For the Turkish state and public opinion the French-Armenian singer’s Armenian legacy has always overshadowed his talent and personality.
That’s why his death sparked heated debates on Turkish social media.
The ones who praised his talents as a great artist got scolded by others who claimed he was an ardent supporter of the ASALA terrorist organization, which claimed the lives of many Turkish citizens.
Yet, according to Turkish diplomats, who have lost their colleagues to ASALA terror and therefore would be assumed to be much more sensitive about the issue, there is no concrete evidence that he supported ASALA and its vicious actions.
On the contrary, he tried to avoid standing next to other certain prominent Armenian artists who were much more hostile toward Turkey.
In fact, in one of his interviews, he specifically avoided using the term “genocide,” adding that this was a word that offended the Turks. He also had the courage to suggest that instead of getting stuck in using the word “genocide,” some other terminology could be found. He had at several occasions criticized the Armenian government’s policy toward Turkey.
While he angered many Armenians with his statements and was severely criticized, one can see today that unfortunately his reconciliatory statements did not reach the mainstream public in Turkey.
With these statements he was also trying to reach out to the Turkish state, yet his reconciliatory tone was not enough to realize his wish to come sing in Turkey.
While serving as Armenia’s ambassador at UNESCO he had conveyed to Turkish representatives his wish to come and give a concert in Turkey. At one stage a concert was planned to be given in 2015, the year Armenian communities were preparing for several commemoration activities, many targeting Turkey to mark 100 years of the Armenian tragedy. I do not know whether this date was acknowledged by him or not, but there is no doubt that he wanted to give messages of reconciliation through this concert.
That project unfortunately never realized.
The debates on social media give us a mixed picture about the Armenian issue in the Turkish society. On the one hand, we have people who are still fed by prejudices and are not willing to show some understanding to Armenian resentment and anger. Yet, on the other hand, we have more and more people raising their voices on a subject that for years has remained a huge taboo.
In 2008, sports had played an important role in Turkish-Armenian diplomacy as then President Abdullah Gül had decided to watch a football match in Armenia. Never mind the initiative to mend fences had failed at that time.
Art could have played a similar reconciliatory role. It is a pity that we lost that opportunity.
By BARÇIN YİNANÇbarcin.firstname.lastname@example.org