Thursday morning I had my first guest lecture – through videoconference – for an Anthropology class on Truth and Reconciliation at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). My topic was the Armenian Genocide, and what are the prospects for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation.

Thursday afternoon, I received an e-mail from a young Turkish woman from Scotland. She wrote:



i stumbled across your blog and just wanted to thank you. i am a turkish girl studying in scotland, my mother and our family come from malatya. my grandfather is an apricot farmer. well, he used to be. he is a very old man now. he has been saying for a few years now that he won’t be seeing very many more springs come into bloom. i’ve read a few of posts (i will sit down and devour more, i am actually meant to be writing a paper at the moment) the Hasan Cemal one really hit a nerve.
my mother knew Hrant Dink. when he use to phone her, he use to call her “Toprağım” (my earth/my land).
i’ve never seen her mourn the way she did when he was murdered.
i am not in the habit of writing such strangely emotional emails.
i am trying and not really succeeding, i am not entirely sure why i am crying in front of my laptop, for what it is worth in it’s own little way – i am sorry. i feel that your blog and the insight and information it provides is wonderful and do keep up the good work.

Thank you.


This e-mail brought smile to my face. The hours I had spent preparing my lecture was not worthless. Armenian-Turkish reconciliation is not only possible, but it is happening right now on some personal levels.


Anyway, here are a few excerpts from my 10-page (double spaced) talk this morning which was followed by questions from IUPUI students.




I have no records of a family tree that goes back before 1915 even though the world’s oldest map that we know shows Armenia as one of the few countries known to the ancient Babylonians. Naturally, I was brought up to hate those who committed the genocide. But, as a child, I was also taught of a kind Turkish woman who saved my father’s grandmother during the genocide and kept her as her own daughter for eight years.


I am alive because a Turkish woman helped my great-grandmother escape a Turkish massacre in 1915. So, naturally, the seeds to reconciliation between Armenians and Turks are to be found in harsh history itself.


(Later I reviewed the history of the Armenian Genocide and what has happened in the last 90 years in the conflict.) 


As some of you may know, Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul visited Armenia last month to watch a soccer match together. Referred to as “soccer diplomacy,” this move was initiated by Armenia’s new and perhaps undemocratically elected president Serzh Sargsyan. Both presidents took huge risks by attending this unprecedented and historic event, and many people hoped this could be the start of a better future.


Today’s Armenia is a small, landlocked country with a decreasing population and a sad history. It’s most advanced neighbor, Turkey, has committed a genocide that it say never took place. If Turkey opens the border, Armenia could have access to open markets and business would benefit Armenia. But many Armenians, especially Armenians in the Diaspora, feel that Turkey must recognize the Armenian Genocide before Turkey and Armenia can become friends. And many Turks, think that Armenia should destroy its Genocide Memorial and forget history before Turkey should open the border.


Surprisingly, the leadership of the Republic of Armenia and Turkey seem to be open to change – openly supported by the West. Last month’s “soccer diplomacy” is a good public image for Turkey and a real economic opportunity for Armenia, but the question that haunts us is whether reconciliation or truth comes first. Will an unconditional reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey move Turks to recognize the Genocide? Does Armenia have the right to reconcile with Turkey without the Diaspora’s concern? Who is the Armenian Diaspora? Who speaks for the Diaspora? Nationalist leaders or people who spend money to their families in Armenia every month?


And, finally, what is it that will make Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide? What if Turkey doesn’t democratize for another 90 years.


These are questions with no satisfying or simple answers, but questions that raise the underlying issue of justice. Perhaps if Turkey is not ready to recognize the Armenian Genocide, it can start protecting and renovating Armenian sacred sites – cathedrals and cemeteries – places of memory that are the only proof that a historic Armenia once existed in what is today Turkey. Perhaps the Armenian Diaspora can establish more ties with progressive people in Turkey and tell them that even though we will never forget the Armenian Genocide, we will also never forget the kindness of those Turks who helped us during the Genocide. The path to reconciliation is impossible without acknowledging the past, but admitting realities can start with little things such as accepting that Armenians and Turks are human beings who have lived together for hundreds of years, that we both share values of justice, fairness, hospitality and family. That no matter how hard we try, we will never stop being neighbors.  


I am an optimist, and I think Armenians and Turks will one day see some part of themselves in each others’ eyes.