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Mouradian: ‘Memleketine Hosgeldin’: Dispatches from Turkey (Part II)

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“So what will I do tomorrow? If necessary,
I will tell them ‘come on, back to your country’…
I will do it. Why? They are not my citizens.
I am not obliged to keep them in my country.
Those actions [genocide resolutions] unfortunately
have a negative impact on our sincere attitudes.”
—Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan

ANKARA, Turkey—“Memleketine hosgeldin” (roughly, “welcome to your country”). That’s what a Turkish journalist said to me in a message upon learning of my arrival to Turkey on March 17. Knowing her, she was not simply extending a welcome note.

Which brings me to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threat to deport Armenians from Turkey. Not all Armenians, mind you. The “good Armenians” get to stay. Only the citizens of Armenia, the “poor Armenians” working in Turkey, would be deported. (Erdogan has put their number at 100,000, but it is considerably less than that—and that’s not a secret. A Turkish newspaper editor I talked to today said their number does not exceed 15,000).

As I, among others, have argued elsewhere:

Turkish diplomats and commentators do not view Armenians as a single monolithic block, but as three supposedly homogeneous blocks. The Armenians living in Turkey (mainly in Istanbul) comprise the first group. These are, mostly, the descendants of the thousands of Armenians living in Istanbul during the genocide who were spared deportations and killings, because they lived in a metropolitan city, right under the nose of Western embassies, consulates, and missionaries. These Armenians today cannot even commemorate the genocide. In Turkey, these Armenians are regarded as “our Armenians” or the “good Armenians,” as long as they do not speak out about the genocide and the continued discrimination they face. A prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, was assassinated in 2007 because he was an outspoken critic of the Turkish establishment and called for the recognition of the suffering of the Armenians. The citizens of Armenia, the second group, are, according to the dominant rhetoric in Turkey, the “neighbors” [the “poor Armenians”] who are under difficult economic conditions and do not mind forgetting the past and moving on, if the Armenian Diaspora leaves them alone. The Diaspora Armenians, the third group, are the “bad Armenians.” They are Turkey’s sworn enemies. They level accusations of genocide against Turks and try to undermine Turkey. These three stereotypes essentially describe the perception of most Turks. There is absolute ignorance and disregard to the plight of the genocide survivors and their descendants who were scattered around the world and rebuilt their communities after living in camps and in abject poverty, facing the threat of disease and death years after the genocide. In discussions in Turkey, the Diaspora Armenians—the descendants of genocide victims and survivors—need to be isolated and ignored. This is yet another example of official Turkey’s reluctance to face the past and address the roots of the problem.

Erdogan’s threat is, of course, empty. It would be a huge scandal to deport Armenians from Turkey, and would constitute a chilling reminder of what is referred to by the Turkish state as the “deportations” of Armenians almost a century ago (although the threat itself was enough to evoke such thoughts). But why make such a threat if it can’t be executed and reminds everyone of late-Ottoman history with a shudder? Is this a failed effort to brandish Turkey’s “benevolence” like a gun internationally? Or is politics, here too, local?

Several commentators I talked to here think it is the latter. Erdogan, they say, was talking to the street: To those who would love to hear a discourse of “Let us teach those Armenians a lesson.” One commentator noted, “I have not seen any other politician who does so much good for this country and causes so much damage at the same time!”

The deportation threat is front-page news here in Turkey, and was the topic of conversation among many people I talked to—or overheard on the street. There is a joke going around in Ankara that the Turkish Foreign Ministry—which is currently trying to calm the international and local outcry—should in fact be called the Ministry of Damage Control because of the work it has to engage in every now and then, when Erdogan makes such statements.

Although in private, it was clear that those who do not subscribe to racist agendas found Erdogan’s threat unnecessary at the least, there were also many who publicly criticized Erdogan. There was at least one small demonstration against the anti-Armenian rhetoric by Erdogan and others. It was reported that the chairman of Turkey’s Human Rights Association, Ozturk Turkdogan, said: “These remarks could lead some people to think that to expel people is a 2010 version of forced migration. This mentality is far from human rights-oriented thinking. People have the right to work, and this is universal. There are many Turkish workers all over the world; does it mean that Turkey will accept their expulsion when there is an international problem? Secondly, these remarks are discriminatory; there are many workers in Turkey of different nationalities.”

It was in this atmosphere that, on March 18, our delegation met with the vice-chairman of the main opposition party in Turkey, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), and the vice chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Reha Denemec. The protocols and the Armenian Genocide Resolution figured prominently during both meetings. We will publish a report on these meetings on March 19.

6 Comments on Mouradian: ‘Memleketine Hosgeldin’: Dispatches from Turkey (Part II)

  1. Hi
    First I apologize for my English if I am unclear about what I write.  The primary reason why I send this message is to understand what happened in the past. I am not on anyone’s side. I am a Turkish ( as a citizen, and  an Arabic in race living in Adana) I have been interested in history for about 3 years. Here are some facts I have no doubt on:
    1) I do not trust history classes taught in Turkey, books are not telling the truths unless you spend time and read articles.( I am sure this is the same for other countries)
    2) (There is no written proof about it, my grandmother and grandfather and his father were the ones who told me these) There is a big tree in Akkapi, a neigborhood in Adana. My grandfather’s grandfather was killed together with everybody in that neighborhood by Armenians and French under this tree.
    3) So many innocent Armenian were killed in the past.
    Am I angry because my ancestors were executed by shooting, no. This happened, I cannot change anything. Is it understandable to send innocent people ( enough to think of babies and children) to death, absolutely not.
    I dont know if you read Turkish history, it mainly says that Kemal Ataturk was the best person ever, the group he was in was called Ittihat and Terakki which decided deportation. This group is still a huge illness in Turkey causing unbelievable troubles (this is itself a very big subject to discuss)
    It is highly possible to be manipulated by media if you do not stop and think and make a little but a serious search. So I am very picky about what I read , hear and so on.
    There is a deep debate among all writers in Turkey, some claim that it was a genocide  we have to face, some believe it is a lie  made by Armenia so that they can control us politically in the world.
    But I am just a person who really wants to learn the reality.
    1) If they really want to find murderers, why do they not talk about all victims. Not only Armenian people but also many other Kurdish, Arabic, Turkish people died. Is it not something weird?
    2) The decisions made in parliaments  serve for what? Can we really rewrite the history in parliaments? No matter what happens, people will have to deal with the results , not politicians.
    3) Does the world know anything about our culture, religion, hospitality?
    4) Why do the government of Turkey ( mainly Muslim people against to Ittihat and Terakki ( or CHP))  still try to hide the reality?
     
    Thanks

  2. In this article, the author said,  (emphasis added by me), “Erdogan’s threat is, of course, empty. It would be a huge scandal to deport Armenians from Turkey, and would constitute a chilling reminder of what is referred to by the Turkish state as the “deportations” of Armenians almost a century ago.”
    Oh, boy. Where to start?  Since when is Turkey concerned about “scandal” or what, for example, Europe thinks about Turks?  Turkey has shown that it can get away with virtually anything.  It gets away today with all sorts of human rights violations, offenses against Kurds and Christians, the occupation of Cyprus, and the blockade of Armenia.
    I would like to like to know if the author truly thinks that expelling illegal aliens (which is what Turkey and many others consider them – let’s be honest) from Turkey is something that is unthinkable for Turkey – or whether the author simply misspoke.
    Turkey and every other country expels people everyday.  The US does.  True, Turkey’s threat is reminiscent of what we know to be death marches, but  Turkey could expel Armenians next week, and no country would anything to stop it, nor would it ruin Turkey’s chances of joining the EU, nor would the US in any way stop supporting Turkey.
    I don’t understand why the author said what he did.  I assume he got a bit carried away and would, in hindsight, rephrase things.
     

  3. So Mr. Tom you think that deporting 100,000 Armenians from Turkey just like that won’t be a scandal? Good luck convinving people of that. Some people are so far from reality it baffles me… Or is it that you think by saying that, the Turks will heed to your advice and deport them, and then you will say bad things about Turks?

  4. Istanbul armenians are a mixture of the armenians who were in istanbul during the genocide & the anatolian armenians that survived the genocide and then migrated to istanbul. In fact, today, they are much more of the second than the first…
    Khatchig, perhaps you should spend more time with them to get to know them better while you are there 

  5. I would like to comment on the notion that Armenians in Istanbul did not suffer any consequences of the genocide in 1915. This may be true to some extent as the scale of “deportation” was smaller. However, there were some deportations (10,000 Armenian bachelors were deported December 4, 1915 ) and there were huge numbers of murders in the city (some sources say up to 50,000). Therefore I suggest that it is a misconception that Armenians were spared thanks to western embassies or being in a metropolitan centre.  

    Secondly, majority of today’s Armenians in Istanbul are recent comers from Anatolia and their descendents (sorry I don’t have numbers on this maybe the Patriarchate does). I would suggest that a majority of Armenians and their descendents who were residents of Istanbul in the 20’s have had to emigrate due to discriminatory policies (such as ksan tasagark, varlik vergisi as well as everyday  routine harassment) and specific pogroms  (such 6-7 September 1955 and other similar uprisings concerning Cyprus). I would suggest that Armenians are never at peace in Istanbul, not matter how “good” they are.

  6. avatar Shantagizoum // March 21, 2010 at 12:12 pm // Reply

    Please don’t expect  that the author (know)have  knowledge  of what transpired  then.
    Indeed he -according to previous  dsclosure-learnt Istanbul-turkish while born in the U.s. and spoke it with president Gul.Does  that mean that as ANI above  has one by one pointed  out,the maltreatment-not to say barbaric treatment  - of their subjects”rayas’ and proof  of  which is what sporadically “bursts” out  of the mouths of their politicians ,hardliners etc.,
    Most  important to know  is  that  it was a premeditated MALICIOUS/DABOLIC  SHEME   of  ethnic cleansing at the peak  of its sytle to completely ERASE Armenians ,plus Assyrians, Greeks  mainly from land  that they had conquered centuries  ago..Does  that give  them License to behave  as  they HAVE and are at present still at  it ,albeit  in some more sophisticated manner?
    Moreover ANI-pleae forgive  me for  adding tis  one too-THE MOST  IMPORTANT ONEWhen they were about_the young Truks ttihad ver Teraqui band, to commence  their execution of the said diabolic plan, THEY FIRST  ROUNDED  UP THE 250/300 INTELELCTUALS  LIVING IN ISTANBULLA(Constantinople) and  the proceeded  with …
    By the by I like  what TOM G. ,or  others  like  him express blatantly that  other important countres  have also resorted to that(not to that extent0 except  Nazi Germany , later  in s.Africa etc.,but facts  are there..also mentioning  the U.s. etc., 
    t  is time to address thigs  more clearly.For instance  a Prof. Thillingirian that  was born in Constantinopl(istanbulla0  studied   local and a few other tongues,indeed perfect Armenian as wel, later fed  up ..left  the country and lived in s.of France wrote  in his book to this effect Title..”ESH AHATAG HAY ZHOGHOVOURT’ .THERE  HE THROWS  LIGHT  ON FOR EXAMPLE-HOW SIMPLE, OR KIND  HEARTED ARMENIANS JUST GET HAPPY TO READ HENRY MORGENTHAUS’ DISCLOSURES  RE ARMENIAN ASSACRES ETC.,HE asks:-WHY  DID  HE NOT ASK HIS COUNTRY TO INTERVENE-WHEN THAT COUNTRY’S 9U.S.A.0 BATTLESHIPS WERE NOT FAR  OFF THE BOSPHORUS.AND MANY SUCH  ISSUES  THAT  WE ARMENIANS  HAVE CONVENIENTLY PASSED  OVER.WHY INDEED  now ,right now not only U.S. RUSSIA  EU ARE  QUITE OBVIOUSLY-PROMPTED  BY THEIR COUNTRIES’ INTEESTS, TRY TO PUSH US  TO KISS  AND MAKE UP WITH TURKEY,WHEN ACCOUNTS  HAVE  NOT AS YET BEEN SETTLED?
    WHY DID  THEY NOT DO THE SAME WITH GERMAN WHY,THEY ACCUSED  IT CONDEMNED  IT  AND RESSED  IT/HER-GERMANY TO PAY  BILLIONS  OF DOLALRS  IN COMPENSATION..STILL GOES  ON TO SOME FAMILIES…
    I believe MUCH MORE PRESURE OUGHT TO BE  PUT-WRITING AND EXPLAINING  LIKE PROF.TCHILLINGIRIAN BOLDLY DOES.HOW COME they did  not STOP OTTOMAN TURKEY..-THE BRITS TOO-.Indfference
    Then why do we still go after these begging them to heed our PLEAS-in U.S.VERY OPENLY ad particularly.TIME IS  TO DIVERT  OUR MAIN ATTENTION TO SMALL,MEDIUM SIZE  STATES LIKE PROF  YVES TERNON LAST  YEAR  INAPRIL-FIRST WEEK-STATED AT AN ARMENIAN CONFERENCE..ENDING …AND I QUOTE”parlement  a parlement”  go seek your friends  there-in other  words…so the BIG  POWERS WILL HAVE TO COME TO TERMS  THAT PRESENT TURKEY’s  E V A L U A T I O N-(wrong Evaluation)  ought to be  corected.I am really srprised for following.
    While Iran  next door  is  non-belligerent ,has no such HORRIBLE history behind  no al Qaeda cells-so far discovered therein,is rated as ARch enemy?whileother two neighbours around it are full of those cells doing harm.These may be out of the theme  here,but makes one think,how mis conceived are  the perceptions  of  those powers-EExcept  perhaps those  who are sall medium size  ones…
     
    g.p     

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