Yervant Dink: A grave sin to pay for

By universal law, the definition of seizing a camp created by the sweat of children’s brows, in the simplest terms, is ‘usurpation’. The State has usurped Kamp Armen. And everyone should know very well that this is a terribly grave sin to pay for.


It was the final days of July. It was evening; the children were having their afternoon nap. They arrived. One of the younger children of the camp woke up to the tumult, and ran to the window: “Hey, wake up! The Indians are here, they have besieged our camp.” 

Outside, we could hear the growling of the vehicles on the narrow pathway beyond the vegetable beds. Police patrol cars were constantly circling the camp. “No, it’s not the Indians,” I said, “It’s the sheriff and his men. We happen to be the Indians in this game.” The kid asked me with a sad face: “You mean we are the baddies now?”

For years, in comic books and western movies, stories of wild Indians and heroic cowboys had left an indelible mark on our imagination. How would we have known that the Indians we had come to know as the baddies were the indigenous people and true owners of those lands… The real invaders were the whites who had come from another continent. We began to learn about that fact during our youth. The situation was the exact opposite of what the comic books told us. The whites had arrived, taken everything the natives owned, and not satisfied with that, had exiled them far from the fertile lands they lived on towards the barren deserts. They had done so much evil to the natives that they had turned savage too, and lost their humane feelings.

Although the sheriff and his men were in the leading roles in these Westerns, towards the end of the film, the cavalry dressed in their blue jackets would arrive to save the day, and in the final scene, the ‘Big Chief’ of the whites would appear, cue applause, and ‘The End’… The curtain falls…

In this game they wanted to play with us, the blue jackets were absent at first, they appeared once the sheriff and his men left.

The next day, we watched as soldiers from the Tuzla barracks paraded along the pathway in their jeeps on every hour. These military trucks had for years driven to the seashore via the main asphalt road, so why, on that day, had they chosen the pathway we used to walk to the seaside?

We, the older ones, having understood that we had to end this game as quick as possible, gathered the children and our bundles the next day, and holding hands, set off on the road. First Tuzla station, then Haydarpaşa, Eminönü, and finally Gedikpaşa… A sigh of relief, we were safe! 

We had rejoiced too soon. Before long we realized that the ‘Big Chief’ was on our trail. The ‘father’ State could not digest the fact that the children had created a paradise of a living space with their own hands. It sent us an official notification via the court. Its message was very clear: “Bugger off, there is no place for you here!”

And they did not even stop at that, they came again, they intimidated us and they smashed our school over our heads.

We had understood by then. We natives, we could build all types of buildings for them, create new living spaces, but it was a crime to put one brick on top another for ourselves.

* * *

As you read these words, the new owner has already started the demolition.

Bulldozers are smashing their blades on the walls of our camp, the apple of our eye, our Atlantis we created out of nothing; they are demolishing it, they are shattering it to pieces. As the blade comes down and pulls back, our long derelict dining hall, our bedrooms, flowers, paintings disappear amidst a cloud of dust.

In truth, is it the building that is being destroyed, or memories? We have experienced much worse than this, so why does this destruction tear our hearts out?

It is difficult to convey the feelings. And it is equally difficult to trap the fierce curse that comes straight from the heart between the teeth, and prevent the words from pouring out.

We are, in fact, angry with ourselves.

How quick have we Armenians forgotten the Genocide inflicted upon our people in 1915, how quick have we forgotten the September 6-7 looting… How can we define what we are experiencing today, if not as a continuation of 1915? Had our people not left all its possessions behind and set out on an unknown journey when one night a government decree came? How is today different?

Prime Minister Davutoğlu often refers to the Diaspora, “They are our Diaspora,” he says. He’s right. So many children, who once considered this camp their home, are now scattered across all corners of the world. How will you explain what has happened to this camp to the Diaspora? “It has nothing to do with our term in government,” you may say; and it is true, it was not seized during your term, but it is being demolished today, and you are in power now. Today, you bear full responsibility.

In brief, by universal law, the definition of seizing a camp created by the sweat of children’s brows, in the simplest terms, is ‘usurpation’ 

The State has usurped Kamp Armen. 

And everyone should know very well that this is a terribly grave sin to pay fo





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