Cemal Pasha’s ghost was strolling about Yerevan over the past week. At some point, people started to unconsciously call Cemal Pasha’s grandson, popular Turkish journalist Hasan Cemal visiting Armenia just so – Cemal Pasha.
Some people had come to the meeting with Hasan Cemal at Moscow Cinema pursuing one goal – to see a celebrity, “Cemal Pasha’s grandson has arrived, let’s see who he is”. At the same time, some people did not miss the opportunity to “sting to the quick” claiming he is not sincere, is an undercover agent of Turkish authorities, etc.
I don’t know if Hasan Cemal’s visit to Armenia bore some hidden agenda or not. I neither know whether he had agreed his visit with official Ankara or not. However, I find it less likely, especially if we take into account the fact he has repeatedly criticized Erdogan, and following his visit has hurried to meet Zaman Newspaper employees (the newspaper’s editor has been arrested by law enforcement agencies).
At any rate, the fact I do not know Hasan Cemal does not enable me to make comments on his degree of sincerity. At that, I am not able to understand the fit of hysteria his visit produced.
We tend to say Turkey should change, confront its own history and draw lessons from it. We also say the Turkish society is gradually changing and the previous taboos are on their way to fade. And so one of people eliminating those taboos arrives in Yerevan and says that his “1915: The Armenian Genocide” book demonstrates that a person denying the Armenian Genocide can translate into a person recognizing it. But what are we doing meanwhile? Hasan Cemal’s public statements regarding his being against the return of Western Armenia and reparations make us fly into a rage. But what was he to say? Was he to say he is for conveying Van and Kars to Armenia?
At times, I had the impression that certain members of our society were not attempting to argue with Turkish journalist Hasan Cemal, but rather with Cemal Pasha assassinated by Petros Ter-Poghosyan and Artashes Gevorgyan in Tbilisi in 1922. What if we need to act a bit more sober-mindedly? Cemal Pasha was punished, and true heroes have executed his sentence. There is no need to lay claims to their laurels.
We’d better do our best to understand what we want in reality. What do we imply or expect when saying Turkey should recognize the Armenian Genocide? Is it that hard to realize that the recognition will be a long and painstaking process and it would be naïve, to say the least, to expect Hasan Cemal or Recep Tayyip Erdogan to assess the Armenian Genocide in the same way as we - Armenians - do.
Is it not clear that Turkey will attempt to find such ways of recognition which will not undermine the foundations of the Turkish statehood? If we are not ready to proceed along that lengthy and painful path, maybe we should abandon the idea Turkey will recognize the Armenian Genocide some day?
We do not even try to view the issue through the eyes of present-day Turks. Most of them have no notion of Armenians and the Armenian Genocide, and a part of them has revealed the truth only today. Does our maximalist approach help those people move ahead, or do we push them away instead?
During the meeting with the students of YSU Faculty of Oriental Studies Hasan Cemal said (quoting Armenpress):
“Today I speak as Hasan Cemal, as a journalist. I am not a state. However, were I the Republic of Turkey, I would first of all apologize to Armenians, second, I would recognize the Armenian Genocide, third, I would reframe the textbooks, and fourth, I would take steps to demonstrate the Armenian culture and Armenian traces. I would then grant Turkish citizenship to all interested people and sixth, I would start talks over reparation”.
If we do not perceive such an approach as a ground for dialog, what do we expect to hear from those members of Turkish society who stand ready to speak about the Armenian Genocide?
At the meeting at Moscow Cinema, Hasan Cemal termed his grandfather’s assassins as “bandits”. Such a term appears absolutely unacceptable to both me and all Armenians. Yet, it doesn’t mean this statement should make us act ignorantly of what the journalist said at the meeting and which was quoted above. Our history has taught us that the black and white perception of life has always led us to the dead end, hasn’t it?
However, the fuss was mainly over the fact that book’s translator turkologist Ruben Melkonyan was unhappy as “Hrant Dink” Foundation had breached their agreement and made changes in the text (as far as I understand, it refers to the footer fields as the translator cannot make changes in the original text). If the contract signed between the parties has really been violated, then the case should be taken to the court and be settled there.
However, Mr. Melkonyan says:
“I am happy that the society revealed the Turkish intellectual. I do not want to go with legal issues and will not take an action on it”.
Conclusions are up to you.
We tend to put aside the important issues and to stick to Hasan Cemal’s statements getting oblivious of the fact he is a journalist (although prominent) and not a decision-making politician. We even start dropping hints at Hrant Dink saying he was a “controversial figure”. After all, who do we favor and who should we start talks with in Turkey? If we are abasing those who are for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, will there be other such people? It is less likely there will be people ready to be stoned not only in their native Turkey but also in Armenia.
Which is our ultimate goal? Is it the Western Armenia and compensation to the tune of billions of dollars? If a visit of one journalist can spark such ado among us, do you think we are ready to speak about reparations with Turkey?
Ara Tadevosyan is the Director of Mediamax.