‘We are all Turks! We are all Muslims!’. I still see it scrawled on a wall somewhere in Istanbul. Yeah, sure, I thought, Armenians, Christians, Jews, Arabs, Kurds, never heard of them, in this country we are all just Turks and all Muslims… But then again, how can you really criticise such graffiti in a country where this week even the highest figure in the land announced that his family has really been Turkish and Muslim for generations. He is probably right and of course it’s all okay, but President Gül had such a good opportunity to say something beautiful, something bonding about the Turkish identity, and he didn’t take it.
What happened? A group of Turkish intellectuals put a petition online in which they apologize for the tragedy (genocide, FG) endured by the Armenians in 1915, in the latter days of the Ottoman Empire, and through the petition they share the grief of the Armenians. This caused a lot of discussion of course, and naturally journalists in Turkey wanted to know the President’s opinion on the initiative. Gül didn’t really speak out but said that freedom of speech was functioning properly in Turkey.
After which a member of parliament from the opposition party CHP, ms. Aritman, suggested that Gül must have some Armenian blood running through his veins, otherwise he would have condemned the petition immediately. And what did Gül say in his defence? That it is not a shame to have Armenian blood, that we are all brothers and all inhabitants of Turkey? Or something like that?
No, he made it clear that the Gül family has been both Turkish and Muslim for generations. It’s probably true – or maybe not, I mean, there are quite a few Turkish families that have not known for decades about the real identity of their ancestors or even of their living grandparents (read a story I previously wrote on that subject). But really, what a missed opportunity!