An identity that endangers their life

‘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.

Traitors

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.

Indifference 

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.

15 thoughts on “An identity that endangers their life”

  1. Turkey always oppressed the populations that were indigenous. These populations were living in their homeland and the conquerer always felt threatened by the oppressed locals! So it is not only the Kurds and the Armenians but also the Greeks and the Assyrians and the Alevis (cause non sunnis were a “threat” also). Turkey could celebrate its diversity but instead preferred to proceed to assimilations and genocides. There are so many witnesses! The whole world knows, but Turkey’s strategic position assured the cuddling of the West. Now that the AKP turns to the East the West finds its memory.

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  2. Populations of Greek descent can be found not only in Istanbul and Smyrna but also in the Pontos, remnants of the former Greek population that converted to Islam in order to escape the persecution and later deportation. They speak Turkish as a mother language and are very cautious to identify themselves as Greeks, due to the hostility of the Turkish state and neighbours towards anything Greek. Punitive Turkish nationalist exclusivist measures, such as a 1932 parliamentary law, barred Greek citizens living in Turkey from a series of 30 trades and professions from tailoring and carpentry to medicine, law and real estate. The Wealthy Levy imposed in 1942 also served to reduce the economic potential of Greeks in Turkey. On 6–7 September 1955 anti-Greek riots were orchestrated in Istanbul.73 churches & 23 schools were vandalized… 12 dead.

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  3. Frederike,
    Thanks for reporting this. Many Armenaians know about these attacks. But the Turkish press is mum on these murders. I am a filmamker living in Istanbul. I am filming the demise of Tarlabasi. If you are ever in Istanbul I would love to speak with you. Or behaps interview you for a documentary?
    Thanks you for your coverage.
    Roxanne Rogers
    Istanbul

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  4. “It’s the whole of Turkish society that has a problem with Armenians, and that is the root of the problem.”

    Well I don’t have any problems with Armenians. Therefore your assertion is not correct !

    You make generalizations without any significant ground. You always repeat the same argument and I try to correct you all the time but it seems like it is impossible to make contribution to your intellectual repertoire. I repeat once again : If whatever taught in the schools of Turkey was that effective, today AKP would not be the ruling party.

    I hope you will not censor this.

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  5. @Christos Leontidis
    Well Christos, one of my good friends and his family is from Pontos area. They live in Athens and my friends father speak very good Turkish. You can imagine he speaks Greek as native language and did not learn Greek later on or so. So I do not get how they were assimilated. I talked to him for very long time to learn reality. Bad things happened and they left Turkey however he does not seem to have hatred or anything and just told me it was rough times (pre and post world war era) for everybody. Many Turks who used to live in Balkans also migrated and were murdered (go and look at the history books).
    I never heard of any nation in the world that was assimilated had a independence war or any nation which was not assimilated (if it was intention) under a rule of other nation for centuries.

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  6. i am skeptical about Armenian genocide, i am more inclined to believe that it was closer to being a civil war considering both sides had their losses. however i agree with your point on the nationalism issue.
    children are conditioned to love, admire and be prepared to be soldiers. there is not even subtlety. “every Turk is born as soldier” why? to fight enemies? who are they? yeah that part is subtle because we dont have “current enemies”. who are we “supposed to” fight then? enemies lingered from the WWI era and afterwards. Italians betrayed during WWI, Greeks set Izmir in fire, Armenians conspired with Russians against us, Kurds wants to divide our soils and Arabs stabbed us in the back. i am sure people find any reason to hate because lets be realistic Turks have no friends but Turks. anyone else is out to get us.

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  7. @CandideIjon I use my real name by the way. So, “Bad things happened and they left Turkey”! History books (not Turkish) can be way more specific than your comment. Wikipedia also. http://tinyurl.com/a5tke2r The very ugly thing is that “bad things” are still happening. Turkey ranks at the bottom of human rights and is a champion of European Court of Human Rights convictions. The whole world went crazy or what the world thinks of Turkey has validity?

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  8. Christos,
    I know it is your name
    Of course any average history book will be specific than my comments (quite trivial I assume)
    You show me wikipedia link with opinions (I do not say it is true or not) and you express your opinion as well (like Frederike do). Well I will give a link to reality :
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Dawn_(Greece)
    18 seats out of 300. Wow that’s something really nice. If you can find a party in Turkey with same caliber that’s fine.
    Or from Netherlands : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geert_Wilders (a famour character which ruined the reputation of the Netherlands).
    So far I did not see any Turkish journalist that generalized stance of Wilders as being the case for whole Netherlands
    Or I have not seen many Turks that is much interested what’s happening in Greece.

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  9. Well dudes first fix your own problems then be so assertive about other countries, people, societies. That’s my humble input for you.
    If you just think bad things only happening in Turkey you should visit a psychologist.
    Greece as corrupt as Turkey and have similar problems.
    Turkey is not the best country or the worst either. However Turkish people are quite focused on their lives and their problems and are not so arrogant about others’ problems/issues.
    At least that’s something maybe you can appreciate some day 😉
    World is not so perfect place to be. If I were you I’d rather look at the big picture. You just tell me Turkey is here and there in that this index etc. Do you have any idea about how it is calculated and ranking being done ?
    Well a hint for you : In all those indexes, order is like this : from less bad to quite bad 😉

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  10. “Golden Dawn” is a shame for Greece and unfortunately appeared because of the economic crisis. Many of their voters do not believe in their Nazist statements but voted to express disapproval for the two main parties that brought Greece to this mess. Turkey has its Grey Wolves the MHP 5,585,513 voters in 2011 and 13.01% while Golden dawn reached 6.7%. Do your maths Candi! But when we talk nationalism in Turkey it is not only Grey Wolves… there are Grey Wolves in disguise to CHP and AKP. You heard I suppose the lady from CHP that considers Kurds inferiors. What is going on in Turkey is beyond proportion (forbidden languages!!! come on!!!) Those indexes would be credible to you if they were nice to turkey I suppose.

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  11. Christos my friend, if you want to deceive yourself go ahead and compare numbers. However, first of all (although I am hating a lot) MHP is not as marginal as Golden Dawn nowadays. Also %7 to %13 does not matter. What I try to convey here, more or less you will find everywhere in the world, some empty heads, some fascists, some morons (keep counting as you like). It is a natural thing and quite related to economics. Maybe you will see more fragmentation towards extreme sides in poorer countries. But probably if you can equal the income of Dutch, Turkish and Greek you will not see that much difference, contrary to national faith (like Frederike have). Claiming that majority of Turkish people is against other ethnic groups is just nonsense. I trygive a very simple universal message here. Don’t be biased , see the common problem 😉

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  12. @Candide not even Turks believe that Turks are not against other ethnic groups http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist-305958-hierarchy-of-nations-turks-and-others.html
    (Injustice done to non-Muslims and Kurds in modern times in the name of Turkishness has haunted the “Turks” and disabled them from establishing a working democracy simply because “pluralism” had already been destroyed.). So your opinion @Candide is reduced to blind nationalism or you are simply… ignorant of the “warm treatment” of Turks to other ethnic groups.

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  13. @Christos,

    -A writer in Turkey’s least intellectual newspaper does not represent the opinion of the majority
    -Turkey is a big country (in size and population) and there are many opinions
    -I am not a nationalist, nor a blind or ignorant
    -I expressed my opinion in a structured way. You do not need to agree
    -A final hint for you : If you can make a separation between Turks and Turkish state politics you may go in the right track. Moreover you may have the chance of looking less Turk-phobic 😉

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  14. You may not think high of the writer but he writes in the newspaper that claims to be the most famous http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist-304135-worlds-most-famous-turkish-brand-todays-zaman.html In my opinion what he writes is what any self-aware non nationalist turk thinks. Of course I separate ordinary turks from the Turkish state. Ordinary turks helped their Greek and Armenian neighbours from the Turkish state and the deep state orchestrated atrocities. However, what the turkish state has propagated over the years (look at school’s textbooks e.t.c) had an impact to ordinary people. People say things like “he was Armenian… but he was nice” or some people feel offended or threatened if they here Kurdish in public… This the work of the turkish state having a grave impact to the turkish public. Why is it so difficult to accept?

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