13 May 2010
3072) "I Am Neither Accepted By Turks Nor Armenians" Vercihan Ziflioglu & Reply Comment By Sukru Aya
Arman Gharibyan, 2010/05/10
Vercihan Ziflioglu, a 35 year-old reporter, has been working at "Hurriyet Daily News" for the past twelve years. Her Armenian family name is Zilfian. She was recently in Armenia to cover the events surrounding the 95th Anniversary of the 1915 Genocide. While here, she was kind enough to grant an interview with Hetq.
My mother didn't know Armenian well, just the level that was . . spoken in Anatolia. My father was a fluent speaker, but we didn't live at home with him for too long. I went to school, but conditions for learning Armenian weren't the best. We had nothing, but I had the awareness at an early age to learn. By fifteen, I was reading the Armenian papers "Marmara", "Jamanak" and "Bagin".
I and some friends put out a serious Armenian periodical on Istanbul Armenian writers. It was called "Nor San" and lasted some ten years.
Then it closed down; everyone moved to different countries.
We were in the first group at "Agos". I wrote a column there and then moved to the Turkish press. Conditions are better for reporters in the Turkish press. If I stayed with the Armenian papers I wouldn't have reached anywhere. I had goals and was able to find my spot in the larger press field.
You have to think more and do more. If I had stayed in that little group of ours, I would have had the same thoughts for years. I was really interested to know what the Turkish press was thinking.
There is no such thing as the Armenian press in Istanbul anymore.
"Agos" doesn't only cover news about Armenians. What it does isn't reportage. As a reporter you must be impartial.
"Hurriyet" was important for me because it was the leader when it came to covering issues of the national minorities. I faced many difficulties over the years, but gradually, I get my point across even to the most nationalist of individuals because I disseminate news.
For example, 3-4 years ago I started a series regarding the road travelled by Armenians in the Ottoman era. They found it strange that I should write such a thing. They had no idea what Armenians had accomplished during that period.
Then, one day, a fervent nationalist began writing about me, saying how lucky they were to have Verjihan, so that now we can understand what happened during the Ottoman era.
Sometimes, the Turks alter the news. Here, in Armenia, they think that it's done on purpose with enmity. Yes, sometimes they have nefarious aims but other times they just don't understand. But I can use both sides in my news items. I see it all and can comment in an appropriated manner. There's an advantage to being in the middle of both sides. But it's also problematic. Neither the Turks nor Armenian accept me. I have no identity, no religion, as a reporter. The news is what's important to me because that's how I'll get by. The Turk wants a Turkish reporter to write and the Armenian wants me to be silent and not to write. You will see the mistakes of the Istanbul Armenian community over time, but the community doesn't accept its mistakes.
They see you as a lamb that has gone astray and they start to label you; a "spy" and who knows what. And the Turkish side gradually starts to open up and thinks more deeply.
Do you feel that you are being used by the Turkish press?
Some Dashnak guys ask me the same question. If you have this mentality, as an Armenian why can't you comprehend the fact that your forbearers founded papers in Anatolia and helped develop the Turkish press? Why is it that we always see ourselves as being used? Isn't it better to swim in a big sea and tell others who you are and what you have done? I voluntarily switched over to the Turkish press. If you have a brain and use it, then no one can use you.
In your opinion, are the Armenian and Turkish societies ready to freely relate?
Armenians and Turks will intermingle. There will be literary and artistic events, concerts. There is an Armenian community in Istanbul of 50,000. Armenia now says there are 15,000 of its own citizens in Turkey, but I believe the figure is more. Turks are more intimate with Armenians from the RA and not just due to "football diplomacy" but much earlier. Serzh Sargsyan came after Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Kocharyan. We only see what is presented to us but there is much more.
The Armenian and Turkish communities will be able to unite in the near future but what is more important is a final verdict on the events of 1915.
We must start talking, sharing our pain, as to what happened. The issue must be given closure in order to create friendship. It will be very difficult. Armenia must craft a culture and the youth must change many things. They must look to the future more boldly and not be used by others, but rather use others themselves.
Both in Armenia and in the Istanbul Armenian community, we live with pain. My forbears lived such pain. I wasn't dropped from the heavens.
It's sad but how many days can I relive the Genocide. They have turned me into a lamb. One mustn't constantly grieve. They have turned it into something psychological. We must be saved from that. For example, I was visiting the Genocide Museum here. A family had brought along a five or six year-old boy and telling him - See...a genocide happened.
Fine, tell about it, but it's not asthma. You will be creating a sick new generation that won't be able to look to the future. They will always be in the midst of grief. The West has come a long way and is no longer operates on emotions. Things have changed in the 21st century. We must change much in our lives.
Perhaps the pain will soften when Turkey recognizes the Genocide and apologizes.
Why is everything we do linked to Turkey? For example, if Turkey were to one day recognize the Genocide, what will we do? We will create something new. Now, we are all focused on the Genocide.
Armenians and Turks are quite similar; the same glances, the same craziness. Even the mentalities are the same. Only in the political and "elite" strata are there differences. The two sides will enter a stage of even greater nationalism. I came to Armenia in 2008; during an interview with the Dashnaks I asked one how he perceived me. He simply laughed and replied that in his eyes, I was a Turk.
Yes, I am a citizen of Turkey on paper, my official nationality is Turkish. But I am Armenian. If I go to Turkey and ask "who am I", they will answer, "you are a national minority". If I come to Armenia, I also become a minority. Wherever you go, you will become a minority,
Do you ever harbor fears that Turkish nationalists might one day cause you harm? Have there been such threats?
What can they do? Threats are made but it is normal. In the end, every field of work has its consequences. Reporters must use their pencils very adroitly. You can use a sharp word or a rather delicate one in order to get a story told.
Reply Comment by Sukru Server Aya
1- I do not read local papers, since their coverage and depth do not appeal to my knowledge and understanding.
2- I understand and sympathize Ziflian's interview, and wish to make some suggestion.
3- She says "she is not accepted by Turks", but which Turks, the ones that have a narrow knowledge and take refuge under nationalism and religion, or the average
neighbor who feels, thinks, loves, eats and shares everything decently, other than another broken language at home ?
I as a Turk do not feel any necessity to be understood or accepted by most other persons, regardless of their nationality and faith. Are we going to think and deal on the "basis of knowledge, humane ethics and reciprocality", or are we going to swallow the "crude speeches, d,ctum and brain storming of people trying to USE us by appealing to our nationality of faith based on unproven and logically nonsense theological stories"?
4- I am afraid that the writer knows not even 1% of the facts behind the "Genocide fanfare", who need a continuation of this "huge palaver", simply to continue their present life of income, or personal satisfaction and expectations for some reparations or empty words of bravery, nationalism etc. I would strongly recommend that she starts reading the books and "documents" on the E-library to make up her own decision. Once she starts reading, she will be amazed with the discoveries, and see that behind all "boastings" there is a lot of dirt and savagery for both sides, and "boasting, screaming, reacting" is nothing but a "cover up of the shortage of evidence."
5- She has already experienced the reaction of the Dashnaks! Their approach to all matters stand very strong, for more than a century. Now, behind the complaint of "being a minority" (which is unavoidable like the religion), there may be a desire of "discrimination by superiority - using victimization as a tool". Lately, there are too many "Turkish human right activists" and "outside brain washing" on the genocide tale and "to serve unknowingly the objectives of the "masters behind the curtain" who need continuation of this huge distortion, to keep the "show going on, so that everyone pays, when a few plays".
The writer, despite her young age, is on the right track of sentiments and logic. To stand up for the truth, compassion and amicable unity, is much more difficult and unrewarding, compared to those who swing to the rhythm of the one who blows the pipe.
Once you have taken that stance of treasuring ethics and truth, regardless of ethnicity, nationality and faith... you hardly need applause or acceptance of others who can hardly enter in your logical sequence. So, if you want to be "your own" do not expect or need the acceptance or applause of others. Just "learn more to avoid mistakes by prejudice"...and remember the advice of Mevlana: "Either be as you
appear to others, or appear as you really are"!. Wish success on the same track...without need of applause from either side!
S S Aya