Today’s Zaman, Turkey
Dec 22 2013
Turkish Armenian: I’d defend Turkey against our enemies as we did in
the Battle of the Dardanelles
22 December 2013 /CÃ`MALÄ° Ã-NAL, Ä°STANBUL
The chairman of the Association of Philanthropic Malatya Armenians
(HAYDER), Hosrof KöletavitoÄ?lu, is a typical Anatolian man. He defines
himself as Anatolian in his heart, his mind and all his emotions. For
him, a true Anatolian is a good citizen. He feels himself a stranger
everywhere else, even in Armenia.
`I, as a Turkish Citizen, like all other Armenians in Turkey, wouldn’t
think twice to defend my country from any possible danger to our land,
just as our minority-member ancestors did at the Battle of the
Dardanelles,’ he said.
For him it is very important to know what really happened in the war
at the beginning of the last century and to share this knowledge with
the whole community.
`We were together, peaceful and friendly, for a long time. We shared
our feasts and sorrows, weddings and funerals,’ he said.
He expects Turkish authorities to have the courage to condemn the Medz
Yeghern — the Great Tragedy — organized by the Young Turks in the
Ottoman period. `Destruction, exile, sexual assaults, rapes and
massacres cannot be erased by continuous denial,’ he says, adding:
`The inhuman, horrible tragedy has to be faced and sorrow must be
shared. And it is important to keep both Armenians and Turkish civil
society groups in constant dialogue.
According to KöletavitoÄ?lu, during the years of tragedy, many
Armenians were forced to convert to Islam. And he claims that the
number of Armenians who became Muslim through marriages or adoptions
in 1915 could be around 200,000.
In contemporary Turkey, there are hundreds of thousands Muslim
Armenians. Some deny their origins; others describe themselves as
ethnically Armenian but religiously Muslim.
KöletavitoÄ?lu emphasized that if Muslimized Armenians share their
ancestors’ painful stories with others, it will be easier for
Armenians to be understood.
He said that the Armenians who survive in the region are trying to
safeguard their culture and continue a struggle to maintain their way
of life. `The Justice and Development Party [AK Party] made many
changes but this doesn’t mean they have done enough for the
Armenians,’ he said.
The government, KöletavitoÄ?lu said, has made many gestures toward
Alawites and Kurds and embraced them. `Armenians also deserve this and
must be embraced by our friends. Armenians’ arms are open to all
friendly political visions without prejudice,’ he added.
`Armenians do not need officials to say `genocide’ or `massacre.’ The
world already knows what happened,’ he said.
KöletavitoÄ?lu defines Anatolia as a family. `Our ancestor lived in
this family. By being torn apart would not change the reality of being
one family,’ he said, adding: `The Armenians here continue to belong
to this family. Our goal is to continue in peace and produce for our
future, as our ancestors have done for centuries.’
`The purpose of the mass killings was mainly the transfer of capital
and property to supporters of Committee for Union and Progress [ITC]
and prominent locals,’ he said. For this purpose, he claimed, the
Armenians who were the most populous minority in Anatolia suddenly
disappeared and were cleaned out, along with their past, from the
geography, from the community, from the literature and from the local
history books, as if they had never existed.
He says that all the inheritors of the rich wealth, culture and values
built over the centuries are silent, but have resurgent emotions.
According to KöletavitoÄ?lu, official denial is the main reason for the
Armenians’ tough stance on the issue. But if Turkey changes its
stance, diaspora Armenians will be more moderate.
`The Armenians were here in this region for thousands of years.
According to historians, all Armenians spread around the world come
from this area. When we look closer at the diaspora Armenians, their
ancestors were those who left Anatolia from the 1880s onward,’ he
KöletavitoÄ?lu explained why diaspora Armenians keep their harsh
memories of the massacres: their surviving ancestors carried their
shockingly painful memories with them. These memories were transferred
to the young generations.
According KöletavitoÄ?lu, wherever they lived, the Armenians were at
the heart of society. They were involved in all parts of the life;
art, the trades, architecture, industry, production, transportation,
commerce, science, medicine, all kinds of agriculture, literature,
food, music, etc. `They had always been a major part of the life of
the country, especially in economic production that helped the country
to live through for most of the last 200 years of Ottoman times,’ he
Regarding the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the events of
1915, he said that he hoped a nationwide mourning would happen in
Turkey. But he doesn’t expect any programs to be organized by the
Armenian community in Turkey for 2015. `It was almost forbidden even
to think about these tragedies and to wail for our victimized
ancestors. One could only shout in silence to remember them. I will
personally continue mourning for the loss of my family and community
due to the killings about 100 years ago,’ he said.
While flipping through the pages of books titled `Armenian Girl,
Kurdish Mom,’ he kept talking as his eyes began to tear. The Ottoman
economy was dependent on the spoils of war and taxes. After the end of
the 17th century, the empire won very few wars and began to lose
strength. Some of its territories started to gain independence. Within
these messy conditions the Committee for Union and Progress (ITC)
became a part of Ottoman life.
He closes the book and says his concluding words: `When they [the ITC]
came into power they tried to create `one nation, one flag, one
language, one religion,’ and to achieve this they needed to dominate
the population and economy, for the Turkification of the country. And
to achieve this goal, one-third of the whole population in Anatolia
would have to somehow be eliminated from this territory.’
From: A. Papazian