Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Fallout from the Slaying of Hrant Dink

The slaying of Hrant Dink is yet another sad chapter in the history of the ruling regimes in Turkey and the pain they keep inflicting upon Armenians. The continuing destruction of ancient Armenian churches and historical monuments, the confiscation of church properties (Christian foundations), the conversion of ancient Armenian churches to mosques, the prohibitions on the teaching of the Armenian language and training of clergy, the absence from educational textbooks any reference to the 3000 year old Armenian roots of more than half of the country, and instilling an environment of intolerance towards Armenians, have taken their toll.

Not only successive governments have inflicted pain upon Armenians within Turkey's own borders, but they have imposed a crippling blockade on the newly independent and tiny landlocked Armenia. This blockade has caused tremendous suffering and contributed to widespread poverty and unemployment.

In one of his last writings, Hrant asked that the Diaspora turn its energies to the newly independent state of Armenia. The government of Turkey has a tremendous role to play here. This blockade, the ultimate symbol of intolerance towards Armenians, should be lifted immediately and unconditionally.

However, lifting the blockade is not only a political decision. Without dealing with the environment of intolerance towards Armenians, open borders don't mean anything. Would any shopkeeper in Turkey dare to promote or showcase a product with the label Made in Armenia today? Would Armenians feel safe and free to move around?

Recent news from Turkey, and in particular the reaction from the media, are very encouraging. Indeed, I could not believe the 21 January, 2007, statement in the daily Sabah (Morning in Turkish) by an advisor to the prime minister of Turkey, that Hrant Dink "was not entrusted to us as an Armenian; rather he was the real host of this country." This is the closest to an official acknowledgement that Armenians are natives and the original inhabitants of much of the land that is called Turkey today.

The words that I read from the press in Turkey are very encouraging. But actions speak louder. For starters, when will the government of Turkey lift its blockade of Armenia? When will it stop adding fuel and start putting out the flames of intolerance towards Armenians? How many more Hrants have to be sacrificed before the decent citizens of Turkey make their government do the right thing?

[March 13, Map restored, pictures removed. Hope it'll not disappear again.]


Onnik Krikorian said...

Good from Armenia are sold in Turkey, and particularly vice-versa. Turks travel into Armenia by road via Georgia on direct flights from Turkey and vice-versa. Armenians from here go to do trade in Turkey or to work as nannies. There is also meant to be trafficking for prostitution.

Basically, relations between Armenians and Turks are ironically better than between Armenians and Azeris or Georgians. The main issue is the LAND border is closed and the issue of Genocide Recognition has not been resolved. Territorial concessions will never happen, though.

Well, unless Armenians are willing to take in millions of Turks and Kurds, have a Turkish/Kurdish president elected, and become a predominently Moslem country over night.

David said...

That is precisely what a blockade is, and the natural response to it. Once products hit the international market, in this case Georgia, they become fungible and anyone can trade in them. Armenians will trade and do business with anyone and work anywhere, which I think is one of our better traits. (The only beer you can buy in Yerevan in the early 1990s was from Turkey). Armenians will also buy Azerbaijani products once they hit the Georgian market.
The reverse is more problematic. Outside Istanbul, particularly in the eastern provinces or historic Armenia, few will dare to openly call themselves Armenians and the Made in Armenia label might the kiss of death. I guess as long as we are low key, we'll be ok. So I am not sure how trade will evolve without some major change in the outlook and thinking of much of the population of Turkey.
The blockade is a very serious issue and has already caused enough permanent damage to last for a generation or two. In 1994, for instance, you could barely find a car on the streets of Yerevan; two cars would have been the extent of a traffic jam. With no fuel, you had little electricity and heat, and without raw materials factories were idle (and now obsolete)-- the silicon valley of the Soviet Union destroyed. Kars is only an hour or two from the border, and could have supplied all that Armenia needed. I can't imagine what could've happened had it not been for the emergency infusion of US shipments of fuel, food, and other humanitarian aid through Georgia (Turkey denied the US access) at the time.
Notwithstanding of what we think of the government, there are some outstanding personalities and professionals in Turkey who are highly respected around the world. In addition, if at least a small fraction of what I read recently in the press of Turkey endures, that would give me sufficient hope that things may change in Turkey. As Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Islam, this whole thing is odd. Had Hrant converted to Islam the day before he was slain, we would be talking today about another slain Turk journalist and not an ethnic Armenian. Go figure!
In any event, one can only imagine what the world would have looked like today if the former president of Turkey Turgut Ozal had led a convoy of trucks loaded with food, medicine, and fuel to Armenia in 1992, instead of threatening to teach it the "lesson of 1915."