BY HENRY D. ASTARJIAN M.D.
So, this is Turkey inside out, with the inside being its underbelly; exposed, soft, and vulnerable. Despite its genuine structural weaknesses, Institutional Turkey continues to colonize the non-Turkic inhabitants of Turkey; the Kurds and other minorities, who suffer ethnic, cultural and educational oppression.
For nearly a century we have been in a wake, mourning our 1.5 million dead in the Genocide, but have forgotten, mostly ignored, our “living dead”; a million or so Armenians who have been forcefully converted to Islam, carrying the ID of a Turk.
For nearly a century we have ignored the cries of these people; “Please save us!”, which had resonated in our post-Genocidal conscience. The Nation, which had barely survived the Genocide and in shell shock, could barely care for itself, let alone rescue the lamb from the jaws of the wolf. Despite that, there were some rescues, but not from Turkey. Some Arab tribes, mainly the Mujhhims (Shammars), had saved some Armenian children from the Syrian Desert, Der-el-Zor. My uncle by marriage Dickran, was an accomplice in “Kidnapping” some of these girls from their Arab “Savers”, and bringing them to Mosul.
That was a triumph, but that was all. There were some similar, sporadic anecdotes, but not more.
As time passed their cries echoed fainter and fainter, until now, when, despite the loudness of their cry; “Please save us!” it faintly echoes in the empty chambers of our memories.
Diaspora is oblivious to their calls, and the leadership is ignorant, more correctly inept in handling the problem; they are busy pursuing the cause of the dead in a bloody Genocide, ignoring the cause of the victims of the bloodless Genocide (My uncle called it ‘Red Genocide and White Genocide’) ignoring their inherent duty to do something, something which could take many forms.
We have to learn from the others: the United States Armed Forces do not leave any soldier, dead or alive, behind. Israel has one captive soldier with Hamas, and they are raising hell to get him back. The issue holds a prime importance in their conduct of diplomacy to bring Shallet home. They negotiated the release of a thousand Palestinian prisoners for the release of their single soldier.
In Kurdish American meetings, which I have attended, at least two dozen Kurds have anonymously confided in me that their grandmother, sometimes grandfather, is Armenian, and they consider themselves both Kurds and Armenians. They invariably have questioned, rhetorically, “What have we gained from being Muslims?” These few words speak volumes. I had Kemal, a polite semi-educated “Turk”, who said his mother was Armenian, but “Please keep it a secret”; even though he had become a naturalized American, he was afraid of some kind of retaliation against his relatives in Turkey. A doctor friend of mine from Elazig (Kharpert) told me that his grandmother was Armenian, and the only word he learned from her was “Parehgam” (Friend). There are the Hemshins in the Trabizon area, who have collectively converted to Islam, but they are Armenians, and proud of it too.
Demographic diversity in Turkey- unlike the United States where it is an asset- spells disaster for the country, because of Turks hegemony and colonization of its minority citizens, especially of the not-so-minor population of Kurds who constitute approximately one third of Turkey’s population.
The persecution of this large segment of the population creates nothing less than resentment, hatred, contempt, and armed struggle, the way it has been conducted by the armed Kurds. The dynamics of their rebellion is the same as that of the Armenians who had no choice, but to bear arms to defend their hamlets and villages.
Another persecuted notable group is the Alevis, the Shi’a, not Sunni Alevis who gladly accepted the converted Armenian into their Islamic fold.
There is no doubt that the converts to Islam, though half or quarter Armenian, given the freedom that they deserve, will claim their ethnic origin as theirs, and join forces with the Kurds to reclaim their land. The Kurds realize, and I have articulated this in my speeches to the Kurdish Parliament in Exile (Brussels), that our causes meet, and that our causes are intertwined, that we have a common enemy, and that we are a de-facto presence in Anatolia, and that our rights on the land is reserved by the Sevres Treaty, which also gave us the Wilsonian Map. It is clear that a unilateral rapprochement between the Kurds and the Turks, must not be at the expense of Western Armenia. Given all that, we should have no problems with the Kurds.
It is incumbent upon our leadership to pursue the matter in earnest and fight for it as if the White Genocide is the continuation of the red Genocide. We are already a century late.
Some say it takes a miracle. Others who have the faith say yes we can! Yes we can take back Western Armenia, but only if we have the resolve, if we have the guts, and if we mobilize our forces, in toto. Yes we can succeed in re-creating Western Armenia, which then can fulfill the promise of Miatsial Azad Angakh Hayastan (United, Free, and Sovereign Armenia) in earnest. Until then the title remains as it is; a slogan.