BY ORHAN KEMAL CENGIZ
I am not a religious person. I am not Kurdish. I am not gay. I am not Christian. I am not Armenian. I am not Roma. But I have spent all my life defending these people’s rights.
I am a human rights defender. When I describe myself, I say I am a human rights defender, a lawyer and a writer. It was during my first time in London in 1998 that I realized, no matter what I do, I was a “bloody Turk” for some people. Ironically, I was working for the Kurdish Human Right Project there, and we were taking cases to the European Court of Human Rights, as a result of which I felt deeply threatened by the deep state elements in my country. When I met with the Armenian community in London, I turned into a representative of Turkey. It was the first time my “Turkishness” took precedence over all my qualifications.
Massacres of Armenians were orchestrated and organized by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) — which came to power through a military coup — while the Ottoman Empire was falling apart. After these massacres and as a result of the lack of confrontation with our past, the CUP and its gangs changed their format and turned into the “deep state” in Turkey. These deep state elements continued their massacres and manipulations and drenched Turkey with blood during the Republican era. We have these deep state elements, but we also have many people fighting against them with or without knowing the history. The Ergenekon trial, in this sense, is a turning point in this endeavor in Turkey. You can think of the Ergenekon gang as the armed wing of the CUP in today’s Turkey.
The massacres of Armenians were carried out by a certain mindset, by a political movement. Unfortunately, this political movement also created the official Turkish history, one in which there is no place for Armenians. And the state is in complete denial of what happened in Turkey in the past. This denial unfortunately gives strong support to a racist approach toward Turkey and its people.
I was in Toronto last year attending an extremely interesting course on genocide. For two weeks we went into all the details of different genocides that took place in various parts of the world. All lecturers gave exemplary presentations, and I felt I had really learned something. However, I also realized that there was a fundamental difference in the way in which the Armenian genocide is being handled. When we spoke about the Holocaust, we spoke of the Nazi regime; when we discussed the genocide in Cambodia, we talked about the Khmer regime; when it came to the Armenian genocide, though, we only heard the word “Turks.”
Complete and blanket denial feeds complete and absolute labeling. This is a vicious circle. It is very unfortunate that some Armenians, while believing they are seeking justice, have turned into hopeless racists. They do not want to believe that there are many good people in this country. They do not want to remember that there were also Turks who lost their lives while trying to protect Armenians. They hold tightly on to this image of the “bloody Turk.” Every Turk, every individual living in Turkey, is just a murderer for them.
The pathology of amnesia and the pathology of blind hatred are two sides of one coin. They both serve the same purpose: Both leave Turks and Armenians as deeply neurotic people.
In the midst of all this madness, Hrant Dink was a safe haven of reason, wisdom and compassion. He had a deep understanding of Turkey and the trauma we have been suffering for so long. He was killed because he was the hope in the face of this madness. He could have been killed by an Armenian racist. But instead, he was killed by Turkish racists, of course, under the guidance of the deep state. Dink was a bloody Turk for Armenian racists and an Armenian traitor for racist Turks. He was a dangerous figure for all who wanted to continue this vicious circle of hatred. During his funeral, we chanted, “We all are Hrant Dink.” We all need to be Dink if we wish to contribute to reconciliation. I bow respectfully before his memory.