Sunday, May 06, 2007

The cost of speaking

Turkey is going through historical days.

Hundreds of sensitive citizens gather together in Ankara on April 14 in order to demonstrate their sensitivity.

With the same sensitivity, they shout slogans as “Here are not those who say ‘We are all Armenians’.”

A group of young people take action with national and religious sensitivities in Malatya.

These sensitive boys cut three people into slices.

The period of presidential elections that follows a very sensitive route comes to the phase of announcement of the candidate of AKP.

And eventually presidential candidacy of Abdullah Gül is announced. Immediately after this, probably a sensitive boy again attempts to assassinate Higher Education Board President Teziç.

Armenian community also lives through its own sensitivity paradoxically.

Just as they had started to get out of their inner world, into which they had retired for years, become more apparent and speak louder, this paradox gets even more severe and painful with Hrant Dink assassination and the massacre in Malatya soon after. His Beatitude Patriarch comments at a cautious distance on the civil reaction of “We are all Armenians, we are all Hrant Dink’s” and “We are all Christians”, which had given us the greatest hope just after all the tragedies we lived through. “When those who utter these words draw away, Armenian community stays alone and unprotected out in the middle,” he says, implying that we carry the can in the end. Here lies the paradox essentially.

This discourse thus distinguishes between them who draw away and us who are left flat. As we could just feel the pleasure of becoming us once again, we are yet separated into us and them. This is actually a natural retreat to isolation, to our closed worlds and, surely, to silence. It is quite normal at all. There is an assassination, murder of a priest and a horrible massacre at hand. These are facts. His Beatitude Patriarch is not the only person who thinks in this way; a large segment perhaps feels like that. When you speak, you will have had it. If you seek your right, they will either shoot you or cut your throat. Nobody shall protect you. This is the way how this country is like. You cannot ever trust anyone.

Well, then, those who say “We are all Armenians, we are all Hrant Dink’s” and “We are all Christians” make this on purpose, or to say the least, they are insincere.

The anxiety crystallized in this discourse is not one that can be ignored or sneered away. It is not ungrounded or baseless, either. On the contrary, it proves how well the message has served its purpose. However, the boundaries of restraint get blurred at the same time. We unconsciously replace the words that express real feelings with an ambiguous, pretended language that keeps us distant. The less we speak and the less we are seen, we suppose that the safer we will be and the farther we will defer our time of exhaustion.

This is just a huge illusion yet. This is something that has been taught us. This is what we are asked and expected to do; we have internalized it so much that we eventually found ourselves in the position of defending it. Just like the aged guide sheep that knows the way to the slaughterhouse by heart and leads the flocks to being slaughtered...

I am pretty sure that Mr. Patriarch says so due to his concerns for his community with fatherly sentiments. He does not want anybody to be harmed. He wishes Armenian community to overcome this sensitive process with the least damage possible. However, this state of mind also has another dimension that I mentioned above. As Turkey’s Armenian community, we are already very experienced at this point. We have lived through the last one hundred and fifty years like a nightmare. Whatever we did was a mistake and whatever we said was an offence. And today, set aside our grief that we cannot lament, we still need to explain that we are not traitor, treacherous, or collaborator in actual fact.

In fact, I was going to write about the implications of Abdullah Gül’s probable presidency for Turkey and how the Armenian community would perceive this. Because the decades ahead will be shaped by our way of interpreting the facts of these days when we have lost Hrant and Turkey’s political structure has been undergoing a deep-rooted transformation.

How will Armenians take part in this new future of Turkey? Shall we become citizens, or subjects? Shall we speak and produce, or retreat to our inner world to calculate how long it will take for us to be exhausted?

Without doubt, there is always the same question behind minds: What will be the cost of this?

27 april 2007, Agos Newspaper

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