More and more Turks have been visiting the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum, Tsitsernakaberd, in Armenia’s capital Yerevan. But one of them stands out. Turkish columnist Hasan Cemal, who is the grandson of one of the masterminds of the Armenian genocide, visited the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan this month. Now he has published an article about his visit. Below is the English translation of the Turkish article.

By Hasan Cemal

[email protected]


Alone with my dear Hrant at the Genocide Monument

Let’s first show respect to each other’s pain



I remember, Hrant Dink once said “let’s first show respect to each other’s pain and sorrow.”
Maybe these words of Hrant and the pain he experienced was what brought me, for the first time in my life, to Armenia , and made me experience at daybreak a hurricane of emotions in front of the Genocide Monument .

The Mount Ararat appears and disappears in the fog. It looks sorrowful. How noble, how delicate it looks with its peak in snow. You feel you can catch it if you reach out.

I am alone with Hrant in front of the Monument, thinking of the pain and sorrow.

I think of respecting the pain.

Understanding the other’s pain.

And I think of sharing the pain.

In the strange silence of the daybreak, I am alone with Hrant. And Rakel’s cry is in my ear…

The tragic pain experienced by the Armenian nation and by him had matured Hrant. Maybe this pain helped him to speak and write in the language of his conscience. One always learns something from others. So I learned from Hrant, in his life and in his death.

I learned that one can not escape history.

At the crystal clear silence of the morning, I thought once more, with Hrant in my mind, how meaningless it is to deny the history, and at the same time, how risky it is to be a slave of history and pains and sorrows.

My maternal uncle’s voice came from afar: “Roots don’t disappear, my son!”

He was a Circassian, of the Gabarday tribe.

But he didn’t mention his Circassian identity; he made clear he didn’t enjoyed talking of the “roots.”

This was our “fear of the state.”

When I insisted, he would say “don’t mention these things.” But near to his death he whispered in my ear: “Still, the roots won’t disappear, Hasan my son!”

People’s roots, the land they have their roots in, are very important. As it is a crime against humanity to separate people from their language and identity so it is an equally great crime to separate people from their roots and lands. And to find an excuse for these actions is an inseparable part of the crime.

Armenians experienced that great pain.

They experienced it when they were uprooted from Anatolia . They experienced it in 1915, in 1916. And the longing for Anatolia never stopped in their soul.

Turks had experienced the same pain, too.

They experienced pain when they were uprooted from the Balkans and the Caucasus, and at the time of war in Anatolia .

Kurds experienced the pain, too.

They experienced pain when their language and identity was denied, when they were expelled from their lands.

I don’t compare pain and sorrow.

That would be wrong.

Pain and sorrow can’t be compared.

Hrant’s voice is in my ear: “Let’s first show respect to each other’s pain.”

Hrant tells silently his own pain: “I know what happened to my ancestors. Some of you call it ‘a massacre,’ some ‘a genocide,’ some ‘forced evacuation’ and yet some ‘a tragedy.’ My ancestors had called it, in the Anatolian way of speaking, ‘a butchery.’

“If a state uproots its own citizens from their homes and lands, and without distinguishing even the most defenseless among them, the kids, women and elderly,  expels them to unknown and endless roads, and if as a result of this, a great part of them disappear, how can we justify our deliberations to choose between words to characterize this event. Is there a human way of explaining this?

“If we keep juggling ‘do we call this genocide or evacuation’ if we can’t condemn both in an equal measure, how will choosing either genocide or evacuation help to save our honor.” (*)

Is it necessary to qualify the pain, to categorize it?

Of course, it is not unimportant, insignificant.

But I don’t think it’s a must. The genocide debate locks a lot of things, especially when it becomes a part of the equation among Turks and Armenians, Turkey and Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora.

History gets entangled.

Reason and common sense get entangled.

Dialogue gets locked.

And this entanglement helps “the fanatics.” It becomes easier to produce hate and enmity out of the pages of history.

Yet, what we need is to make the fanatics’ job more difficult. We have to find a way to walk down to road of love and peace without becoming a slave of history, without becoming a hostage of past pain and sorrow.

At a foggy morning, in front of the Genocide Monument , I listen to the voice of Hrant Dink. He asks: “Do we behave like the perpetrators of the great tragedy in the past, or are we going to write the new pages like civilized people by taking lessons from those mistakes?” 

Let’s first understand each other’s pain, share it and show respect to it.

Things will follow.

Won’t it my dear Hrant?

You always said “not confession, nor denial, first understanding.” And you knew, as you knew your own name, that understanding was only possible through democracy and freedom.

My dear brother;

The sun rises like a red orange in Yerevan . In the beautiful silence of the morning, I lay white carnations at the monument. You and your pain and sorrow brought me to this part of the world.

Yes, let’s first show respect to each other’s pain and sorrow.

* Hrant Dink; “Two People Close, Two Neighbors Afar” International Hrant Dink Foundation, Istanbul , June 2008, p.75