Sunday, 20 September 2009

Opinion: "Bloody Turk!" (by Orhan Kemal Cengiz)

Recommended reading.
I am not a religious person. I am not Kurdish. I am not gay. I am not Christian. I am not Armenian. I am not Roma. But I have spent all my life defending these people's rights.
I am a human rights defender. When I describe myself, I say I am a human rights defender, a lawyer and a writer. It was during my first time in London in 1998 that I realized, no matter what I do, I was a "bloody Turk" for some people. Ironically, I was working for the Kurdish Human Right Project there, and we were taking cases to the European Court of Human Rights, as a result of which I felt deeply threatened by the deep state elements in my country. When I met with the Armenian community in London, I turned into a representative of Turkey. It was the first time my "Turkishness" took precedence over all my qualifications.

Massacres of Armenians were orchestrated and organized by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) -- which came to power through a military coup -- while the Ottoman Empire was falling apart. After these massacres and as a result of the lack of confrontation with our past, the CUP and its gangs changed their format and turned into the "deep state" in Turkey. These deep state elements continued their massacres and manipulations and drenched Turkey with blood during the Republican era. We have these deep state elements, but we also have many people fighting against them with or without knowing the history. The Ergenekon trial, in this sense, is a turning point in this endeavor in Turkey. You can think of the Ergenekon gang as the armed wing of the CUP in today's Turkey.

The massacres of Armenians were carried out by a certain mindset, by a political movement. Unfortunately, this political movement also created the official Turkish history, one in which there is no place for Armenians. And the state is in complete denial of what happened in Turkey in the past. This denial unfortunately gives strong support to a racist approach toward Turkey and its people.

I was in Toronto last year attending an extremely interesting course on genocide. For two weeks we went into all the details of different genocides that took place in various parts of the world. All lecturers gave exemplary presentations, and I felt I had really learned something. However, I also realized that there was a fundamental difference in the way in which the Armenian genocide is being handled. When we spoke about the Holocaust, we spoke of the Nazi regime; when we discussed the genocide in Cambodia, we talked about the Khmer regime; when it came to the Armenian genocide, though, we only heard the word "Turks."

Complete and blanket denial feeds complete and absolute labeling. This is a vicious circle. It is very unfortunate that some Armenians, while believing they are seeking justice, have turned into hopeless racists. They do not want to believe that there are many good people in this country. They do not want to remember that there were also Turks who lost their lives while trying to protect Armenians. They hold tightly on to this image of the "bloody Turk." Every Turk, every individual living in Turkey, is just a murderer for them.

The pathology of amnesia and the pathology of blind hatred are two sides of one coin. They both serve the same purpose: Both leave Turks and Armenians as deeply neurotic people.

In the midst of all this madness, Hrant Dink was a safe haven of reason, wisdom and compassion. He had a deep understanding of Turkey and the trauma we have been suffering for so long. He was killed because he was the hope in the face of this madness. He could have been killed by an Armenian racist. But instead, he was killed by Turkish racists, of course, under the guidance of the deep state. Dink was a bloody Turk for Armenian racists and an Armenian traitor for racist Turks. He was a dangerous figure for all who wanted to continue this vicious circle of hatred. During his funeral, we chanted, "We all are Hrant Dink." We all need to be Dink if we wish to contribute to reconciliation. I bow respectfully before his memory.

18 September 2009, Friday


Onnik Krikorian said...

You know, I think Orhan is the guy I know from when I worked at the Kurdish Human Rights Project (it was them btw that would send me to Armenia in June 1998 to research the Yezidi and set the ball in motion for moving to Armenia in October the same year).

I guess it must be him because I obviously left soon after and didn't have enough time to know him well enough to remember his name. However, I did take him to an event in the London Armenian Community on the Genocide.

Even when he was in Turkey he told me he stood up in conferences to mention it, something that saw him forced to move to England. Yet, despite his bravery, those London-Armenians present at the talk treated him like shit.

It was deeply embarrassing and humiliating for me. Change happens when not only do individuals such as Hrant Dink and Orhan speak out, but also when Armenians (mainly those active in the Diaspora) get rid of the baggage of hate.

Here's hoping that day comes soon...

Onnik Krikorian said...

Yeah, it was him. Did a search on Facebook, sent a message and, well, the power of new/social media. Thanks a lot, Mika. Appreciated.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Really, thanks a lot. This has made my day. Like I said, the power of blogs and social media...

artmika said...

Onnik, I am so glad that this post helped re-establishing contacts. This is incredible. Thanks for sharing.

Karl G. Mund said...


seems to me that a number of young people reading e.g. the German version of Orhan's article I published in "Kurdmania" last Friday (Sept. 18) have misunderstood this article, some seemingly even deliberately so in order to nourish their nationalistic prejudices.

I have followed Orhan's articles now for several years, and have translated quite a number of them for "Kurdmania". Therefore I know, that he does not need to present himself as a "Gutmensch". He may have started more than a decade ago as a Human Rights activist, but now year after year he is experiencing the many problems of a lawyer specializing in political court-cases which are generally beyond the grasp of a (his!) nation's "conventional wisdom". In "Bloody Turk" he simply shares this experience wiht his audience.

Well before Orhan's lifetime I experienced a similar mentality as Orhan described in his article while studying Hebrew in Israel as a Non-Jew wanting (then) to become a Lutheran pastor who would be able to study the Old Testament in its original language. At the end it turned out that I learned more English and politics than theology during that time in 1965/66, shortly before the occupation of Westbank, Gaza and the Golan Heights.

When I asked the Kibbutzniks, where I had my basic language training about the "Herut" Party of Menahem Begin who later became prime minister and Nobel laureate, the answer was: "They are our Nazis". Shortly after that on a hitchhiking tour to the southern Negev semi-desert a member of that party gave me a lift and quickly found out that I was a stranger, of course, a German, and to make things worse for him: not Jewish. So he heaped all his anti-German wrath upon me. I let him talk but decided not to surrender, and he was "liberal" enough not to throw me out of his car in the middle of nowhere.

So I told him that first of all I had proof about the anti-Nazi activities of both my parents and my grandmothers (the grandfathers did not survive World War I and its direct aftermath). Secondly that I did study the fascist era as thoroughly as I could at age 21 then. Thirdly I agreed that all his accusations against Germans as an ethnicity were correct also against me in case of my failure to work against any new attempt of fascism in my country. But as long as I am doing my best against a new rise of fascism I would not agree to any guilt demands on me. And I think that I kept this promise, and keep going.

I would hesitate to say that I am proud of this, for in any sober retrospect each of us may detect that in some instances we could have done more. For example, when my father died in 1988, I realized how many questions concerning his experience in resisting fascism I forgot to ask him, when it was still time to do so, when both of us were probably too much occupied with comparabely important issues of the contemperary West-German peace movement in the late 1970ies and 1980ies.

Back to my own experiences as a young fellow in Israel: Sometime after that memorable lift, in 1976, an old Jewish journalist friend showed me photos he took in a suburb of Tel-Aviv. Jewish nationalists seemingly beyond M. Begin's ideological beliefs, had sprayed some walls with the inscription (in Hebrew) "Arabs to the gas chambers!". This was enough proof for me that no nation on this globe is immune against the virus of fascism.

Karl G. Mund said...

And another lesson I learned already as a young person was that the start into fascism nearly alway coincided with an overstressing of victimhood, in the German Nazi history to a great extent in form of a fake victimhood. But always together with a huge amount of self-pity and strong appeals to be pitied by the general public nationally as well as internationally. So since then, when I come across slogans about the incomparable fate of the own victimized nation I look very thoroughly into that matter, and more often than I like, I detect a roadmap towards fascism.

When I studied online documents on the history of Kemalism I came across some Amenian websites with English language articles that explained the whole problem as a Jewish-Freemason conspiracy, exploiting the fact, that Jews as well as Masons were among the godfathers of the Young Turk "revolution" of 1908, neglecting deliberately that there were pogroms against Armenians well before 1908, and that Kemalism like more or less any brand of fascism was not reknowned for its originality of own ideas. Presently, just look who is leading CHP and MHP in Turkey!

Today, for an old guy turning 66 next month, it is comforting to see that a next generation (Orhan's, for example, or his layyer colleague Leah Tsemel in Israel) bravely took the relay baton in the truely international fight against fascism, and the next generation (for example my young student colleages at "Kurdmania") are already eager to run strongly for the next relay distance.

Hovik said...

I have looked on the Kurdmania Website of the Person who calls himself Karl.G.Mund. It is a Website of PKK fascist, Terrorists and kurdish ultrananationlists! No Armenian should ever forget that the genocide and massakers were realized from kurdish tribes! The same kurdish tribes claimed a kurdistan right after the armenian genocide. And the same kurdish tribes support the PKK terrorist, fascist ultranationalist organisation. It is our armenian homeland that this kurdish fascists call kurdistan after they killed 1.5 mio. Armenians! The turks planed the genocide, the kurds have done the armenian genocide in order to get our houses, our womans and finally our homeland.

Anonymous said...

A- "When we spoke about the Holocaust, we spoke of the Nazi regime; when we discussed the genocide in Cambodia, we talked about the Khmer regime; when it came to the Armenian genocide, though, we only heard the word "Turks."

Anonymous said...

B- How come, of all the "treatourous turks" (i.e. those who seek democrization, human rights etc) ONLY THE ARMENIAN (dink) was killed?