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Hrant Gadarigian

True or False? Armenians Really Don't Want to Return to Western Armenia

I came across an article in Hurriyet Daily News and I would like to get reader feedback on it.

The article, written by Vercihan Ziflioğlu, is entitled “Armenians snub mayor’s call for return”.

It deals with the September 25 statement of Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir in which he invited Armenians and other Non-Muslim people with roots in the area to return.

Here’s what Mayor Baydemir allegedly said:

“An Armenian, an Assyrian and a Chaldean, whose grandfathers or great-grandfathers were born in Diyarbakır, have the same right to live in Diyarbakır as I have, [speaking] as a Kurdish person who was born in Diyarbakır. I would like to invite all the ethnic groups whose ancestors once lived in Diyarbakır back to Diyarbakır again. Come back to your city,”

Baydemir made the call to Turkish and visiting Armenian journalists at a conference entitled “Expanding the Scope of Dialogue: Media and Armenia-Turkey Relations at the Current Stage”.

The article then provides quotes of various Armenians responding to the mayor’s statement. Here’s what they had to say. (Let us assume that the quotes are credible)

Ara Sarafian, Director of the Gomidas Institute in London - “ Baydemir’s call is not enough. And what is more, it could be manipulated by Turkish nationalists. As in most provinces, Armenians were also massacred in Diyarbakır. Why should they return to the city they left with great pain?”

Suzanne Khardalian (Stockholm-based film director whose family hails from Adiyaman and Marash) - I don’t believe it is a serious and sincere call. It has no meaning for us; no one could come back. What would we find out about ourselves if we returned? I would of course want to return to the land where my ancestors were born, but it is not possible under such conditions.”

Garo Yalick (Resident of France whose family has roots in Van and Mardin) - “They only remember to call on Armenians when they are faced with political problems. So I want to ask, why should we come back?”

Hakob Chakiryan (columnist for the newspaper Azg in Armenia) - "Diyarbakır is being introduced as the capital of North Kurdistan, while Osman Baydemir is regarded as the Kurdish Workers Party representative. Diyarbakir is a city associated with the Kurdish problem. It must be the last place to go in terms of Turkey-Armenia relations.”

So what are your thoughts? Here’s a few of my own to get the discussion rolling.

I get the sneaking feeling that the writer went out of her way to present the impression that Armenians have no intention to “return” to any part of western Armenia.

The fact that she managed to get the director of the Gomidas Institute to pose the question “Why should they return?” and a film director to comment “It has no meaning for us” leaves the impression that Armenians have turned the page on 1915 - the Genocide eviction and exile - and have moved on.

What about Chakiryan’s confusing response? Many Kurds regard Diyarbakır as the capital of north Kurdistan; so what? It’s also the site of the recently renovated Saint Giragos Church that officially reopened last year. Many Armenians, contrary to what Chakiryan believes, see the city as a potential site for an expanded Armenian cultural presence.

Of course, Osman Baydemir is a politician who probably does have ulterior motives, but why do these and other Armenians use it as an excuse for inaction and closing the door on any attempt to prove whether the mayor is sincere or not.

This isn’t the first time that Baydemir has made such calls. I don’t hear the mayors of Erzeroum, Elazig or Van urging Armenians to “come home”.

When Garo Yalick asks “Why should we come back?”, I can only assume that he and others like him would ask the same regarding the Republic of Armenia?

When Suzanne Khardalian states “I would like to return but it’s not possible under such conditions”, what conditions is she referring to?

Would she return if all the Kurds disappeared magically overnight? Would she return if the Republic of Armenia magically gained control of the lands promised by the Treaty of Sevres?

This is the same rational that many in the diaspora hid behind while at the same time spouting patriotic rhetoric about “Our Lands”. They’d all return if only....

The same excuses are used not only regarding their imagined western Armenia, but also regarding the present-day reality of the Republic of Armenia.

Unbelievably, there are still many so-called patriots who argue that the ROA isn’t their “homeland”.

Fine, to all those who claim this to be the case I would recommend that you contact Mayor Baydemir about his invitation to return to Diyarbakır; one of the six villayets of western Armenia.

That is if you are serious about returning to the lands of your ancestors...

Comments (14)

Arieh Yidel
Bedros first answer only one question out of many questions of mine @ comment 7, only then plan to do something. Are you a citizen of Turkey? No? Then you are going there in what capacity? as a tourist, or citizen on 'special envoy of the UN', or is Baydemir will provide you with a Turkish passport. One more thing before you get all prepped up and hot, with your Armenian temper, please read this article to see that as an Armenian, me, you and all of us are forbidden to buy real estate in Turkey. http://www.armenianweekly.com/2012/07/31/sassounian-armenia-should-retaliate-against-turkish-ban-on-buying-real-estate/ ... Is Baydemir going to provide room and board for you and your extended family in his own home, or will you stay in a hotel indefinately? PLEASE GROW UP, yerekha es inch es?
I would love to return to western Armenia... provided that Turkey does not have its paws on it, and it is fully officially part of Armenia.
I have been following the back and forth of the above comments. One thing is clear - no one will be returning to western Armenia anytime soon. Some like Kevork, demand that those lands (undefined) come under Armenian control before they would pack their bags. I would ask them the following simple question - why not relocate to present-day Armenia and get a jump start on the move? Why not move to historic Armenian lands already under Armenian control? There are no Kurds or Turks living there - if that's their excuse. Do these people actually believe that the borders will change in their favor in their lifetime? By moving to Armenia today, at least they will improve the chances that their offspring will be in a better situation, both culturally and psycholgically, to make the move to Van, Moush or Erzeroum. There are two options only on the path of return - either start engaging with the peoples now living there (mostly Kurds) or relocate to the current Republic of Armenia and assist in its development so that it will, one day, be capable of governing an expanded Armenia. Right now, Armenia is far from possessing such a capacity.
My hat goes off to any Diasporan who relocates to present-day Armenia/Artsakh and works to make our homeland a better place. My desire is to return to my own ancestral home in my grandparents' village in Western Armenia and will do so one day.
While all of it is our homeland, I wish to return to MY ancestral home in Sepastia. And yes, I have not only visited, but lived and worked in present-day Armenia and Artsakh (1979 onward), the latter in a community building capacity, specifically homes, schools and historic monuments. Surprised that I'm not an armchair patriot?
Dear P - May you fulfill your dream to return!
Yea, I read that article and was somewhat confused how the Turkish media can actually use an Armenian view point for their attacks on an Armenian friendly mayor. I think the Diaspora Armenians were attempting to say we will not advance Armenian Turkish relations by becoming friends with an such disliked politician by Turks. Butttttt, we should be happy with this mayor's open arms.
Vahan A. Janjihian
The first article quoted the mayor admitting to events regarding the massacres in a very direct and apologetic manner. The reporter wrote descriptions I had not seen before in the Turkish press. I think she needed to or was told to write that the Armenians don't want to come anyway. So, most probably she got on the phone and contacted Armenians of importance and phrased their responses to fit her needs. I was just in Diyarbiker and heard the mayor speak. One politicians words wont't convince anyone to move there. I look at it this way, it least there is one polician who is willing to speak the truth about what happened to the Armenians. That's one more than we have had for the last 97 years.
This is an inane article. Armenians from Armenia cannot complain about Diasporans not coming back when they themselves are leaving in droves. Moreover, every Hayastanci you meet in America only conveys horror stories of the country. Further, the 'agphpars' were treated like garbage for 40 years after they came back. Today, diasporans keep hearing stories of being swindled out of thousands of dollars when they either visit or invest in Armenia. Again, why should Daisporans come back? To be treated like third-class citizens? If Armenia was serious of keeping the Armenian nation, then Armenians in Armenia need to get serious as people. It is apparent that the Daispora cannot keep the Armenian nation. The citizens of ROA should fix the country. Start by hanging some of these Oligarchs in the middle of Yerevan – Sargisyan, Hovik the mouse, all of the Republican Party and their FAMLIES. If Armenians in Armenia cannot find it in themselves to vote for an aghpar like Raffi Hovanessian, then at least vote and make sure Vartan Oskanian becomes the next president. Unfortunately the best men of for the job were killed in 1999 by Kocharyan and co. Oskanian is not great, but he is not a horror story like LTP, Kocharyan or SS. Even though he is a criminal, LTP made a great point the other day on the things Armenia can control – eliminating corruption and establishing the rule of law. If Armenia did this alone, in 1996 it would be were Estonia is today. It is that easy - Rule of law, no corruption, utilize Diaspora, invest wisely in education(IT), agriculture, tourism and Armenia will flourish like Estonia, Israel, etc. It is still not too late, but the question is - is it in Armenians of ROA to do it?
Maybe the Turks should return to their homeland in Central Asia. Why don't they?
Either he's really stupid or a liar. This guy is strongly affiliated with the PKK. He doesn't see Diyabakir as Western Armenia but rather as North Kurdistan. Either he's looking for new PKK recruits or he's just an idiot. And by the way, why Diyarbekir. If the mayor of Van made such a call fair enough as it was the only province with an Armenian majority.
Arieh Yidel
My question to Baydemir is: Return to where? Is he providing Armenians with the homes they robed and confiscated? Is he providing us with the lands they took from our grandparents? Is he providing financial assistance to help the descendants of the Genocide to return to the land of our fathers? Is he or his kind in the Turkish Government trying to acknowledge first and foremost the Armenian Genocide, or is he an agent of the Government sitting there to lure more sheepish compatriots of ours to go and spend money inside Turkey, only to be kicked out in a few years from now? Go as what? Are we citizens there? No! Go and live as what? refugees on our own land? When we return do we buy our own homes and lands? IS THIS GUY FOR REAL??? I do not believe any cheap adventures by the Turks to lure us into any form of cheap way to channel our diasporan money into the Turkish coffers.. I AM DEAD SERIOUS to return to our lands, but we should smell the trap from miles away, Hrant Gadarigian, please grow up. Vorbes Hay, amot ge sepem nouynisk padaskhanel, payts ays angam petk er.
The article was typical Turkish propaganda. First off, why did the journalist who wrote the Hurriyet article seek comments from Armenians with roots in cities currently known as Yozgat, Elazig, Adiyaman, Marash, Van or Mardin? Not one Tigranagertzi among them. As one descended from four families from Diyarbakir, two of which were the most prominent Armenian families in the city, I welcome Mayor Baydemir's comments. Would I leave my life in the West and return to live there? No. Would I like to see the history of my family resurrected, as it was obliterated by Aziz Feyzi Pirinççizâde after he murdered most of my family and confiscated their homes and art works ..and to visit the city of the roots of my parents where an honest history is presented? Yes. Diyarbakir will never again be part of Armenia. Kars, Ardahan and adjoining provinces, maybe. Diyarbakir will remain a city with a Kurdish majority. I am glad that Mayor Baydemir is reaching out to make amends with members of my Armenian and Chaldean heritage.
Ara Sarafian
I just saw this article on HETQ, four years on, and would like to add a correction. The words and content of what I was supposed to have said in the Hurriyet Daily News report was entirely false. The HETQ reporter had no way of knowing this.

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