ANKARA—The Armenian Weekly Editor Khatchig Mouradian delivered a talk on Saturday in Ankara, in Turkish, on justice for the Armenian Genocide during a panel discussion held in memory of Hrant Dink.
Below is the English version of the talk. Details of the event will follow.
The Turkish version of the talk is available here.
How did Turkish come to me?
I did not learn it to add one more foreign language to my CV.
Turkish came to me the day I was born–I had not asked for it, yet I could not reject it either.
It came to me in the voice of my grandmother.
For you, Turkish is the mother tongue. For me it’s my grandmother’s language.
My grandparents survived the genocide and ended up in Lebanon with practically nothing. They rebuilt their lives from scratch, and gave my parents the gift of life.
And when I was born, they gave me one of the few things they were, in fact, able to bring with them from Kilikia: the Turkish language.
For you, Turkish is the language of parental love.
For me, it is the burden of death and dispossession.
My Turkish has memories of death and dispossession from Adana, Kilis, Konya Eregli, and Hasanbeyli. The villages and towns of my grandparents.
And today, for the first time, I speak that language from a podium.
Today, for the first time, I return that gift of death and dispossession to the lands it came from.
And instead, I demand a language of justice.
Six years ago on this day, I woke up in Boston with an early morning call from my mother in Lebanon.
She gave me the devastating news.
At that moment, the only thing I could do was sit down and write this letter:
I believe by now, the water found its crack; you found in the great beyond those whom we lost 92 years ago.
Hrant, I have some favors to ask.
Embrace Krikor Zohrab for me. Tell him I have been reading and rereading his short stories ever since I discovered them.
Give Daniel Varoujan my best. Tell him he enlightened my youth with his poems, and he continues to inspire my soul.
Hrant, do not forget to chant songs of survival with Siamanto.
Tell them they are on our bookshelves, they are on our classroom tables, their words are on our lips and in our hearts.
And tell them I believe–I’m sure you do, too–that one day, they will be on the bookshelves, classroom tables, lips, and hearts of Turks as well.
One day their statues–and yours–will also adorn Istanbul.
Do not forget to pray with Komitas, and tell him that one day, Armenian women will sing again in those villages.
Please find my grandparents. Tell them we carry their names and their love to the land they never left, the land we never saw.
Hrant, kiss the blessed foreheads of each and every victim of the Medz Yeghern of 1915.
Tell them we shall continue to walk on the road of their dreams. Because their dreams are our dreams.
Tell them we shall make the deserts flourish with the scent of their memory.
Tell them that from Talaat to Samast, we are survivors.
Tell them we are all Zohrab, Varoujan, Siamanto, Komitas, and Hrant.
I had written, “Tell them we are all Zohrab, Varoujan, Siamanto, Komitas, and Hrant.”
Years passed. Yet I still have not reconciled myself with the “We are all Hrant Dink, We are all Armenian” mantra that thousands in Turkey chanted at Dink’s funeral, and hundreds of writers repeated in the months and years that followed.
Speaking at a Dink memorial event a few days after his assassination, I was not simply pointing out the obvious when I said that no one is Hrant Dink. I only saw one man—lying bullet-ridden, face down, on the sidewalk. He was alone. Where were all the other Hrant Dinks then?
After that fateful day—out of guilt, anger, or resignation, I do not know—many in Turkey who knew Hrant became more vocal. And many who hadn’t known him now did, and their lives were affected profoundly.
Yet, despite the outpouring of emotion and ink, despite the outrage in Turkey and beyond, and despite the incessant repetition of “We are all Hrant Dink, We are all Armenian,” Hrant is no less alone today than he was six years ago on that sidewalk.
Because justice is the only true cure for that loneliness.
And the individuals responsible for the crime have not been apprehended.
No one is Hrant Dink. Even Hrant Dink was sometimes not himself, because one cannot fully be oneself—as a public intellectual and, more importantly, as an Armenian—and get away with it in Turkey, where the pressure to tone discourse down, to criticize and lament within limits, to applaud the most insignificant act of dissidence as the paragon of heroism is overwhelming, insurmountable.
No one, then, is Hrant Dink, and no one, by the way, is Armenian.
Speaking in Istanbul on April 24, 2010, to a group of intellectuals and activists, the one message I tried to convey was the impossibility to share, feel, and understand—and, in the greater scheme of things, its unimportance.
The Turkish national economy (milli ekonomi) was built to a considerable extent on the violent dispossession of Armenians. The power asymmetry between Turkey and Armenia today is a product of that dispossession. And the burden of dispossession makes words of sharing, feelings, and understanding ring hollow, no matter how genuine they are.
But there is a way forward. A true engagement with Armenians begins from the point of utter dispossession and humiliation—on the sands of Der Zor.
And a true engagement begins from the point of turning the language of dispossession into a language of justice.
Let us not talk about a shared past and how we all eat the same food.
The road to peace is not more dolma, it is justice.
Let us not ask everyone to become friends with Armenians or with Hrant.
Here in this hall, in this country, and around the world, Hrant and Armenians have many friends.
But asking others to open their eyes and acknowledge the suffering of Armenians can never be enough.
What is necessary is justice.
So today, I return the language of death and dispossession to you.
And instead, in the name of my grandparents, Khachadour and Meline Mouradian, Ardashes and Aghavni Gharibian, I demand a language of justice.
Khatchig Mouradian is the editor of the Armenian Weekly, the program coordinator of the Armenian Genocide Program at Rutgers University, and a PhD candidate in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University. He has lectured extensively and participated in academic conferences in Armenia, Austria, Cyprus, Lebanon, Norway, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, and across the U.S.