A letter I received from an Armenian reader
informed me that when this woman was in Turkey, a Turkish taxi driver ordered
her to leave, once he found out she was Armenian. This kind of story makes me
feel ill; although Turks are known for their friendliness and tolerance, they
run in all stripes, just like any other member of the human family... the
family Armenian Propaganda has done its utmost to tell us the Turks really
don't belong in. As I responded to the reader, unfortunately, idiots are there
to be run into, no matter where one goes.
It seems, however, that Turkish taxi drivers form a common bridge between
these two polarized pro and anti-genocide forces. Let's take a look at two
accounts featuring these hacks.
and Transcendence: My Journey With the Turkish Taxi Driver
By Anie Kalayjian
— Taxil Taxil I yelled out as I leaned on my right crutch and pointed my left in the
air, attempting the challenging task of stopping a taxi in Manhattan. Our group consisted
of three people, and I was the one ambulating wilh crutches after my. knee surgery;
therefore I sat in the front, next to the taxi driver. The driver was a pleasant young,
man in his eariy thirties, with a familiar accent. Although I was curious about his
nationality, I didn't want to make assumptions so I asked him directly:
— I detect a familiar accent, where are you from?
— Turkey, he answered, but qualified quickly that he had been studying in South Africa
for about ten years.
Immediately I began speaking in Turkish, and went ahead to ask him if he was Turkish. His
reply was a definite yes — which was what I had felt all along. Then he asked smiling::
— My name is Ahmed. Are you Turkish too?
Before he even completed his sentence, in a tone expressing urgency, ! replied:
— No, I am an Armenian!
My response must have been so strong and definitive that Ahmed quickly said:
— I have many Armenian friends here in New York. they are from Istanbul. He went on to
tell me about Garo, one of his Armenian friends, who one day had invited him to his house
for dinner. When Garo's elderly mother found out that Ahmed was Turkish, she threw him out
of her house, telling him: "Your government massacred my people and my family, I
don't want you in my house."
My initial, gut reaction was "Yes! Good for her,
you deserve to be thrown out; if I wasn't walking with crutches I would. jump out of your
taxi right now." My heart was beating faster and faster, my body was feeling hot. and
my hands cold and clammy, as I felt my anger escalating. Indeed, this was a very familiar
feeling. I felt this anger surging in January I997, when I first read. Sami Gulgoz's
"Letter to the Editor" in the Observer, the American Psychological Society's
Newsletter. In that letter, Gulgoz, from Koc University in Istanbul, objected to the
Organizational Profile on the Armenian American Society for Studies on Stress and
"The organization presented has described 'Coping with Ottoman Turkish Genocide' as
one of their research projects," he wrote. "Whether there has been a genocide or
not has been a matter of scholarly debate for years, and there is strong evidence against
the existence of such an event in the Ottoman land."
I remembered reading the letter with my feelings of anger, rage, resentment,
disappointment and hopelessness escalating. This was a letter written by a scholar, a
professor from a reputable university in Turkey, What could I expect from this taxi
driver? While I was submerged in those negative thoughts I realized that Ahmed was still
talking; in fact, he was. trying to say something. I looked at him with anger, resentment
and disappointment, as he said:
—I wish it (the Genocide) didn't happen: it is very sad and bad that it happened; many
innocent people died for no reason. Ahmed sounded genuinely sad. He grew more anxious as I
sat silently, processing my feelings. I thought I had resolved my anger about the Genocide
ten years earlier, when I had the opportunity to meet and work with Viktor Frankl, a
Viennese psychiatrist who was a Nazi concentration camp survivor and the author of Man's
Search for Meaning. Frankl had urged me to forgive the Turks within myself; he urged
me not to wait for the Turkish government's admission of the Genocide before my
forgiveness. In order to empower yourself, he said, you must be the first to forgive.
Forgiveness. is a personal choice.
I fell a variety of mixed emotions;
— Anger, on one hand. with the Turkish government that has vehemently denied the
Genocide and attempted to rewrite history, and
— Happiness, on the other hand, that Ahmed. as a Turk, was acknowledging the Genocide
and validating my feelings, by showing sadness and some remorse.
— Guilt on one hand, for engaging in a dialogue with our "collective enemy"
— Sadness. on the other hand, for not having more of us, Armenians and Turks, engage in
meaningful dialogues such as this one.
Ahmed grew more uncomfortable in the silence and attempted to protect himself as he
— But it is not my fault; I didn't do it.I don't want to be punished for something I
I then comforted him by saying:
— Of course, I know you didn't commit the "Talan" (meaning ransacking, but
used for the Genocide). Do your other Turkish friends from Turkey know about the "Talan"
and talk about it?
His answer was very quick, as he said:
—Well, you know, we don't talk about it in Turkey.
Ahmed, as. a Turk. initially stirred some leftover anger and resentment in me, similar to
Gulgoz's letter to the editor. Unlike Gulgoz's denial, however, Ahmed's admission helped
me to achieve a new level of understanding, forgiveness and hope.
As I lecture around the world on man-made traumas and forgiveness in order to achieve
closure, I meet many skeptics. Many Armenians especially confuse forgiveness with
forgetting, and in this process turn their anger against me as they exclaim: "How
could you even think of asking fellow Armenians to forgive the Turks?" Forgiving does
not equate forgetting.
Forgiving does not mean stopping the research on the Genocide;
Forgiving does not mean to conceal the truth and to forget our human rights.
Forgiving means freeing oneself of the chains of anger, unlocking the locks of resentment
and undoing the cycles of hatred.
I challenge you to love the truth, but to know how to forgive, for "He who cannot
forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass." (George Herbert) and
because "Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed
it." (Mark Twain).
Dr. Anie Kalayjian is a Logotherapeutic Psychotherapist in New York and New Jersey. She
is the author of Disaster and Mass Trauma; a Professor of Psychology at Fordham
University and the College of New Rochelle; and Founder and President of the Armenian
American Society for Studies on Stress and Genocide.
Mirror Spectator, Aug. 16, 1998
I had written Dr. Kalayjian a letter when the TAT site first got completed, after
running into a message where she had provided a few genocidal thoughts. I wanted to
correct her on a few nonsensical claims, such as there having been three million
Ottoman-Armenians before WWI, when there was only about half that number. (Even the
Armenian Patriarch didn't go as far as Kalayjian, stopping at 1.8 or 2.1 million,
depending on his mood.)
Unfortunately, the last thing too many genocide advocates care for are the
historical facts, and that goes double for the so-called "genocide
scholars." Like Israel Charny, Dr. Kalayjian's specialty is in the field of
psychology; such people are highly unqualified to judge matters of history. These
genocide forces care much more about the emotional issues; they hypocritically make
up their minds which of the countless examples of ethnic cleansing throughout
history should receive our attention, usually focusing on their own people, and
paying only the briefest lip service to a couple of the more famous and established
Don't you get the feeling from the article that Dr. Kalayjian has major issues with
this one topic that stirs her deepest passions, no matter how much she tries to sell
us on her "forgiveness" ideas? Definitely the genocide-obsessed Armenians
have immense psychological needs to attend to, but here I sense is a case where the
psychologist herself is (or was; the article is from a good few years back) in need
And what a cushy position she is operating
from, as a professional psychotherapist, so she can pursue propagandistic themes
such as 'Coping with Ottoman Turkish Genocide.' What a great way to con outsiders
that this mythical genocide is an established fact.
Needless to say, Dr. Kalayjian never bothered to write back. Over a year later, I
saw her on a 2005 television show where she again
repeated the claim that there were three million pre-war Armenians in the Ottoman
Empire. Assuming she read my letter, she completely ignored the unbiased evidence as
to why this three million figure couldn't even enter the realm of possibility. She
may have a Ph.D, but that is most irresponsible of her as a supposed scholar. A
woman of science cannot afford to make decisions based mainly upon faith.
Is it any wonder that when the Turkish scholar
disagreed with her genocidal views, her response was one of "anger, rage,
resentment, disappointment and hopelessness"? She's implying in this article
that this man could not deserve the title of "scholar," for daring to
question her life-giving genocide. The reaction of any true scholar would be, hey
wait a minute. What is this "strong evidence" that negates the genocide?
If she could bring herself to behave as a dispassionate scientist, it would be plain
to see this voluminous evidence comes from sources with no reason to be untruthful,
even sources that are Armenian. (Unlike her sources, practically all of which had
good reason to lie.) But Anie Kalayjian appears to be unable to bring herself to do
A few specific observations, regarding her article.
I'm highly impressed with her ability in spotting Turks. We know of the
distinctiveness of many ethnic groups when they try their hand at English, but Turks
speaking accented English would sound like "generic foreigner" to most.
Pretty creepy of that Armenian mother to throw Ahmed the cab driver out of her home
for being Turkish, wasn't it?
Quite a far cry from Edward Tashji's Armenian mother, whose words Tashji had related before continuing with
My son, we had everything in Turkey. We owned our own homes, our
farm lands, shops, and businesses. We were free in our schools, our churches, and
our press. On religious holidays Christians and Muslims would exchange greetings,
flowers, and baskets filled with all kinds of foods. After having so much, for so
long, WHY should the Turks decide to destroy us?! WE, my son, WE were responsible
beyond any doubt, for the misfortune that befell our people! WE, the Armenians, were
not loyal to our homeland, Turkey! - Many years later, when several Turkish Naval
Officers visited our home In Queens, New York, my mother had said to them, “Welcome
my children — this is your home, welcome...” She had become their “mother”
and we their family in the United States. THIS Is humanity! THIS Is God’s wish for
all of us! THIS is the only answer if we are to give our children a world free of
hatred! THIS Is what I have found In the Turkish heart; I stand in awe of their
compassion, of their warmth, their humanity.
Tashji's mother wasn't making anything up; her reasons for what befell her people
were seconded by the
first President of Armenia, Hovhannes Katchaznouni, himself. And what proof does the
hateful mother of Garo have that the Ottoman "government massacred my people
and my family"? That claim lies at the very crux of the genocide debate,
doesn't it. There is no evidence that the Ottoman government was behind an
extermination plan. There is however, plenty of hearsay and "emotional"
evidence. The word of this mother, for example, is enough for Armenians. ("Why
would my grandmother lie?" is the best Armenian readers who write in usually
have to offer.)
So what does our scholarly taxicab passenger do? When Ahmed tells her he was kicked
out of this Armenian home, Ani Kalayjian's "initial, gut reaction was 'Yes!
Good for her, you deserve to be thrown out; if I wasn't walking with crutches I
would. jump out of your taxi right now.' My heart was beating faster and faster, my
body was feeling hot. and my hands cold and clammy, as I felt my anger
It's honest for Kalayjian to admit her strong feelings, but they are far from
laudable. No Turk would even dream of faulting her for the heinous crimes of her
fathers, for slaughtering in the most inhumane manner the lot of over half a million
Turks, Muslims, and others. This is the difference between those who were raised by
feelings of hatred, and those who were not.
Note when Ahmed gave his "quick" (translation: "guilty") answer,
"Well, you know, we don't talk about it in Turkey," Kalayjian
implies the reason was that Turkey is trying to cover up its crimes. The fact is,
Ataturk made the highly noble and mature decision not to harp on past ills, so that
Turks would not be raised in hatred; this was the best path to proceed in
brotherhood, and love. (Who would have imagined many Armenians would still make this
mythical genocide the cause for their existence?)
Ahmed confused our emotional scholar when he sadly declared, "I wish it (the
Genocide) didn't happen: it is very sad and bad that it happened; many innocent
people died for no reason." He reflected the feelings of most Turks. This was a
terribly tragic episode of history where everyone died and suffered. But note
Kalayjian is accepting the word "genocide" for "it." She is
hearing what she wanted to hear.
Not to say Ahmed may not be a believer of this genocide. Turks weren't schooled in
this topic, and when they emigrated to Western countries where they get bombarded by
this propaganda, it's difficult not to get suckered in. Ahmed sounds like he could
have been a believer, when he was quoted as saying, "But it is not my fault; I
didn't do it. I don't want to be punished for something I didn't do." (Then
again, he might have read the anxiety of the ticking time bomb beside him, and said
what he thought would be the best thing to calm her down.)
Kalayjian used every ounce of her will power, fighting her initial reaction of
hatred, and comforted him (as if she were his judge and jury) by saying, "Of
course, I know you didn't commit the 'Talan' (meaning ransacking, but used for the
Her Turkish must be very good, as I had never heard of the word "Talan" to
describe the genocide. Maybe she meant to say "yalan."
So Ahmed the taxi driver helped trigger in her "a new level of understanding,
forgiveness and hope." Too bad the only thing that affects genocide-obsessed
Armenians is admissions of guilt. One could best gain understanding and hope through
the pursuit of genuine historical truth. Forgiveness? Establish the crime first,
something even the British failed to do during 1919-21 with the Malta Tribunal
process, and then be honest enough to determine whether granting forgiveness would
be a deserved role.
But this kind of honesty is difficult to expect from those who operate from the
level of a religious fanatic. With this kind, what's the best that can be hoped for?
Kalayjian advocates forgiveness, with the stipulation that "Forgiving does
not equate forgetting."
There is a reason for the axiom, "Forgive and forget." If one does not
strive to forget, one can never truly forgive. Imagine permitting oneself to seethe
with hatred and rage while making sure not to forget. What kind of
"forgiveness" would that amount to? One would have hoped this basic logic
would have been covered in the introductory "Psychology 101" course
Kalayjian probably took as a college freshman.
"Forgiving does not mean to conceal the truth and to forget our human
But it would be helpful to strive for the real truth in the first place. And also to
keep in mind "human rights" is not a concept for select and preferred
people, but for all humans. These include the other side of Kalayjian's coin,
featuring examples as the
"I arrived in Bayburt on August
8, 1917. What I saw was terrifying. Armenians under the Russian
administration were committing horrifying, wild atrocities against Turks in
Bayburt and Ispir. The rebels named Arshak and Antranik, slaughtered the
children in the orphanage I worked at with their daggers. They raped young
girls and women. They took away 150 children with them while they were
withdrawing from Bayburt and killed most of them while they were still on
Red Cross Attendant Tatiana Karameli,
student of Russian Medicine School, serving at Russian Red Cross 1917-18,
memoirs. Ottoman Archives BOA HR. SYS. 2877/1
When Dr. Kalayjian winds up with, "I
challenge you to love the truth, but to know how to forgive," it sounds
terribly hollow. She closes with a quote from Mark Twain, but my favorite Twain
passage is the one where he nailed the Armenians to a tee. (This may be read,
appropriately, in TAT's Psychology
Anie Kalayjian touches on the flack she receives from intolerant Armenians, as she
expounds upon her peculiar "forgiveness" ideas. Joseph Vosbikian explored
this "Armenian Anie Attack" somewhat more in a commentary of The
Armenian Reporter, Jan. 29, 2000, entitled "A Breath of Fresh Air."
The article also described Dr. Kalayjian's visit in June 1999 to Istanbul, which
happened to be the locale for the Sixth European Conference on Psychotraumatology,
Clinical Practice and Human Rights (What? I thought Turkey was not a European country), where she tried to push her genocide.
(The article stresses how her life was threatened by Turks. Perhaps there were a
couple of nut jobs, but I can't help feeling there wasn't some exaggeration, as I
have never run into cases when the "genocide" was publicly covered in
Turkey, and where death threats were part of the picture. For example, this 1990 conference with Levon Marashlian.)
The writer tells us Kalayjian "gradually transformed her inner attitude toward
the Turks, from total hate to some forgiveness — forgiveness at least for those
who grew up in total ignorance because of their Turkish government's criminal
denials..." Whew! Looks like there are a lot of hoops to jump through in order
to get some of that precious Anie Kalayjian "forgiveness."
And what does this pseudo forgiveness get her? Vosbikian writes, "she had to
endure a lot of public abuse from her own Armenian people who called her a 'traitor'
and 'Turk lover,' among other things." Now I'm beginning to feel for the lady.
I wouldn't want anyone to be on the radar of hateful Armenians. This is why
Armenians who know this genocide to be one big fraud are afraid to publicly speak...
it's the old "Armenian Curtain of Fear" doing its familiar, Dashnak
dirty work. Giving the tiniest nuance that's out of line with "Hai Tahd,"
or the Armenian Cause, is an invitation for a beating. Even diehard Hai Tahders such
as Ara Sarafian and Vincent Lima found this out.
The article tells us that villain of villains, the Turkish government, asked
Kalayjian (twice) to come and lend a hand with trauma victims in the aftermath of
the August 1999 earthquake. Regardless of how much her decision helped with her
"journey of forgiveness and transcendence" (hey! She used the title of her
taxi driver tale), it was most laudable for her to take such a step.
I ran into the correspondence that had prompted my letter to Kalayjian,
which Yuksel Oktay had shared with me. It would be useful to point out here
what Kalayjian values as historical proof.
In her March 3, 2004 reply to Oktay, Kalayjian labels Oktay as a
"denialist," and adds that she isn't sure as to why she should
"waist time to convince you." She points to a "new book that
compiles ALL the non-Armenian accounts of what happened from 1894-1896 in
Ottoman Empire," resulting in "the massacres of over 300,000
Armenians." (Arman Kirakossian, The Armenian Massacres 1894-1896 US
Media Testimony.) She advises that such would help the denialist
"get a perspective of generational hatred and discrimination of some
Turks, not all."
"Hhatred and discrimination" are anything but prevalent among
Turks, particularly coming from a history of great tolerance. The absence of
hatred is a strong reason why Turks are behind the genocide game, as hatred
is a potent driving force.Raging emotions are in the corner of most
Armenians, as Kalayjian herself demonstrated n her "Taxi Driver"
story. If only our psychologist could allow herself to be more objective,
and restrain herself from making false conclusions about a people..
It is very sad when a "professor" allows emotion to overcome her
scholarly self, to the point of name-calling. Psychologically, this is the
loser's pathetic manner in which to avoid the cold and hard facts. In
addition, her source is totally embarrassing. (Not to mention out of place.
Her "genocide" occurred in 1915-16.) Has she not read Peter
Balakian's "The Burning Tigris," in which we learned how a sneaky Armenian infiltrated
a community of American intelligentsia, by stealing the heart of a lonely
woman? These bigoted Americans, already weaned with anti-Turkish prejudice,
fell like a row of dominoes to Armenian propaganda. Their contacts reached
out to media outlets throughout the natiion, and what the Armenophile
Richard Davey labeled as "The great Armenian horror boom" exploded throughout
newspapers across the land. Reporters nowhere near the scenes felt free to
create sensationalistic tales of "The Terrible Turk" which readers
ate up. (Please click here for an example,
and an understanding for how zealous partisans dare to cite mortality
figures as high as 300,000, or "over.") Kalayjian is actually
comfortable with referring to shameful propagandists in the American media
as "non-Armenians," in order to present the slanted picture that
they were "neutral."
The real "denialist" is Anie Kalayjian herself. Nearly any fact
getting in the way of her precious genocide is a fact she will close her
Run-In with a Turkish Taxi Driver
"I know I don’t make much sense. But nonsense is
just as far removed from deception as truth. Deception turns truth inside out. As
for nonsense, it solders deception and truth to each other so much so as to make
The Flea Palace (2002)
Istanbul conference on Ottoman Armenians
Opinion by Elif Safak
Turkish Daily News
Sunday, September 25, 2005
On May 23, 2005, I arrived in Istanbul from Berlin to participate in an event that was
going to happen for the first time in Turkey: A conference on the Ottoman Armenians.
Having thus arrived at Istanbul airport, I grabbed my bags and hailed the first cab
waiting in line.
`Look at this mess! Traitors!' remarked the cab driver as soon as we took off. He was
listening to national radio and when he realized I had no idea what he was talking about
he turned the volume up. All of a sudden a fuming voice thundered inside the cab that
belonged to Cemil Çiçek, Turkey's justice minister. He was delivering a speech about the
upcoming conference. I flinched in my seat as I heard him declare that such a malevolent
gathering could not possibly be permitted since it was tantamount to "treason."
Then he added: `These so-called intellectuals are stabbing our nation in the back. If only
I had the authority to prosecute them I would do so without any hesitation whatsoever. I
urge the Turkish nation to watch the conference proceedings closely...'
`Could you please turn that thing down,' I asked the cabdriver when I could muster my
courage and voice. `Actually, why don't you turn it off completely? The minister is
The driver, a young, hefty man with astute eyes looked at me in the rear view mirror from
which a glittering Turkish flag, a miniature Koran and the picture of his baby boy were
dangling side by side. His face was marred with incredulity and disappointment. `How would
you know? You just walked off the plane?'
`I know because I am one of those traitors he just mentioned,' I heard myself mutter, as
if that needed to be revealed. A deep silence ensued in the cab as we inched our way
through the snaky side streets of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. For more
than 10 minutes we did not exchange a single word. I sat there uncomfortably fearing being
kicked out of the cab with my suitcases.
Finally, at a red light, he said to me: `You guys are playing with fire. What you are
doing is detrimental to the interests of the Turkish state. If you accomplish this meeting
it will mean you accept the Armenians' allegations of genocide. Is that what you want? You
guys are educated thanks to our tax money. We expect you to help this nation. However,
what do you do instead? You ruin it!'
He uttered these words as effortlessly and easily as if we were having a chat about the
weather. It took me some extra seconds to fully sense the fury buried within.
`We want to organize this conference because we believe it is essential for the
development of Turkish democracy,' I replied, trying not to sound either patronizing or
enervated but failing in both, adding: `What does the minister know about this conference?
We never circulated our papers. I myself do not know what the other participants are going
to say. How can you call something a crime that has not as yet even occurred? Why is it
such a taboo to talk about the deportation and killing of Armenians in 1915? Did it not
The driver softened a bit. `Look, you intellectuals are famous for being naïve. You live
in your books. Nevertheless, the real world is different. You will be exploited by the
great powers, the capitalist media, the CIA and all that,' he said.
It was precisely then that I received a call on my mobile phone. It was from a colleague
in the conference organizing committee. The cab driver became all ears without even
pretending not to overhear. `We should all draft a petition to protest at this infamous
attack on academic and intellectual freedom,' my colleague and I agreed before I hung up.
`Intellectual freedom! I'll tell you what boils my blood,' the cab driver said, adding:
`You are free to say whatever you want as long as you say it here in your motherland.
However, our writers and scholars always do the exact opposite. They keep quiet here in
Turkey and talk a blue streak abroad. Why is that?'
`Well, if that's what you think then isn't it better that we have this conference here in
the heart of Istanbul,' I asked as we pulled aside, having arrived at the address.
There came no answer. I reached out for my purse getting ready to pay.
`I have decided I am not going to take your money,' the driver said calmly.
The rest is history. As everyone interested in the subject now knows, the conference was
— On Sept. 23, I came to Istanbul again. On the same day at 5:00 p.m. we learned about a
legal maneuver to stop the conference. Back to square one! As in every state mechanism
within the Turkish state, there is a reactionary line against every endeavor that might
disturb the status quo. Challenging the official historiography is a struggle and it is
not an easy one. Nevertheless, thank God things are not as black and white as Westerners
tend to think sometimes; there are other shades in Turkish civil society, and other cab
drivers in Istanbul...
Holdwater: That certainly gives new meaning to genocide
advocates getting a free ride.
And it's not only "Westerners" (in quotes for those who insist Turks have not
been Westernized) who tidily narrow Turkish matters down to black and white. That
"legal maneuver" from late September must have been totally toothless, for as
Shafak's soul sister, Fatma Muge Gocek, explained in a "Horizon Weekly"
interview: "When September 2005 came around , [the ruling] AK Party expressed its
desire that the postponed conference ought to actualize before the EU accession talks on
October 3rd." More on this conference, which took place soon afterwards, and Ms.
Shafak may be read on this page.
AN OPEN LETTER
TO ELIF SAFAK
The following open letter explores, among other matters,
Shafak's encounter with the Turkish cabbie. (Her name in Turkish is spelled without
the "h.") The paragraph breaks are Holdwater's.
Dear Ms. Safak:
I have noticed that you, as a young Turkish academic, have joined the ranks of Taner
Akçam et al. You are already a coveted participant in Armenian forums, and my
congratulations to you for that distinction. As a
novelist-cum-historian-cum-columnist, you write weekly columns in an
English-language Turkish newspaper, and that is how I came to know you. If you were
not one of a kind in your class, Ms. Safak, I would not waste my time writing this
piece. But you are rather special.
Apart from your haughtiness and your elitist views on the so-called Armenian
genocide, you have frequently carped about Turks — "especially those living
in U.S. "— that disagree with you. Below you will find my views on your
carping, and a piece of advice on the side. I offer my advice totally gratis.
You first came to my attention from your
article (duly reproduced on one of the Armenian websites) on the discredited
Armenian conference that took place in Istanbul in late September. It was the
conference where Turks were treated as the accused but denied self-defense —
similar to the myriad conferences held or sponsored by the Armenian lobby. The
disgracefully one-sided, but impeccably choreographed conference, where almost every
invited participant from speaker to listener was an advocate of the alleged Armenian
genocide, was ridiculously hailed as a "scientific" or
"scholarly" meeting and justified in the furtherance of
"democracy" and "freedom of speech." Not a single historical
document was presented during the conference to shore up the genocide claim. But the
Armenian lobby loved the conference, just as you did.
What evidently prompted you to pen your article, Ms. Safak, was the experience you
had with the taxi driver after you had arrived at Istanbul airport from abroad to
attend the conference. After striking a conversation of sorts with the driver, and
expressing your elitist views on the alleged genocide, you, with a condescending
demeanor, tried to educate the driver about the sanctity of "academic
freedom" and "democracy." The taxi driver, obviously not an erudite
man, but proud to be a Turk, and having enough common sense to recognize snobbery,
and separate deceit from truth, was so incensed with your "enlightened"
stance that he refused to accept taxi fare from you. That should have sent a
powerful message to you and hurt your pride. But I doubt your pride was bruised in
any way. The air of arrogance surrounding you was so thick; you could cut it with a
knife. And that probably prevented the message from passing through.
Just to let you know, Ms. Safak, I would have wanted to kiss that noble taxi driver
on his forehead. Soon followed another article by you in which you declared your
open support and admiration for Hrant Dink. Notwithstanding his views on the
genocide issue, we had come to know Mr. Dink, the editor of the Armenian weekly Agos
published in Istanbul, a friend of Turks, a liberated Armenian living in Turkey and
valuing Turkish citizenship.
In October, Mr. Dink was given a six-month suspended jail sentence by the court for
insulting Turkishness. Speaking high-mindedly of minority rights in Turkey, you
claimed the sentence was discriminatory. But cleverly, you did not disclose what Mr.
Dink had written. In the February 13, 2004 issue of Agos, Mr. Dink, in describing
the Armenian identity, made reference to "poisoned blood spilled by the
Turk," contrasting it with "clean blood in the noble Armenian vein."
There was an allusion to Kemal Atatürk's hallmark address to the Turkish youth
after the War of Independence, which made his allegory all the more provocative. No
matter how one spins it, and Mr. Dink subsequently tried to do that, the allegory
was clearly racist and insulting.
But that did not bother you. Nor did it bother EU, which had the gall to criticize
Turkey for not respecting Mr. Dink's freedom of speech, in total disregard of the
fact that in France and Switzerland, mere denial of the alleged Armenian genocide is
a crime. Prof. Bernard Lewis, Prof. Yusuf Halacoglu, and the leader of Turkey's
Worker's Party Dogu Perinçek know it too well. A message in EU's criticism was that
that the freedom of speech is a principle that should be respected or ignored
depending on the occasion. The double standard, the duplicity, was nauseating. Since
when is racism protected under the "freedom of speech"?
But Ms. Safak, you did not merely express solidarity
with Mr. Dink. In criticizing the court's decision, you inveighed: "Hrant, you
did not commit any crime. It is those who make you feel like a 'foreigner' in your
own land that have been committing a crime for centuries." Committing crime for
centuries? And who might those criminals be? The terrible Turks? Or those infamous
courts? Hmm! A gem of observation that could be included in the Annals of Slander
— if there were ever one. That sure would have been another avenue to give you
If you really wanted to know an Armenian that was a true friend of Turks, Ms. Safak,
you should read the book titled "I Am Called A Friend of Turks — The Truth
Must Be Told — An Autobiography" by Edward Tashji — a man of high integrity
and rare courage, free of hatred, born and raised Armenian, married Armenian, lived,
prayed and died Armenian — now resting in New Jersey.
In his book, Tashji, recounting the dark days of World War I in Anatolia as told by
his parents, who lived through the madness of it all, debunks convincingly the bogus
claims of genocide. Even a die-hard pro-genocide elitist like you would be moved by
that book. I assure you.
In your later articles you complained that many Turks living abroad
("especially those living in the United States") have been sending you
uncomplimentary, even hateful, e-mails (I swear, I was not one of them), one person
even calling you "so-called citizen of Turkey" (the label you found
particularly offensive). You thought these people are narrow-minded and bigoted,
slow to change. You called them "aggressive nationalists." In contrast,
you implied, you are a "critical thinker," destined to trigger
"social transformation" in Turkish society. Such exemplary modesty on your
Acceptance of the genocide claims by Turks, you insinuated in one of your columns,
is one of the "transformations" you would like to deliver to the Turkish
society — two other "transformations" apparently being removal of the
ban on the use of Islamic turban and undoing the Kemalist reforms. Quite a tall
order, and Turks better not underestimate you! You even made the baffling
observation that "aggressive nationalists" and supporters of President
Bush's foreign policy in Iraq have "something in common." (How the Bush
connection came into the picture is a mystery).
I will not attempt to make sense of these outlandish claims. But I would earnestly
ask you, Ms. Safak: Considering your stance, what, exactly, do you expect from the
Turkish community? Letters of admiration? A bouquet of flowers? Perhaps you would
prefer that your readers keep their mouths shut and not react. But honestly, a
reader has to be dim-witted or brain-dead not to be provoked by your writings. If
affection, admiration, and even acceptance, are what you are seeking, I would assure
you that you will not — with some exceptions — find them among Turks. Turks, Ms.
Safak, are tired of being wrongly accused of crimes they did not commit, of tragic
episodes they did not instigate, of feckless, ethnic-pandering politicians that try
to legislate history, and of dishonest academics that make obscene analogy between
the Jewish holocaust and the 1915 events. The last thing that Turks want to hear is
someone of their own feeding them the same garbage.
To be blunt, Ms. Safak, Turks do not need the likes of you to "transform."
And the reason Turks living abroad ("especially those in U.S.") do not
accept you is because they have been witnessing year-in, year-out the fraud that is
being perpetrated in their midst — a fraud that you may be oblivious to, but in
reality are contributing to — on the Armenian issue. Unlike what you think, Ms.
Safak, those Turks, by and large, are neither bigoted nor narrow-minded, and many
are remarkably progressive and far-sighted. Some of them may even shame you to
narrow-mindedness. You should also realize that those "aggressive
conservatives" have as much right to express their views — including
admonishing you — as you do expressing your own. You are not beyond reproach. You
should stop moaning and bemoaning, and get on with your life.
A columnist should be prepared for criticism from those who disagree. It is part of
the territory of being a writer. If you cannot take the heat, you should quit. You
should be grateful that you are not receiving threats of violence from your
detractors — something the Armenian hoodlums did not hesitate doing against e.g.,
Prof. Stanford Shaw, Prof. Turkkaya Ataöv, Judge Sam Weems. You should also be
grateful that, as you have noted, you have been receiving conciliatory,
complimentary messages, "mostly from Armenians," that give you peace of
mind. I hope such messages will continue. No one with sane mind would oppose
reconciliation. But interestingly, Ms. Safak, all your Armenian admirers spoke of
"the Armenian genocide" as a fact. You are certainly in good company with
Finally, Ms. Safak, since you so eager to enlighten your readers on the Armenian
issue, I had hoped that by now you would have written an op-ed to inform your
readers of a special conference you attended last month. The conference was held at
the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) on November 6, and was organized
by Prof. Richard Hovannisian, a renown anti-Turk who holds the Armenian Educational
Foundation Chair in Modern Armenian History at UCLA. The topic was, not
surprisingly, "Armenian genocide."
The speakers were all Turks: Drs. Taner Akçam, Fatma Müge Göçek, and you. We do
not quite know what the esteemed thinkers like yourself said at the conference, but
the 800-strong Armenian audience loved what they heard and repeatedly interrupted
the speakers to give a big applause. Of course, and as usual, there were no opposing
views. And no doubt, acts of the fifth-column Armenian gangs during those turbulent
times, if they were ever mentioned at all, were reflected or perceived as valiant
acts of loyal, upstanding citizenry.
At the end of the conference Prof. Hovannisian told the audience that the issues of
reparations and territorial demands from Turkey would be taken up in a future
conference. How fitting! No doubt you and your Turkish colleagues at the conference
will not want to miss that meeting. Was this a "scientific" or
"scholarly" conference, Ms. Safak? Perhaps you would opine in one of your
future columns. And while at it, Ms. Safak, could you comment on rumors that the
speakers were handsomely compensated for their efforts?
December 19, 2005, The Turkish Forum
Holdwater: What a fantastic piece; bravo to Mr.
Demirmen. In my opinion, rumors of compensation belong in the same category as
rumors of an Armenian genocide; only those matters supported by solid evidence
deserve respect, as anyone can offer speculation. Space for conferences from
universities is usually granted for free, when the conference directors belong to
the university. Someone has to cough up the money for the speakers' travel expenses,
but other than that, the speakers in these conferences don't need the payola. They
gladly participate, since their rewards materialize in other ways; the clout and
fame that keep getting reinforced from such engagements can lead to or sustain book
deals and university positions, the latter sometimes supported by Armenian
foundations, as in the case of Taner Akcam. In addition, as a minor correction, the
final title of Edward Tashji's autobiography is "Armenian Allegations -- The
Truth Must be Told."