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
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