Osman Kavala: as I know him

Prof. Dr. Ayse Bugra's statement following her husband, Osman  Kavala 's arrest has been an alarming news and of concern to many of us. By now, we have heard about the detention of the Turkish businessman, Osman Kavala, which came as a shock two weeks ago.

He was arrested by the local authorities as he was getting off the plane in Istanbul on his way from another Turkish city where he had visited the Goethe Institute. On October 31, charges were finally made and he has been transferred since to Turkey's high security state prison, the Silivri penitentiary.

I met Osman, seven years ago, in Turkey. He's the man who instilled in me the trust I needed to feel in order to visit the country. 

 While there was so much inherent tension in our disrupted histories, he helped me understand that there was much to learn about today's Turkey. Later on, I had the privilege to work with Osman on many cultural and artistic projects, conferences, always over topics that addressed identity, history, and memory. Through his organization called Anadolu Kultur, he invited the creative voices of all minorities in the country - and others from abroad - to speak out and tell about their stories in every possible artistic form. Among his many creative endeavours, he has co-produced a short film, by Serge Avedikian, which won the Palme d'Or in Cannes, a few years ago. 

I can go on about Osman in length. I won't. I only would like to add that now he is imprisoned without a date for trial for another 4 months, possibly more. We are witnessing yet another unfortunate and worrisome example of the government's unrelenting purges at every level of the civil society in Turkey. I may add that often we are easily outraged by the arrests of activists, writers, academics, historians and we try to shape public opinion about the ongoing curtailment of civil rights in Turkey through their resistance.

Osman Kavala is introduced as a businessman, a successful one at that. However, that in itself makes his case less visible perhaps because of our tendency to pay attention to public figures who voice their discontent more overtly and directly. Osman has carried out through his own financial and civil support much respectable and countless interventions in Turkey's civil society to bring human rights, freedom of expression, and dialogue to the fore on behalf of all minorities. He's been instrumental in honouring diversity and inclusion in his country.

Osman Bey, you have been a friend to all who seek in Turkey and elsewhere in the world good work to be implemented in the name of humanity and the compassion we all can and should be capable of.  As an Armenian, I have learned more and better about the history of Turkish culture, its openness and ability to address a past and a present in the name of Turkey's wellbeing as a society. Moreover, you have never shied away to promote sincere and amiable exchange with neighbouring countries in the name of harmony, consensus and healthy cooperation. You  have served your compatriots with dignity, poise and ethics. Through your work, I have come to learn how one step at a time, each time, you could bring hope and provide the possibility to believe that we can bring change in trust and communication together. 

I shall always remain grateful for having met you and known the scope of your benevolent work, Osman Kavala.


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Arsinée Khanjian