Plain black-and-white

An enthusiastic mail from the news agency I work for: your news story on the film about Armenians was published in nine newspapers, among them nation-wide ones! Of course, it’s always nice when my articles reach a lot of people, but this time I couldn’t help having mixed feelings.

I recalled a discussion I had some time ago with a Turk, who was not surprised that stories about Armenians and the mass killings almost a hundred years ago easily find their way into Dutch newspapers. It is the story that Westerners want to hear, he said: Turks being brutal, Armenians the victims. Do Dutch people have any idea of the chaos in the Ottoman Empire during and after the First World War, do they have any idea about that, besides many Armenians, also a lot of Turks died? No, he said, because stories about that don’t sell, do they?

And I had to think back to a proposal I once made to a magazine for a museum in Turkey to honour the Turks that died at that time. Wouldn’t a serious story about how Turks recall the events be interesting? The editor-in-chief laughed, and expressed interest in a sort of tongue-in-cheek story about such a museum that people could have a giggle about. That was not the sort of story I had in mind, so I never came back to the idea.

To cut it short, ‘we’ in the west like to keep this matter in plain black-and-white. My story on the film about Armenians fitted in with that desire, and so nine newspapers decided to publish it. I don’t regret writing it, because it was news and it does give a picture of the difficult position Armenians in Turkey are still in. But as I said, it makes me wonder.

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