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06 09 14 - Talking With Turks and Armenians About the Genocide
The October Issue of Reader's Digest (Canadian Edition) features a beautifully written article by Montreal Armenian Line Abrahamian, Associate Editor at Reader's Digest.
The article (pages 62-69) is entitled "My Journey From Hate to Hope," with byline "The Armenian Genocide almost annihilated my ancestors. How could I not hate Turks." This timely and engaging article is preceded by an interview with Orlando Bloom (pages 56-61) in which the A-list Hollywood actor talks about his participation in Andrew Goldberg's stunning "The Armenian Genocide" documentary.

The October Issue of the Canadian Edition will be on newsstands across Canada in the coming days.
In addition to the interview and the article in print, the Reader's Digest website includes another article written by Ms. Abrahamian with quotes and interviews from numerous Turks and some well-known Armenians about the Genocide. The web article is called: "Talking With Turks and Armenians About the Genocide." It is located at:

Six million copies of the magazine will be distributed and sold across Canada. You may email the editors indicating your
appreciation of the articles and the web material at:

Finally, (for international readers) I encourage all of you to visit the website and to order multiple copies of the print edition
to distribute as widely as possible. You may do so by going to the website below: bin/rdcanada.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php?p_sid=1I1G_rhi&p_accessibility=0&

p_lva=155&p_sp=cF9zcmNoPTEmcF9zb3J0X2J5PSZwX2dyaWRzb3J0PSZwX3Jvd19jbnQ9MyZwX3Byb2RzPSZwX2NhdHM9MjIwLDMxMyZwX3B2PSZwX2N2PTIuMzEzJnBfcGFnZT0x& p_srch=1

Or click the much shorter address below and select Magazines - Foreign Orders:

Thank you,Harry Dikranian
PS I encourage you to forward this message to your friends.
“My Journey From Hate to Hope” in the October issue of Reader’s Digest is my attempt to deal with the hatred I’ve felt for Turks because of the 1915 Armenian Genocide that killed 1.5 million men, women and children. Here, I speak with some Turks and some well-known Armenians about the Genocide.
In 2005 the first conference on the 1915 killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks took place in Istanbul. However, just as these voices were being raised, others were trying to silence them. “This conference was first postponed because there were threats against us, and when it did finally happen, people accused us of being traitors and threw eggs,” says novelist Elif Shafak. “But the fact that it even took place is a sign that things are changing in Turkey in a positive direction. But the bigger the change, the deeper the panic of those who want to preserve status quo. That’s why the Turkish judiciary is bringing us to court one by one.
“There are four approaches among Turks regarding the 1915 atrocities,” Shafak explains. “The most common is ignorance and collective amnesia. The second is deliberate rejection and denial. That viewpoint is shared by a smaller group, but their voices are louder because they’re in influential positions. The third is shared by Turkish youth, who say: ‘Whatever happened is in the past. Why am I being held responsible for something my grandfather did, if he did it?’ The fourth is shared by intellectuals and open-minded people like myself. We need to face our past, because the past lives within the present. Only then can our society become democratic. If we had brought to justice those guilty of the massacres and atrocities in the past, it would’ve been harder for the state to oppress other minorities and critical voices.”
There are now about 60 writers and publishers before the Turkish courts. Most recently Shafak, for her book The Bastard of Istanbul, which refers to the massacres. Why does Turkey have a hard time acknowledging the Genocide? “They believe you can’t slander the Turkish nation by putting it on the same level as the Nazis,” explains Taner Akçam, visiting professor of history at the University of Minnesota. “There’s also a fear of consequences—that Turkey will have to pay compensation in land and money. But I think their primary fear is psychological. Armenians are a constant reminder of Turkey’s most traumatic historical event—the collapse of their empire. The Turks think of themselves as the phoenix rising from the ashes of the Armenians. Some of the founders of the Turkish state were members of the party who organized the Genocide. And the Turks have glorified them as heroes. If you call them murderers or thieves, you question the very existence of the state and identity.
“But Turkish society wants to know what really happened in 1915. And for the first time in history, it’s breaking its silence to challenge the official state rhetoric.” This may be due to the books circulating in Turkey about the Genocide. The man responsible for publishing many of them: Ragip Zarakolu. He now stands on trial for publishing two books on the massacres.
“I learned about the Genocide through my mother,” recalls Zarakolu. “In 1915 Turkish soldiers collected her Armenian neighbours. While the Armenians were crying in the streets, my mother and her family were crying inside their homes. Her grandmother saved two Armenian girls from deportation, but soldiers later picked them up again. This made a big impression on me.”
Zarakolu and his late wife, Ayse Nur, founded Belge International Publishing House in Istanbul in 1977 and have published ten books on the Armenians. “The first book was Yves Ternon’s History of a Genocide, in 1993. It was banned and confiscated, and we were accused of making terrorist propaganda. My wife was sentenced to two years in prison. In 1994, our office was firebombed. Now I’m on trial. The state fears these books will open discussion in Turkey, but that has already begun. These books have helped change the minds of Turkish intellectuals, and now there are more courageous people in Turkey.”
That’s crucial in this struggle for recognition, says Fatma Müge Göçek, associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan. “It’s important for Turks like us to speak out because only then will Turkish society listen. If we close ranks with the Armenians, then what nationalists see isn’t the other—it’s the Turk with the Armenian.
“As long as human rights are important to the world, I don’t see anything short of recognition emerging,” says Göçek. “At least that’s what I, as a human being, strive for. Whether it happens in my lifetime, I cannot tell. But at least I’ll leave this place and this problem in a better condition than I found it in.”
Canadian and American Armenians have also been touched by the Genocide. Here is what some of them have to say:
Canadian director Atom Egoyan, whose movie Ararat, about the Genocide, won a Genie for best movie.
“I was doing a film review of Midnight Express for a student paper. Outside the theatre, Turkish students were giving out pamphlets refuting the images in the film. And that was a trigger for me. I became really involved politically and wrote the script for Ararat. But I wasn’t ready to turn it into a movie: I was full of rage and demonized Turks who hadn’t come to terms with this. I didn’t know that there’s a generation of Turks who know nothing about this. If there’s to be dialogue, we have to understand the overwhelming nature of the admission for a people who’ve had no preparation from their government. We can’t just expect someone to accept they’re genocidal.
“Can a human-rights transgression that happened so long ago and has been systematically denied be brought to justice? That’s the enduring question. Do these things go away with time? I don’t think they do.”
Canadian singer Isabel Bayrakdarian.
“My father’s father was forced to march in the desert. He survived, but his wife and two-year-old son died of starvation. My mom’s parents also survived. Turks captured her grandfather and tortured him by pressing a branding iron all over his body. He escaped but was later killed.
“So I grew up with this fierce loyalty to my culture and this need to know what my grandparents went through to make sure I remain Armenian. That’s what colours my singing. When I sing the Armenian song “Deleyaman,” non-Armenian musicians have told me, ‘I don’t know what it is about that song, but it broke my heart.’ It was written as a love song, but after the Genocide, the lyrics ‘I miss my beloved’ acquired a different meaning. ‘I miss my beloved’ not because he’s late from tending the sheep in the mountains. No, he was massacred.
“My mother’s the reason I have such a strong Armenian identity. I saw so much fire in her that this tragedy had happened and still isn’t recognized, but that as long as we don’t forget, we will have justice.
“The pain will never heal because this was a plot to annihilate us. The fact that I’m here and singing Armenian songs, it’s like rising from the ashes and rebuilding.”
American musician Serj Tankian from System of a Down, an Armenian band that is the subject of Screamers, a documentary about their worldwide campaign for Genocide recognition.
“My grandfather and grandmother are survivors of the Genocide. My grandmother has passed away, but my grandfather is still alive—he’s 96. He was five during the Genocide. His father, uncles and grandfather were taken away to a ‘work camp’ but were exterminated. Later Turkish soldiers took him and others out of their village. They were robbed, raped, starved and some were killed. He lost his eyesight for two weeks
“When I heard these stories, my heart opened up and I felt like crying. It’s mind-blowing that man could do that to man in the 20th century. Any time you allow an injustice to occur, you’re encouraging others to think they can get away with it. Hitler did. And genocide is still occurring in Darfur. It’s ridiculous! We haven’t learned our lessons.
“Some of our songs, like ‘Pluck’ and ‘Holy Mountains,’ touch upon the Genocide and the victims and are in homage to them. It’s part of our lives; it’s a part of who we are.
“I’m blown away by Turks who say they’re not only fans of our music but also of the stand we take and what we talk about. It means the tide is turning, that we’re breaking through barriers—and people are realizing the truth.”

Novelist Elif Shafak to be tried for "Insulting Turkishness”Indictments of Major Novelists Signal Erosion of Free Expression Gains in TurkeyFor more information contact: Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105, Elif Shafak, a highly respected and best-selling author, will face trial on September 21, 2006 before the Istanbul Beyoglu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. She is charged with "insulting Turkishness” and will be the third prominent novelist to be hauled into court in Turkey in just over a year. Her publisher, Semi Sökmen, and Asli Bican, her translator, are not currently subject to prosecution, but under Article 11 of the Turkish Press Law would be required to be in court when the author is not in the country. Shafak will stand trial under Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code for her novel The Bastard of Istanbul. The novel follows the histories of two families, one in Istanbul and the other an exiled Armenian family living in San Francisco; the charges stem from a passage in the novel in which one of the characters refers to the deaths of Armenians during the First World War as genocide. Shafak, who divides her time between Istanbul and a teaching position in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Arizona, wrote the book in English, and the English edition will be published by Viking Penguin in March 2007. The Turkish version was published by Metis Publishing House in March 2006 and has become a bestseller in Turkey.Just last month it appeared that Shafak might not be tried. On June 7, 2006, the Beyoglu Public Prosecutor dismissed a proceeding that had been opened against her after she and Sökmen argued that The Bastard of Istanbul is a work of literature and that an author cannot be prosecuted for comments by fictional characters. But a member of the “Unity of Jurists,” a group of right wing lawyers that has been active in launching prosecutions of numerous writers and journalists in recent months, filed a complaint, and in early July, the 7th High Criminal Court overruled the public prosecutor and ordered the trial to proceed. Article 301 TrialsThe prosecution of Shafak mirrors the prosecution last year of Orhan Pamuk, one of the world's most well-known and acclaimed literary figures. Pamuk was charged with “insulting Turkishness” for stating in an interview in Germany that “thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it.” He was referring to the effect of stringent laws in Turkey limiting discussion of both the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Empire forces and Kurdish deaths as a result of the 22-year conflict between Turkish forces and Kurdish separatists.Article 301/1 of the Turkish Penal Code, the “insulting Turkishness” law under which both Shafak and Pamuk have been charged, took effect in June 2005. The law states “A person who explicitly insults being a Turk, the Republic or Turkish Grand National Assembly, shall be imposed to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of six months to three years.” Pamuk faced additional prison time under Article 301/3, which says “Where insulting being a Turk is committed by a Turkish citizen in a foreign country, the penalty to be imposed shall be increased by one third.” At least 15 journalists, editors, and publishers are standing or have recently stood trial under the insulting or denigrating Turkishness provision. Notable cases include that of Fatih Tas, a publisher defending himself in several Article 301 cases including one stemming from his publication of a book by Noam Chomsky; five journalists who were charged for their criticism of official attempts to ban a conference focusing on the Armenian massacres in November 2005; and Abdullah Yilmaz, the editor in chief of a publishing house, who was charged for issuing a Turkish edition of Greek writer Mara Meimaridi's best-selling novel The Witches of Smyrna.The trials are a continuing embarrassment to Turkey as it pursues an application for membership in the European Union--and indeed, that may be the point of the prosecutions. The nationalist and right wing groups including “Unity of Jurists” that have been filing complaints and pressing for convictions oppose EU membership, and appear to be using the proceedings as a means both of jeopardizing Turkey"s application and rallying their supporters inside Turkey. In January, prosecutors announced they would not proceed with the case against Orhan Pamuk, and until recently there had been no convictions under Article 301. But the writers and publishers charged under the article have all been subjected to lengthy legal processes with hearings taking place over months and even years; if and when cases were finally dismissed, it was only after considerable cost and the kind of harassment that serves to make others think twice before writing and publishing work on subjects considered taboo.But in a worrying development that may bode ill for Shafak and others currently on trial for “insulting Turkishness,” last week the Turkish Court of Cassation upheld a guilty verdict and six month suspended sentence against Hrant Dink, editor of the Armenian language newspaper Agos. Dink received the sentence in May 2006 for articles published in 2004 entitled “The Armenian Identity.”Equally troubling is the increasingly hostile atmosphere of the court hearings themselves. Orhan Pamuk and a number of international observers were harassed and jostled by a crowd outside his hearing in December, and the courtroom was jammed with supporters of the prosecution. When Hrant Dink appeared at his hearing in May, members of the prosecution harangued the defendants, their lawyers, and even the judge. Pro-prosecution crowds threatened and spat on the defendants and journalists as they entered the courthouse and threw coins and other objects at them from the public gallery during the proceedings. At one point, those inside were unable to leave for around an hour until police were able to escort them out. One of those trapped in the courtroom described the scene as an “attempted lynching.” Backsliding in TurkeyIn all, PEN knows of more than 70 writers, publishers, and journalists who are currently under indictment or standing trial in Turkey. Among them is Perihan Magden, another internationally recognized novelist who Orhan Pamuk described in a recent column as “one of the most inventive and outspoken writers of our time.” Magden appeared in an Istanbul courtroom on June 7, 2006 under Article 318 of the Penal Code on charges that she has “turned people against military service” for an article entitled “Conscientious Objection is a Human Right.” In the article, she defends conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan, who refused to complete his military service because he believed that as a homosexual he would suffer discrimination in the military. In her article, Magden referred to United Nations and Council of Europe views that conscientious objection is a basic right and challenged Turkey’s refusal to acknowledge this right. Her trial was postponed until July 27 to enable the court to gather more evidence. Three other writers are on trial for writing on conscientious objection. The situation for writers in Turkey appears to have deteriorated even further in recent days with the approval of new amendments to the Anti-Terror Law. The new legislation broadens the definition of terrorism, increasing the likelihood that writers and journalists will be prosecuted and that those who are tried will be convicted and sentenced to prison. Free expression advocates inside Turkey and abroad have protested the changes, among them Martin Scheinin, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism. Scheinin has written that the law contains a “very broad definition of terrorism and a very long and wide list of terrorist offenses. Consequently, the limitations that result in respect of freedom of expression would not be confined to countering terrorism but could be used also in respect of non-violent expession of opinion.”In the 1990s, hundreds of writers and journalists were sent to prison in Turkey, often for many years, in connection with their writings. Many were charged under vague anti-terror laws that all but outlawed writings that touched on subjects such as Turkey’s Kurdish minority. After a decade of civil disobedience by Turkey’s literary and journalism communities and international protests including pressure from the Europe, which made human rights improvements a condition of opening talks on Turkey’s EU application—key provisions of the penal code were discarded or amended in ways that nominally protected freedom of expression. But in many cases new provisions such as Article 301 have come to serve the same purpose as the laws that were eliminated, and after an initial dip in prosecutions, judicial harassment has increased dramatically in the past year. As things begin to look more and more like the 1990s, the prosecutions of Elif Shafak, Orhan Pamuk, and Perihan Magden are sending the message that even Turkey’s most celebrated writers had better watch what they say.
The human rights organization PEN, an association of writers and supporters, defends freedom of expression and opposes censorship. PEN Canada works on behalf of writers at home and abroad “who have been forced into silence for writing the truth as they see it.” They lobby governments internationally; work for the release of persecuted writers and conduct awareness campaigns about freedom of expression.
PEN American Centre has a “freedom to write program.” Visit their site for more information on Elif Shafak’s trial and the charges against her. They also sponsor a letter-writing campaign in support of Turkish authors/publishers brought to trial for speaking out about the Genocide or mentioning it in their books. There you will find sample letters of support for Elif Shafak and Ragip Zarakolu should you wish to join the campaign.


Il sito è curato dall'Arch. Vahé Vartanian e dal Dott. Enzo Mainardi;
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