01 August 2008
BATMAN TO YEREVAN:In 1915 members of Droyan's family left Turkey's Batman where they had lived for over a millennium and fled to Russia. Two years later they moved to a village located a few kilometers away from Yerevan, . . the capital of modern day Armenia.
Siranuys Dvoyan, a young Armenian academic who teaches literature at Yerevan State University, visited Istanbul for the first time to get to know Turkey and the Turks, about which she has been told since her childhood. But first she needed to get rid of all her prejudices about Turkey and its people.
A literature professor at Yerevan State University in Armenia has overcome her prejudices about Turkey and Turkish people by paying a visit to the country for the first time in her life. Siranuys Dvoyan's family lineage traces back to Anatolia. But in 1915 members of her family left Batman, a province in modern day Turkey's Southeast, where they had lived for over a millennium and fled to Russia. Two years later they moved to a village located a few kilometers away from Yerevan, the capital of modern day Armenia.
“In many Western countries, children grow up by listening to tales of their parents. But I spent all my childhood listening to stories that were full of pain,” said Dvoyan. Setting aside her prejudices, however, she decided to set out on a visit to Turkey in September 2007. Her reason for making the trip was to get acquainted with the Turkish people and with the land where her ancestors once lived. In addition to financial problems, a major obstacle for her was her mother's constant inculcations that she should not make the trip. Nevertheless, after saving for a year, she bought a ticket and flew to Istanbul.
She told the Turkish Daily News all about her experiences in Turkey. “At the very moment I took my first step out of the plane, I smelled that ‘indescribable' smell as if it had been familiar to me for ages. This brought peace to my soul.”
History tells the story of ‘pain'
“Istanbul is the capital city of the Armenian literature,” said Dvoyan, adding that she spent her undergraduate years dreaming about the Istanbul described in the novels she read. Literary works tell of a fantastic Istanbul, but history tells a more realistic story, a story of pain, she said. Suffering can, however, be alleviated through dialogue and mutual understanding, she added, pointing to the bitter events that mark a common history between Turks and Armenians. Dvoyan's students also grew up listening to painful episodes told to them by their parents. “My students have suffered traumas. But I keep advising them to look at life through an objective lens, even to painful events,” she added. “Rather than brainwashing young generations with poisonous ideas, we should raise them up by planting the seeds of peaceful ideas.”
Welcome to Turkey
Dvoyan tells of becoming more nervous as her trip to Turkey drew near. “I was fighting with the Armenian inside me. My soul was deep in conflict.” When the time came, however, she was able despite all her reservations and uncertainty to put aside any prejudices she still had about Turkey and the Turks and finally made the trip. After what was her first international flight, the first foreigner she met was a Turkish customs official at Atatürk Airport. When she approached him, she was for some reason afraid and was careful to observe how he acted, worried her eyes would betray her fear. “When I gave my passport to the policeman, my heart was about to stop beating. I was so worried. But he behaved in a very respectful manner and said to me, ‘Welcome to Turkey!' This was incredible.”
‘Would they kill me in Armenia?'
Strolling through Istanbul's endless streets, “I was wondering what Turks, going about their daily life, would think of me,” Dvoyan said. She paid a visit to the Kapaliçarsi Grand Bazaar) in Sultanahmet and a historic center of Istanbul. She likened the atmosphere she encountered to a typical bazaar atmosphere in the famous stories of “One Thousand and One Nights.” As she was shopping, one of the sellers asked her if she was Italian and she said she was hesitant to tell him she was Armenian. “The seller was surprised, and putting aside a packet of Turkish delight in his hand he asked, ‘If I come to Armenia, would they kill me there?'” To which Dvoyan replied, “I am here in Istanbul, would you kill me?”
Dvoyan has been in contact with authorities in Armenia about plans to organize a conference for next July that would deal with the issue of “pain.” At the conference, participants would discuss the effects painful events in history have had on human psychology and the way in which they shape the way societies relate to one another. Despite limited financial resources, Dvoyan wants to invite Turkish intellectuals to the conference. According to her, only Turkish and Armenian intellectuals, who are objective and can free themselves of any prejudices, can overcome the problems facing the Turkish and Armenian societies.
YEREVAN-Turkish Daily News
July 30, 2008