My home where my son is: Şişli Armenian Cemetery

Sevag Balıkçı was killed by Kıvanç Ağaoğlu while he was doing his military service in Kozluk province in Batman and the most recent hearing of the murder case was held in Diyarbakir on February 25. The case is adjourned to April 6 because of a missing document. Sevag Balıkçı's parents Garabed and Ani Balıkçı were present at the hearing. We talked to them about the legal process and the claims that Ani Balıkçı has moved to Armenia.

Garabed Balıkçı said that the hearing didn't take long and it is adjourned to April 6 because of a missing document. “Because some documents aren't sent by the experts, the hearing ended in a blink. The court requested these documents 6 months ago, but they haven't sent them yet. I cannot understand why the process is so slow.” He also criticized the attitude of the court: “My son was killed by a racist bullet. We demand justice, but there is no justice. The judge didn't take us seriously. We demanded the perpetrator comes to the hearing; they refused this demand. The suspect doesn't come to the court. Why? We don't know. Lastly, the judge adjourned the case to April 6. The case is a closed box for now.”

“The case is like a play”

Garabed Balıkçı talks about his concerns and questions about the case: “We feel uneasy about the fact that there is no justice. For instance, the first statements given by some soldiers weren't accepted. With the dragging of the case, we began to think that there is a hidden catch. We also feel like we are in the second act of a play. We expect a positive decision, but it doesn't seem very likely. We are ready to appeal. We will never let this go.”

Balıkçı also reminds that the incident was considered as “accident” and suspect Ağaoğlu was sentenced with 4 years and 5 months in prison and pointa out the changed statements of the soldiers: “We have been trying to prove that this wasn't an accident. A soldier and his family were threatened. The threatening soldier was sentenced with 2 years and a month in prison. The instigators were also sentenced with 2 years and 7 months in prison, but they are not informed yet, we are still waiting. These are the real evidences. All soldiers changed their statements and said the same thing, like some made them to do so. How could this happen?”

“Days are unbearable without Sevag”

Garabed Balıkçı says that nothing changed in the family since the incident: “Every night, when we go to sleep, we think about him. At night, during the day, on the bus, on the ferry; we always think about Sevag. Everywhere I go, I talk to him. I talk to him when I am in the cemetery; because of that, I got psychological support. With their help, I go to cemetery every other week, instead of once in a week. I cannot find peace and I go. Days are unbearable without Sevag. A racist bullet took my soon away and they call it 'accident'. This is not an accident. If they can prove it, I will come to terms with certain things, but it is not an accident. I demanded an expert, but they cannot prove anything. It is obvious what happened.”

“When I turn around, there is no one”

Family also struggles with the feeling of loneliness. Garabed Balıkçı tells about how he felt in the process: “Sometimes, some people say that they stand back of us, but when I turn around, there is no one. I am all alone. I want those people who support us to visit us at our home. We are left alone. On the other hand, it is true that we are not alone in certain places. Some friends came to Diyarbakir for solidarity. Especially, I am grateful to Nor Zartonk. I thank Garo Paylan, Jaklin Çelik and the others whose name I cannot remember now.”

Balıkçı also says that they want support from certain political parties: “They said that they will follow this case, but they didn't. They all ignore this case and in such a time...”

“This country belongs to us all”

Sevag Balıkçı's mother Ani Balıkçı denies the claims that she moved to Armenia: “They say that Balıkçı family has moved to Armenia. This is not true, we are here. Our son is here. We visit our friends in different cities including Yerevan. I think that we are free to go anywhere we want. We are here.”

Sha adds: “We have never considered leaving here, because this is my home, my land. First of all, my son is buried in Şişli Cemetery and I want to be buried next to him. No one can make me leave this land, because this land belongs to us all. I don't know why people say such things. They can come and ask us. Why would I leave Turkey?”

“Sevag had no political view”

After the murder, Balıkçı family found itself in a political position. Ani Balıkçı tells about this process: “We never had a political opinion. We were an apolitical family. Do you know what makes me sad the most? I worked as a teacher for 37 years and I am thinking about all those poems that I made children memorize on April 23 ceremonies. And April 24 was a holiday for us. Sometimes we celebrated April 23 on April 24. Now, I regret that, because they killed my son on that day.”

“Armenian boys are afraid of military service now”

Balıkçı concludes as the following: “We haven't discriminated against anyone. And Sevag didn't know what is genocide, what happened to his grandparents... I didn't know those things either. That is why I didn't tell these things to Sevag. How could I tell something that I didn't know? So, it cannot be the case that Sevag said something that triggers that boy on April 24 and he shot him. It is impossible. Sevag had one purpose: completing his military service, marrying to his girlfriend and working with his father. We were raised here and we sent our son thinking that he will become a man. However, they sent my son back in a wooden box. We think that the price should be paid, but with punishment. We try to prevent similar incidents.  Armenian boys are afraid of military service now. Why did they shoot Sevag on April 24? Was it a coincidence too? Let's say it was a coincidence, but there are witnesses.”

“Is this the love of country?”

Ani Balıkçı, like her husband, points out that they are determined to take the case to the final level: “If the court doesn't decide as we expect, we would appeal. I said this also in court; if I seek for justice in another country, I would be ashamed. But if this is the only option, we would do it. When the officials from the Turkish General Staff came to inform us about the incident, they asked if they may wrap his coffin with the flag. I said that we live in this country and they may do it, since he died on duty. But I also added if the case doesn't end as we wish, I would return the flag to them. The flag was sacred for us, but they didn't respect it. I don't respect them.”

Ani Balıkçı started to investigate her past after Sevag's death. And that investigation arrives at the same date, April 24. “When I began to investigate my past, I found out that my ancestors are genocide survivors. I didn't know that before. The life of my grandparents was a disaster. My maternal side is from Ankara and their story is even more terrible. You made me do it. I began to investigate my ancestry at the age of 55. Everybody knows me now. On April 24, people march with Sevag's photos. Sevag was only one person and you made him 1000. Is this the love of country? If so, they are welcome to kill all Armenians. Sevag is also known in Yerevan, France and Italy. However, Sevag was no one before. He was an ordinary man who loved art. What did you want from him? On that day, on April 24, they wanted to kill someone for intimidating us. That someone happened to be Sevag.”


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Vartan Estukyan