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#161 Yervant1


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Posted 07 June 2017 - 10:42 AM

A1 Plus, Armenia
June 6 2017
The Children of Vank: Film about Islamized Armenians (video)
  • 14:19 | June 6,2017 | Social

“The Children of Vank” – a documentary about the Armenian Genocide – will be premiered in Yerevan on June 7. The documentary explores questions of belonging, memory and the long shadow of genocide haunting Islamized Armenians. The film is directed by Nezahat Gündoğan and Kazım Gündoğan who say they tried to approach the issue objectively.

“It is very important to show the Turkish population what happened and why happened. They have to confront the history. The story is presented by people. Everything is presented as it happened. The word ‘Genocide’ is also presented in the film,” said Nezahat Gündoğan.

An hour-long film tells the story about Armenian family that survived the Dersim Massacre in 1938. All members of the family were driven away and lived in different cultures and beliefs. They tell about the brutality and violence exerted against them and their relatives.

The film was shot in Vank village in the territory of Surb Karapet Monastery.


#162 Yervant1


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Posted 01 October 2017 - 07:42 AM

Armenpress News Agency , Armenia
September 29, 2017 Friday

'Armenia means homesickness to me' – Turkish girl's identity quest
leads to the other side of Ararat

YEREVAN, SEPTEMBER 29, ARMENPRESS. The Armenian Genocide committed by
the Ottoman Empire destroyed the lives and destinies of millions of
people. Thousands of Armenians were forced to spread all over the
world, while others were forced to go on with their lives already in
the Republic of Turkey – by hiding their origin and identity. On this
path, they also tried to distance their own generations from the
painful past and its heavy burden, by hiding from them the truth on
their roots, origin and identity.

Some of the representatives of these generations didn’t figure out
that they are the generations of Armenians, rather Turks or Kurds,
those Armenians who were somehow able to stay alive during the years
of the Armenian Genocide. There were people however, who after nearly
a century began digging in their own past to understand where they
come from and discover their true identity.

23 year old Dilara Atesh is one of them, this is her first visit to
Armenia- and our meeting with her took place in the Tsitsernakaberd
Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex in Yerevan. In the first years of
her conscious life the girl from Dersim couldn’t even imagine that she
has Armenian roots.

Many features of her family household life indicated that they differ
from others around, she said.

“In school, where we were being educated under the Sunni-Kemalist
system, I was having problems with identity. I was noticing that the
households of the other students’ families differed from ours. Already
from these years I started asking myself – why are we different?”,
Dilara told ARMENPRESS in the Yerevan Memorial.

She says her first discovery happened in high school. “I was 15-16
years old, I was living in Istanbul with my mother. My relatives came
to visit us from Bursa, including my great grandmother from my
mother’s side Fintoz and my uncles. An ordinary conversation led to
our roots. One of my uncles said that we are actually Armenians, and
that my great-grandmother had told him. This was news for me, and I
began thinking about it. Afterwards I began researching who I am”, she

With a bit surprise she mentions that although there were always many
mosques in their neighborhood, she has always been drawn to churches
since childhood. “There was an old Greek church near our house, one
day I went there. I felt something strange, it was some kind of
another feeling. Since then, I began wearing a cross. Although I’m not
baptized yet, but I am wearing one since those days. I was wearing it
at school also, which caused my schoolmates to call me names, such as
atheist, gavur [Turkish derogatory term meaning faithless]……..When I
told them that I am Armenian they began to defame me”, Dilara said.

It was during these years that Dilara clearly decided to study and
learn Armenian. “I began learning the alphabet with the help of a
friend. For almost one and a half week I tried to learn the letters
for day and night. I succeeded”, Dilara recalls with joy on her face,
mentioning that if you are doing something with love, then you will
definitely succeed.

Today, Dilara is a 2nd year student at the faculty of Armenian
language and literature of the Erciyes University in Kayseri, Turkey.
She had to miss the first classes of the new academic year because of
her visit to Armenia, however she says she has no regrets, mentioning
that she has learnt a lot more here.

After enrolling in the university she began to look into her lecturer
staff, and found out that she has three Azerbaijani lecturers. “There
are many soldiers in the faculty where I study, they are studying
Armenian. Of course, studying the language isn’t their main goal –
there is a law in Turkey whereby graduate soldiers are paid more. Many
of them study simply for the diploma, while others seek to join the
ranks of the national intelligence service”, she said.

Dilara’s interests for Armenia have already managed to get her into
trouble in the university – the rector’s office carried out a special
investigation into her activities and possible association with the
PKK. Nevertheless, this didn’t hold her back from visiting Armenia.

Speaking on her visit, Dilara stressed that the most emotional moment
for her was in Khor Virap – when she say Mount Ararat for the first
time. “When I saw Ararat on the way to Khor Virap I didn’t understand
what happened to me and tears began pouring down my eyes. When I came
out of the church and wanted to take a picture, I began to cry, it was
the first time that I saw Ararat from such a close distance. The
people around me approached me and began calming me down, of course it
lasted for around 1 and a half hours.

You see, my one foot was on the Turkish border, while the other on the
Armenian. I read a book once, Hrachya Kochar’s Karot [trnsl.
Homesickness/Longing]. I had the Turkish translation of that book in
my Dersim home. I was very impressed and moved by Arakel’s character.
He was looking at Ararat from the Soviet Armenia’s border and
reminiscing about his home: at that moment, he was on my mind all the
time”, Dilara says wiping tears from her eyes.

We entered the Armenian Genocide Museum: Dilara immediately approached
the picture of Aurora Mardiganian. She says many people liken her to
Aurora, and she herself sees similarities. She mentions what an
incredible story this girl has, after seeing and surviving so many
things, she settles in the USA and makes a film…..

The conversation reached to the present-day Turkey. “A single complete
state doesn’t exist in Turkey today – there are different peoples,
different ideas, different faiths. And no one likes one another – they
call the Circassians thieves, they call the Greeks liars, and
Armenians – traitors. They themselves create enemies. The system is
like this, they are implementing an assimilation policy”, she said.

She was upset to mention that the time has come to depart from Armenia.

“Initially I told myself – I’ll come here and see for one time, it
will be enough, but now I am thinking about returning here every year.
I hope that I will come here again for a longer time. In addition, I
am thinking about continuing my post-graduate studies here after
graduating the university. I hope my desire will become reality with

I feel calm here, but the fact of leaving saddens me. To some extent I
am from there, although my people are from here. Let’s put it this
way, I will go to the other side of Khor Virap”, Dilara said.

Before leaving the Armenian Genocide Museum she stopped at the
guestbook. After signing it for a long time, she concluded her
thoughts in Armenian – “Armenia means homesickness to me”.

Interview by Araks Kasyan

Photos by Tatev Duryan

#163 Yervant1


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Posted 22 February 2018 - 11:50 AM

Turkish genealogy database fascinates, frightens Turks
Fehim Tastekin February 21, 2018
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The government has made Turkey’s population registers public for the first time, identifying ethnic Armenians and other minorities, and excited Turks immediately crashed the system.
Image by Hugo Goodridge/Al-Monitor

During the days when Turkey still hoped to join the European Union, its people were becoming willing to question their ethnic and religious ancestry. Since then, the country has reverted to a time when people were disgraced and denigrated, with the government’s blessings, as “crypto-Armenians."

Hrant Dink was the editor of the Armenian-language newspaper Agos in 2004 when he wrote that Sabiha Gokcen, the first female military pilot of the Turkish Republic, was of Armenian parentage. Because of this and other articles he penned, Dink found himself the subject of investigation by the Justice Ministry. He was assassinated in 2007 for reasons thought to be related to his strong support for Armenian causes.

Dink's story illustrates why population registers in Turkey were kept secret until recently. The topic has always been a sensitive issue for the state. The confidentiality of data that identifies people's lineage was considered a national security issue.

There were two main reasons for all this secrecy: to conceal that scores of Armenians, Syriacs, Greeks and Jews had converted to Islam, and to avoid any debate about "Turkishness.” Its definition, “anyone who is attached to the Turkish state as a citizen," was enshrined in the constitution as part of the philosophy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of the Turkish Republic and its first president.

For a long time, the official policy was that Turks formed a cohesive ethnic identity in Turkey. But less than two weeks ago, on Feb. 8, population registers were officially opened to the public via an online genealogy database. The system crashed quickly under the demand. Some people who had always boasted of their "pure" Turkish ancestry were shocked to learn they actually had other ethnic and religious roots.

On the darker side, comments such as “Crypto-Armenians, Greek and Jews in the country will now be exposed” and “Traitors will finally learn their lineage” became commonplace on social media.

Genealogy has always been a popular topic of conversation in Turkish society, but also a tool of social and political division. Families often acknowledged in private that their lineage was Armenian or that a long-dead relative was a convert to Islam, but those conversations were kept secret. Being a convert in Turkey carried a stigma that could not be erased.

Ethnic Armenian columnist Hayko Bagdat told Al-Monitor, “During the 1915 genocide, along with mass conversions, there were also thousands of children in exile. Those who could reach foreign missionaries were spirited abroad. Some were grabbed by roaming gangs during their escape and made into sex slaves and laborers. The society is not yet ready to deal with this reality. Imagine that a man who had served as the director of religious affairs of this country [Lutfi Dogan] was the brother of someone who was the Armenian patriarch [Sinozk Kalustyan].”

He went on, “Kalustyan, who returned to Turkey from Beirut in 1961, was remembered as a saint in the Turkish Armenian Patriarchate and as someone who had served in the most difficult times after 1915. During the genocide, his mother sent the children away and converted to Islam. Later she married [a man called] Dogan, who was of high social standing, and had two girls and a boy. The boy was Lutfi Dogan. When the mother, who was then with the Nationalist Action Party branch in Malatya province, died, his uncle came in priest garb from Beirut to attend the funeral. Nobody could say anything.”

The mindset of society was starkly clear when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once complained, “We are accused of being Jews, Armenians or Greeks.”

There were those who feared that data obtained from population registers could be used to stigmatize the famous and used for political lynching campaigns. After the database went down, they spoke out against its restoration. One of them was Tayfun Atay, a columnist for Turkey’s daily Cumhuriyet.

“I was advised in a friendly manner not to admit that I am a Georgian. That was the lightest form of pressure. What about those who risk learning they are of Armenian ancestry or a convert? Just think: You think you are a red-blooded Turk but turn out to be a pure-blood Armenian. Imagine the societal repercussions,” he wrote Feb. 12.

As the debate raged, the system suddenly came back online Feb. 14.

Many Turks are questioning the timing of making this information available.

“If they had done this a few years ago when we were [becoming more tolerant], conspiracy theories would not have been as strong as today, when the state behaves as though we are in a struggle for existence. This is how Turkey reinvigorates the spirit of the Independence War” to inspire patriotism and pro-government thinking, journalist Serdar Korucu told Al-Monitor.

Those who oppose the system fear that a society already in a morass of racism will sink into it even further. Others, however, say that though reality might be shocking, couldn’t it be useful in eradicating racism?

“Yes, definitely. Everyone in Turkey is curious about their ancestry. That is a fact,” Korucu responded. “Why is facing reality so hard?" He said of the Sabiha Gokcen story, "That turned the country upside down."

Korucu believes data confidentiality is essential to prevent population registers from being misused as instruments of political defamation, but warned, “The state organs already know everything about us."

In 2013, Agos reported that the government was secretly coding minorities in population registers: Greeks were 1, Armenians were 2 and Jews were 3. The covert classification of religious minorities was met with wide outrage.

"What's worse is these facts emerge when it is time for a young man for report to military conscription. In short, there are those who know us better than we do. So why not tell us about it?” Korucu asked.

“Population registers are dangerous. That is why Hrant Dink was murdered," the columnist Bagdat noted. "The director of the Genocide Museum in Yerevan told a delegation from Turkey [about] the three most-discussed issues by those who were able to escape. Armenians first tell us about the Muslims who helped them escape the genocide, then the Armenians who betrayed them and only then do they narrate their catastrophe. If we make public the names of Armenians who were forced to convert to Islam, their grandchildren will be in danger today.” 

He added, “This is how the situation is after 100 years: The Turkish state asked us to accept being Turks. Fine, let me say I am a Turk. Will I be given a public job? No. When I say, ‘No, I am an Armenian,’ I am treated as a terrorist. Nothing has changed. Opening of the population registers means nothing to me. How can we forget Yusuf Halacoglu, the director of the Historical Society of Turkey in 2007, who had bluntly threatened, ‘Don’t make me angry. I have a list of converts I can reveal down to their streets and homes.’ These words, by this man who later became a politician in the Nationalist Action Party, were a threat to Turkish politics.”

Is the information in the now publicly accessible registers complete?

Another ethnic Armenian, journalist Yervant Ozuzun, has doubts. ”We don’t know if anything changed. We know ethnic origins were marked with different codes in the register. We as Armenians were code No. 2. Has this changed? I don’t think so."

Government officials aren't saying one way or the other. 

Fehim Tastekin is a Turkish journalist and a columnist for Turkey Pulse who previously wrote for Radikal and Hurriyet. He has also been the host of the weekly program "SINIRSIZ," on IMC TV. As an analyst, Tastekin specializes in Turkish foreign policy and Caucasus, Middle East and EU affairs. He is the author of “Suriye: Yikil Git, Diren Kal,” “Rojava: Kurtlerin Zamani” and “Karanlık Coktugunde - ISID.” Tastekin is founding editor of the Agency Caucasus. On Twitter: @fehimtastekin

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