27 May 2010

3093) Basic Disconnect—On The Part Of Armenians And Turks—That Is The Product Of Ignorance

© This content Mirrored From  http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com The Armenian Weekly By Nanore Barsoumian

WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—On Wed., May 12, two Armenian American newspaper editors came together and spoke about their recent trips to Turkey. One was the editor of the Armenian Reporter, Emil Sanamyan, and the other, the editor of the Armenian Weekly, Khatchig Mouradian. Their experiences and impressions were telling, and at times controversial.
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The event was hosted by the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA) in Watertown, and was sponsored by the ARF “Sardarabad” Gomideh of Boston. Marc Mamigonian of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) moderated the event.

In March 2010, Sanamyan and Mouradian visited Istanbul, Ankara, Kars, and Ani in Turkey. During their trip they met with government officials, including Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, along with journalists, heads of political parties, community leaders, and citizens.

On April 24, Mouradian revisited Turkey. This time he had a different and specific purpose—as an activist, journalist, and scholar. Along with human rights activists, intellectuals, and outspoken citizens and critics, he participated in commemorating the killings of Armenian intellectuals in 1915. On April 24, in Istanbul, Mouradian gave a commemoration lecture, and the following day, on April 25, he took part in a symposium in Ankara on the Armenian Genocide and its consequences.

Mariam Stepanyan, ALMA’s executive director, made the opening remarks, welcoming the guest speakers and the 60-70 audience members “to this remarkable event when two rival Armenian newspaper editors come together… And I think even the topic itself is remarkable, of two Armenian journalists making the trip to Turkey during the year when we all commemorate the 95th anniversary of Armenian Genocide.” She then briefly spoke about ALMA’s traveling exhibit, “The Ongoing Armenian Genocide: Death, Denial and Desecration,” which was on display at the University of Rhode Island’s Feinstein Providence Campus Gallery until April 30th—an effort spearheaded by Berge Zobian of the Z Gallery—and had returned back to ALMA that same day, on May 12.

In his introduction, Mamigonian noted that the evening’s program did not have a formal title, “but in as much as it concerns the recent experiences of two Armenians currently living in the diaspora…this event is, more or less by default I guess, part of something that our speakers tonight might or might not call Turkish-Armenian dialogue, or Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, or some other more or less problematic descriptive term.” He said that “such undertakings need to be tempered with circumspection” and one should be wary of reducing “a nation of 70 million people, plus the many Turks who live outside of Turkey, to a single reductive stereotype of the same kind that we reject when it’s applied to Armenians.” He argued that there is a basic disconnect—on the part of Armenians and Turks—that is the product of ignorance. However, he added that “a nation does not become post-genocidal simply through the passage of time, but rather by making such systemic and institutional changes. Such changes include but probably are not limited to the recognition of the genocide that was committed,” and such “profound” changes have not taken place yet. He emphasized the need for better reporting of events, and translating commentaries and writings from Turkey and the Turkish-speaking world, in order to truly grasp what is currently happening in Turkey. “Both of our speakers tonight have made real efforts in this regard, both in their own writings and in presenting the writings of Turkish intellectuals and scholars in the pages of the newspapers they very capably edit,” he concluded.

Sanamyan’s presentation

Emil Sanamyan spoke about his March 2010 trip to Turkey, which was organized by a Turkish think-tank group in Ankara, TEPAV, and funded by the Turkish Chamber of Commerce, the largest business association in Turkey.

Sanamyan and Mouradian were the two Armenians in the group of Americans, which included other journalists, writers, and former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Morton Abramowitz. It was Sanamyan’s first trip to Turkey, and “the initial impression that I had was that this is going to be a brainwashing trip.”

His presentation was accompanied by a slide show. The first slide showed a photo taken at the Turkish Foreign Ministry. In it, Sanamyan, Mouradian, and a host are standing in front of a plaque; and on the plaque are the names of Turkish diplomats killed in the line of duty. “The Armenian-Turkish experience that we think of is the Armenian Genocide of 95 years ago and the after-effects of it. The Armenian-Turkish experience that a lot of Turks think of is the more recent experience—it’s the Armenian attacks against Turkish diplomats; the Armenian Genocide resolutions in Washington and other places… When I noticed that plaque…I felt the significance of the moment…coming out of a meeting with the Turkish Foreign Ministry… Most of those names are from the 70’s and the 80’s, the years of Armenian attacks against Turkish diplomats. The weight of history is very present, in Ankara even…”

Sanamyan spoke in detail about his visit to Ankara, about his thoughts and feelings upon noticing Talat Pasha Boulevard, and about “the omnipresent Ataturk,” whose portraits and statues seem to be perched everywhere.

As the group was preparing to meet with the Turkish president, one of the American journalists informed Sanamyan that Gul’s residence (Cankaya Palace) is located in Ankara’s Cankaya district—on land confiscated from the Armenian Kassabian family during the genocide. “This is how far up it goes in terms of Armenian heritage in Turkey,” said Sanamyan, “the Turkish president’s residence!”

Half the group chose to visit Kars and Ani, including Sanamyan and Mouradian. A small and “economically depressed town,” Kars seemed to be welcoming Armenian-Turkish negotiations and looking forward to the opening of the border in anticipation of Armenian tourists. A new hotel, the Hotel Grand Ani, had already been built and was ready for tourists.

In “one of the oddest moments of the trip,” in Kars, a man dedicated to Kars-Gyumri relations pulled out a gun during dinner to show his Armenian guests how prepared he was to protect them. “I asked if the safety was on…the gun was pointed in my direction,” added Sanamyan, extracting chuckles from the audience.

Sanamyan spoke about the church in Kars—now a mosque—which is almost entirely bare of the Christian art that once decorated its walls. The old Armenian Church still dominates the landscape, surrounded on four sides by mosques.

The former mayor of Kars is so dedicated to Armenian-Turkish relations, Sanamyan said, that he even ordered the construction of a massive symbolic monument of two figures standing face-to-face, one with a half-extended hand reaching out to the other. The original massive heads of the statues rest by their feet, and so do their heavy hands, and two disproportional hand-less figures, with lighter, smaller heads, stand erect today. “You can’t make up symbolism like that,” we heard someone say. The monument, still incomplete, is under threat of demolition today. “To be honest, I don’t want a monument like that to Armenian-Turkish anything,” said Sanamyan.

Sanamyan likened Ani to Mexico’s Tchitchenitza in its greatness, adding that it has the potential of becoming a major tourist destination in the region. The excavation and “restoration” has been limited, he said. The restored wall of Ani is a testament to the deliberate efforts to neutralize its history, by removing the age-old Armenian inscriptions and Christian symbols—though some still remain. Ani is still largely neglected. It costs only $4 to see the ruins.

The term “Armenian” has been omitted from all the placards that inform visitors of the history of the area, Sanamyan said. The Arshagidz, Pakradouni, and even Gamsaragan kingdoms are mentioned, but “Armenian” is simply absent.

In his conclusion, Sanamyan remarked: “The new elite of Turkey of the last decade is looking for a new modus operandi for Turkey, sort of graduating from the level of…just being an ally of the United States in the Cold War setting to being an independent player in the world, perhaps being one of the most powerful countries in the world… and they view the ‘Armenian issue,’ as they call it, as one of those things that the other major powers of the world have always used against them. So they’re trying to find a way not to have that issue used against them. I think it is incumbent on Armenians to make sure that this is done properly and not in a way that neglects Armenian interests.”

Mouradian’s presentation

Khatchig Mouradian’s presentation focused on his second trip to Turkey and on the Armenian Genocide commemoration events held there. But he first shared his emotional state amidst the ruins of Ani. “There is a moment, there is a sense of a feeling of homecoming when you really step into the ruins of Ani,” he said. An overpowering and overwhelming sensation that brought him back to the days of his youth in Lebanon, where books such as Anin Dzakhvetsav (Ani Has Been Sold) and Anien Kar Me Per (Bring Back a Stone from Ani) animated his teenage imagination. “At some point…I was just kneeling down and collecting some stones, and I was thinking—what am I doing? What is the significance of this? In face of the huge loss that our nation has suffered… I’m trying to console myself by collecting stones from Ani. There is a huge symbolism there that is overpowering and very difficult to overcome.”

Mouradian’s April trip to Turkey was brief, lasting only two days. He made sure to attend all the genocide commemoration events in Istanbul, and the conference in Ankara (the main reason for his trip). He arrived on April 24 at noon, and after spending a few minutes in his hotel room, was off to his first event—a gathering of Kurdish women commemorating the genocide—directly behind his hotel. “And there it was, a group of Kurdish women, sitting down in one of the squares—around them several activists and some onlookers curious about what was happening—and then what struck me were these pictures they were holding.” The women, whose sons had either been killed or lost, gathered in this location every Saturday “to remember and remind people about their plight.” On April 24, along with pictures of their loved ones, they held pictures of Armenian intellectuals arrested on April 24, 1915. “It was very difficult for me to see this… A very moving moment,” said Mouradian. The speakers there “emphasized the fact that the reason there are atrocities against Kurds is because atrocities against Armenians were left unpunished,” he added.

Mouradian next spoke about the second commemoration event at Haydarpasha Train Station, which was organized by the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association of Turkey. He talked about the small counter-demonstration organized by the Workers’ Party, where demonstrators held signs that read “The Armenian Genocide Is an Imperialist Lie.” “Of course, the Armenian Genocide is a ‘lie,’ but because they are the Worker’s Party they have to throw in the ‘imperialist’ part,” Mouradian said. The other event was at the Jezayir center, where Mouradian gave a lecture to a crowd of mainly Turkish intellectuals, some foreign journalists, and members of the Armenian-Turkish community.

“There was this need, and you really could feel it, among the Armenians in Turkey to commemorate the genocide… And not all of them were really able to come out and participate in these events openly. But in many cases you could see them outside the commemoration ring, watching us from outside. This need was very palpable and you could really sense it,” said Mouradian.

The bigger commemoration event was held at Taksim Sq., one of the busiest areas in Istanbul, and was attended by several hundred people. It was the one event where the word “genocide” was not spoken. “The Turkish intellectuals organizing this had decided to go another way,” Mouradian said, “and talk about the pain and suffering, and about how this was apparently a loss for the Turks as it was for the Armenians—because the Turks lost their neighbors, their tailors, their architects, their butchers, etc. So there was the obvious criticism that at some point it was difficult to tell who was actually the victim,” said Mouradian.

Question-answer period

After the presentations, members of the audience were eager to ask questions to the presenters. One, in particular, is worth noting. A man in the audience stood to ask whether it had ever crossed the editors’ minds that the Ankara conference on April 24-25 was organized by the Turkish government, as a means to improve their image—in essence suggesting that the visits served little to no purpose aside from Sanamyan and Mouradian assuming the roles of pawns in the hands of the Turkish government. To that Mouradian responded, “[Do you ever consider] that there might, just might, exist a Turk whose umbilical chord is not connected to the Turkish state? … If you had seen the people there…these were people who had spent their whole life in prison, and that would be an insult to them, and to those who critique [the government’s denial].”

As a response to another question, Mouradian said, “The Armenian issue began in Turkey and it’s going to be resolved in Turkey,” quoting Hrant Dink, and added, “Genocide recognition and political activism worldwide has a purpose: Turkey’s genocide recognition and addressing the consequences of the genocide. Therefore, we cannot ignore developments in Turkey, pretend they are not happening, by saying ‘a Turk is a Turk and nothing good will come out of all this.’”

When asked about Armenia’s current geopolitical importance, especially in light of the oil pipeline and its importance to Russia as a barrier state, Sanamyan’s response was, “It’s all relative,” while Mouradian argued that geopolitics is not simply determined by fate and geography, and that states can set their own geopolitical importance. But if Armenia poses as a country that “needs to feed its people,” how would one then expect others to give it any geopolitical importance, he added.


ssaya said...

Mr. Mouradian is either much wrong or is deliberately lying, because:
a- I was at Haydarpaşa with few retired ambassadors with ONE only poster, asking "Apology from Killed Turkish Diplomats". There was no one else, because me and my few friends protested this mockery in person, we are not any party or association.
The "Workers Party and their poster" is a slander like the "genocide" palaver.
b- NO ONE was killed on Apr.24, 1915, they were arrested and interned for a few months in distant towns near Ankara, not even impriosoned.
c- My reply to Posting 3091 stands good for Mr. Mouradian and the rest. Learn who did the Genocide (Posting 3088) and PROVE that the excerpts I have quoted verbatim is wrong! If you cannot, keep your big mouth shut and stop these palavers on which you make a living and try to repeat the same calamities of a century ago! You come all the way to Turkey, to provoke Turkish Armenian's regular life and infuriate State officials, so that they get angry and ship back tens of thousands destitude Armenians which stay and work illegally to support their poor families in Armenia! Read Artin Dadaian, learn his advices before humbabet Russian Armenians dragged all Turkish Armenians into disaster, and themselves fled to outside countries, this time sending their Nemesis assasins to take revenge on Turks for their "own personal wrongs". Last WORD: Tell your journalists and scholars to come and see me, so I show them everything they learned wrong or they PROVE to me the opposite.

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