ANKARA: Minority newspapers in Turkey – Nor Marmara

Turkish Daily News
June 1 2004

Minority newspapers in Turkey – Part Two
Nor Marmara – the first Armenian newspaper on the Internet

`We believe that the number of our readers decreases with each death
announcement. Unfortunately, we don’t believe that a birth
announcement will bring us a new reader’

`Today Turkey’s biggest newspapers see minorities through a different
perspective. They feel attracted to them; they are defenders of
minorities against injustice, this pleases us greatly. The Turkish
Daily News is one of the newspapers that has approached minorities

ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News
The Nor Marmara newspaper was established in 1940 by well-known
Armenian journalist Suren Samliyan. It was a weekly newspaper
initially but later became a daily because of the people’s intense
interest. Rober Haddeler took over the responsibility for the
newspaper in 1967 and it has now been published as a daily in
Armenian for 63 years. Nor Marmara, which cannot be published on
Sundays due to difficulties created by distribution, has four pages
and is published six days a week.

Rober Haddeler tries to keep Nor Marmara alive despite difficulties
in finding reporters, as well as with printing and advertising,
although the paper does now benefit from today’s technological
opportunities. Haddeler has turned over the day-to-day running of the
newspaper to his elder son Air with his younger son Ayk involved in
the management of the newspaper. Nor Marmara, which publishes a
supplement in Turkish on Fridays for Armenian citizens who cannot
read Armenian and for those who are interested in the life of
Armenians. The main goal of the newspaper is to keep the Armenian
language and culture alive while at the same time informing their
community of the latest news stories, discussing political issues in
Turkey and give snippets of information about the life of Armenians.

Rober Haddeler, who has had 50 to 60 books published so far and who
speaks English, French, Armenian and Turkish, is a graduate of the
Pangalti High School established by “Mihitarist” priests and the
Istanbul University Faculty of Letters Department of Philosophy.
Column articles in Nor Marmara are translated into Turkish by his
daughter-in-law Karolin Haddeler and published in the weekly Turkish

TDN: How did you get started in journalism?

HADDELER: Actually, I am a man of letters, I was a writer before
becoming a journalist. I started writing Armenian stories in 1946. As
I am interested in literature, we prepared pages of literature in Nor
Marmara with a few friends between 1946-1967. In 1967, the former
owner of the newspaper Bedros Zobyan went abroad for the education of
his daughter. They asked me to take responsibility for the newspaper
for one or two years. I didn’t want to do it because I thought that
it was difficult to publish an Armenian newspaper in Turkey and I
didn’t want the responsibility, but I accepted it as a favor to my
friend. Because my friend did not return, whether I liked it or not,
I was forced to continue working on the newspaper. I must say that I
enjoyed it and I’ve never regretted it, it’s a pleasure to publish an
Armenian newspaper in Turkey. It makes one feel proud.

TDN: Have the winds of change blowing around Turkey and the world had
an influence on your newspaper?

HADDELER: It is a very big change but unfortunately we see this
change as deterioration. Everything is developing so fast in Turkey
with European standards being adopted. These developments bring many
things to Turkey but cause some minorities and groups to lose
something. Young Armenians are fascinated by Turkish television,
Turkish newspapers and radio. They think that it is unnecessary to
read an Armenian newspaper instead of a Turkish one because they
don’t expect the same thing from a newspaper as we do. Additionally,
we don’t compete against television and the rich Turkish press and we
lose our own readers. Also, our cultural publications don’t enthuse
the younger generation. They seek more popular culture.
Unfortunately, there is a permanent deterioration and decrease in the
number of our readership. I don’t know how long this can continue.

TDN: A decrease in the number of readers means a decrease in
circulation. What is the reason of this decrease?

HADDELER: When I took over responsibility for the newspaper, it had a
circulation of 3,500-4,000. It remained at this level for a long
time. In the last five-to-six years there has been a significant
decrease and today we have a circulation of below 2,000. However,
these figures are not important to us because 60 percent of our
newspapers are sent to relatives living abroad after being read by
our readers in Istanbul. They pass from hand to hand there. There is
one reason for the decrease in our circulation; the fact that
Armenian citizens living in Istanbul can’t read the Armenian language
or don’t want to read it. Generally, the number of those who want to
read in Armenian is very high but they can’t because of problems
caused by the Armenian alphabet. That’s why they read Turkish
newspapers. Additionally, for the first time in five years an
Armenian newspaper has been published on the Internet. We can make
our voice heard all over the world.

TDN: What is the most difficult thing in publishing the newspaper?

HADDELER: Although all the minorites have similar problems, the
Armenians have difficulty because they have a unique alphabet. It is
the richest and the most difficult one among the world’s alphabets.
If the young generation don’t wish to learn it then it is very
difficult for teach them. Teachers in the 15-18 schools of our
communty encounter lots of difficulties in teaching Armenian. We
believe that the number of our readers decreases with each death
announcement. Unfortunately, we don’t believe that a birth
announcement will bring us a new reader. In recent years there has
been a search for identity among people in the 20-30 year age group
but this does not overcome our difficulties. It is difficult enough
to find a reporter, and yet even if we do so, can he or she write in

TDN: Some laws relating to minorities living in Turkey were amended
in the EU adaptation process. As a journalist, you must know the
problems of your community. What are these problems?

HADDELER: Unfortunately, our community does have some problems. We
have called the state’s attention to these difficulties via our
patriarch and the managers of our community. We expect solutions. I
can say that today’s government is tolerant towards these issues. In
the EU adaptation process, important laws relating to property
acquisition were made, but none of these laws were put into effect.
Our community’s demands relating to property acquisition have yet to
be fulfilled, but even if they are fulfilled they cannot be put into
practice. We remain hopeful and believe these issues will be
resolved, and when they are resolved, Turkey won’t lose anything,
only win, because people abroad attach great importance to
unimportant things. We don’t think about applying to places like the
European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). We believe that such methods
will overshadow our citizenship. We prefer to overcome these
difficulties with our own state. We believe that they can easily be
overcome but they continue because of reasons that we don’t
understand. I can list these difficulties; Minority foundations are
not given the possibility of surviving. Many rights given to Turkish
foundations are not given to minority foundations. We have 30
churches today but if we want to build a 31st church we can’t do it,
so we have to forget about building a new church, we can’t even add a
storey to one of the properties of our churches or construct a
building on empty land belonging to one of our churches in order to
obtain income. This is one of the biggest problems for us.
Additionally, when rich citizens want to donate some of their
property to their own foundation it is not accepted, they have to
sell their property and give the money to their foundation. You know
that money and property are different things, money is quickly used
up, but property remains permanent.

Besides this, we hold two kinds of elections every four to five years
to elect the administrators of our community. We have some problems
regarding these elections. For example, it is a condition that
candidates and electors must be from the same district but we have
churches in some districts where no Armenians live. Who will take
responsibility for these beautiful treasures that helps to create
Turkey’s richness? We have many problems such as this.

TDN: When you compare the past and present, what has changed in the
attitude of the Turkish press towards minorities?

HADDELER: Unfortunately, the minorities received three or four blows
during the period of the Republic. First, among minorities only men
above 20 were enlisted during the war. This was an unforgettable
event for us because many families ran into difficulties and
dispersed. Later, the Wealth Tax was imposed causing many Armenians
to become very poor followed by the September 6-7 [1955] events. I
experienced it and still don’t understand how it was done. If the
target was only Greeks, why were other minorities chosen as a target?
Their properties and wealth were plundered. Because of this event
many friends left Turkey within a year or two. This caused our
community and Turkey to lose many things. All these things may be
seen as the necessities of politics at the time.

Today the press’ attitude towards minorities is sympathetic, the
turkish press did not feel so attracted to minorities in the past.
For example, when an Armenian was found guilty of a crime it was
stressed over and over again in the press. There was enmity. Today,
Turkey’s biggest newspapers see minorities through a different
perspective. They feel attracted to them; they are defenders of
minorities against injustice, this pleases us greatly. The Turkish
Daily News is one of the newspapers which has approached the
minorities sympathetically. When I met you, its Istanbul office
representative, I felt better. I said that we would see love if there
were such friends in Turkish press. The Armenian press abroad closely
follows the Turkish Daily News because it is accepted as one of the
newspapers reporting events the best.

TDN: Does Nor Marmara newspaper have future plans?

HADDELER: In my opinion we publish a high-quality newspaper. We have
no future projects because we just think about tomorrow. We don’t
have the opportunity to think ahead a few years. We let sleeping dogs
lie. Let’s see how the life of our community will go on. Maybe we can
publish our Turkish newspaper two to three days a week while
publishing our Armenian newspaper. Maybe we can publish a separate
Turkish newspaper. But is an advantage for Turkey that a newspaper
like Nor Marmara is published in Turkey. We are admired by all people
who like Turkey or not, they are astonished, exclaiming, “Such a
newspaper is published in Turkey!” People in Diaspora are interested
in Turkey the most. This makes us work harder. If the Armenian
community living abroad is taken into consideration, we are one of
the factors that reflects Turkey’s image best. Nor Marmara newspaper
is the one which is sought and read most. It is said, “It is true if
the Marmara newspaper writes it.”