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05 January 2008

2264) Response To Ziya Meral From An Armenian...

Ziya,
I just wanted to say that I agree with your article wholeheartedly. When I was going to college at Michigan State University several years ago I suspected that one of my neighbors was Turkish. I saw him frequently at my college on campus so one day we found ourselves standing next to each other in an elevator - just us.

I knew I had to strike up a conversation. Sure enough, his name was Omer Gunes and we became friends. We'd sit around his apartment drinking beer and
. . talking for hours. The Genocide came up, sure - and we didn't see eye to eye, but we talked about it. It felt very good to talk about it. And not agreeing didn't matter, he was my friend. I told him about the experiences of my family in Sepastia (Sivas) and Kharpert (Elizig). I told him how my great-grandmother's brother was 7 years old when the death squads came through their village of Zara looking to round up the men.

Our families Turkish neighbors took my great-uncle Garabed and hid him in their chimney, pulling a brick out so that he had something to stand on, out of the site of any one looking for Armenian men or boys. It worked until one time he slipped and made a noise when they were searching the Turkish home looking for the missing neighbor boy. They were surprised to find a Turk hiding an Armenian, and then took him outside on their porch and chopped both his hands off then shot his father (my great-great grand father Oskahan) in the head.

Our family members weren't surprised that their neighbors did that for them though. They were close neighbors, and there are countless stories such as this in which Turks displayed great heroism toward Armenians - stories which are seldom told. I've encouraged Armenians to tell these stories in online forums and engage Turkish members in dialog. Anyway, I agree with you. We know so little about each other. There needs to be a bridging of the gap, a coming together and as you so perfectly put it - a rehumanizing. For me it was when my friend Omer took copies of my great-grandmother's ottoman papers and sent them to Turkey, where his father had them translated from Ottoman to Turkish and from Turkish to English for me, and presented them in a beautiful flawless translation.

It meant so much to me. These are the kind of confidence building measures between Turks and Armenians I'd love to see more widespread. And maybe one day that will force the Armenian Genocide Museums of the world to remember the history of Turkish / Armenian Friendship and heroism shown toward each other, especially during the Genocide...

Yours,
Hovik
Los Angeles, CA, Nov 16, 2007


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