050502 - Aqhanla says: “Turkey’s whole intelligentsia is now in shame for distorting the historical reality and not recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
Rewriting History: Turkish author works to undo his country’s position on genocide
By Gayane Mkrtchyan
This week Armenian writers hosted a Turkish author and human rights activist, Dogan Aqhanla, who was exiled from his own country for not denying the Armenian genocide.
“I was condemned by the Turkish authorities for condemning and recognizing the genocide. I spent the years of 1985-1987 in Istanbul’s jail as a political prisoner together with my wife and newborn child,” says Aqhanla.
He is one of a few intellectuals of his time who doesn’t turn a blind eye to the historical facts and speaks openly about it, putting to shame the Turkish intelligentsia.
Aqhanla says: “Turkey’s whole intelligentsia is now in shame for distorting the historical reality and not recognizing the Armenian Genocide. There is only one mention about the genocide in modern Turkish literature and the author is Nazim Hikmet. I should say that recently an opera piece was produced on the basis of that work, but the part (about genocide) was withdrawn.”
According to the Turkish writer, his country’s policy of negating and distorting the facts turns Turkey into a criminal state today. One cannot say that the generations born after the Second World War are personally responsible, however the same generations must be ready to answer the question of how they view the crimes committed by their ancestors.
“I am here today to declare that I assume historical responsibility. Recognition for me is not only a moral but also political and public matter, because as German Bernhard Schlink says: “The one who lives in peace with the criminal also becomes responsible,” he says.
In May 1998, Aqhanla lost his Turkish citizenship because of his political views and his position on the Genocide. Since 2001 he has been a citizen of Germany and lives in Cologne and from time to time contributes to a Turkish-language newspaper. In 1998-99, Istanbul’s Belge Publishing House published the writer’s “Seas that Disappeared” trilogy in Turkish. His latest book “The Judges of the Doomsday” touches upon the subject of the genocide committed against Armenians.
His sixth “Dialogue, Alienation and Memory” book will be published in Turkey in May. The ending of the book takes place in Tsitsernakaberd (the Genocide Monument in Yerevan).
He writes: “If I hadn’t come to Germany, most probably I would not become a writer and would not write a book that ends in Yerevan, near the monument to the memory of the Genocide victims. And I wouldn’t have found the courage and strength to stand here today in front of Mount Ararat and speak.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to participate in the commemoration of the Genocide victims on the 90th anniversary. I am grateful to you also for allowing me, a man representing a society that committed crimes, to remember and pay homage to the memory of every victim and to ponder about the disgrace and dishonor of my nation.”
Aqhanla says that his struggle is against the policy of negation assumed by Turkey and for the recognition of the genocide committed against Armenians. He wants to feel again that the country where he was born is his country.
Aqhanla works for an organization that has set out to alter the mentality of the rising generation of Turks in Germany.
“Last year we took a group of young German-based Turks to the street in Berlin where Soghomon Tehlerian killed Taleat pasha. We worked with them for three days. There were also five young people from Turkey in the group. In that very street those who came from Turkey started to debate, saying that there was no such thing. But the German-Turks countered, saying that the whole world knows about it,” Aqhanla says.
In the end, two of the five young people changed their position upon return to Turkey. One of them organized a collection of signatures to condemn the Armenian genocide. The other changed the topic of his doctoral thesis, choosing the 1915 Armenian Genocide. The Turkish writer considers this to be their achievement.
“We took the young people to the German archives, which are open to everyone. We studied Armenian case N183 that indisputably presents Germany’s real participation in the genocide on the state level. I also feel ashamed for Germany, which once took part in the crime and hasn’t admitted and condemned it to date,” he says.
Aqhanla says he dreams of a day when Turkey will consider “recognition” to be the beginning of the re-evaluation of its past before 2015. And he dreams of one and a half million pomegranate trees to be planted in Turkey in memory of each victim.
“I dream that every Armenian who lost his or her ancestor during the years of the genocide will return and find a secure place in the country that is called Turkey today. I hope that my dreams will come true. If it is fulfilled, and that must be fulfilled, at that time I will apply for Turkish citizenship and will say: I am yours. And I am here again.”