BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Yup, pretty amazing, and that’s putting it mildly. You saw the news item. But it was presented so matter-of-factly, so blandly, it might as well have been just another news release from just another organization about just another run-of-the-mill dinner dance. But to me this was epic.
The ARF, the Turkish government’s bogey-man, its bête-noire, its version of evil incarnate held a meeting in broad daylight in Constantinople for the first time in 80 years. The much mythologized and maligned “terrorist Tashnags” of successive Turkish governments’ fevered imaginations and propaganda machines are back in town.
The meeting was no clandestine affair with some shadowy group, rather a legitimate political party operating in Turkey with elected members in the country’s parliament. Making things even more impressive is the nature of that political party, the BDP—it is primarily Kurdish. Yes, those same Kurds, some of whom massacred our ancestors. The same Kurds who were used, duped or knowingly, by the Ottoman government to keep Armenians in fear. Those Kurds are the ones who are slowly coming around to full acceptance of their misdeeds, starting to accept responsibility, and even atoning for them in some cases (think the Soorp Geeragos Church recently renovated at municipal expense by a Kurdish mayor’s design). And, they’re approaching the right “place” far faster than Turkey’s government.
Nor was this an isolated incident. It was the second meeting between the two parties in as many weeks. This further falls in the context of years of contacts and excruciatingly slow refamiliarization with one another after three-quarters of a century of Genocide-imposed separation. But all along, some contact existed. Whether that contact was because we were neighbors in the Arab countries and Iran, or having Şivan Perwer, perhaps the most noted Kurdish singer of our times, on one of the earliest episodes of Horizon TV (in the Los Angeles area) back in 1989.
So we have evolving reconnection between two neighboring nations, one of which is composed in significant part of forcefully Islamicized members of the other. But that’s not all. This reconnection has now made the jump into the country whose government has persecuted and massacred both nations for over half a millennium! So, we must also give due credit to the Turkish government for not preventing this (yes, we’re still at a point in this process where it’s reasonable to be pleased with the absence of a negative, rather than expecting the presence of a positive).
We should be thrilled and extremely cautious all at once. We should be looking for our Kurdish neighbors in dispersion and seeking rational ways of cooperating based on a necessary and slow re-acquaintance with our old neighbors and relatives. This will not be easy, especially for those of us whose families suffered at the hands of Kurds as opposed to directly by Turks. But, it is a necessary prologue to our return home to Turkish-occupied Western Armenia.
No doubt many will snicker at the prospect of good relations with the Kurds or recreating an Armenian presence in Western Armenia. But a lot of people snickered when the prospect of Soviet Armenia’s independence was discussed back in the 1960s and 1970s. And, think about it, if anyone had said, even a measly 5 years ago, that the ARF would be back in Bolis openly, we all would have snickered.
The beginnings of a sea-change seem to be at hand.
Get busy. Find a Kurd. Start talking. S/he may even be from your ancestral town or village.