Translation of Arat Dink’s response to the Minister of Defense which was published in the Taraf daily on November 14, 2008
jeudi20 novembre 2008, par Stéphane/armenews
"Let my non-existence be a gift to the Turkish nation"
Arat Dink - Taraf newspaper, Istanbul , Turkey November 14, 2008
Vecdi Gonul, the Defense Minister asks : ‘If the Greeks continued existing in the Aegean Region today, or if the Armenians continued existing in many parts of :country-regionTurkey today, do you think we could have a nation state ?’
Come on, just answer this simple question.
Of course, the question has not much meaning without context. One can even conclude : ‘God made him say that’, or ‘words spoken from the heart’. In fact, in some parts of the world, people reportedly interpreted this : ‘ :country-regionTurkey finally recognized past ethnic cleansing’, or ‘The Turkish state official thesis is evolving’.
But the reality is exactly the opposite. The Minister asks the question as a positive outcome for ‘the state today’. When you pose the question ‘If these people continued to exist, could we have the state today ?’ seeking confirmation of a positive act for today’s state, then it means that you are happy with the elimination of the non-existent people. He asked the question in such an obvious way, why am I still obsessed with analyzing it ?
Foreigners may naturally question as to ‘Why is a defense minister interested in these issues ?’ Others who are slightly familiar with Turkey may further think that since ‘defense of the country’ is in the control of another entity, since the Minister has nothing else to do, that is why he is interested in issues like demographics, economics, etc. But people really familiar with Turkey would immediately recognize that the minorities are exactly defined in this way, that minorities are only mentioned in the high school textbooks on National Defense Education, and these people would not be surprised in the Minister’s interest in this topic. In short, the Defense Minister is doing his real job.
I sense that I have to become more serious. The rest of this article will get really serious. What was the question ?
‘If the Greeks and the Armenians continued to live here, would :country-regionTurkey be the same nation-state ?’
‘No, it wouldn’t be the same.’ is the simple answer to this simple question.
You, who praises my non-existence, who defends the founding of this state upon my non-existence, who defines the current state as a positive act, then you wonder ‘what would have happened if they existed’. This is like shooting yourself in the foot. One may say ’It is none of your business, if he shot himself in the foot’. Didn’t they use that foot to kick you out ? In fact, this issue is not my business any more...
The sad part is that what the Minister said is mostly true. Then, what is the problem ? The Minister is speaking the truth, but in a wrong way. He takes our memory chests full of broken hearts, painfully hidden in attics or in basements, carried with us wherever we go, and he hurls them out ruthlessly. From an ideology that we could barely come to terms with, thinking that ‘In those past days everybody suffered’, he turns the steering wheel toward an ideology of ‘It was good that those sufferings happened to you’. He states the correct facts, but he also says that the facts were for a right reason.
Let us answer his question in the right way.
‘No, it wouldn’t be the same. It would be superbly better.’
What do I mean ?
The country wouldn’t be crowded into three centres, it would have forty plus urban centres. Instead of having twenty, thirty seedlings, we would have a fertile forest of cultural wealth. If everybody could stay in his or her mother’s birthplace, then this country could have become a real ‘fatherland’.
What do I mean ?
If nothing else, at least all those non-existing people would have continued living here with us. If nothing else, someone like you would not have become Defense Minister. Even if you had become the Minister, you wouldn’t have dared thinking like this. Even if you had dared thinking so, you wouldn’t have dared speaking like this. Even f you had spoken so, you wouldn’t stay as Minister the next day.
Let us see again, what is the main argument of the Defense Minister ?
He argues that our non-existence is good. He argues that the Deportation and population exchanges were good for Turkey . After repeatedly stating for years that ‘there was no intent, just war measures, etc.’, now he can comfortably say that these ‘unintended measures’ were really beneficial, advantageous in founding the republic.
It would be even more heavy-handed for me to stress that these unintended measures cost ‘millions of lives’.
I will state a fact often forgotten : We still exist. Perhaps only a few. Perhaps too few, too many, as minority, but doesn’t matter, we still exist. Does the Minister also wants the few existing ones not to exist ?
‘Nooo’, he will say ‘’How can one think like that ? You have a place in our hearts, on our heads’. But then, if there is no problem with our existence, then there should have been no problem with the ones sent away.. His answer is this : ‘They owned the most fertile lands, they lived in the best houses, they had all the wealth, etc.’ I ask him : ‘Did they seize these fertile lands by force, did they steal all this wealth, did they suddenly come down from the sky ?’
This official thesis really confuses me. Did all these minorities get deported because of war measures, or because they owned the fertile lands ? Oh, I forgot, the Armenians were not deported because they were Armenians. Perhaps the official thesis is evolving again - in order not to be accused of ‘genocide’, the new history perhaps will now say that ‘both Moslems and non-Moslems were deported from these fertile lands’...
Perhaps an economics expert will now explain the connection between the ‘nationalization’ of the capital and the liberal economy. After you define ‘national’, ‘nation’, ‘Turk’ in this manner, then you punish people when they object to your slogans of ‘one nation for all’. You show your rage when someone says ‘I am not a Turk, I am a citizen of Turkey ’.
I have a serious suggestion. As you know, every Monday morning we assemble all our children in concrete school yards, before they enter the classrooms to be channeled into narrow pipes, to be indoctrinated with the ‘one nation’ identity. As you know, we make the children pledge : ‘Let my existence be a gift to the Turkish nation !’. In the minority schools, I suggest that the problem would be solved if we make the children pledge : ‘Let my non-existence be a gift to the Turkish nation !’
We could foresee that denial could one day lead to acceptance of the truth, but we could never anticipate that the acceptance of the truth would be so enthusiastic, so approving.
We are now witnessing the evolution of the official thesis from ‘unintended measures’ to ‘desirable non-existence’. The inner voices cannot remain silent any longer, as the dominant entity need not bother with denials. ‘Since I dominate, why should I continue denying ?’ The denial phase for the dominating entity is a temporary one, resulting from the geopolitical or justification concerns. Once these concerns are eliminated, the ‘acceptance of truth’ phase rushes forward, with the attitude of ‘Yes I did it, so what ? If needed, I will do it again !’
Then send us away, brother. Our spirit is sent away, anyways. Send us away from our world to which we are still attached with some damned instinct, where we cannot even look at our forefathers or grandchildren because of shame, where we put up with truckloads of insults, send us away. But I cannot swallow these words any more.
But why would you send us away ? How many are we left ? It is not even a spoonful. We are like a herd. Just like herds which want a wise master instead of trying to become a master, we are now trying to wisen up our master. But this was really too much, insulting so openly, so obviously. Didn’t you ever come across the House of Conscience on your path ?