An Apology, a Thank You and Dialogues

By Dikran Abrahamian BA, MD   February 9, 2009

Centuries and millenia measure a nation’s life; and experiences of such a collective, especially of traumatic nature, are imprinted in the collective memory – never to be erased and never to be forgotten. A mere century ago, the Young Turks proclaimed the end of the Ottoman Sultan's horrible reign. They spoke of friendship and goodwill.

By Dikran Abrahamian BA, MD   February 9, 2009

Centuries and millenia measure a nation’s life; and experiences of such a collective, especially of traumatic nature, are imprinted in the collective memory – never to be erased and never to be forgotten. A mere century ago, the Young Turks proclaimed the end of the Ottoman Sultan's horrible reign. They spoke of friendship and goodwill.

 
Some Armenians, close to the new rulers, belonging to the same lodges and political circles of the new revolutionaries, erroneously thought that the day had come to rejoice. They reciprocated with expressions of “brotherhood” and thought a new era had begun. Alas! Not long after, they were led to the gallows and brutally murdered.
 
When I first heard of the "Apology" of the Turkish intellectuals, I could not help not to think about this "friendship" a century ago. Those who spoke of all progressive ideas of the time had other plans in their mind.
 
Analysing each word, I could not bring myself to acknowledge realities of today. How could I? My hard drive kept on overriding what new information was coming by. Despite my cerebrum telling me about Nazim Hikmet's humanism, the bravery of all those past and present Turkish intellectuals who defied the dictates of their state, the two-hundred-thousand Turks chanting "We are all Hrant Dink, We are all Armenian", my soul would not budge. The olive branch that was extended a century ago, turned out to be plucked from Dante's Inferno. How could I forget?
 
On January 17, during the long journey to Ottawa to attend the commemoration of Hrant Dink organized by Friends of Hrant: Voices in Dialogue, a singular thought agonized me. How would I greet and thank the organizers of the event? Many of them were Turks. After all, I had considered Hrant Dink as another victim of the ongoing Genocide. A friend who was slain, because of preaching dialogue between two nations, understanding and democracy – the very same democracy that the Turks themselves are yearning for.
 
For a short moment at the entrance of the hall at the Canadian Library and Archives, I took hesitant steps. Once I recognized a few familiar faces and engaged in conversation, my thoughts of the past dissipated. Reality set in. The program was "impeccable" as Arpie Dadoyan states. She had travelled all the way from New Jersey to attend the commemoration.
 
It was indeed a unique occasion to meet the organizers. They were appreciative of the presence of so many people who had dared the cold to extend a greeting hand. They were sincere in their thoughts. In a way, they represented the physical faces behind “I apologize”. All those who signed the statement did so with conscious and courage, though for a variety of reasons. Here at this hall, in addition, I could see a Hrant Dink behind each organizer and I am confident that they will spread Dink’s words wherever they go.
 
To my understanding, Hrant argued that you could not deny something that you had no knowledge of. The vast majority of people in Turkey have no clue of what did happen to the Armenians during WWI and afterwards. It becomes imperative to educate the public and to accomplish such a Herculean task freedom of speech and democracy is essential. The organizers are well aware of this testament of Dink, and they are willing to carry his work.
 
There is a saying in Armenian, “You can’t get spring with one flower.” I gather there is a similar expression in Turkish and other languages. It is gratifying that Turkish intellectuals have expressed an apology and Friends of Hrant Dink organized commemorations in many centres of the world. All these events symbolize budding flowers.
 
A limited non-scientific poll conducted by Keghart.com asked whether the “Apology” was a positive step to start a "meaningful" dialogue between Turks and Armenians. 49% responded positively. 24% thought that it would promote recognition of the Genocide by civilians in Turkey. Only 14% thought that it was a ploy by Turkey "to confuse Armenians". The rest replied that the statement would have no impact or would reinvigorate Turkish nationalism.  A “Thank You” statement circulated by Armenian Intellectuals and widely distributed attracted only a couple of hundred signatures. The publishers of Arax on-line magazine qualified it as a "diplomatic gesture" towards the Turkish initiative.
 
These figures and the lukewarm acceptance of the Armenian Intellectuals' action by the average Armenian may be telling something. People wish that a true dialogue would occur, but hesitant to embrace wholeheartedly such projects in earnest. For as long as there is no substantial change in Turkey, and foremost, an acknowledgment by the Turkish state itself, attempts at dialogues and similar projects will remain as solitary flowers in a wasteland.
 
May be it sounds impertinent recalling what a guru in Sonarpur, India, once told to his followers from USA and Europe, “What are you doing here? Your problem is in your homeland.”   Indeed, all the commemorations and dialogues in Ottawa or elsewhere pale when homeland – Turkey – is in the background. Voltaire would have said, "Let's work in the garden".
 

 

1 comment
  1. Ignorance is not bliss

    Just wanted to send a quick thanks for continuing to share your stories.  For those of us lucky enough to be born and raised in Canada – we are blissfully ignorant of the pain and suffering that Armenians and many other nations have endured.  It is critical to our compassion as a country to hear and learn more.  Thank you.

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