published Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Secrets revealed in Turkey revive Armenian identity

By DAN BILEFSKY

c.2010 New York Times News Service

ISTANBUL — Fethiye Cetin recalled the day her identity shattered.

She was a young law student when her beloved maternal grandmother, Seher, took her aside and told her a secret she had hidden for 60 years: that Seher was born a Christian Armenian with the name Heranus and had been saved from a death march by a Turkish officer, who snatched her from her mother’s arms in 1915 and raised her as Turkish and Muslim.

Cetin’s grandmother, whose parents later turned out to have escaped to New York, was just one of thousands of Armenian children who were kidnapped and adopted by Turkish families during the Armenian genocide, the mass killing of more than a million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1918. These survivors were sometimes called “the leftovers of the sword.”

“I was in a state of shock for a long time — I suddenly saw the world through different eyes,” said Cetin, now 60. “I had grown up thinking of myself as a Turkish Muslim, not an Armenian. There had been nothing in the history books about the massacre of a people that had been erased from Turkey’s collective memory. Like my grandmother, many had buried their identity — and the horrors they had seen — deep inside of them.”

Now, however, Cetin, a prominent member of the estimated 50,000-member Armenian-Turkish community here and one of the country’s leading human rights lawyers, believes a seminal moment has arrived in which Turkey and Armenia can finally confront the ghosts of history and possibly even overcome one of the world’s most enduring and bitter rivalries.

She already has confronted her divided self, which led her from Istanbul to a 10th Street grocery store in New York, where her Armenian relatives had rebuilt their broken lives after fleeing Turkey. (Many of the Armenians who survive in Turkey today do so because their ancestors lived in western provinces during the killings, which took place mostly in the east.)

The latest tentative step toward healing generations of acrimony between the countries took place in October on a soccer field in the northwestern Turkish city of Bursa, when President Serzh Sargsyan became the first Armenian head of state to travel to Turkey to attend a soccer game between the national teams. In this latest round of soccer diplomacy, Sargsyan was joined at the match by President Abdullah Gul of Turkey, who had traveled to a soccer match in Armenia the year before.

“We do not write history here,” Gul told his Armenian counterpart in Bursa. “We are making history.”

The Bursa encounter came just days after Turkey and Armenia signed a historic series of protocols to establish diplomatic relations and to reopen the Turkish-Armenian border, which has been closed since 1993. The agreement, strongly backed by the United States, the European Union and Russia, has come under vociferous opposition from nationalists in both Turkey and Armenia.

Armenia’s sizable diaspora — estimated at more than 7 million — in the United States, France and elsewhere is alarmed that the new warmth may be misused as an excuse to forgive and forget in Turkey, where even uttering the words Armenian genocide can be grounds for prosecution.

Also threatening the deal is Armenia’s lingering fight with Azerbaijan, its neighbor and a close ally of Turkey, over a breakaway Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.

The agreement, which has yet to be ratified in the Turkish or Armenian parliaments, could have broad consequences, helping to end landlocked Armenia’s economic isolation, while lifting Turkey’s chances for admission into the European Union, where the genocide issue remains a crucial obstacle.

But Cetin argued that the most enduring consequence could be helping to overcome mutual recriminations. She said Armenians had been battling a powerful and collective denial in Turkish society about the killings.

“Most people in Turkish society have no idea what happened in 1915, and the Armenians they meet are introduced as monsters or villains or enemies in their history books,” she said. “Turkey has to confront the past, but before this confrontation can happen, people must know who they are confronting. So we need the borders to come down in order to have dialogue.”

Cetin, who was raised by her maternal grandmother, said the borders in her own Muslim Turkish heart came down irrevocably when her grandmother revealed her Armenian past.

Heranus, she said, was only a child in 1915 when Turkish soldiers arrived in her ethnically Armenian Turkish village of Maden, rounding up the men and sequestering women and girls in a church courtyard with high walls. When they climbed on each others’ shoulders, Heranus told her, they saw men’s throats being cut and bodies being thrown in the Tigris River, which ran red for days.

During the forced march toward exile that followed, Heranus said, she saw her own grandmother drown two of her grandchildren before she herself jumped into the water and disappeared.

Heranus’ mother, Isguhi, survived the march, which ended in Aleppo, Syria, and went to join her husband, Hovannes, who had left the village for New York in 1913, opening a grocery store. They started a new family.

“My grandmother was trembling as she told me her story,” Cetin said. “She would always say, ‘May those days vanish, never to return.’ ”

Cetin, a rebellious left-wing student activist at the time of her grandmother’s revelation, recalled how confronting Armenian identity, then as now, had been taboo. “The same people who spoke the loudest about injustices and screamed that the world could be a better place would only whisper when it came to the Armenian issue,” she said. “It really hurt me.”

Cetin, who was imprisoned for three years in the 1980s for opposing the military regime in Turkey at the time, said her newfound Armenian identity inspired her to become a human rights lawyer. When Hrant Dink, editor of the Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, was prosecuted in 2006 for insulting Turkishness by referring to the genocide, she became his lawyer. On Jan. 19, 2007, Dink was killed outside his office by a young ultranationalist.

Cetin published a memoir about her grandmother in 2004. She said she purposely omitted the word “genocide” from her book because using the word erected a roadblock to reconciliation.

“I wanted to concentrate on the human dimension,” she said. “I wanted to question the silence of people like my grandmother who kept their stories hidden for years, while going through the pain.”

When her grandmother died in 2000 at age 95, Cetin honored her last wish, publishing a death notice in Agos, in the hope of tracking down her long-lost Armenian family, including her grandmother’s sister Margaret, whom she had never seen.

At her emotional reunion with her Armenian family in New York, several months later, Margaret, or “Auntie Marge,” told Cetin that when her father had died in 1965, she had found a piece of paper carefully folded in his wallet that he had been keeping for years. It was a letter Heranus had written to him shortly after he had left for the United States.

“We all keep hoping and praying that you are well,” the note said.

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Part 3

“…in Turkey, where even uttering the words “Armenian genocide” can be grounds for prosecution...” is fallacious when one considers the number of books written on both sides of the genocide debate and panels held in Turkey in the last 20 years. One cannot say the same thing about the U.S. where the NYT will not cover the Turkish side of the story pro-actively, sometimes even reactively. While there is no court verdict, deciding after due process, that the Turkish-Armenian conflict is genocide, the NYT and others see no difficulty in using the term “genocide” without qualifiers like “alleged, so-called, claimed, etc.” This ironic proof of blatant bias and bigotry in big media will be all the more dramatic when the history commission, as foreseen by the protocols signed by Turkey and Armenia, convenes soon. After all, the formation of a blue-ribbon investigation committee itself is an unmistakable sign that this issue is not settle history, that it is still controversial, and that the jury is still out. And here is the almighty NYT, already made up its mind and calling it a genocide. Would it be stretching the truth then to call NYT the head of a lynch mob? (For more information on this, please click on www.ethocide.com.)

While the biased article accuses Turkey for not having freedom of speech, the same article, and the NYT for that matter, are totally silent about the shameful “memory laws” in France and Switzerland where the writers of these lines could be jailed for denying an alleged (but never court proven) genocide. Is this stark contrast not significant enough to justify a mention anywhere? Is the fact that Turkish views concerning the Turkish-Armenian conflict are routinely censored in the big media, with Nazi-like justifications like “editorial freedom” or “being against the consensus”, not noteworthy enough to rationalize a citation? Bias seems to launder everything; the memory laws, censorship, biased coverage, racist editorial freedom, dishonest consensus, and more… (Please see http://www.turkla.com/index.php?c=1&yid=4 or http://www.turkla.com/index.php?c=1&mid=1405&yid=4 )

January 10, 2010 at 5:59 p.m.

Part 2

The above story, though clearly embellished and even anachronistic in part, still tells only one part of the story. The other side, that is the Muslim, mostly Turkish side, is again ignored. The Ottoman deaths and suffering are routinely dismissed as if Muslims are not human beings or somehow their deaths are justified. Such a racist approach is clear not only in this article, but also in the NYT coverage of this issue since 1915. Turks lost 3 million lives, half of million of whom met their tragic ends at the hands of Armenian irregulars. If one does the math, one will see that this death toll translates into one in four Ottoman citizens being killed by bullet, epidemics, starvation, terrain, elements, and other such wartime conditions. This is why one can go to Any Turkish town today, stop the first person on the street, and ask for his/her last name’s significance and the horrors of WWI will gush out like Manavgat Falls of Antalya (Turkish equivalent of Niagara Falls.) When the death and destruction rained upon Turks during WWI by invaders and their domestic spies and agents are this wide spread, the question begging to be asked is, how come we never read about the Turkish suffering and deaths in the NYT pages? If the Turks do not mention these things as often as Armenians, it is not because Turks forgot about them; it is because Turks choose to move forward with hope to a brighter, more peaceful, and more prosperous future.

"For too many years Armenian mothers had lulled their children to sleep with songs whose theme was Turkish fierceness and savagery." Said Ohanus Appressian, lending testimony to how innocent Armenian children are subjected to the brutality of racism by their parents in the book “Men Are Like That”, published in 1926. Think about this for a minute. What has changed for the Armenians since then? If Turkey, rising out of the ashes of a multi-religious, multi-language, multi-ethnic, collapsed empire, is able to forge a democracy and prosper to the 17th largest economy in the world today while Armenia, land-locked, poverty-stricken, violent, corrupt, and shrinking, still lives on handouts today just like 100 years ago, one can hardly find anything wrong with the Turkish policies. The dignified silence of Turks, therefore, should not be interpreted as admission of guilt for a bogus genocide. And Armenians are well advised to reconsider their passion to cultivate hatred and systematically teach their children odium and vengeance. (For more facts and figures, please refer to “Genocide of Truth” by Sukru Server Aya.)

January 10, 2010 at 6 p.m.

WHAT ABOUT THE MILLIONS OF TURKISH FAMILY TREES UPROOTED BY 100 YEAR OLD LIES?

Part 1

While the human story is true and tragic, the way it is promoted with a strong sense of “selective morality”, unfortunately, creates sadness, alienation, and injustice in the hearts and minds of those Turkish survivors of Armenian atrocities during WWI. Why are Armenian deaths magnified and embellished while reciprocating Turkish deaths are dismissed and ignored? Isn’t this bias bordering on religious and ethnic discrimination, even racism?

It seems the New York Times, generator and promoter of this story, is dedicated to keeping its tradition of anti-Turkish biased coverage of the Turkish-Armenian conflict since 1915. That year, the NYT published no less than 145 articles demonizing Turks with embellished, distorted, and even fabricated stories, usually filed by Armenian nationalists directly or via U.S. Protestant missionaries, diplomats, or other Westerners, while offering or allowing zero opportunities to Turks to respond and refute them. This lopsided, hateful, and propagandistic reporting is one reason why the NYT is considered to be one of at least six responsible parties that caused the human tragedy in Eastern Anatolia during WWI to be bigger than it had to be—the others being The British Empire, Colonial France, Tsarist Russia, The U.S. Protestant Missionaries sent from Boston, and the Armenians who allowed their ultra-nationalist organizations like the Dashnaks, Hunchaks, and others to manipulate the Armenian minority communities into the fallacy of Greater Armenia via ethnically cleansing the Muslim majorities first. (Please read the book “Death and Exile” by Justin McCarthy for details.)

January 10, 2010 at 6:01 p.m.

Part 4

"The Moslems who did not succeed in escaping [the city] were put to death..." wrote Grace H. Knapp on page 146 of his book, “The Tragedy of Bitlis”, Fleming H. Revell Co., New York (1919.) There is undeniable evidence that brutal Armenian Revolutionaries tortured and killed thousands of innocent non-combatant Turkish Civilians in this conflict thus recklessly endangering the Civilian Armenian Population at a time when the Turks were extremely vulnerable. Many Turks today have ancestors who suffered at the hands of merciless Armenian Revolutionaries. (www.tallarmeniantale.com)

Even notoriously anti-Muslim and anti-Turk Henry Morgenthau, U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913 to 1916 could not help revealing the much ignored Armenian aggression and atrocities on page 301 of the book ghost-written from him, “Ambassador Morgenthau's Story”, Doubleday, Page & Co., Garden City, New York (1918), “"...In the early part of 1915, therefore, every Turkish city contained thousands of Armenians who had been trained as soldiers and who were supplied with rifles, pistols, and other weapons of defense. The operations at Van once more disclosed that these men could use their weapons to good advantage..." But the NYT does not want any evidence that might embarrass the newspaper’s racist and dishonest position that it was genocide.

January 10, 2010 at 6:02 p.m.

GENOCIDE ALLEGATIONS IGNORE “THE SIX T’S OF THE TURKISH-ARMENIAN CONFLICT”

1) TUMULT (as in numerous Armenian armed uprisings between 1882 and 1920)

2) TERRORISM (by well-armed Armenian nationalists and militias victimizing Ottoman-Muslims between 1882-1920)

3) TREASON (Armenians joining the invading enemy armies as early as 1914 and lasting until 1921)

4) TERRITORIAL DEMANDS (where Armenians were a minority, not a majority, attempting to establish Greater Armenia, the would-be first apartheid of the 20th Century with a Christian minority ruling over a Muslim majority )

5) TURKISH SUFFERING AND LOSSES (i.e. those caused by the Armenian nationalists: 524,000 Muslims, mostly Turks, met their tragic end at the hands of Armenian revolutionaries during WWI, per Turkish Historical Society. This figure is not to be confused with about 2.5 million Muslim dead who lost their lives due to non-Armenian causes during WWI. Grand total: more than 3 million, according to Prof. Justin McCarthy.)

6) TERESET (temporary resettlement) triggered by the first five T’s above and amply documented as such; not to be equated to the Armenian misrepresentations as genocide.)

January 10, 2010 at 6:03 p.m.

VERDICT WITHOUT DUE PROCESS AMOUNTS TO LYNCHING

Those who take the Armenian “allegations” of genocide at face value seem to also ignore the following:

1- Genocide is a legal, technical term precisely defined by the U.N. 1948 convention (Like all proper laws, it is not retroactive to 1915.)

2- Genocide verdict can only be given by a "competent court" after "due process" where both sides are properly represented and evidence mutually cross examined.

3- For a genocide verdict, the accusers must prove “intent” at a competent court and after due process. This could never be done by the Armenians whose evidence mostly fall into five major categories: hearsay, mis-representations, exaggerations, forgeries, and “other”.

4- Such a "competent court" was never convened in the case of Turkish-Armenian conflict and a genocide verdict does not exist (save a Kangaroo court in occupied Istanbul in 1920 where partisanship, vendettas, and revenge motives left no room for due process.)

5- Genocide claim is political, not historical or factual. It reflects bias against Turks. Therefore, the term genocide must be used with the qualifier "alleged", for scholarly objectivity and truth.

HISTORY IS A MATTER OF SCHOLARSHIP, NOT CONVICTION, CONSENSUS, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

History is not a matter of "conviction, consensus, political resolutions, editorial freedom, political correctness, or propaganda." History is a matter of research, peer review, and sound scholarship. Even historians, by definition, cannot decide on a genocide verdict, which is reserved for a "competent court" with its legal expertise in due process.

It is hoped that NYT will be shamed into accepting its ethocidal mistake that subscribing to a partisan characterization in a hotly debated controversy is incorrect, unethical, and un-American.

January 10, 2010 at 6:03 p.m.
UninformedTurk said...

InformedAmerican's diatribe is another example of Turkish government efforts to obfuscate the truth and cover up the crimes committed by their predecessors. Armenian Genocide is not a "hotly debated controversy" but rather a settled history. The sooner Turkey and Turks come to terms with their past, the sooner they will be freed from having to carry a big lie around their necks.

By the way, to find out more about Turkey's current treatment of its minorities, watch this cbs 60 minutes piece. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6001717n&tag=contentMain;cbsCarousel

January 10, 2010 at 9:36 p.m.
aniy10 said...

"InformedAmerican might want to reconsider his web handle. Though he throws around a lot of big, loaded words and unsubstantiated accusations, his obvious partisan passion belies a view so one-sided that he could fairly be accused of spreading the 'propaganda' he claims to despise so much. Longwinded, tangential, or simply irrelevant anecdotes and arguments don't change the basic facts on the ground: 1.5 million Armenians were killed and many more were displaced during those years. Such a defensive reaction from 'InformedAmerican' shows what people who are for truth and reconciliation are up against." Dan Carsen

January 20, 2010 at 10:49 a.m.
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