09 April 2008

2422) R.Hovannisian's Second Lecture On Sunday : Whole New Experience

On Sunday when I arrived at FAU where R.Hovannisian's second lecture would take place, one of our friends was standing at the door with a big poster with pictures of all murdered diplomats. Just as I arrived one Armenian woman said to her . . "more should have been killed"!

So I walked in and saw the same crowd as last Wednesday, group of older Armenians who had taken most of the first 3-4 rows. There were many Turks as well sitting in different places. So a girlfriend & I decided to put the fliers I had prepared on the empty chairs. Once we finished that, we started handing it out to the Armenians who were already seated. First group took them, but then by mistake I came by the same guy who had called a friend "odun kafa" (wood head) last Wednesday & when I handed over the flier he tore it up, crushed it & gave it back to me saying "we don't need no bloody Turkish propaganda". I said, "it's not propaganda, if you care to read you might learn things you didn't know. It would help open your eyes because you continue wearing horse blinders". Then another one said to me "you are all brainwashed since you were 7" I said "you are mistaken it's not us who are brainwashed but yourselves". By this time, his wife, who at the last meeting was also screaming "your grandparents murdered my family" got up & started yelling & calling me "murderer".. So I said "we're not murderers. Educate yourselves" & walked away. I was shaking like a leaf with anger & disbelief at such hatred in these people's eyes & voices. When I was walking away an elderly gentleman held my arm and said "don't let them get to you".

Then this same bitchy woman jumped up & went to collect the fliers we had distributed on the chairs, so I also went & started collecting them to save the fliers.. Whatever she collected she tore up & threw away. So I gave whatever was left in my hand to another Turk at the door to distribute to newcomers. My other friend who was helping distribute the papers also faced obstacles. One guy kept throwing the papers on the floor, and she kept collecting them, then one of them said his last name was "Allahverdian" (God gave ian), to prove he even took his driver license out & showed her. He spoke perfect Turkish and said he goes to Turkey every year and because of his last name they always welcome him with open arms every where. So she said "see Turks treat you so good each year you go there and yet look at this animosity over here, do you approve of it?" And his response was "but Turks killed many many people".. Then one of them said to her "Ataturk is responsible of all this", so when he said that my friend really got upset and said "if Turkey is a free and modern country today, we owe it all to him, and I'm proud to be a Daughter of Ataturk". So he said in return "how can you be proud, he's not even a Turk he was born in Greece and he had 6 fingers!" My friend says, "none of these people look into your eye when they speak", so she kept telling them "look into my eyes when you speak".

Then more & more Turks started coming, young ones, old ones.. We made up at least 1/3rd of the room, if not more. There was a map on the screen which showed half of Turkey as Armenia.. Before the lecture started one of our girlfriends went in front of the map and shouted "this is a wrong map, I protest it". So the Armenians started shouting "if you don't like it then get out" etc.. The presenter this time was no longer Alan Berger, who directed the last lecture disastrously, but another Professor from India. At the end he did give a chance to a lot of our people to ask their questions.

Hovannisian's lecture was mainly about the trip he made to Turkey back in summer of 2006 along with his wife and the Turkish scholar no other than Fatma Muge Gocek. He said they flew to Baku & then came to Trabzon where they all met. They had a driver who was a Hemshin, and the driver knew they were being followed by security people from the government. So he showed slide after slide of torn down churches and monasteries which he claimed belonged to the Armenians but that the Turks vandalized, dynamited and destroyed these churches so not many were left standing today. At one point one of our people said "sir how come you fail to mention the earthquakes? In many of these places several very serious earthquakes leveled the villages over the years" Hovannisian, with his ever present sarcastic smile, didn't say a thing & went on with his show of churches. He then arrived in Van, where the Akhdamar church is restored, instead of saying the restoration was paid for by the Turkish government which cost them millions, he said some non-descriptive stuff & only mentioned that the proud architect was a Kurd! Throughout his speech he tried to pinpoint how now the Kurds are also agreeing that Turks are bad bad people and that these places belong to Armenians. He seemed to have a great time, without any problems and yet he did not want to admit this openly. He ended his speech with him meeting Hrant Dink in Istanbul, who told him he was being threatened and he left the picture with the two of them on the screen for the remainder of the day.

The Indian professor let several Turks ask their questions. We were applauding the questions so at one point Hovannisian said "it seems like at a football match today". Most questions from our side included calls for truce, peace, friendship. One Turkish-Armenian got up, apparently wife of the very wealthy Armenian from Boca who actually sponsored this event, and said many things like she grew up in Turkey, had no problems etc etc but ended with "once Turkey recognizes the genocide we will all become friendly again"!! One Armenian said the Spaniards kicked out the Moors, so why would it be wrong for the Armenians to try capture back their country! In a way, this confirmed what we've been saying all along, that they started the uprising to get independence.

While the slide show was going on, one guy was taking pictures of Turks. The girl who had protested the map said to this guy "you have no right to take my picture", she even complained to the policeman. Then in the very back were a group of young Armenians like "izbanduts" as we say in Turkish (huge mean looking guys) and one of them was eventually taken out by the police while shouting obscenities, why I have no idea. Then there was a girl of maybe 16-17, she was red in the face with rage, hatred in her eyes,ready to burst and whenever anyone said "it was wartime" she shouted "there was no war"! Like she was there 100 years ago! She had a t-shirt on which said something like "we survived before & we will survive and form the Armenian union again". It's sad to see such young people so full of hatred that hatred almost blinds them..

After the speech there were refreshments so while eating & drinking we mingled among the people and everybody talked to someone again like last Wednesday. Overall we felt good because as compared to his language last Wednesday, he had really toned down his speech not to include the word genocide as much. Guess he didn't expect to see so many Turks there. Especially because there was a grassroots meeting earlier, almost everyone from that meeting came there as well. This time there were many young ones also who all came wearing Ataturk or Turkish flag t-shirts.

Prior to these two lectures, I had never been to one about the so called genocide with so many Armenians present. Many of us haven't, so it was a whole new experience for most. However, as much as we try to build friendships, soften the mood, they have no intention of doing so. They are so full of hatred it's almost surreal.

Few pictures from this meeting can be found here.

Kindly Provided by Meltem