? Is it really so?’ Sometimes people are telling us that ‘it does not matter that you are Armenian, you are human beings, too.’”

Kasparyan and Tekir recalled the statement by Turkish Historical Society (TTK) President Yusuf Halaçoğlu suggesting that Kurds are actually Turkmen and that the Alevi Kurds are actually Armenians. They both laugh at this. “If we were saying that, we would get a harsh reaction from the chauvinists,” says Tekir. Kasparyan adds that there are many Armenians who do not know their ethnicities or hide them.

We are nationalists of Turkey

One of the results of the survey of Nor Zartonk shows that almost half of the Armenian youngsters, if given the opportunity, would leave Turkey. Both Tekir and Kasparyan say that Nor Zartonk opposes this idea. “We were born in Turkey. We are from Turkey. For us it is impossible to think about leaving. If we were to leave there would be a huge emptiness in our hearts. It would be impossible to fill it. We are also one of the basic elements that gives Turkey its identity. If you ask me now, if I am being nationalistic by saying that, I would have to say, yes, I am. I am a nationalist of Turkey,” Kasparyan says.

One of the results of the survey that surprises Nor Zartonk is the percentage of single Armenians, at 50 percent. When asked about mixed marriages, Kasparyan and Tekir expressed different ideas about it. Kasparyan thinks the population of Turkish Armenians is decreasing. “There are funerals but no weddings. Another fact is that mixed marriages are not successful. When they have children, they are discussing if the child will be circumcised or baptized. Anyway, it has been proven that such marriages often come to an end within 18 months. If this is true, is such a marriage really worth it?” questions Kasparyan. Tekir believes in love but he mentions that in mixed marriages it is important for both parties to be able to keep their identity.

If the two parties are speaking, the third one knows what to do

When it comes to the events of 1915, Nor Zartonk spokespersons are very clear that the solution is to talk.

In 1915, the Ottoman Empire forced its Armenian subjects to emigrate. Armenians define the events of 1915 as “genocide,” which is not accepted by Turkey.

“We will open the doors, people will come and we will talk. When the two parties are talking, the thirds parties know what to do,” Tekir says. He refers to the opening of the Turkish Armenian border. According to him it is not the third party’s prerogative to pass resolutions about the 1915 events.

“Third parties are involved with it, in order to show how democratic they are. This attitude is not beneficial for Turkish-Armenian relations. Nothing can be solved by locking up everything in the events of 1915. If Turkish officials without using the term ‘genocide,’ say that ‘something happened in 1915 and we are sorry about it,’ this will make Turkish Armenians feel better and silence the Armenian diaspora,” Kasparyan says.

Tekir has a similar approach. “We have to show all our cards and talk about everything; let’s talk about 1915, what Armenians did before it; let’s talk about Hocaali; let’s talk about Karabagh; let’s talk about Darfur. Let’s talk about everything. Let’s overcome it, but we should not just forget about if we want to better the future of humanity.”

07.10.2007 AYŞE KARABAT İSTANBUL /Zaman

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