A Personal Essay & Manifesto – Part 2
For Part 1; Part 3 & Part 4


by Bircan ÜNVER, New York

Dedicated to Devrim/Revolution

[For Part 1]

For a “Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Initiative” between Armenia and Turkey, and between Armenian and Turkish communities around the world

Later, in Istanbul

One of my best friends was Armenian.  She and I saw each other often until I left Turkey for America in 1989.  At that time there was neither the internet nor inexpensive phone calls, so I lost contact with her and many other friends.

She and I discussed my nephew’s love story.  I sought her opinion about the religious obstacles he had faced; she gave me a copy of the Bible so that I could discover the differences for myself.  Although I did have copies of the Bible and the Koran, I’d never read either of them in their entirety.

My First Encounter with Armenian-Americans

In 1990 I moved from Tarzana to Glendale in Los Angeles.  Because I had limited funds, I took English as a Second Language for adult immigrants at a public school.  In a few days, after we learned a little bit about each other, some middle-aged women approached me and said, "We know your language.”  They were speaking Turkish!  Their accent and usage seemed outdated, as in the old Turkish films of the late 30s, 40s, and 50s.  We talked in class everyday and soon became good friends.  At the end of the semester, we had a class party and each of us brought in a traditional dish from our culture.  

These friendly Armenian women felt connected to Turkey; they were neither hostile to me nor to Turks in general. They were mature enough to understand the effects of war, and explained matter-of-factly that “their families were forced to immigrate to Beirut, and later immigrated to the U.S.”  Nowadays, whenever the Turkish-Armenian conflict rises to the sky, I remember my fellow English students who cared enough to reconnect peacefully with the people of Turkey.

Encounters with Armenians in New York

The next time I was confronted with the Armenian question was not as pleasant.  While editing a video project at Queen Public TV (QPTV) in New York, I heard some Turkish-sounding music coming from the next suite.  Curious, I went next door, introduced myself, and asked about the music.  The producer said it was Armenian.  Without being aware of any of the Armenian allegations at that time, I excitedly told him, “I’m Turkish, and this is very similar to Turkish music!”  In an instant, he pointed his finger directly at me and said, “You killed one million Armenians.” I was dumbfounded and confused.  I could only reply, “I just stopped by to say good morning because of the music,” and left the room. 

A few years after this upsetting experience, I was introduced to two young Armenian brothers at QPTV who had produced “Genocide – 1915.”  In essence, their program was about blaming everyone who has lived in the Turkish Republic since the day it was formed by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) on October 29, 1923.  As soon as we were introduced, the brothers accused me of having killed 2.5 million Armenians.  

From my point of view, this kind of allegation is the product of brainwashed minds, leveled by those ignorant enough to accuse every Turkish person who crosses their path.  This achieves nothing but the destruction of any possibility for the rehabilitation of the relationship between Turkey and Armenia.  Furthermore, I have always thought that this attitude works against the future of the Armenian people.  

I believe that both Armenians and Turks were victims of international superpowers during the final period of the Ottoman Empire, and that “the events of April 24, 1915” took place at the peak of its downfall. Because they were already in a state of decline, the Ottomans lost everything in WWI. Then, out of the ashes of war arose the modern-day nations of Armenia and Turkey.

A Possible Model

My second positive Armenian-American experience happened, surprisingly, at QPTV. An Armenian producer, born in Turkey and still in contact with his birthplace, and I have formed a decent working relationship.  Although we do not fully agree on some details about the main issue, he remains the only Armenian-American acquaintance in New York I can describe as moderate.  Ever since I launched the Light Millennium TV (“LMTV”) Series at QPTV, we crew up for each other’s studio tapings from time to time: one example of an Armenian-American and a Turkish native working together instead of against each other.  I believe that more economic, business, social, and cultural collaborations will emerge once the Armenian Diaspora stops suppressing its own people.  This will encourage rehabilitation and reconstruction between Armenians and Turks around the world.

Observations within the U.N.

Another aspect of the Armenian-Turkish Cold War, seeded and propagated by the Armenian-American non-governmental organizations at the United Nations, as well as by the Armenian Mission, is the effort to obtain a resolution similar to the one concerning the Holocaust of WWII.  Once such a resolution is obtained, the next step could be to demand compensation.  Perhaps a claim for land in the eastern part of Turkey will follow (ref: the Armenian Constitution and the panel at the U.N. entitled “Then and Now” on March 30, 2006).  These efforts are very troubling, particularly since they undermine the stated vision of the United Nations.

Despite what others may think about the Armenian Diaspora’s recent success (the decision of the House of Representatives – Foreign Affairs Committee, dated October 10, 2007), I believe that the last 94 years of negativity and destruction have been damaging to Armenians.  It cannot help but infuse their children’s future with endless cycles of hate. 

Furthermore, not only have both Turks and Armenians suffered greatly since the end of the Ottoman era, but their Cold War has also made American efforts in the “Greater Middle East” less effective. A question we must ask is: who has profited from this long-lasting dark play since the day it was first staged? It seems that no one has shown any interest in examining this and presenting the full truth to the global community, or in naming the producers and directors who pushed the red button that caused the terrible massacres on both sides of the divide. Ordinary Armenian and Turkish citizens were merely the actors in that tragic production. Since then, they have been abused by the politicians who are playing a significant role in this game, and who are responsible for the outcome, “Then & Now.”

(End of Part 2)
- For Part 1; 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, associated with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations effective on December 2005.  Updated by Bircan Ünver on November 11, 2007, New York.

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