‘Could it be the work of one individual?’ That is the question that occupied my thoughts in recent days. Four elderly Armenian women have been brutally attacked in Istanbul. And whatever the outcome of the police investigation – if any – there is one thing I am sure of: it is not the work of an individual.
The facts: in early December, an 87 year old woman of Armenian descent was found battered in her apartment. She was hospitalized for two weeks and lost vision in one of her eyes. On December 28, Maritsa Küçük, aged 84, was found stabbed to death in her apartment in the same neighbourhood, Samatya. At the beginning of January, on the day the Apostolic Christmas is celebrated, another woman of Armenian origin was saved from three individuals who attempted to kidnap her. And last week, 80 year old Sultan Aykar was attacked in her home, also in the Samatya neighbourhood. Samatya is known for its Armenian population, and it also has an important Armenian church.
The police have so far not made any arrests. It could be that the attacks have been carried out by one person alone, and that it was a coincidence that the victims were Armenian. Even if that is the case, though, that is not the whole story. From which ever angle you look at it, this is again a tragedy for the Armenian community in Turkey. Also if the perpetrator(s) didn’t mean to specifically attack Armenians, this affects the community as a whole.
A community that has been treated as second class citizens for decades now in this country, and that is seen by many as ‘traitors’. Kids learn it in school: Armenians are the enemies ‘from within’. It all dates back to more than a century ago, during the First World War. Armenians aspired to have their own country, and being Christians, just like Russians, who were fighting the Ottomans, they were collectively seen as enemies. We all know about the genocide that followed.
That’s what Turkey does to ‘enemies from within’: they are considered outcasts, they are never seen as full members of Turkish society and sometimes, they get killed, and then many people don’t really care. This month six years ago, Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was murdered, for the very same reason these women are being attacked now: being Armenian. The difference of course is that Dink spoke out and these women were just leading quiet lives, but their identity is the same. An identity that endangers their life.
Not only the hatred against Armenians is deeply rooted in this country, also the indifference towards the way they are treated is. That was shown in another way this week. PM Erdogan reshuffled his cabinet and replaced four ministers. One of the those he sacked was Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin. He was not what you call an asset for the country (read about him in this blog post), so that in itself was good news. But who was he replaced with?
The new Interior Minister is Muammer Güler. He was the governor of Istanbul in 2007. Yes, when Hrant Dink was killed. He was one of the officials who ignored the clear threat to Hrant Dink’s life. He became an MP after that, which effectively closed off any serious investigation into his responsibility for Dink’s death because he got parliamentary immunity. And now he is being promoted to minister.
Don’t be surprised if also these attacks on Armenian women will not be thorougly investigated.