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An Ever-Lasting Punishment for Us All in Turkey by Ayşe Günaysu

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  • An Ever-Lasting Punishment for Us All in Turkey by Ayşe Günaysu

    It has been 92 years since April 24, 1915, since the knock on the door of Krikor Zohrab’s home and those of Komitas, Siamanto, Taniel Varoujan and more than 300 Armenian intellectuals, deputies, writers, musicians and priests—in other words those who represented the best qualities of the Armenian people. The knock on the door was the signal of the first genocide of the 20th century, the annihilation of an entire civilization that would have been, if history had proceeded along a different course, one of the cornerstones—in fact creators—of a democratic, truly multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multi-cultural Turkey, rich in soul, enlightened in mind, and unreservedly open to the best that the human legacy can offer. History proceeded the other way around, however, and honored not the righteous but the strongest. Not only were one of the most progressive, most enlightened people in the world wiped off their homeland, together with any physical manifestations of its age-old existence, but those who were left behind, the Muslim inhabitants of Asia Minor, were condemned to a long-lasting punishment. Since that night, the night of April 23-24, 1915, the descendants of the guilty and the bystanders and all who were left behind have never known what it is like to live in a truly democratic country, where the flag, the territory and the state are not more valuable than human life. They have never known what it is like to co-exist with people of other identities without overt-covert humiliations, prejudices and hostilities. They have never known what it is like to live under the rule of a state that does not subordinate everything to the interests of its continuity, its alleged “survival.” The immeasurable wealth usurped brought no richness, nor did it generate any prosperity or well-being.

    The punishment was not only political, economic or social, but also moral. Those left behind have never been part of a collective identity that knows what it is like to weep and to pray after their fellow countrymen who they once shared a life with. And they have thus never had the chance to achieve a spiritual and moral elevation of this kind. The darkest depths of human nature that enable one to see what one would like to see and to know what one would like to know, combined with a successful official strategy of disinformation, create a society trapped in a world of oblivion and ignorance where basic values are turned upside down and criminal acts are praised as acts of patriotism.

    As for living in a world of oblivion and ignorance, the missing parts can’t simply be replaced with the relevant pieces of knowledge, or by merely learning the facts, because the lack of this kind of knowledge generates, generation after generation, an inability of sharing the suffering of the other and of dissociating oneself from the attributed collective identity. By distorting the facts, the state apparatus distorts the system of values, convictions, and ability to reason and to draw conclusions.

    Many dissidents in Turkey, including myself, discovered late that we were unaware of our ignorance, that we didn’t even know that we didn’t know. It is not a gap that can be bridged simply by reading and learning more. It has caused a delay in our intellectual and emotional capacities to truly grasp all aspects of the loss.

    Ninety-two years after April 24, there seems to be no real hope for improvement in Turkey, at least not in the short to medium term. Improvement can not be measured by economic indicators such as inflation figures, direct foreign investment inflow, or annual economic growth, nor sociological indicators such as the increasing use of mobile telephones. It refers, instead, to the flourishing of a culture of true democracy. There is no hope in the near future because the spirit of April 24 and the elements of this spirit still prevails in Turkey: first, the concept of an omnipotent state ruling over all civil and human rights, a concept widely accepted and enthusiastically supported by the general public; secondly the dominance of violence both as a manner of government and as a popular culture of living, thirdly militarism not only a key component of the regime but also as a common psyche shared by the great majority of the society; and last but not least, a never weakening Turkish nationalism engraved in the tiniest cells of the society and the ruling apparatus.

    Justice and reconciliation, therefore, will remain a distant aspiration until the entire society begins to transform and not just the ruling elite. It is wishful thinking that Turkey will soon confront the truth of April 24 because of the vicious circle that is in operation and in full force: Without democratization, a confrontation is out of the question; and without such a confrontation, no democracy can prevail. So we, the Turkish dissidents, will have to face the fact that every April 24, for many years to come, we will voice our call for the recognition of the Genocide not out of any optimism or hope for immediate improvement but out of a moral obligation and responsibility we must carry as humans.

    Ayşe Günaysu
    Attached Files
    "All truth passes through three stages:
    First, it is ridiculed;
    Second, it is violently opposed; and
    Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

    Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

  • #2
    Excellent post Gavur!
    General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”


    • #3
      Yep, thanks for posting it.

      And thanks also to Ayşe Günaysu for what is a very elegantly and eloquently written article.

      But who is it for? Where else did it appear? She has clearly written it for a Turkish audience - but what Turks will get to read it?
      Plenipotentiary meow!


      • #4
        Under Pressure To Choose Between The Two Evils

        Publié le : 26-05-2007

        By Ayşe Günaysu

        Turkey today, more than anytime, is the living example of how truth is many-faceted, far from being monolythic.

        The most visible tension now appears to be between the secularists and Islamists. The secularists claim to be siding with the Republic, the continuity of the secular system, modern ways of life as opposed to aspirations for the traditional. The Islamists claim that they uphold true democracy, i.e. what people vote for.

        However if you take a closer look at the enormous rallies organised by the secularists you can see different shades: There is hostility towards the west in a sharp contrast to the western style outfit of women and the general appearance of the crowds, revealing the dilemma of being both nationalist and an admirer of what west represents. The hostilty is expressed in slogans against the EU, USA and strong anti-imperialist discourse voiced by the speakers. There is a strong Turkish nationalism manifested in tremendous exaggeration of the display of Turkish flag and banners reading “we are all Turks”. Facinated by the bird’s eye view of the rally, even Radikal, the Turkish left-wing mainstream daily, put the headline “Sea in blue, earth in red!” The crowds in these rallies display open sympathy towards the military, as a symbol of the “War of liberation” against the western big powers which led to the foundation of the Republic. In fact the memorandum Turkish General Staff released on the 27th April, referred to as an e-coup, was a powerful impetus for the enthusiasm of the rallies which started in Ankara to be repeated in major cities of Turkey. The memorandum had ended with the famous paragraph which read: “Those who are opposed to Great Leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's understanding 'How happy is the one who says I am a Turk' are enemies of the Republic of Turkey and will remain so. The Turkish Armed Forces maintain their sound determination to carry out their duties stemming from laws to protect the unchangeable characteristics of the Republic of Turkey. Their loyalty to this determination is absolute.”

        So it is heartbreaking to see that not very few of the the people carrying “We are all Armenian” banners at Hrant Dink’s funeral joined these secularist Republican rallies backed by the General Staff, waving the Turkish flags enthusiastically and listening to speakers who preached that the Christian missionaries active in Turkey were the enemies of the Turkish people.

        A closer look at the Islamist reveals a similar complexity: They appear to be representing the “real” people as apposed to the ruling elite, the ones who were until now kept at the periphery, so one should expect that they should uphold the interests of the poor and the disadvantaged. However the government made so far no move to improve the lives of those who get the least from the national income. Furthermore, because of the huge popular support they enjoy they appear to be the only force that have the potential to resist to the military whose anti-democratic past record is well-known to all. But they are themselves anti-democratic, anti-semitic, sexist, patriarchal and far from representing the interests of the disadvantaged. What is important is that the government knows very well and makes best use of one major fact: Everybody knows that the real power does not lie in the hands of the Council of Ministers, it is vested in the so-called deep state whose backbone is the military. So each time they fail in terms of democracy, or human rights, or freedom of speach, etc. they are tolerated by the Turkish intellectuals on the grounds that they don’t enjoy the full power. Although it is true that they don’t have the real power, we will never know how democrat they would be if they had full power.

        So, the dissidents in Turkey have frequently found themselves forced to choose between the two evils. It is the case now too. Large sections of the dissidents find themselves obliged to side with the government in the face of a military take-over without really knowing which one is worse.

        This is the main action unrolling on the stage. But what is the setting? What is going on behind the curtains?

        One component of the setting is a huge military campaign against the armed Kurdish opposition, which means not only loss of lives in the areas of armed clashes but also the suppression of unarmed Kurdish political movement elsewhere. These include mass arrests of leaders and members of the Kurdish Democratic Turkey Party (DPT), new barriers to its voters in the coming general elections (which are due on 22nd July) through voting procedures which make it difficult for the Kurdish voters to identify the independent Kurdish candidates on the ballots or banning former Kurdish deputies (after the completion of their 10-year imprisonment for speaking Kurdish at the parliament) from running for the elections.

        Another component of the setting is the escalating anti-minority sentiments in the nationalist camp manifested in anonymous letters of threat received by Armenian schools at a time when “strictly confidential” letters are sent to these schools from the National Education Ministry urging them to join efforts for refuting the “allegations” of Armenian Genocide and celebrate Turkish national holidays “more visibly”. The horrible fact is that the murder of 3 Christians in Malatya constituted an open declaration that the anonymous threats can easily be put into practice.

        Against this setting the actors on the stage seem to play not their own parts but some others’, confusing the audience and making it impossible for them to follow the plot. The government spokespersons talk about their commitment to the EU while their officials issue secret instructions to Armenian schools, the opponents of the government uphold the principles of the Republic while welcoming the military intervention. Democracy expects us to respect voters’ preferences while the voters’ preference has little in common with true democracy.

        It’s not different in the sphere of international affairs. Turkish people who resent Sarkozy’s election on the grounds that he is ethnically prejudiced against Turks are perfectly well-adapted to a regime where Kurds demanding education in their mother tongue are punished and the Armenian children are forced to listen to how Turks were massacred by Armenians.

        So, I believe there is very few place in the world where the truth is distorted to such an extent and where it is that difficult for the masses to see through the haze to take sides.


        Katch Hrant Dink
        "Always in our hearts"
        Attached Files
        "All truth passes through three stages:
        First, it is ridiculed;
        Second, it is violently opposed; and
        Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

        Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)