Karin Karakaşlı


Armenians' challenge with destruction and each other

In Istanbul, where countless murders are committed each day, an old Armenian couple, Yakup Demirci and Seta Ayda Demirci, was attacked. This assault was covered as "hogtie murder" by Turkish media. The couple was attacked on February 6 in their apartment in Harbiye and Hagop Demirci was killed. At first, it was thought that this might be a hate crime because of the hogtie, but then, it turned out that the perpetrators are Armenian citizens and whole another discussion began. 

Armenian citizens, who moved to Istanbul because of financial problems after war and earthquake, have been considered as hostages in Erdoğan's term of prime ministry and subjected to threat of deportation. Given the burden of being an Armenian, it is easy to understand the price of struggle for life in Turkey as an Armenian illegal immigrant. And the price is not limited to the political agenda. 

Most of the Armenian immigrants are woman and they work under hard conditions as homeworker or nurse. These people were working as teacher, psychologist or engineer in their country and they are seen as low-cost labor here; putting aside the suffering caused by this, there are innumerable prejudices against them. There are a lot of people who disdain Armenian citizens, just like Armenians in Anatolia were disdained once. And this murder incited those prejudices and generalizations and made their lives even harder. 

Having migrated to various countries after the genocide, Armenians have been challenged everywhere they went. In addition to their struggle in daily life, they also struggled for preserving their identities and existence, while they were trying to adapt themselves to the new conditions. I call this endless challenge “life of striving”. 

Beside, the location of this life of striving constantly changes. Throughout the history, Armenians were famous for being a sedentary society, but they have been forced to migrate so many times that birds may be jealous of them. While Armenian citizens are migrating to different countries, many Armenians in Syria, especially in Aleppo which was the capital of culture and Western Armenian once, seek shelter in Armenia because of the war. And each time, the balance in Armenian world changes. However, there is an unchanging truth: Armenians, as massacred peoples, have been experiencing the offences with more suffering in every society and country.  

On October 27, 1999, an armed group led by Nairi Unanyan raided the Armenian Parliament and killed 8 people including Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan and Parliamentary Speaker Karen Demirchyan. After this raid, old people reacted and cried saying “How can Armenians murder each other?” This reaction was the expression of that suffering. Similarly, when it is revealed that three Armenian citizens killed two Armenians in Turkey, the trauma became something else. 

Life is merciless and sharp. Being aggrieved in the past doesn't create innocence today. Naturally, there are Armenians who are robbers and murderers. This fact holds for every nation and society. 

However, that destruction in the past is a test of understanding and embracing each other for all Armenians in the world. This week, in Agos, Armenian citizen Ani H. opened her heart to Varduhi Balyan and what she said is important. “When there is a problem in a body part, it should be treated. If it is mistreated, then other parts would be harmed too. Now, if we approach this issue in a wrong way, then the Armenians in Armenia, İstanbul, France and Africa would be harmed.”

Stigmatizing and alienating is the easiest way. However, it is a small world and time acts ironically. In an order in which the roles of host and asylee can interchange overnight, Armenian people are challenged with each other everywhere. If you paid the price of being stigmatized as “Armenian” with your life or losing your homeland, you shouldn't be abstain from acknowledging that your people are also capable of doing evil and from protecting the rest. You are a survivor; so, you shouldn't be another nail in the coffin. It is simple as that, yet so complicated.