Monday, 24 September

Istanbul Diary: “We are not enemies and should not fear one another”

25 year-old Ibrahim Yunal from Turkey will be visiting Armenia next month to shoot a film about Mt. Ararat. Born in the Cilician town of Tarsus, Ibrahim has been studying in Istanbul for the past five years. I caught up with him there.

How did you get the idea for a film about Ararat?

I know the writer Eje Temelkuran and like her book "Deep Mountain" made in 2008. It's about Ararat, Armenians and Turks. I decided to enter a film-making program organized by the Turkish GPOT center and Internews in Armenia. I presented the idea to some Turkish directors and got the green light. I've been working on it since January. It can be called an experimental documentary. It will probably be called "Ararat" but I might change it.

Is this your first film?

You could say so. I have two student films but I don't really care for them. Right now I'm studying photography at the Istanbul Cultural University. I've already have a degree in TV and Radio.

What's the idea behind the film?

I tell Turks that Ararat isn't merely a mountain; that it's a symbol for Armenians and that they grieve over it. When I came to Yerevan this February I realized how important it was for Armenians. There were pictures of the mountain all over. It's a film about all of this. In school, Turkish kids are taught that it's the highest mountain in the country, but this technical aspect isn't the only factor for Armenians.

Who are the film's heroes?

They are an Armenian grandmother and grandson. There are a few other main characters – picture sellers at the Vernisage Market in Yerevan. We engage in conversation about the mountain and our two peoples. The film is about 15 minutes long. I also use depictions of Ararat taken from the Bible, photos and other works.

Your grandmother's grandmother was an Armenian from Van. What emotions did you have while in Armenia?

Neither very good nor very bad. I was sad because my country, Ottoman Turkey, inflicted suffering on those people. This is important because there is both Armenian and Turkish in me. It's very complicated.

What can young people like yourself do to change attitudes back in Turkey?

It would be tough to change things in the elderly, but I believe there's a chance to change some attitudes in the youth. I know young Turks who have different ways of thinking and democratic viewpoints. They aren't many in number but they exist. There are many people who think like me either in Armenia or Turkey, but one day we will reach our goal. What I say is that we aren't enemies and that we shouldn't fear one another. This is Ararat. On one side there are Armenians, on the other, Turks. What's the problem?


Yes, history. But we young people can change our relations and we must. Let's keep it simple. Perhaps we can make changes in our cultural and social contacts. I believe we can. This is what I talk about in my film.

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Comments (6)
1. Boghos G.07:45 - 27 April, 2011
I would like to know the ethnic background of Turks such as Yunal. Balkan? Greek? Armenian? I want to know the ethnic/religious/national background of every Turk going back at least 3 generations., especially ones in the news. How Turkish are they? How tied to a Turkish identity are they? This would tell us something about their motivations. Why is this rarely asked or answered?
2. Berge Jololian08:04 - 27 April, 2011
That very nice .. but give back what belongs to Armenia - Eastern Anatolia is Western Armenia. Ararat is Armenia - it does not belong to Turkey. Return to Armenia what belongs to Armenia. No restorative justice = No dialogue.
3. Thomas09:24 - 27 April, 2011
Restorative justice????? The young guy's a student filmmaker. What you want him to hand over Ararat to you sitting somewhere in the States or wherever.... So if Ibrahim and other average "Turks" don't make or can't nake the concessions you demand, that means you won't sit down and talk??? Screwy logic!
4. Berge Jololian10:20 - 30 April, 2011
Ibrahim Yunal seems to be a nice guy, and he is carrying on a nice project. At the end of the day, Turkey's occupation of Ararat and the rest of Western Armenia by-way-of-genocide will not stand. Acknowledgment without accountability is hollow and meaningless. The Turks have not only murdered humans, destroyed an ancient culture civilization and rewritten history, but 99.7% of Turks continue to legitimize the act as well as the racist ideology that led to the act.
5. Andranik02:18 - 28 January, 2012
We will always be enemies with the Turks even if they recognize the 1915 genocide, if today Turkey can commit another genocide on Armenians they will not hesitate for one moment, this is in there blood.
6. Andranik22:52 - 4 May, 2012
Ibrahim Yunal, the 1915 genocide makes the Armenians & the Turks friends??? what are you taking about? you are out of your head, we don't fear from the Turks, its the Turks who fear from the Armenians.
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