When I was seventeen, my
nephew fell in love with an Armenian-Turkish girl in Istanbul. His family was traditional and
religious: they prayed five times a day, fasted during Ramadan, etc. But their sons and daughters were
modern in terms of attire and social life, going dancing, drinking alcohol, not
wearing headscarves, and going to the beach.
In other words, they were not forced to live as their
parents lived. My aunt and uncle,
however, were not open-minded enough to approve of their son’s love for an
Armenian girl. T. (as I will call
her) was a nice girl, but she either didn’t care about the traditional values of
her fiancé’s family, or was simply too young to adjust to their expectations. She wore miniskirts, used makeup, and
colored her hair.
These were not appropriate
values in the eyes of my nephew’s traditional Islamic family.
Both families opposed
the relationship on religious grounds; they were particularly worried about the
religion of their future grandchildren. Neither my nephew nor his fiancée listened to their families. They got married very young, and without
any financial or emotional support, they felt isolated in their old and
nephew’s entire extended family, my mother and father were the only ones to welcome
them. Our door alone was open to
Needless to say, they
had serious financial troubles. They quarreled frequently, and T. was constantly complaining about her
she gave birth to a daughter, who was named Devrim (“Revolution” in Turkish). Sadly, the marriage didn’t last long.We later learned that T.
married an older man and moved to Germany, leaving her beloved daughter behind. I haven’t heard from T. in thirty
years. And because of the
religious conflicts, I never had the opportunity to meet anyone from her family. Without a sustainable
job, my nephew was not able to take care of Devrim. His parents therefore looked after her for most of her short
life. I saw Devrim during
Bayram (a religious holiday) when I returned to Turkey from the U.S. in 1993. She looked just like her mother: tall
and slim with long black hair, big black eyes, fair skin, and a round
face. I asked how old she was,
trying to remember how many years had passed since I last saw her. She said she was nineteen.
A few months later, my
sister told me that Devrim had died.
I was shocked and very upset.
She suffered from a chronic liver ailment, and had been under
treatment for a long time. I wish I had spoken with her about her
mother, and whether they had stayed in touch.
From time to time, I think about Devrim. I always believed that she was an innocent victim of
But perhaps she can still be a symbol of hope for the Armenian
and Turkish communities, whose conflicts, both visible and hidden, continue to be
played out on the world stage.
The tragedy of this
story is not only that we lost a special girl at a young age, but also that two
communities missed a chance to embrace each other. All I knew at the time was that the problem was caused by
religious differences, which made no sense to me.
Now, whenever I look back on those years, I understand and
appreciate my nephew’s challenge. I also understand why he named his daughter “Revolution”!
There are probably thousands
of untold stories similar to this one around the world. Isn't it time for us to change our way
of thinking, begin looking for ways to heal the hatred, turn enemies into
friends, and open new avenues for the younger generations? Children should not have to be the
victims of their parents’ grievances. A family’s sense of responsibility must be unconditional.
(End of Part 1)
- For Part 2; Part 3 & Part 4
Edited by Figen Bingül
Copy Editor: Emily Bunker
Disclosure: This essay was written by Bircan Ünver as an open proposal to all
potentially interested individuals and institutions/organizations nationwide
and internationally, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the
Board of Directors or the Advisory Board of the Light Millennium.
Note: The first draft of this manifesto was written on the 4th of July, 2007, for “a Turkish & Armenian Synergy Initiative,” to be formed
under the Light Millennium Organization (http://www.lightmillennium.org), associated
with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations effective on December
2005. Updated by Bircan Ünver on
October 14, 2007, New York.
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