Turkish women's group conversation on stereotypes

Zeynep has shared a memory with her friends via e-mail. It is a memory about something that happened a few years ago in a bus on the way to Greece. We started our conversation with Zeynep reading the mail that was sent to her friends out loud.
Zeynep: My dear friends, last evening as I was departing from Istanbul, I felt terribly bad and I wanted to write to you. I just needed to share a traumatic experience that happened to me on the bus.
So the buses that come here are always double-decker buses, but generally there are not many people inside. I was on the second floor, reading Radikal (a Turkish newspaper) and sitting in a relaxed position on a seat for two people. You will understand why I mention the name of the newspaper a little bit later.
After I finished reading the paper, a man sitting in front of me asked me: “May I read the newspaper?” So I gave it to him. He just took a quick look and then gave it back to me and said “very clean!” I asked him what he meant exactly. He told me that this newspaper was not following the political agenda very well and that there was no single news of significance inside. This is how our conversation started. We talked a little about other newspapers such as TarafCumhuriyet and the general situation of the country (Turkey). He complained about the people –especially young people- who do not question life. He also spoke about how most people are only concerned with the pleasures that consumption brings. I didn’t want to get into a long conversation so I just kept nodding, “yes, yes, you are right.”
Afterwards, when he said that women are so ignorant and they always vote for AKP (the conservative party, which is in power at the moment), I couldn’t stand it anymore and changed the subject…Then, the topic of our conversation shifted and we were talking about the idea of the nation state and slogans such as ‘one nation’, ‘one state’, unity etc. I mentioned that the nation state discourse doesn’t work anymore. After this, he asked me: “Haven’t you ever read ‘Nutuk’?” (“Nutuk” is a book composed of the collection of speeches by the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk). I answered him, “I have read it twice.” I mean, I wonder why I would do such a thing? But sadly, it is true.
Then we talked about the taboo of Atatürk. This man I was speaking to was quite Kemalist (Kemalism is the ideology named after Atatürk’s first name, which is the official ideology of the Turkish Republic), but he was a somewhat open-minded person. I said that “Atatürk has also done ethnic cleansings. He made mistakes. I mean, he is a human being, he’s not perfect.” 
Delal: (sarcastically) Sure, human beings do such things…
Zeynep: I continued, “Atatürk hasn’t always done what was right. So it is not right to try to solve each and every problem by following Atatürk’s way of reforms.” This man I was talking to was annoyed a little bit, but he acknowledged that I was right too. Anyway, I talked with this guy enough and all of a sudden another man came close to us to talk. He had been living in different European countries for 35 years. When we talked about minority rights, he said “I have been everywhere in Europe and what I observed is that Turkish people cannot protect their rights, Kurdish people do it better.”
Here things got heated up. A woman sitting in the front of the bus suddenly turned back, and said loudly to me: “I’m sorry for interrupting, but I can’t stand it anymore. Being a young Turk, how can you dare to think like that? There was not a single good thing that came out of your mouth.” When I realized that she assumed that I am a Turk right away, I said on impulse: “How do you know that I am a Turk?” And I continued: “Yes, I was born in Turkey, and I am living there, but I am not a Turk, I am Armenian.” (I don’t know how it came to my mind. I am really a Turk.) 
The woman got really angry when she heard my words. She murmured something, but I didn’t understand. Actually I didn’t intend to answer her; I was planning to just get quiet. But then she said, “Everybody who thinks in a similar way as you do should be executed in Taksim Square (a popular district in Istanbul) as a warning to others.” I got so angry at those words. I said: “People have been killing and dying in Turkey because of such ideas and thoughts. This way of thinking is exactly the reason why we couldn’t live together. Shall we kill everybody who is not Turk? Is this your solution?” 
Then a very strange scene occurred; all the other people in the bus turned towards me. I caught all of their eyes… This woman had already almost signed my death verdict and yelled it out for everyone to hear. The other passengers also started speaking their minds, agreeing with this woman: “Yes, she’s right!”
I was in the middle of chaos.  My god! I thought they will kick me off the bus! I felt that moment so strongly.
Of course, the most violent part of this discussion was happening in a very ironic place: We had just left Turkey, and were waiting on the border of Greece. In other words, it was the most proper border to reach a consensus…huh! Ok, I am making fun, but I seriously thought about it: what happens if they kick me off the bus?
In the meantime, everybody was continuing the discussion. One of them said, “I am also part of a minority in Greece, but I always get on well with Greek people.” Another one said, “We should be grateful because we have a hero like Atatürk.” Another one said, “So what, should each of us have another prime minister, should everyone form another state?” As you see, everybody was criticizing me maliciously. At last, I felt the sensation that I needed to do something. Finally I yelled out loud that they are being really verbally abusive with me. I said it out of habit mostly. I said that they had no right to do such a thing. After that, I added quickly: “There isn’t any bit of tolerance for different ideas here.”
Then the driver’s assistant took our passports and being a man who tries to get involved in community matters and to fix conflicts, he distracted everyone’s attention from the hot topic. So finally people stopped talking so loud and their words started to turn into a mix of murmurs…
Up until that point I had never encountered a situation in which I was so clearly the target of violence. I had never actually felt so lonely and helpless like that. In that moment, within just a few minutes, anything could have happened. And so I had also raised my voice and tried to fight back.
Then I got off the bus and went to the hotel. I was astonished.
I have been asking myself: “What kind of a thing is ‘the psychology of identity?” Yes, of course we know that identity politics are important. But still, how come a person interacting with an “other” identity feels virtually as if s/he experiences an “enemy invasion”? What kind of a self-protection instinct is this? From whom are we trying to protect ourselves even while we are all living side by side, in the same world. Our identities and possessions are important, but we are not solely made up of them. I mean, just because I am Turkish, it doesn’t mean I feel a specific emotion with regard to my Turkishness. I don’t have to be Turkish, but I have to be someone. Indeed sometimes, I don’t want to be “Turkish” at all.
I really couldn’t understand how Turkish people living in the Balkans were not able to empathize with minorities living in Turkey. (Yes, seriously I still don’t understand it.) We know that Turks aren’t liked so much in the Balkans. Ok, I admit that maybe this doesn’t always work to establish empathy, but how does the hostility emerge? It seems to me that the very reason behind this hostility is the very notion of “identity.” Belonging to a nation is nothing but a notion, which is created to exclude anyone not belonging to or agreeing with that nation. There is no truth inside of it and it is made up of an “abstract” meaning. Its purpose is to create social relationships based on that nationality; Such people think how nice it would be if everybody was “Turkish.” It would be so simple…
But it is not like that. It can’t be. So then what are we going to do now?

With love,
Your tired friend,
Zeynep: I finished the letter with a set of inquiries.
Oya: It is a really difficult situation. You probably felt at that moment the kind of hostility there is…
Zeynep: Exactly, those few seconds… I was really scared. I said to myself “I wish I hadn’t done that, why did I say something like that?” Because I suddenly perceived the threat in this way; I thought Oh my god, I am the victim.
Delal: You were not only an Armenian, you were an Armenian who claims her rights; that makes the situation more complicated.
Oya: Well, you did say that you don’t understand how Turks who are minorities in some countries couldn’t empathize with minorities in their own country. Actually there is a phrase: “being more royalist than the king.” So sometimes these Turks can be more nationalist. They can hold on to their national identities as a result of the anger of being excluded in the countries where they live.
Zeynep: In fact I thought it should be the exact opposite. I thought that ultimately, Turks are not liked so much in Greece so the Turks living in Greece should understand the sufferings of other minorities.
Oya: When I think about the prejudices towards Armenians and other minorities, my time in primary school comes to mind. I grew up in Istanbul, I went to Şişli Terakki Primary School. Şişli Terakki is known as a “Jewish school.” It was established in Thessaloniki. It is said that Atatürk as well went to this school. Do you remember the old name of this school?
Delal: Şemsi Efendi.
Oya: Yes, Şemsi Efendi. There were many Jewish and Armenian people in our school. For example, there were at least 10 Jewish and Armenian students out of 40. I guess there were more Jews than Armenians. Since our school was a private school, everybody used to say “Jews and Armenians are rich.” My parents as well said such things, they said “They are always rich.” And so on…Because of that, the stereotypes that Jews and Armenians are rich stuck in my mind. But I didn’t think at that time about the fact that in any case, I went to a private school, so you had to have money to go there. For example, the grandchildren of the owners of Nuh’un Ankara Makarnası and Nuh Çimento (two big factories in Turkey) were my classmates. So in fact, Turks were also rich.
Zeynep: But no one ever thinks about that or finds that disturbing.
Oya: Yes. By the way, I didn’t have any Kurdish friends. When I was studying at the university I remember that I asked myself: “Why have I never had any Kurdish friends before?” Maybe I had some Kurdish friends, but I did not realize that they are Kurdish because they were not introducing themselves as Kurd.   
Anyway, after finishing the “Jewish primary school,” I went to a Christian high school. The school was owned and directed by a catholic cult. The nuns used to live inside the school, some of them even became our teachers. In our high school it was obligatory that the school principal be a priest. I think Christian people felt more comfortable in this school if the principal was a priest. I remember at that school I had more Armenian friends than Jewish ones. I guessed that Armenians prefer that their children attend schools where Christian education and values are taught.
One of my close friends in high school was Armenian. Her family was also quite rich. My prejudice that “all Armenian people are wealthy” changed after I moved to Feriköy (a district in Istanbul where many Armenians live). After I started to get to know the Armenian community in Feriköy better, I realized that not all the Armenians are as rich as I predicted. For example, my parents were also not very rich, but they somehow managed to send my sister and me to private schools. The same condition can be valid for the parents of my Armenian friends. However I always remember such phrases as: “They got all the money,” “They know their business and they’re no fools.” These things were said in such a way as if to imply that the Armenians don’t deserve to be rich or that their wealth is unjust.
Delal: Assuming that the Armenians are wealthy is not very problematic, I suppose. After the genocide, those Armenians who remained mostly came to the big cities, especially to Istanbul. Living in the city might have given them more of a chance to become wealthier. For instance, compared with the Kurds, they might seem to be wealthier. On the other hand, within their own community, Armenians are divided into many economic classes.
Oya: Yes, that is my point. There are economic classes within both the Turkish and Armenian communities. However, if an Armenian is rich, it is highlighted additionally. And this is done in an accusatory manner, the Armenians are accused for having wealth.  In addition to these prejudices, I had the impression that Armenian people were “vigilant merchants.” After many years, I learned that Armenians are mostly craftsmen and the crafts culture in Turkey was mostly taken over by the Armenian masters.
Zeynep: Also the architectural skills… Most of the old buildings in our district were constructed by Armenians.
Oya: Well, how was the situation in your schools? I heard that in some high schools there were fanatically nationalist school principals in charge who applied pressure on the students. I did not experience such nationalist pressures at my school. Actually, I was quite unaware in school, but I started to realize the Turkish reality once I was already in the university. Until then I was not aware that many Armenians are brought up and live with a big fear in this country.  I noticed this fact after the homicide of Hrant Dink. I already knew the upheavals of September 6th-7th, the stories of genocide… However, I did not think these things still happen today. I would not have guessed that Armenians were afraid of expressing themselves and saying “I am an Armenian” in a public space like you did Zeynep. Maybe they are not even saying “I am an Armenian,” but sometimes it can also be understood from their Turkish pronunciation or from their names. For example, I did not know that in the 80’s Hrant used to name himself “Fırat” (a Turkish name).
Delal: It is very common for Armenians to register their sons with Turkish names, although they are still called by their Armenian names in daily life. They do this considering the fact that they will serve as soldiers, because it is obligatory for all males to do military service in Turkey, and considering that it might be dangerous for them to have an Armenian name during this time.
Oya: My close friend in high school had an Armenian name. So I didn’t think that they were hiding their real names.
Delal: I met an Armenian who has a last name with a meaning that praises the state. It was striking for me.  I suppose with the best scenario, his grandfather might be an Ottoman bureaucrat, but… 
Oya: Actually, in the Ottoman times, there were many Armenian bureaucrats, Armenian government officers, and even Armenian members of parliament. But later…..  
Zeynep: …. things suddenly changed.
Delal: One of intellectuals who was killed in 1915 was Krikor Zohrab. He was a member of parliament at that time.
Oya: Yes, that’s right, he was. Another important debate in Turkey’s history is that the wealth of genocide victims was transferred to the people who remained in Anatolia. Think about it…without any effort you become wealthy. This fact also has a strong effect on the denial of the genocide, because many Anatolian people became the owner of unearned property.
I should shut up now, I always talk. Please tell me your stories, your experiences….
Zeynep: I am thinking about my education. I was really apolitical when I was in high school. I guess it was due to the apolitical atmosphere of inner Anatolia. Rums (Greeks) used to live in inner Anatolia before the foundation of the republic. I do not know if there were also Armenians that lived in my home city. However, I know that it is an area that is mostly occupied with a Turkish population.
In my home city there was a very conservative and nationalist atmosphere. I was always noticing the conservative and nationalist mentality. I was not aware of alternative ways of living in and thinking about the world. In our high school there were young nationalist party chiefs. The young nationalist supporters of this party were beating up students in hidden corners near the school.
I grew up internalizing the official ideology of the Turkish Republic. I was accepting all written information in our school books; for example, I believed that the Armenian parties were harmful. I had neither an Armenian friend, nor a Kurdish friend. We were living as conservative “white Turks” in our town. For me, Armenians were making trouble because of their harmful political parties like Taşnak or Hınçak. That’s how the Armenian parties were called, right? For me these were the names of organizations to be remembered for history class. I remember also that jokes were made about the names of these parties.
Oya: I remember ASALA (an armed Armenian organization). When I was in high school, ASALA committed some homicides. At the same time I was learning from my history lessons about the deportations. I learned that: “At first Armenians killed the Turks. Therefore, Turks were obliged to displace the Armenians, because Armenians were in collaboration with the Russians. They were traitors.” I remember during that time the homicides committed by ASALA were shown as a proof of this argument.
Zeynep: There was talk that they were trying to cause the collapse of the state from inside.
Oya: Exactly, this was also told to us. I remember that we read some “traitor” stories about Armenian people. Was it in the history books, or in the newspapers? I can’t remember. However, the hostility has increased now; for example, documentaries about the denial of the genocide are shown in schools nowadays.
Delal: When I was in my 2nd or 3rd year at the university “Sarı Gelin” (a documentary about the denial of the genocide) was distributed to all schools across the country by the ministry of education.
Oya: I remember the Armenian parties Taşnak and Hınçak from our history classes, too. When we were told these stories about traitor Armenians, I was studying in the class together with my Armenian friends. At that time, I did not think about the difficulty of that situation. What were they feeling? For me, only the religious traditions of the Armenians were important, since we were celebrating the Christian religious holidays at school. I was not aware of a national Armenian identity and therefore it did not come to my mind that the accusations about Armenian people might harm my Armenian friends.
The first text that I ever saw in the Armenian language was in a newspaper called Agos (an Armenian-Turkish newspaper published by Hrant Dink and his team). I saw Agos in my friend Nirva’s house. I was surprised. I asked Nirva: “Is there such a newspaper in Turkey?”
Zeynep: After I started studying at the university, I realized that most of the historical information that was told to us in school was composed of lies. We were focusing on Armenian history in one of our theater plays. We started to talk about this issue. The Armenian genocide was an issue that many people in the group were confronting for the first time. It was really important to experience this confrontation. We tried to empathize with Armenians, to listen without any judgment and to understand how the genocide happened. There were many things that we learned for the first time. Before that we had no idea about the real facts and about what really happened in our history. I remember the photos….
Oya: You searched some documents, didn’t you?
Zeynep: Yes, when you research into the documents you realize that people were exiled to the desert, they were sent to death. The stories in the book “Grandchildren” were dreadful. One is obliged to leave her/his child…Very tragic stories. And reading them as such made me wonder: “If these stories were actually lived and experienced, why hadn’t we known about them at all?”
And indeed, this is recent history. We are the grandchildren. It is not a history that is so far from us. There are many people who have learned that they are Armenian recently; they are the ones who have been assimilated… We thought that these stories should be told, they should come to light outside of closed discussions, whether it was genocide or not, we thought these things should be spoken of without any judgment. Our play emerged in this way.
At the beginning we were really afraid about what kind of reaction we would receive, what would be written. But everything was so clear in the play; there was no color or race of the story, we were solely mentioning a tragedy. At the moment that this tragedy is told, there occurs a silence, a kind of shame at least. One thinks: “Maybe I am not the perpetrator directly, but maybe by not listening to these stories and ignoring them, I become the perpetrator, at least indirectly.” The play has evoked such an effect. Thus, we haven’t heard any of the nationalist arguments, which we had expected.
Delal: I think of my prejudices about Armenians, but not a lot of things come to my mind. I suppose situating myself somewhere with regard to the Kurdish question has been more painful and important in my life. I grew up in Antalya and my mother is Kurdish. I remember a scene from my childhood, but I cannot fully understand the questions of how it happened and why it got stuck in my mind. I suppose I was 5 years old at that time. There were rectangular birthday cakes, do you remember? There were long birthday cakes in rectangular shapes.
That day my parents had bought one of those cakes for me. But it was not my birthday. I should have found something to celebrate, but what? My parents were out there in the balcony. The electricity was gone, I remember in such detail. We had lighted the candles on the cake. The cake was sitting on a round coffee table and I humbly made the whole event into a celebration by turning around the table and shouting “Damn the PKK!” (PKK stand for Kurdistan Worker’s Party). There is such a scene in my mind. I could have been 5 or 4 years old. How did it happen? And why?
Oya: But this is something that make sense…I mean that it happened, especially when I think about the time-period of when you were 5 years old. When were you born?
Delal: This happened in 1995 or 1996 probably.
Oya: Exactly. At that time there was enormous propaganda against Kurds on television.
Delal: I was not going to school; it cannot be the reason, no way.  I believe it cannot be because of my family. As far as I can see my father is not fascist. My mother’s family is already inside the Kurdish struggle. Maybe I was affected by my father’s family. I used to stay in my grandparents’ home a lot. They had Kurdish neighbors and although my mother is Kurdish too my grandparents used to tell me that their neighbors were Kurdish within a narrative in which the word Kurdish was used as a swear-word, a curse. Maybe it was what really affected me.  Television definitely had an effect in a great way.
Zeynep: It is definitely television. “Damn the PKK” was the most catchy and common slogan at that time.
Oya: As you could not have read the newspaper at that age, it must have definitely been television that influenced you. It was very influential. Oh, I cannot believe Delal, and cannot imagine you in such a position. It means that they made such strong propaganda that…
Delal: Ok, but why do I still have this scene in mind? It cannot stick in my mind because I thought that it was something shameful for me since at that time I was not evaluating things as I do now, and thus I couldn’t think that it was shameful. What is weird to me is the fact that I remember this scene very clearly.
Then I started primary school. By the way, during the year 1990 the armed conflict in Kurdistan was quite dense and active. And we were going to Diyarbakır each year. Some of my mother’s family lives in Diyarbakır and the rest live in Bingöl. We were going to Bingöl from Diyarbakır. The road was by way of mountains; on one side there was a cliff and on the other it was full of high rocks. But because there was ongoing armed conflict, the gendarmerie (police force) did not allow cars to light their headlamps. It was as if we were driving to death…
Oya: And probably there was no light…
Delal: Yes, there was no light on the road. We went without knowing where we were going. Only someone who knew the road well would drive the car.
Zeynep: It must have been still so dangerous, even if s/he knew the road well.
Delal: But being a child I probably didn’t understand what kind of violence there was. Because just one year after this visit to Bingöl-Diyarbakır, the following event happened: My primary school was in Kemeraltı, an elite district of Antalya. My mother picked me up from the school. The Kurdish Party of that time…DEHAP or HADEP I don’t know, one of them… The party had a convoy that day. Lots of people were passing by in the convoy. They were sounding the horn, waving hands. My mother made the victory sign with her fingers towards the convoy and I remember reprimanding her and saying: “Mom, what are you doing? You are supporting the terrorists! How can you do such a thing?” And this shame of mine at the age of 8 still eats my heart out.
Zeynep: But do you remember anything about your prejudices towards Armenians?
Delal: When I was in the 5th grade, probably in the newspaper Milliyet, I read an article which gave me an idea about how bloody Ottoman history was. Indeed the article was not specifically on these massacres, but I remember that I asked the following question to my parents: “If the Ottoman Empire has such a bloody history then what they call the Armenian Genocide might have occurred, right?” I remember that I was waiting for the approval of my statement, as in I wanted them to approve it. And so they said: “Yes Armenians have probably been massacred.”
When I think about it now, it seems to me that I had no prejudices towards Armenians before and after this event. But I know that it is impossible for the things that I heard and learned in school and elsewhere to not have affected me. Of course one reason for me to think that I had no prejudices as such was the fact that there were not many Armenians in Antalya. My more profound thoughts about this issue actually began when I was in high school. Reading articles by some intellectuals of Turkey who had alternative arguments to the official ideology and what we had encountered so far, I became more curious about what happened to the Armenians.
I remember that I sent an e-mail to Etyen Mahçupyan. I asked him: “what should we read about 1915?” We didn’t really know what to read at all. At that time, I was very willing to meet Armenians. I think this is an extremely pathetic situation, it is not normal. It’s like you have read and heard about the other from certain sources. Yet you haven’t gotten to know them. Then some kind of tragedy happens and you want an immediate access to recovery, to mending the past.
What else can I mention? Maybe this is worth mentioning: the assassination of Hrant Dink has affected most of us. Sometimes they say “after this or that, nothing remained the same,” and I think his assassination was such kind of a thing for Turkey.

Türkiyeli grubun Ermenilerle ilgili basmakalıp düşünceler üzerine yaptığı sohbet

Zeynep otobüsle birkaç yıl önce Yunanistan’a giderken başından geçen bir anısını mail yoluyla arkadaşlarıyla paylaşmış. Tartışmaya Zeynep’in arkadaşlarına yazdığı maili okuyarak başladık.
Zeynep: Sevgili arkadaşlarım,

İstanbul’dan ayrıldığım şu vakitlerde, kendimi öyle kötü hissediyorum ki; size yazmak istedim. Zira biraz önce otobüste yaşadığım travmatik tecrübeyi paylaşma ihtiyacı hissediyorum. 
Buraya gelen otobüsler hep çift katlı oluyor ama içinde çok fazla yolcu olmuyor. Ben üst katta yine iki kişilik koltuğa yayılmış vaziyette Radikal gazetesini okuyordum. Hangi gazete olduğunu söylüyorum, nitekim biraz sonra gazetenin ismi manidar hale gelecek. Karşı koltukta oturan bir adam, ben gazeteyi bitirdikten sonra “Ben de okuyabilir miyim” diyerek gazeteyi istedi. Ben de verdim. Adam gazeteye şöyle bir baktı, “Tertemiz!” deyip geri verdi bana. Ben de adama ne kast ettiğini sordum. O da bu gazetenin artık gündemi iyi takip etmediğini, kayda değer hiçbir haberi yazmadığını söyledi. Bunun üzerine adamla muhabbete başladık. Taraf gazetesini, Cumhuriyet gazetesini, ülke gündemini falan tartıştık. Adam insanların -özellikle gençlerin- hiçbir şeyi sorgulamadığından, her şeyi tüketme alışkanlığının bir hazza dönüştüğünden bahsetti. Konuşmayı çok uzatmak istemedim “Hı, hı, evet haklısınız” deyip geçiştiriyordum.
Sonra ardından kadınlar çok cahil, hep AKP’ye oy veriyorlar gibi laflar edince, ben de dayanamayıp daldım mevzuya… Sonra konu ulus devlete, tek yürek, tek millet gibi teranelere geldi. Ben de ulus devlet anlayışının artık sökmediğinden bahsettim. Sonra bana “Nutuk’u okumadın mı sen?” diye sordu. Ben de “İki kere okudum” cevabını verdim -ben de şaşırıyorum bu duruma ama hakikaten iki kere okudumBunun üzerine Atatürk tabusundan konuştuk. Adam epey Kemalist biriydi ama fikirleri açıktı; ben “Atatürk de etnik temizlik yapmıştır, o da bir insandır”, (Delal: insanlar yapıyor tabi (!)) Atatürk de her zaman her şeyin en doğrusunu yapmamıştır” gibi sözler sarf ettim. “Hâlâ her şeyi Atatürk inkılâplarıyla çözmeye çalışmamak lazım” dedim. Biraz bozuldu dediklerime ama hak da verdi. Neyse bu adamla bayağı bir konuştuk hatta sonra yanımıza başka bir adam geldi, o da 35 yıldır yurtdışında farklı Avrupa ülkelerinde yaşamış… Biz azınlık haklarıyla ilgili konuşunca bu adam da “Ben Avrupa’da her yeri gezdim, Almanya’da Türkler haklarını koruyamıyor, Kürtler kendi haklarını daha iyi koruyor” dedi.

İşte dananın kuyruğu o anda koptu. Ön tarafta oturan bir kadın, aniden bana döndü ve yüksek sesle “Pardon kesiyorum ama artık dayanamayacağım. Siz bir Türk genci olarak nasıl böyle düşünürsünüz, ağzınızdan tek iyi bir şey çıkmadı” dedi. Kadının bu doğal olarak “Türk” varsayımını duyunca, ben de gayri ihtiyari olarak “Benim Türk olduğumu nereden biliyorsunuz, evet Türkiye’de doğdum, orada yaşıyorum ama Türk değilim, Ermeniyim” dedim. (Zeynep: İnanamıyorum bunu dediğime, nasıl aklıma gelmiş bilmiyorum) Kadın bu dediğimden sonra iyice hiddetlendi, bir şeyler söyledi, anlayamadım. Cevap vermek niyetinde değildim, susacaktım. Lakin kadın “Sizin gibi düşünen herkesi Taksim’de ibretlik olsun diye sallandırmak lazım” deyince ben de hiddetlendim: “İşte bu düşünce yüzünden insanlar ölüyor, öldürüyor; işte bu yüzden birlikte yaşayamıyoruz. Türk olmayan herkesi öldürelim, bu mudur çözüm yani?” dedim.  (Zeynep: Ben de duygusala bağlamışım o anda) Sonra çok acayip bir sahne gerçekleşti; otobüsteki diğer bütün yolcular gövdelerini bana doğru döndürdüler. Birden hepsiyle göz göze geldim… Kadın zaten ölüm fermanımı imzaladı, tüm coşkusuyla bağırıyordu. Diğer yolcular da “Evet, kadın haklı!” dercesine konuşmaya başlayınca uğultunun tam ortasında kaldım. Eyvah ki, ne eyvah… Dedim, “Bunlar beni otobüsten atarlar”. O noktayı hissettim. Tabii tartışmanın bu en sonki şiddetli hali çok komik bir yerde cereyan ediyor: Türkiye’den çıktık, Yunanistan sınır kapısında bekliyoruz. Yani oybirliğine varmak için manidar bir hudut kapısı (!) Dalga geçtiğime bakmayın, cidden düşündüm, ya burada atarlarsa beni otobüsten diye… Bu esnada otobüste gürültüyle herkes bir şey anlatıyor. Biri “Ben de Yunanistan’da azınlığım ama Yunanlılarla hep iyi geçinirim” diyor, diğeri “Atatürk gibi bir kahramanımız olduğuna şükredelim”, bir başkası “Ne yani, o halde herkesin ayrı bir başbakanı mı olsun, herkes ayrı devlet mi kursun?” gibi şeyler diyor. Anlayacağınız isteyen istediği yerden çekiştiriyor.
En sonunda ben bir şey yapmam gerektiği hissiyatına kapılıp, son kez yüksek sesle bana sözel şiddet uyguladıklarını, (Delal: Onlar da ‘pardon ya kusura bakma sözel şiddet uyguladık’ diyeceklerdi. Oya: ‘Pardon ya, öküzüz biz’ diyorlarmış) bunu yapmaya haklarının olmadığını söyledim refleksif bir şekilde… Ardından “Başka düşüncelere azıcık bir tahammül bile yok” dedim. Sonra elinde pasaportlarla gelen muavin, herkeste dışarıdan meclise dahil olmaya çalışan birinin rahatsızlığını uyandırdı ve sözler, kendi içlerinde mırıltıya dönüşmeye başladı… Muavinin hızlıca pasaport dağıtma isteği, otobüstekilerin de karışıklık olmadan pasaportlarına ulaşma isteği işe yaradı.
Şimdiye kadar -ya da ne zamandır mı demeli- hiç bu kadar açık bir şekilde şiddetin hedefi durumunda kalmamıştım. Dahası, aslında hiç bu kadar “yalnız” ve “çaresiz” hissetmemiştim kendimi. O an, o bir kaç saniye içinde her şey olabilirdi. Nitekim ben de sesimi yükseltmiştim. 
Otobüsten inip, otele döndüm. Afallamış vaziyetteyim. Kendi kendime soruyordum: “Nasıl bir şeydir “kimlik psikolojisi”?” Evet, elbette biliyoruz, kimlik politikası önemlidir. Peki nasıl olur da, insan bir başka kimlikle karşı karşıya geldiği her anda kendini adeta “düşman işgaliyle” karşı karşıya kalmış gibi hisseder? Nasıl bir koruma içgüdüsü bu? Aynı toprak üstünde, yan yana yaşarken, kimden, neyden koruyoruz kendimizi? Kimliğimiz, aidiyetlerimiz önemli ama sadece onlardan ibaret değiliz. Yani ben Türk olduğum için Türklüğe dair bir duygu hissetmiyorum. Türk olmak zorunda değilim ama “biri” olmak zorundayım. Hatta bazen özellikle “Türk” olmak istemiyorum.  Ben cidden kavrayamıyorum, hele ki buralarda – Balkanlarda- yaşayan Türk azınlıklar nasıl olur da, Türkiye’deki diğer azınlıklarla empati kuramaz. (Zeynep: Evet, cidden halen bilemiyorum bunu) Biliyoruz; buralarda da Türklerden pek haz edilmiyor. Tamam, empati kurulamıyor belki, ama bu düşmanlık nasıl oluşuyor? Bana öyle geliyor ki, bu düşmanlığı yaratan şeyin ta kendisi, bizatihi “kimlik”. Bir milliyetten olmak, ötekini dışlamak için üretilmiş bir kavramdan başka bir şey değil. Hiç bir realitesi olmayan, tamamen “soyut” anlamlar yükleyerek sosyolojik bir  ilişki yaratma mucizesi… Ne güzel herkes “Türk”, bu kadar basit olsun işte… Ama öyle de değil işte, ne yapalım şimdi yani?

Yorgun arkadaşınız,
Zeynep: Öyle bir takım sorgulamalarla bitirmişim.
Oya: Gerçekten çok fena bir durum. O an hissettin herhalde, nasıl büyük bir düşmanlık var.
Zeynep: Aynen, o bir kaç saniye… Çok korkmuştum. “Keşke yapmasaydım, niye öyle bir şey dedim ki” dedim kendi kendime. Çünkü bir anda o tehdidi şöyle algıladım: Allah’ım, kurbanım ben.”
Delal: Hem Ermeni’sin, hem de hak arayan bir Ermeni’sin, öyle bir durum oluşmuş yani.
Oya: Hani dedin ya, oradaki azınlıklar neden empati kuramıyorlar diye… Aslında “kraldan çok kralcı olmak” diye bir durum da var, bazen onlar daha da milliyetçi olabiliyorlar. Yaşadıkları ülkede dışlanıyor olmanın verdiği bir öfkeyle, milli kimliklerine daha çok sarılıp, diğer milletlerden nefret edebiliyorlar.
Zeynep: Ben tam aksini düşünmüştüm. Sonuçta Yunanistan’da da Türklerden haz edilmiyor, Yunanistan’daki Türkler azınlıkların neler çektiğini bilirler diye düşünmüştüm.
Oya: Ermeniler ve diğer azınlıklarla ilgili önyargılarımı düşününce aklıma ilkokul zamanlarım geliyor. İstanbul’da büyüdüm, Şişli Terakki İlkokulu’nda okudum. Şişli Terakki “Yahudilerin okulu” diye bilinir. Selanik’te kurulmuş. Atatürk de o okulda okumuş denir. Eski adı neydi okulun?
Delal: Şemsi Efendi.
Oya: Evet, Şemsi Efendi. Bizim okulda çok fazla Yahudi ve Ermeni vardı. Mesela, 40 kişilik sınıfta en az 10 tane Yahudi ve Ermeni vardı. Ermeniler o kadar fazla değildi, Yahudiler daha fazlaydı sanırım. Bizim ilkokul paralı olduğu için herkes “Yahudiler ve Ermeniler zengin” derdi. Annemler de böyle derdi; “Onlar hep zengin” filan… O yüzden de benim kafamda “Ermeniler, Yahudiler zengindir” diye bir kalıp vardı. Ama o zaman şunu düşünmüyorum; “Zaten paralı okulda okuyorsun. Mesela Nuh’un Ankara makarnası ve Nuh Çimento’nun sahibinin torunu da sınıf arkadaşımdı. Yani Türkler de zengin baktığında.”
Zeynep: O göze batmıyor ama.
Oya: Evet. Hiç Kürt arkadaşım yoktu. Yani varsa da Kürt olduğunu bilmiyordum o zaman. Sonradan üniversiteye geldiğimde “Benim niye hiç Kürt arkadaşım olmadı?” diye düşündüğümü hatırlıyorum. Belki oldu, ancak ben onların Kürt olduğunu bilemedim, çünkü Kürt olarak tanıtmıyorlardı kendilerini.
Neyse, Yahudi ilkokulunun üzerine bir de Hıristiyan lisesinde okudum. Katolik bir tarikatın okuluydu. Bizim okulda her tarafta rahibeler vardı, derslere de giriyordu bazı rahibeler. Müdürümüzün papaz olma zorunluluğu vardı. O yüzden de Hıristiyanların daha rahat ettiklerini düşünüyorum bizim okulda. Orada Yahudilere oranla daha çok Ermeni arkadaşım oldu. Sanırım Ermeniler çocuklarını Hıristiyan eğitimi verilen bir okula göndermeyi tercih ediyorlardı. Hatta okulun son iki üç senesinde -ilk yıllarda böyle bir uygulama yoktu- arzu eden Hıristiyanlar Milli Eğitim’in zorunlu din derslerine girmeyip, ağırlıklı olarak Hıristiyan öğretilerini içeren başka bir din dersine girebiliyordu.
Lisede çok yakın arkadaşlarımdan biri Ermeni’ydi. Onun ailesi de epey zengindi. “Ermenilerin hepsi zengindir.” düşüncem Feriköy’e taşındıktan sonra değişti. Feriköy civarını daha iyi tanımaya başlayınca, Ermenilerin çoğunun pek de benim düşündüğüm gibi zengin olmadığını fark ettim. Mesela benim ailem de çok zengin değildi ama bir şekilde şartlarını zorlayıp beni de kardeşimi de hep paralı okulda okutmuşlardı. Ermeni arkadaşlarım için de aynı durum geçerli olabilirdi pekâlâ. Ama ben hep şu sözleri hatırlıyorum; “Onlar zengindir” “Onlar işini bilir”. Onları suçlar gibi söyleniyordu tüm bunlar. Museviler için de çokça bu tarz sözler edildiğini hatırlıyorum.
Delal: Ermenilerin daha varsıl olduğunu varsaymak çok da sorunlu bir şeymiş gibi gelmiyor bana. Soykırım sonrasında kalan Ermenilerin çoğu şehirlere, özellikle de İstanbul’a geldiler. O şehirliliğin getirdiği bir varsıllık vardır elbette. Mesela Kürt nüfusla kıyaslandığında daha varsıl görünebilirler, bunu varsaymakta da bir sorun yok bence. Ama dediğin gibi bir yandan da kendi içlerinde birçok ekonomik sınıfa ayrılıyorlar.
Oya: Ben de buna şaşırıyorum zaten. Türkler içinde de, Ermeniler içinde de sınıfsal farklılıklar var. Ama Ermeni zengin olunca, bu durum ekstradan vurgulanıyor; “onlar işini bilir”, “onlar az tüccar değildir.” deniyor. Artık zengin Ermenilere karşı bir kıskançlık mı var bilemiyorum, ama sanki onlar “dolandırıcıdır” denmek isteniyor. O nedenle benim gözümde de Ermeniler “uyanık tüccar”dı. Çok sonradan öğrendim; Ermenilerin zanaatkâr olduğunu, Türkiye’de el işçiliği kültürünün çoğunun Ermeni ustalardan devralındığını…
Zeynep: Mimarinin de öyle. Bizim semtteki bir sürü binayı Ermeniler yapmış.
Oya: Peki, sizin okullarınızda durum nasıldı? Bazı liselerde koyu milliyetçi MHP’li müdürler falan olurmuş. Ben mesela öyle bir ortam bilmiyorum. Türkiye gerçekliğini üniversitede anlamış bir şapşalım ben. Sonradan fark ettim birçok şeyi. Ermenilerin büyük bir korkuyla büyüdüklerini ve yaşadıklarını fark etmemiştim mesela. Dediğim gibi çevremde öyle bir şey görmüyordum, ya da algılamıyordum. Hrant Dink’in ölümünden sonra idrak ettim bu durumu. Yaşananları biliyordum, 6-7 Eylül olayları olsun, soykırım hikayeleri olsun… Ama yine de günümüzde hala senin yaptığın gibi (Zeynep’i kastediyor) “Ben Ermeniyim” demeye korktuklarını tahmin etmiyordum. Tabii, “Ben Ermeniyim” demiyor olabilirler ama Ermeni oldukları bazen aksanlarından, bazen de adlarından anlaşılıyor. Ad değiştiklerini bilmiyordum, mesela 1980’lerde Hrant “Fırat” ismini kullanıyormuş.
Delal: Askere gideceklerini düşünerek erkek çocuklarını nüfusa Türkçe bir isimle kaydettirmek de çok yaygın.
Oya: Benim lisedeki yakın arkadaşımın adı Ermenice’ydi. O yüzden de isimlerini sakladıklarını düşünmemiştim.
Delal: Ben soyadı bir devlet güzellemesi olan bir Ermeni'yle tanışmıştım. Bana çarpıcı gelmişti. Hani en iyi ihtimalle dedesi Osmanlı bürokratlarındandır diye düşünmüştüm fakat…
Oya: Osmanlı zamanında bürokratlar arasında, devlet kademelerinde epey bir Ermeni varmış, Ermeni mebus bile varmış. Ama sonradan…
Zeynep: …birden işler değişmiş.
Delal: Krikor Zohrab’lar falan da var. 1915’de öldürülen entelektüellerden birisi de Krikor Zohrab’mış, milletvekiliymiş o zamanlar.
Oya: Evet, milletvekiliymiş, ben de öyle biliyorum. Tabii Türkiye’deki en önemli problemlerden birisi de yok edilmelerinin yanı sıra Ermenilerin göç edilmek zorunda bırakılmaları ve onların yaşadığı yerlerin, sahip oldukları mal varlıklarının birilerine verilmesi. Düşünsene sen hiçbir şey yapmadan bir anda bir varlığa konuyorsun. Bu da inkârı çok güçlendiren bir olay. Çünkü o tarihten sonra o malın sahibi sen oluyorsun ve bunun için hiçbir çaba harcamana gerek olmamış.
Yeter, hep ben konuşuyorum. Sizin okul zamanınızdan hikâyeleriniz yok mu?
Zeynep: Ben kendi eğitimimi düşünüyorum. Biraz İç Anadolu’da olmanın getirdiği apolitiklik galiba. Bilmiyorum… Oralarda da önceden Rumlar yaşarmış, Ermeniler var mıymış bilmiyorum ama genelde Türklerin yaşadığı bir bölge. Çok muhafazakâr ve milliyetçi bir ortamdı. Açıkçası herkesin muhafazakâr ve milliyetçi olduğunu görüyordum, onların haricinde başka bir şey görmüyordum. Bizim lisemizde reisler, Asenalar vardı. MHP’nin genç tebaası okulda bir köşede birilerini sıkıştırırdı.
Ben resmi ideolojiyi benimseyerek büyüdüm, Ders kitaplarında yazan şeyleri olduğu gibi kabul ederdim; “zararlı cemiyetler”i mesela. Hiç Ermeni arkadaşım yoktu, Kürt arkadaşım da yoktu. Biz orada muhafazakâr beyaz Türkler olarak yaşıyorduk. Benim için Ermeniler kitaptaki zararlı cemiyetlerden ibaretti; Taşnak? Yoksa Hınçak mı? O zaman bu isimler derste hatırlanması gereken zararlı cemiyetlerdi benim için. İsimleriyle ilgili espriler yapılırdı.
Oya: Ben de ASALA’yı hatırlıyorum. O dönemde bayağı öldürmeler falan olmuştu. Hani şu tez var ya; “aslında önce Ermeniler Türkleri öldürdü de, bunun karşılığında Türklerin yapacak bir şeyi yoktu, Ermenileri sürmek zorunda kaldı, çünkü Ermeniler Ruslarla birlik olmuşlardı…
Zeynep: …içten çökerteceklerdi.
Oya: Evet, aynen öyle. İçten çökerteceklerdi, n’aapsaydık beslese miydik?”. Ermenilerle ilgili böyle hainlik hikâyeleri okuduğumuzu hatırlıyorum. Okulda mıydı, yoksa gazetelerden mi okumuştuk tam hatırlamıyorum ama böyle bir şey vardı. Ama bugünkü gibi değil, şimdi artık okullarda soykırımın reddini konu alan belgeseller gösteriliyormuş.
Delal: Ben üniversite 2-3’teyken, Sarı Gelin belgeselinin ülke genelinde tüm okullara dağıtımı yapılmıştı Milli Eğitim Bakanlığın tarafından.
Oya: Taşnak, Hınçak partilerini okuduğumuzu ben de hatırlıyorum. Ve inan şunu hiç düşünmemiştim: Sonuçta ben Ermeni arkadaşlarımla birlikte aynı sınıfta okuyordum, acaba onlar o anda ne hissediyordu? Sanırım benim gözümde Ermenilerin dini gelenekleri önemliydi, çünkü Hıristiyanların dini bayramlarını okul olarak biz de kutluyorduk. Ermeni arkadaşlarımın milli bir kimliği olabileceği ve Ermenilerle ilgili suçlamalardan rahatsız olabilecekleri aklıma gelmiyordu. Ermenice yazıyı ilk olarak yakın arkadaşım Nirva’nın evindeki Agos gazetesinde görmüştüm. Şaşırmıştım, böyle bir gazete mi varmış diye.
Zeynep: Ben de Oya gibi Ermeniler hakkında okullarda anlatılan bir sürü şeyin nasıl palavra olduğunu üniversitede öğrendim. Hazırladığımız bir tiyatro oyununda bu meseleye odaklandık. Gruptaki birçok insanın ilk kez yüzleştiği bir meseleydi ve o yüzleşmeyi yaşamak çok önemliydi. Ermenilerle ilk kez empati kuruyorsun, sürecin nasıl geliştiğini anlamaya çalışıyorsun, yargılamadan dinliyorsun. İlk kez neler yaşandığını öğreniyorsun. Şimdiye kadar tarihte ne olduğunu bilmemişsin. O fotoğrafları görmek…
Oya: Siz belgeleri de araştırmıştınız değil mi?
Zeynep: Evet, belgeleri falan da araştırınca anlıyorsun ki; insanlar yollara sürülmüş, ölüme gönderilmiş. “Torunlar” kitabındaki hikâyeler tüyler ürperticiydi. Çocuğunun birini bırakmak zorunda kalıyor veya çocukları kurtulsun diye kendisi dayanamayıp suya atlıyor. Çok trajik hikâyeler… Ve bunları olduğu gibi okumak insana şunu sorduruyor; “Bunlar yaşanmış, pekiyi biz neden hiç bilmemişiz?”. Ve bakacak olursan yakın tarih bu. Biz torunlarız. Bize o kadar uzak bir tarih değil. Sonradan Ermeni olduğunu öğrenen bir sürü insan var, assimile olmuş olanlar var… Bu hikâyelerin anlatılması lazım, “soykırımdı, değildi” tartışmasına girmeden hikâyelerin açığa çıkması lazım, bunlar yargılamaksızın konuşulması lazım diye düşündük. O şekilde ortaya çıktı bizim oyun. Başta çok korkmuştuk; nasıl tepkiler alacağız, neler yazılacak diye. Ama oyunda her şey çok açıktı; hikâyenin bir rengi, bir ırkı yoktu, bir trajediden bahsediliyordu sadece. O trajedi anlatıldığı an, orada artık bir sessizlik oluyor, biraz olsun bir utanç oluyor. “Belki ben doğrudan faili değilim, ancak şimdiye kadar belki de bu hikâyeleri dinlemeyerek, görmezden gelerek dolaylı olarak olsa da failim aslında.” diye düşünüyor insan. Oyun böyle bir etki uyandırdı. Beklediğimiz milliyetçi argümanların hiçbirini duymadık o nedenle.
Delal: Ermenilerle ilgili önyargılarımı düşünüyorum da, aklıma pek bir şey gelmiyor. Galiba Kürt meselesine yaklaşımım konusunda kendimi bir yere konumlandırmam, bu süreç daha sancılı ve daha mühim oldu benim için. Şöyle ki; Antalya’da büyüdüm, annem Kürt benim. Ve çocukluğumdan bir an hatırlıyorum ve bu an neden aklımda kalmış ve nasıl olmuş çözemiyorum bunu. 5 yaşında falanım herhalde. Dikdörtgen pastalar vardı, hatırlıyor musunuz? Uzun yaş pastalar olurdu, dikdörtgen şeklinde. Onlardan almıştı annemler bana. Fakat doğum günüm değil, bir şey kutlamalı ama ne? Annemler balkonda oturuyor. Elektrikler yok, böyle bir detay hatırlıyorum. Pastanın mumlarını yakmışız, pasta yuvarlak bir sehpanın üzerinde duruyor ve ben sehpanın etrafında “Kahrolsun PKK” diye slogan atarak kendimce bir kutlama yapıyorum. Böyle bir sahne var benim aklımda. 5 olabilir yaşım 4 olabilir. Bu sahne nasıl oldu?
Oya: Ama bu olabilecek bir şey. Hele ki senin 5 yaşında olduğun dönemi düşünüyorum. Sen kaçlısın?
Delal: Bu 95- 96 yıllarında falan olsa gerek.
Oya: Tam da o dönemde televizyonda acayip bir Kürt karşıtı propaganda yapılıyordu.
Delal: Okula gitmiyorum; okuldan olamaz, imkânı yok. Aileden olamayacağını zannediyorum. Babam faşist bir adam değil benim gördüğüm kadarıyla. Annemin ailesi zaten Kürt mücadelesinin içinden insanlar. Babamın ailesinden etkilenmiş olabilirim diye düşünüyorum. Dedemlerde çok kalırdım, karşı komşuları Kürt’tü. Ve annemin Kürt olmasına rağmen dedemler bana çok sık karşı komşularının Kürt olduğunu bu kelimeyi bir küfür gibi kullanarak anlatırlardı. Belki onlardan etkilenmişimdir. Televizyonun çok büyük etkisi vardır kesinlikle.
Zeynep: Televizyondur kesinlikle. “Kahrolsun PKK” en akılda kalan, en çok kullanılan slogandır cidden.
Oya: O yaşta gazete de okuyamayacağına göre kesin televizyondur. O çok etkiliydi. Ya inanamıyorum Delal, bir de seni o halde düşünemiyorum. Demek ki, öyle propagandalar yapmışlar ki…
Delal: Peki, bu an benim aklımda niye kalmış? Böyle eğlendim diye mi kalmış? Ayıp ettim diye kalmış olamaz; o zaman şimdiki gibi bakmıyorsun, ayıp ettiğini düşünmezsin. Bana garip gelen bu anı çok net hatırlamam. Arkasından ilkokula başlıyorum. Bu arada bir yandan da bu 1990’lar Güneydoğu’da çok ciddi çatışmaların olduğu sıralar. Biz de her yıl Diyarbakır’a giderdik. Annemin ailesinin bir kısmı Diyarbakır’da, bir kısmı Bingöl’de yaşıyor. Diyarbakır’dan Bingöl’e geçiyoruz, böyle dolambaçlı bir yol, dağda gidiyoruz; bir kenarı uçurum bir kenarı dağın yükseltileri. Fakat çatışma var diye jandarma far yakmaya izin vermiyor. Böyle ölüme gidiyorsun gibi…
Zeynep: Öyle mi?
Delal: Evet, kontroller var, sık sık durduruyorlar.
Oya: Işık da yok büyük ihtimalle.
Delal: Evet, yolda ışık yok, karambole gidiyorsun. Yolu çok iyi bilen birisinin sürmesi gerekiyor arabayı.
Zeynep: Bilse de ne kadar tehlikeli.
Delal: Ama çocuk aklıyla herhalde orada nasıl bir şiddetin dönüyor olduğunu anlamamışım. Çünkü bu bahsettiğim Diyarbakır-Bingöl ziyaretlerinden bir yıl sonra da şöyle bir olay oldu: İlkokulum Kemeraltı’ndaydı; Antalya’nın elit bir yeri. Annem beni okuldan almıştı, birlikte Kemeraltı’nda yürüyorduk. Dönemin Kürt partisi DEHAP mı HADEP mi bilmiyorum, ikisinden biri işte. (Oya araya girer: DEHAP’dır.) Partinin konvoyu var, bir konvoy insan geçiyor. Kornalar çalınıyor, el sallıyorlar. Annem konvoya zafer işareti yaptı ve ben “Anne, sen ne yapıyorsun? Teröristlere destek veriyorsun. Nasıl yaparsın böyle bir şeyi?” diyerek annemi azarladım o gün. O küçük çocuk halimle… Ve bu benim 8 yaşındaki utancım hala içimi yiyor.
Zeynep: Peki Ermenilere karşı önyargılarınla ilgili bir şey geliyor mu aklına?
Delal: İlkokul 5. sınıftayken muhtemelen Milliyet gazetesinde Osmanlı tarihinin ne kadar kanlı olduğuna dair fikir verebilecek bir yazı okumuştum. Gerçi yazı özel olarak bu katliamlardan bahsetmiyordu ama annemlere şunu dediğimi hatırlıyorum: “Osmanlı’nın madem bu kadar kanlı bir tarihi var. Ermeni soykırımı'ndan bahsediliyor, bunu da yapmış olabilirler.” Sözlerime bir onaylama beklediğimi hatırlıyorum, onaylamalarını istiyordum sanki. Annemlerden o onaylama da gelmişti zaten, “Evet, herhalde olmuştur.” demişlerdi. Şimdi bakınca Ermeniler’e karşı, daha öncesinde de bir önyargı geliştirmemiştim, o andan sonra da geliştirmedim gibi geliyor ama dinlediklerin, okulda okutulanlar yazılıyor sana yine de. Tabii bunda Antalya’da pek fazla Ermeni olmamasının da payı vardır, ya da belki etrafımda Ermeniler vardı ama açıkça Ermeni olduklarını ifade etmiyorlardı. Esas bu konuya dair kafa yormam muhtemelen lise 2’de filan oldu, o güne dek karşıma çıkmış tezlerden farklı şeyler yazan bazı Türkiyeli entelektüellerin yazılarını okudukça Ermeniler’e ne olduğunu daha fazla merak etmeye başladım. Sonra tabii Hrant Dink’in öldürülmesi de etkiledi birçoğumuzu; ondan sonra bir daha hiçbir şey eskisi gibi olmadı derler ya, Türkiye için öyle bir şeydi o bence. O sıra Etyen Mahçupyan’a bir mail attığımı hatırlıyorum; “1915’le ilgili ne okumak gerekiyor?” diye sormuştum. Çünkü hiç bilmiyorduk, ne okumak gerektiğini. Sonra o dönem bir Ermeni’yle tanışmayı çok istiyordum. Çok patetik bir hal bence bu, yani normal bir hal değil. Duymuşsun, okumuşsun ama tanımamışsın. Sonra bir çatlak olmuş; istiyorsun ki aniden gerçekleşiversin o iyileşme.

Armenian women's group conversation on stereotypes

Mash: Many people say that Turks and Azeris are the same. For example, people might say that Azeris are Turks and it’s like, I don’t get why they say it like that. They say it in a bad way, because in Armenia the word “Turk” gets associated with something bad.
Zani: Yea, that question has always interested me, that whenever we talk about Azeris we say they are Turks. It’s like you said, we identify them as one and the same. But I don’t think that they are the same.
Liza: But they are a little bit the same.
Pyunik: It’s just that they have originated from the same people.
Liza: Because as far as I remember, our elders told my generation that Turks are all the same, that Turkey is the same Azerbajian.
Mash: But we should take into account that those are two different countries, they are different nations.
Pyunik: And also, Turks are a more ancient peoples and they have more to do with Mongols. On the other hand, Azeris are the same Atropatenes of the ancient kingdom of Atropatene.
Zani: Aren’t they Tatars?
Pyunik: Some call Azeris new Tatars, but we say Turks.
Mash: I think that they say Turk with the aim of hurting that person whom they call Turk. It’s not that they do it to say that Turk and Azeri are the same, but simply to say that “Turk” is a bad thing.
Zani: I also think that people in Armenia say that Turks and Azeris are the same, because they are both considered our enemy.
Liza: That’s what I’m saying, that’s why we say that Turk and Azeri are the same thing, that they are both Turks.
Pyunik: And they say that they are barbarians, because they have both fought with Armenians.
Liza: The Turks supported the Azeris during the war, no?
Zani: Yea, but we can also say that Diasporan Armenians also supported Armenians here during the war.
Pyunik: Yea, but Turkey and Azerbaijan are brothers.
Arev: But it’s our viewpoint that Turkey helped Azerbaijan, because from the viewpoint of Azeris, the Turks did not help them enough during the war. In other words that’s one of the problems that happens when we analyze things from our perspective, from one side of a number of perspectives. We think that just because Turkey closed the border with Armenia right away, then that means Turkey proved its brotherhood with Azerbaijan by doing that. And we think that they are both the same because they both stood against us. But if we see things from the perspective of Azerbaijan, we will understand that Azerbaijan considered Turkey’s approach very weak and in the opinion of Azerbaijan, Turkey should have done much, much more in order to help Azerbaijan during the Karabagh war.
Zani: But we are also speaking from our own way of understanding things. So we can speak about that which we know.
If I speak more from my own experience I can say that I can’t separate all the instances when I was told whether by my parents, by my friends or in school that the Turks are our enemies and that they have killed us and that we should be cautious of them. I even remember that many times a connection would be made with being Turkish and being Muslim, and it made it so that not only the Turks are bad, but that Muslims are bad too. But what does it mean to be Muslim? It’s not only the Turks that are Muslim. There are Muslims in Indonesia, in Africa, in Russia. So it turns out that our enemy is anyone who is Muslim, which to me is already part of a discourse in which Christian and Muslim become divided. In other words, our being Christian comes from being against Islam, from disagreeing with Islam and considering it bad.
I remember when I was in sixth grade we were already living outside of Armenia and let me just say that since the neighborhood where we lived was an immigrant one, there were many, many different people from different nationalities living there. And I remember when someone new would come to our school, maybe he or she would tell me or I would find out from somewhere else that he or she was Azeri…Maybe this new person would also know that I was Armenian and we would act as if we weren’t talking, because we had learned that our nations are enemies. And even if we would meet each other in the school hallways we might have looked at each other, maybe there was hate inside of our looks, I don’t know…But there were things like his. And I also remember that this one girl had come to our class, she was Muslim, but I’m not sure if she was Turkish or not, but that’s what I thought, that she was Turkish, although it could have been my own apprehension. She could have just been Muslim and I had decided that she was Turkish. And she wore a headscarf and I remember that I treated her differently because of that, or rather I didn’t really know how to treat her, how to interact with her. But it’s not like I felt something was bad about her. Maybe she was actually a really nice person.
I can’t say that I had met many Turkish people or had any Turkish friends at that point in my life, although I had the opportunity to since I lived outside of Armenia in a country with many immigrants. But I can say that my best friend in seventh grade was an Uzbek girl and she was Muslim. I remember that when I went to her house I noticed some symbols of Islam and things from her culture, symbols that seemed sacred, much like symbols hanging from the walls of my house such as the cross or Mt. Ararat. And I remember that, for example, my parents encouraged my friendship with this girl because they would say that her people were like our people, that they were also from the Soviet Union, that they could understand us. They would say it’s better for me to be friends with her than with someone who’s originally from the country we had immigrated to, because they didn’t want me to lose touch with my own ethnicity and nationality.
But on the other hand, I am almost sure that if this girl was Turkish maybe my parents would have thought differently about my being friends with her. I don’t know, I can’t say for sure. And let me say another thing, when I had already grown up and I was already studying in the university I met two girls, one of them Arab and the other one was partly Turkish. We all lived in the same neighborhood and we started to hang out together. One of them was from Syria and wore a headscarf and I had never been close friends with anyone in my life who wore a headscarf. I can say that all of those things I had learned from the media and I don’t know where else had affected me. I couldn’t imagine that I could see someone who wears a headscarf as human, in other words to see that person as someone outside of her headscarf. I know it’s horrible, but that’s what I had learned. But this girl was so ordinary that I simply couldn’t see her as only her headscarf or her clothes. And so we started to be friends. We were all friends, her, the other girl and myself.
I have to say that with the other friend, when I found out that she was partly Turkish I asked her right away if she recognized the genocide. She got really upset because I immediately tied the fact that she was Turkish with the genocide. And so there was this little conflict between us. We spoke a lot about it later and both she understood me and I understood her. After that my mind opened more, first of all regarding women who wear head-scarves and also Turkish people. And so I understood that Turkish people are also human and I don’t have to see them from this narrow perspective, to think that they are Turkish and so that means genocide, or that means Islam, and so on and so forth.
Liza: My story is a little bit different as I’ve lived in Armenia my whole life. Well, I spoke about how I associated Turks with Azeris from a young age, because that’s how I was taught. After the war in Karabagh, whenever we spoke about things where I live, even in school, they always said it like that. I understood later, at an older age, that Turks are different from Azeris. But it didn’t matter because during the war they used to say that we’re fighting with the Turks, but when they said Turks they meant Azeris. They had linked the two together and that’s what it had turned into. Now as an adult I know what is Turkey, what is Azerbaijan, I can already differentiate between the two. But when I was smaller, I was under the influence of what other people said.
Zani: But you knew that Turkey and Azerbaijan were separate things, right?
Liza: Yes, I knew that they were two different nations, but when people would say they’re the same and since I had already learned that’s how it was, whether it was my grandfather, grandmother, or other elders who taught me that, or people who had lived side by side with Azeris…I think maybe I just trusted that they knew what they were talking about.
I remember the first time that I went to Istanbul, my father was really worried. He was really afraid. I wanted to go because I had never gone and it was interesting for me. But my father was the first person to be against my going to Turkey. He was really scared that it could be dangerous there. But I don’t know why I didn’t think about that at all, that it could be dangerous. But this time that we plan on going, I am sort of realizing that it’s necessary to have a feeling of fear.
Zani: This time you feel that you need to have a feeling of fear?
Liza: Well, you have to go with at least a small amount of fear in order to be protected…
Zani: And the first time that you went, you didn’t have even an ounce of fear?
Liza: No, not at all…
Zani: But your father scared you so much about it.
Liza: That’s what I’m saying, there was absolutely no feeling of fear then.
Mash: Maybe something happened there?
Liza: Yea, that’s it. When we were there, Gayane and I got in a taxi and went to some stores. Then when we came back and were listening to the news we found out that some Armenians got into a taxi and they took them and raped them…something like that. There was news like that, that they were beaten…yea, I think in reality they were beaten not raped…or were they raped? I don’t remember. And so Gayane and I were kind of in shock and we were saying at least we didn’t say anything about how we were Armenian or anything like that…Although they already knew, we heard some people we met say “Ermenistan” and things like that. So people knew where we were from.
Zani: And was the news source you found out this news from trustworthy? Were they news from Armenia or Turkey?
Liza: It was Armenian news of course…
Zani: But was it trustworthy? Or was it just to make people afraid? I mean, it’s probably hard to know for sure…I don’t know.
Liza: I think it was real.
Mash: Yea, there was definitely something like that.
Liza: And they had gotten in a taxi, those people…and they took them and beat them up. Maybe there was another reason, not that they were Armenian, but some other reason that they beat them… No, but that news really affected me. I was thinking wow, what if something like that had happened to me? All of my fears would have been justified then. That my family thought that Turkey was unsafe for Armenians, and there we were like children, saying yes, we are from Armenia, yes… We went to the market there…really some scary things happened, but I didn’t realize it then. Now I am a little more grown, I realize that you have to be careful, you have to take well thought out steps, and that’s it.
Mash: I want to say that I had always heard more about Turks, at least in Armenia among my relatives. I mean, I didn’t hear so many negative things about Azeris as I did about Turks. And I always had that resistance that when people would say Turks, Turks, I didn’t understand why they called both Turks and Azeris Turks. I mean, c’mon Azeri is one thing, Turk is another thing.
Zani: But when they would say bad things about Turkish people, you didn’t think they were talking about Azeris?
Mash: No, I thought they were talking about Turkish people, because that’s what they were saying. But for example, in my family it was never the case that really horrible and intolerant things be spoken about Turkish people. No one ever said that it’s just the way things are and that we have to hate Turkish people. It’s never been like that for me and it’s never been the case that if I see someone Turkish then I think I have to be careful. It has always been kind of really ordinary. I’ve also gone to Istanbul and for me it was really fun there, I even really trusted people there. It was Lilit and I and we left our suitcases somewhere. We had an hour that we could go around Istanbul and so we went into a random cafe. We didn’t know anyone there or anything, and we asked this man if we could leave our things there and be back in an hour and he said of course, no problem. So we left and later I thought, I mean, in any case you can’t really know, you know? That man found out that we were Armenian, I mean we spoke, but he was really welcoming. So then we came and took our suitcases and he hadn’t lied to us, he hadn’t stolen from us, and neither had he put anything in our bags. I mean later I thought that in any case something could have happened. But I have always felt that security, I mean really if I have ever asked for anything, they have always answered in a really loving way and I have never had that thing to hate Turkish people or to treat them bad.
Zani: What about when you were young?
Mash: I mean yea, the things I read, that part was intense…history books present things in a really different way and they just want to have you start hating Turks, but I don’t know. I think that’s also about choice, it’s about taking that information or not taking it. Of course in many cases you take it, but for example that has really not been the case for me. I know many Turkish people and it has always been a normal interaction. Sure, we have never had a very deep friendship but for example, this summer I went to this summer camp and there were Turkish girls there, three of them, and they were really cool girls. We were interacting really well with each other.
Yea, and I also wanted to say that I think that this feeling of insecurity can happen anywhere and you can be raped anywhere and it can really have nothing to do with nationality. And if you’re going to another country, it doesn’t mater whether it’s Turkey or Sweden or where-ever, you should be careful no matter what. But I remember that when I had to go to Istanbul the first time and no one was going to come with me from Armenia, so I was going to be alone, no one asked me why I was going. It was the opposite, people were very happy, they were saying it’s good that I’m going…
Zani: And no one was making you afraid about it?
Mash: No one at all. I mean, my parents also found out that it was for work. Maybe if I was going just to go on vacation, they might have taken it in a different way. But that they already knew I was going for work they trusted me, it was different, I don’t now…I mean, for example it’s been more the case that when I met Azeris, like when I went to Odessa and for the first time met Azeris, I really felt so much tension from them and they even didn’t hold back that tension and took it out on me and the other Armenian girls. It wasn’t so much a conflict, it was more so that they said some really intolerant things about us and to our face. And always whenever I have gone somewhere where there were also Azeris I have felt that tension, because I think they present things a little bit differently in their country than how we do it in ours. I don’t like to say the words “winner” or “loser,” because I think that no one wins during war, I think that everyone loses. It’s just that they have this kind of “losing” side mentality. The hate speech is a little bit different in their country than in Armenia and I have felt that on several occasions.
Pyunik: Maybe I will start by saying that the first time that I was going to smoke hooka with my friends, I remember that day really well, and it’s like, my uncle also had a hooka, but when I saw that someone was smoking it, it was like just something really horrible. I myself smoke, I smoke cigarettes, but hooka is different for me. I know that yes, it’s not a drug or something like that. I know that it’s ordinary tobacco with flavoring, but just the thought that say, four Turks had sat and smoked hooka and planned how they would kill my grandparents…that did it for me. No, that hooka thing was horrible for me and the first time I tried it…
Zani: Hey, do you think it’s something that has stuck with you from the movies?
Pyunik: Yea, I think so, maybe…because I remember in those films they were mainly sitting and smoking hooka…
Mash: Which film?
Pyunik: As far as I know it’s that genocide film we have…
Zani: No, I was talking about another film, nothing to do with genocide.
Pyunik: Yea, it’s like they would sit with those hats they have and with those hookas and they’d smoke. It’s so horrible when I think about it. But then I spoke about it for a while, I was explaining to my friends that no, I don’t want to smoke, but also I know that it’s not something else, something bad, but I just don’t want to smoke. And so when I just spoke about it and continued to speak about it something broke inside of me. Then I tried it and realized that I’m just dumb. I mean, what am I thinking? How can I associate some simple object with such a thing? With genocide? And the most interesting thing is that it’s not like I blame this generation of Turks. I’m saying let’s forget, let’s pass those things, but see how deep all of that stuff is inside of me that I’m thinking yea, ok, when you smoke hooka, it’s bad, it’s something only Turks could do. Why should I think like that? Why should a normal, open-minded person think that way?
Zani: But you’re saying that you blame this generation?
Pyunik: No, the opposite. I don’t blame this generation. I don’t have the right. I mean, that’s the same as if my grandfather committed a crime and went to prison, or maybe even didn’t go to prison, and someone came looking for an answer from me in the future. Why should I answer for the crimes that my ancestors committed?
Zani: Exactly, you should.
Pyunik: I have to? I have to answer on behalf of my grandfather? The whole nation is different…I mean, they can accept it, that’s a totally different thing, but I don’t blame anyone personally.
Zani: Yea, I also don’t blame anyone personally.
Pyunik: Yea, I’m talking about personally, I’m not talking about the whole nation. As a nation I want, I can even demand, that they accept what happened, but I can’t place the whole weight of history on one person and say for example that you’re Turkish and so your grandfather killed my grandfather and now you are guilty in front of me.
Last year in August I went to Turkey for the first time. I have worked with Azeris a lot, I’ve met many Azeris, but I had never met Turkish people. I am able to separate the two, I know what Azeri is and what Turkish is and I would never confuse the two.
Anyway, the interesting thing is that I stayed in Istanbul for five days, and I kept getting lost during the span of all those five days. I would walk around by myself, I kept getting separated from the group, I don’t even know why. And in the beginning when people would ask me where I’m from - and they’re like us Armenians in this way that when we see someone who is not from Armenia we always want to know where they’re from - so the first day I would lie and say I’m Spanish or Italian. I’d pick places like that, close to where I could look like I’m from. I thought that if I said I’m Armenian they’d do something bad to me. I had such a fear inside of me.
And then the second day I got lost again. They have this market called Laleli, it’s a really big market and I got lost inside of it. I thought about what I should do and decided to wander around a bit. I went to some bag store. There was this young man, he asked me where I’m from and I paused for a second, I didn’t know what to say. I said I’m Armenian, I said “Armenistan” so maybe he would understand better. And I noticed this guy also paused for a moment. So he’s looking at me and I’m looking at him and I got a little scared, I thought I should leave fast, but then I said no. I asked him what this bag I was looking at cost, as if I was interested. I didn’t want him to think I just came to this store for no reason. And suddenly he’s saying to me, well since you’re Armenian, originally it’s 50 euros, but I’ll give it to you for 30…because you’re Armenian…
Mash: Yea, they say things like that.
Pyunik: Yea, I know, I know. But in any case I wasn’t expecting that kind of treatment, it completely broke that thing in me that I was thinking because I’m Armenian something bad can happen to me if I admit that I’m Armenian. And then it started from that. I sat in a bus… Well you know their public transportation system is not like ours, you have to actually pay before you get on. This guy was sitting next to me and he asked me where I was from and I said I’m Armenian without being afraid. He said, well you can give me the money and I can use my card as a pass for you, because you can’t pass without paying first.
Mash: Yea, they’re really helpful like that…
Pyunik: Yea, so I noticed things like that and that fear…I mean there was no fear, it’s not that I was afraid they’d kill me or do I don’t know what to me, but I was afraid that they’d treat me differently if they knew I was Armenian. That’s what I was afraid of. I thought that they’d be hostile toward me, they’d say well she’s Armenian, she’s this, she’s that….For example, when we find out that someone is Turkish, we think about how people say that Turks have a specific smell. I thought they’d say the same about me, that I smell…This was what was going through my mind.
Mash: I think each nationality has its own specific smell and it depends on the air, the spices and the foods they eat, but I mean it doesn’t have to mean that this smell is bad.
Pyunik: Yea, it’s just that they say Turk smell…this is something that has stayed with me. And I also remember that we were flying with Armavia when we went to Istanbul, but when we were returning we took Turkish Airlines. It was me, and this other participant from our group and this Turkish man, all sitting next to each other. And we were passing through a turbulent zone and we all just started looking at each other terrified, the whole Armenian team was thinking it’s some kind of terrorist act. Something like that was passing through all of our minds. I was saying that it’s just turbulence, it’s normal. It was my second time flying in a plane and I knew for sure that this was usual, that when the clouds are dense the plane would shake a little bit. And this Turkish man who was sitting next to us, it seemed he was listening to us, to our every word. But it’s also possible that he didn’t really even care about us…
It’s just that we are so scared, and we have this paranoia that everyone is following us, I mean I have that. You think that if you are flying with a Turkish airline company then a terrorist act is something that can definitely happen, but if you’re flying with Armavia then it’s impossible. I mean, when they were bringing us food I noticed how we were all just looking at each other, suspicious of the food.
Zani: You thought that a terrorist act could happen because they knew that there were Armenians in the plane?
Pyunik: Yes, that there were Armenians inside. There were really a lot of Armenians in that plane and I mean when they’d bring those tiny packages of food and all of us were looking at that food, smelling it…
Mash: I mean yea, it’s fear.
Pyunik: Fear kind of turns off all of your senses and only that fear remains. I mean the most interesting thing was that I really liked Istanbul and I am always thinking about returning there. It was really magical there and there were so many different cultures there with all of these different colors and scents. You could smell a distinct scent from each street and I really liked that.
Zani: But you know Istanbul is a big city and it’s right on the water…but not all of Turkey is like that.
Pyunik: Yea, I know that all of Turkey is not like that. I mean for example Istanbul itself is old Constantinople. You go a little bit and it’s Roman, you go a little bit and it’s Armenian, a little bit more and it’s Turkish…Arabic…
Zani: Greek…
Arev: I’ll just say that my perspective is a little different, because I was born and grew up here, I mean, not in New York but in Los Angeles, and as you know Los Angeles has a really big Armenian community. I went to an Armenian school my whole life, so I studied Armenian history, religion and all of that was just very Armenian, Armenian, Armenian…And I remember that when I was young, like in the 2nd or 3rd grade, I would write “100 percent Armenian” on all of my notebooks, both in Armenian and in English. It was an absolute need to write this on all of my notebooks and now that I think about it, and I’ve thought about it a lot, I think this comes from the fact that the Armenian identity was really important to me and it was something that was rooted in me since I was very young. And with that, the hatred for Turks. Those two had to go together, because being Armenian meant being a survivor and a survivor of what? A survivor of genocide. We are the survivors of suffering. And so who was responsible for that? It was Turks, it was Azeris. So being Armenian always means hating Turks.
Hate…well, “hate” would be too strong. Rather, it’s about seeing Turks as the other, as in someone very different from you. And so it’s not about hating Turks so strongly, but rather not understanding who the Turk is and, from a young age, assuming that the Turk is bad.
And so growing up that way until I was 18 years old, until I went to college, those feelings were really strong. But during my college years, a lot of internal conflicts arose within me. A really strong inner conflict arose inside of me, because I was studying not only the history of the Armenian genocide, but the histories of other genocides. And studying all of this made me realize that it wasn’t only Armenians who lived such a history, but that there were many, many other peoples who lived that same history, that others had also been subject to genocide and so my world-view expanded a lot. I started to understand what it means to be human, and if before that I would have identified myself first as an Armenian, after understanding all of these things I would identify myself first as a human, then a woman. No, sorry, I wouldn’t include “woman” then, because that part of my consciousness had not developed so much yet. I would say I am human and only after that I am Armenian, that I’m Armenian-American.
That internal conflict was really strong. But even though during that time my world expanded so much, I had still not had much interaction with Turkish people. There was this Turkish guy I met and with whom we decided to meet once or twice a week to discuss our histories. He was from Turkey and he had received a scholarship to study in an American university, but he was studying science, physics I think. He wasn’t studying history.
So he was interested in history and we met a few times. It didn’t go very far and after that I didn’t see him anymore. And so I didn’t have much interaction with Turkish people. I knew that there was a Turkish Students’ Association at my university and they were really active. They would often say some negative things about Armenians. They also had some negative things on their website, I mean even in the university there were some anti-Armenian sentiments from the Turkish students. Even on their website, I mean it was pretty public. And so there were several issues like that and so I decided to study Turkish. I’ve completely forgotten it now, but I really wanted to learn their language because I also wanted to better understand their culture.
Then something interesting happened with my professor. She was probably in her 60’s at that time. The first semester went really well. I got a good grade and our relationship was really good. It was a small class, maybe about seven students the most. Then it was the end of the second semester, summer vacation was about to start and it was the last day. She approached me, this professor. And I should mention that during the year she would also talk about Turkish culture and about history and so on. And she would hint at things, not often, but she would do it. She’d talk about how throughout history Turkish people were very welcoming. In other words she would say that they were really welcoming to minorities, that they treated minorities really well, that minorities lived well in the Ottoman empire and so on. I mean, I would burn up inside when she’d say these things, but I wouldn’t say anything because I had to be in her class the entire year.
And so it was the last day of the second semester and we weren’t going to see each other anymore. Everyone left the classroom and she said goodbye to me and hugged me and her eyes teared a little and she whispered into my ear in a really low voice that she was sorry for everything that had happened. I was in shock, I mean she was hugging me and then she just kind of let me go and I was stuck in my place. I didn’t know what to do, what had happened…I was just in shock and I thought to myself that she knows. And let me also just say that her husband is an Englishman, I mean he has almost become Turkish in every way possible, and he taught Turkish history and he was one of the most anti-Armenian professors in that university. He simply hates Armenians. And my professor is the wife of this person who isn’t even Turkish. I mean I was just asking myself does she really know? Is it possible that this woman who has such a husband, this woman who has been saying all of these things during the entire school-year, is it possible that she knows the history? And that feeling of guilt was so strong inside of her that she felt the need to hug me and say to me in a really low voice that she was sorry?
After college when I met my husband and we both started to explore a number of different things, starting from Ghandi, to Martin Luther King and those movements, my entire mentality changed. I began to understand that if we want to move forward and live alongside Turks and Azeris, then there needs to be peace, there needs to be love and compassion. I can say that the 10 year old Shushan, even the 20 or 21 year old Shushan had gone through a 180 degree change and she was no longer the same person. And that was the result of many many years of struggle. It was about breaking those stereotypes one by one, it was about those arguments with my parents, it was about the arguments with my friends and changing those stereotypes. It was a lot of hard work and a lot of struggle.
I think that within the Diaspora, if I speak outside of my own perspective, these issues are really big, because the youth isn’t breaking these stereotypes and is staying stuck within false ideas about who Turks are and the hatred continues. I can say that for the past several years some of my husband’s and my closest friends are Turkish and these are people who are like brothers to us, people who we see everyday because we work side by side. One of them is a sculptor and the other is a painter. They are really talented guys.
In other words my mentality regarding Turkish people has completely changed. Of course it took many years. These guys were both really radical activists in Turkey and they also said that they know the history and everything…so in other words, this thing that someone is Turkish and so he or she is “the other” no longer exists inside of me
So that’s all, thats my Diasporan experience. And I just want to say one more thing: Azeris and Turks are not the same, in my mind they are different.
Liza: I think that we are now a really different generation and all of those things from our history, even that hate that has been passed down from our ancestors, I mean we imagine it in a different way now and we are trying more to have peace as opposed to hate. I think that we are trying to approach things in a different way now and I think that we are not living in a century where we should start hating each other and fighting all over again. I think people just need to respect each other and to recognize each other as human.