Turkish Daily News: Reviving the Armenian heritage

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 | Barçin YİNANÇ

Minutes to the football game between Turkey and Armenia. A Turkish sport commentator of Armenian descent is being interviewed by a Turkish TV channel. When asked to evaluate the possible performance of the Armenian team, he said, “I am a Turkish citizen. I only know the Turkish national team.”

Obviously he is concerned that talking about the Armenian national team would cause his loyalty to Turkey to be questioned. Having seen the fate of journalist Hrant Dink, we should hardly be surprised about this over-sensitivity.

Having a low-profile presence is not a reflex limited to the members of the Armenian community. Even the Jews of Turkey, whose loyalty to Turkey is rarely questioned, are careful not to be too vocal in Turkish society.

The visit of Turkish President Abdullah Gül has been mostly evaluated from the perspective of Turkey-Armenia relations. It is expected that the visit will open the door to the process of normalization between the two countries. The government, which will concentrate on breaking the deadlock with Armenia on the diplomatic front, should also do the same to solve some of the problems of the Armenian minority.

Unfortunately few in Turkey are aware of the significant contribution of Armenians to Turkish social, cultural and economic life. We at the Turkish Daily News are lucky to have Vercihan Ziflioğlu, an Armenian Turk, who reports often about the Armenian presence in Turkey. It is thanks to her articles that I have become increasingly aware of the immense Armenian contribution to our cultural richness.

Obviously we did not have to wait for the positive atmosphere created by the football diplomacy to tackle the problems of the Armenian community, especially those of the Armenian patriarch, as well as the revival of the Armenian cultural legacy in Anatolia. The restoration of the Armenian Church Akdamar near the eastern city of Van was the first step in the right direction. Anatolian lands are full of similar examples of Armenian architecture in ruins.

One of the reservations on reviving the Armenian cultural and social legacy in Turkey is the fear of possible compensation demands from Armenians who lost their property during the tragic events of the 1915. But these fears are baseless.

According to the Lausanne Treaty, any claims for restitution were supposed to be lodged within 12 months from when the treaty came into force. In Article 15 of the Kars Treaty signed in 1921, to which Armenia was a signatory, contracting parties agreed to promulgate immediately after the signing of the treaty a complete amnesty to citizens of the other party for crimes and offenses committed during the course of the war on the Caucasus front. Legal experts claim that the provisions of both treaties set a legal block for any compensation demands.

President Abdullah Gül had said his visit demolished psychological barriers. I hope this visit will also demolish psychological barriers in Turks’ approach to the members of the Armenian community.

© 2005 Dogan Daily News Inc. http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr

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