02 August 2008

2550) Turkish Photographer Look On Ararat With Armenian Perception

 © This content Mirrored From TurkishArmenians  Site armenians-1915.blogspot.com “Armenia beat all my expectations,” says Turkish photographer.

Ten days spent in Armenia made such a strong impression on a Turkish photographer that he decided he would visit again the country that had a history of troubled relations and no current diplomatic ties with his own nation.
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Saner Sen, 34, came to Armenia to shoot Ararat, which is in the territory of modern Turkey but symbolizes the dream of all Armenians around the globe about the lands lost to the west of this biblical mountain. Generations of survivors of the early 20th-century massacres in Ottoman Turkey that left more than 1.5 million Armenians killed and deported from their homes have been pushing for an international recognition of those events as genocide – something that the governments of modern Turkey have refused to admit.

Saner says he wasn’t scared off by what some of his friends told him about risks to his personal safety in Armenia. He says he felt safe and confident during his whole stay in Armenia.

“I liked Armenia very much. It beat all my expectations. Yerevan had a good reputation to me before I came here. I heard a lot about it from my Armenian friends and Turkish friends who have been to Yerevan. And this reputation just improved,” says Saner.

The freelance reporter for National Geographic magazine in Turkey is a mountain climber and he started to think about shooting Ararat from all sides in 2001 when he climbed Ararat, the highest mountain in Turkey. It took him seven years to realize his idea as he finally got to Armenia this year.

“Only one of my friends warned me before I came here. He said like we have fanatics in Turkey, there might be fanatics in Armenia, so just I had to be careful about it. But I don’t care about that kind of things. What I believe if you think nice about people and keep your smile on your face you will have no problems,” the photographer tells about how he was communicating in Armenia.

And during the 10 days in July Saner was in Armenia he managed to gain confidence of Armenians: “People here offer me a place to stay, asking me if we’re okay. I was drinking and eating with many guys and they were very friendly. And right now I have Armenian friends in Armenia as I have in Turkey.”

Saner wants to see Armenia and Turkey as friendly countries. He dreams about the day when Armenians and Turks will climb Mt. Ararat together: “I heard that our government doesn’t allow Armenians to climb Ararat. This is stupid. And I feel shame because of our government.”

“I know the topic very well. The mountain means two different things for two different nations,” the photographer continues. “I know what the mountain means for Armenians, and what it means for the Turkish people. Except for mountaineers Ararat doesn’t mean much for us - it is the highest mountain of the country. Also there are books and songs about Ararat in Turkey but it is not as much important for us (Turks) as for you (Armenians).”

Sometimes he calls mountain Masis, because Armenians call it Masis: “In Turkish we call it Aghri Daghi, Aghri means pain, Daghi means mountain, but when we put these words together it does not mean ‘mountain of pain’.”

“I think Masis is important for Armenians because it used to be an Armenian land before. And right now it is across the border, and they can’t even go to climb the mountain. Everybody misses to be around the Ararat – go there, visit it, maybe climb up the mountain but they can’t go to visit and climb it.”

Saner is one of the few Turks who recognize the Armenian genocide:

“I don’t want this border to be closed. I don’t want people to have bad ideas about each others. We used to live together for centuries. Something very terrible happened in 1915 and after that time we have these borders and soldiers between us and also governments, I must say. We just can’t reach peace. There are some people trying to do something about it. One of them was Hrant (Dink). And we know what happened.”

“The government says Turks didn’t kill Armenians. They just say that they forced those people to leave the country and on the way they got sick and died. And lots of people still believe in this because this is in history books, they still teach this. I have been taught this way, too,” says Saner.

He “realized the truth” in university when he started to read other books different from the ones he had been educated on. The photographer says it is not easy “to break all this propaganda and get to the truth.”

“Few people are doing that and it is not easy to change what’s going on, it is not easy to change school books. Everybody knows that Armenian people live in Turkey but few know how the hell it ended up like this. When we change the books and start to teach people the truth and after like 10-15 years we’ll have a new generation knowing something else than old government propaganda,” the Turk draws the future of Armenian-Turkish relations.

“The situation must change. The only thing that can help is pressure of other countries – European countries, the United States. But it mustn’t be a political tool. This what Hrant Dink was saying,” he adds.

He promises that will visit Armenia again: “Not only once. I’ll come many times I hope. Right now I have many friends here. I’d like to visit them one day. I didn’t manage because of time to visit and shoot something else than the mountain, so I’d like to come again and visit more places as well.”

By Sara Khojoyan, ArmeniaNow reporter, 01 August, 2008


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