Written by Hermine Darbinyan/ Civilitas Foundation
My first time in Turkey changed my perception of happenings in Turkey totally. Even though it might be not quite objective to try to comprehend Turkey based only on impressions from Istanbul and Ankara, I was amazed to find it so liberal and European-like! Another thing – I am truly astonished to find so many similarities between our cultures and my “native” dialect. Turkish people – just as Armenians – appeared to be exceptionally friendly, incredibly entrepreneurial, but at the same time somehow reserved, distrustful, and sad. Maybe it’s only my own subjective perception, but despite all the jolly looking crowds walking along the Istiklal and the recent economic achievements of the country, Turkey seems to be full of sadness and fear. I used to think that we – Armenians – have been and still are the victims of Turkish government and nationalistic policies. Now I believe that Turkish people too are among the victims of their own government!
Then I discovered Hrant Dink! Quite differently than I knew him from the other side of the border! I used to think of him as an incredibly smart and brave Armenian-Turkish journalist, who fought for truth till the end. But in Turkey I came to know him as someone who shaped a new era – an era of culture of truth! Pro-government officials and opposition, NGOs and just ordinary people – everyone we met in Turkey divided time in two: before Hrant Dink and after Hrant Dink!
I was lost in Istanbul. The city that I wholeheartedly love – the majestic multicultural architectural heritage, colorful streets, its warm and friendly people… the city that I hate for all the crimes it hosted… for all the violence it silently witnessed. I am lost.
Go left… and then straight forward ..and then again straight – a boy with huge eyes tried to help me out. Straight forward? How do I go straight forward in a city of not a single straight street?
Straight forward to opening borders between countries! Armenia will break out of the blockade! Turkey will stipulate development in Eastern regions! Straight forward to opening borders also between Turkish and Armenian people? Is there a way – even a twisted one through the mutual distrust, hatred and pain accumulated over so many years?
“I am from Ermenistan” – I said cautiously smiling. “Welcome” – they cautiously smiled back.
Back in Yerevan I keep asking myself, is there a way out of sadness and hopelessness for my exhausted heartbroken people, whose identity is tied to genocide? Is there a way out of silence for these cautiously smiling people on the other side of the border, living decades in a land of military rule and controlled freedom?