Archive for the 'Turkish' Category

An Excerpt from “My Grandmother”

Set to come up in March of 2008 in English translation by Maureen Freely and introduced by Elif Shafak, here is an excerpt from “My Grandmother,” a story of a Turkish lawyer who found out at an adult age that her grandmother was a hidden Armenian and a survivor of the Genocide. 

This excerpt is by another translator, Ayşe Agiş:

Whenever I remember the January of that year I get the shivers; I feel the cold in my deepest core, an ache takes hold of me. When she wanted to describe great suffering, my mother used to put her hand on her left breast and say, “Here, right here, there is a place which is one continuous ache.” So, I too, feel a gnawing, continuous ache in the depths of my heart.
       The freezing courtyard of the mosque is surrounded by a wall of huge, dark old stones. In the middle is the big “musalla” stone, so cold that just to look at it makes me shiver; and on it is a coffin. The “musalla” and its supporting base are both made of enormous blocks of stone. The stone under the coffin is so cold that I fear my hand would get stuck if I touched it. I keep away. It is as if all this, the giant walls, the stones, have all been designed to make the human being feel helpless, abject.
       Ever since, whenever I see a musalla stone, I feel cold whatever the season, and I hurry past. Sometimes, just out of the blue, that mosque courtyard, that musalla stone and that cold come to my mind. And I feel frozen all over again.
       Emrah called that night. “We’ve lost our grandmother,” he said.
       I know she is dead. This morning, at the cemetery, in the “gusulhane” (the very word makes me shiver), the women washed her, prepared her; then invited us in for the ceremonial farewell. I bade farewell to her cold body, kissed her cheeks. On my lips I still feel that chill which does not at all suit that skin so familiar to me. I know that she has been placed in this coffin, but I still cannot accept it. It all seems as if it is happening in a dream. I cannot believe that my grandmother would be lying so still and so helpless in that coffin. And also, that we, her family can be looking on in such helplessness.
       We, the women, stand waiting in the most isolated corner of the courtyard. As we stood there, embracing and weeping with the newcomers, a man from among the male throng came over in a flurry and asked:
       “What are the names of Aunt Seher’s mother and father?”
       There was no immediate answer to this question from the group of women. We each gazed at the others. Our silence went on for a noticeably long time. Then finally, the silence was broken by one of the women, my aunt Zehra:
       “Her father’s name is Huseyin, her mother’s Esma.”
       As soon as she uttered these names, my aunt turned her eyes to me as if asking for affirmation, or so it seemed to me.
       Just as the man turned away, relieved finally to have extracted an answer from this strangely reticent crowd of women, the following words tore themselves from my heart and broke out of my mouth:
       “But that’s not true!… Her mother’s name is not Esma, it is Isquhi. And her father is not Huseyin, but Hovannes!”


Just noticed through that a new blog,, has been set up to support Turkish historian Taner Akcam who is being targeted by ultranationalists of his kin for his scholarship on the Armenian Genocide – a holocaust that official Turkey says never happened.

The purpose of this website is to inform the public and the U.S. authorities of the dangers to Pr. Akcam’s life. Pr. Akcam is one of the first Turkish academics to acknowledge and discuss openly the genocide of the Armenians by the Turkish government in 1915. He is one of a growing number of Turkish scholars and intellectuals who are challenging Turkey’s insistent declarations that the organized slaughter of Armenians did not occur. Pr. Akcam is the victim of a lynching campaign that has an uncanny resemblance to the campaign against Hrant Dink immediately prior to his assassination on January 19, 2007. Act now before it is too late.

Are They Going To Kill Taner, Too?

By Ahmet Altan, July 9, 2007 (translated from Turkish)

I met Taner Akcam at an American university city where the winters are long and harsh.
I had heard of him many times.

He was one of the leaders of an old legendary left wing organization.
And, he did not care about any ‘title, name, or class’ of anyone, including his, as he only defined people by their ‘deeds.’

You were a man as much as your deeds.

He was joyful, humorous, and would not complain even under difficult circumstances.
At the university, he was teaching history, I, literature.

During the long winter nights, we would meet sometimes, and he would tell me about his life experiences with a sense of humour exclusive to him.

He had attempted to “democratize” his illegal leftist organization and as a result he had made himself an enemy of his own organization.

He had criticized the anti-democratic stand of the PKK, had been included in the ‘death list’ of the organization, and in an attack, one of his friends had been mistakenly killed.
He would really be moved by sorrow while talking about that.

He was an exceptionally meticulous man.

When he was telling me how he would regularly load up his luggage with detergent bottles before travelling illegally to the Bekaa Valley camp, he would foreground not the difficulties he endured, but the “entertaining contradictions of life.”

He was a leader who carried detergent cleaners, not weapons.

He was researching the deportations of the Armenians executed by the Committee of Union and Progress at that time and he was emphasizing that this amounted to ‘genocide’.

What he claimed so openly and clearly was a difficult thing to do for a Turk at that time.
But he believed in what he spoke, and he spoke what he believed.

Of course he knew that what he was talking about would get him into trouble and he lwas not ooking for trouble, but it was not in his nature to keep quiet in order to avoid trouble, it was not in his nature to shut up about things that he believed.

He would list the actions of the Ittihadists one by one.

He was earning respect with his courage and honesty.

Then I returned home.

He went to another university in the United States.

He wrote new books, he made new enemies.

I received an e-mail from Taner recently.
One line specifically was frightening:
‘First it was Hrant, and I think they put me second in line.’

I remembered Hrant’s last editorial before he died, where he wrote ‘they will kill me’.
We had learned about a murder plot –known almost by the entire state apparatus, documented in intelligence reports numerous times– only after the murder.

No one could help Hrant.

No one had the opportunity or the time to cry that ‘the murder is coming’.

And our ‘lack of awareness’ had cost Hrant his life.

Now Taner was saying, ‘they put me next in line, I guess’.

Hrant’s murder showed us that the State would condone even new murders in order to cover up the sins of the Ittihadists.

That is why alarm bells rang inside me in a more scary fashion when I read Taner’s mail.
It is obvious that ‘that voice, the instict’ which warned Hrant before his murder is now warning Taner.

And he senses the gun being aimed at him.

Are they going to kill Taner for saying ‘Armenians were subjected to genocide’?

Don’t people of our society have the right to say what they believe about our own history?

Does everybody have the obligation to speak in the same way as the state?
Is death the price to pay for not sharing the state views and theses on our history?
Which discussion on history can be punished by death?

Are you going to kill every single person who says ‘Armenians were subjected to genocide’?

If you commit this murder, will the bloodshed prove that ‘there was no genocide’?

It is the very spirit of Ittihadists that is going arounf in this country, they go on killing the Armenian, the Sunni, the Protestant, the Kurd, indiscriminately.

How much longer will this go on?
How much longer will people be killed?

This state and this society could not protect Hrant.
Let us at least protect Taner.
He is a brave and an honest man.
He uttered what was most difficult in this country. He spoke because he believed.
I believe any man who speaks his mind knowing that will put him in trouble deserves respect, regardless of what he believes in.

Death is lingering around his door now.

There are so many newspapers, so many journalists, so many intellectuals in this country; will no one speak up to protect Taner?

Never forget.

Our silence will kill Taner.

If anything happens tomorrow, we will be all complicit.

Protect a person.

Do this so that you can say ‘I am too a human being’.
If you don’t…then you carry your silence like death all your life.

Slim K to Portray Turkish Assassin

According to a video, that I learned about from a post at the forum, Slim Khezri (also known as Slim K), “an opinionated and well-experienced Artist” who plays the Arab pirate in the Pirates of the Caribbean 3 plays Turkish assassin Zeki Abaz in a short movie by Matt Van Gelder and Barry Taft – inspired by the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink by a young Turk nationalist on Jan. 19, 2007 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Slim Khezri is Germany-born, Los-Angeles living Tunisian.

According to the preview (that actually has a few grammar errors), the film will be released in the Fall of 2007.

A discussion at links to, a website revealing the identity of Turkish-American celebrity cartoonist Murad Gumen who is the racist webmaster behind, a website that denies the Armenian Genocide.

Another photo of racist “Holdwater” Murad Gumen

According to,

Ex-Disney cartoonist and celebrity illustrator Murad Gumen is quick to take credit for his famous Mickey Mouse cartoons and made-up characters like Wonderguy.

But one thing the Turkish-American celebrity doesn’t want anyone to know is that he operates one of the most vicious hate websites in the Internet – Disguised under “Holdwater,” Gumen has been hatefully denying the Armenian Genocide – the murder of Ottoman Turkey’s native Armenian population during World War I. His tactics have included dehumanizing respected scholars of the Armenian Genocide in order to discredit their work. When there is nothing else to write to prove his thesis, Mr. Gumen writes that Armenians are rats.

Until late May 2007, the identity of “Holdwater” remained a mystery. “Holdwater” admitted he would lose his career if his identity was ever revealed.

Celebrity Cartoonist Behind Hate Website

Murad Gumen, the Turkish-American author of this famous Micky Mouse cartoon is infamous for his part time job – he is the covert webmaster of, a website that denies the destruction of over a million Christian Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I.

Gumen has been using the pseudo name “Holdwater” in denying the Armenian Genocide and comparing Armenians to rodents.  Keeping his real identity secret for many years, Mr. Gumen is now in hot waters.

A Turkish professor of Armenian Genocide, Taner Akcam, is the hunter of Mr. Gumen.  Prof. Akcam, author of recent bestseller on the Armenian Genocide, was repeatedly called “terrorist” in Mr. Gumen’s website leading to a 4-hour detention of the Turkish historian during a recent trip to Canada.

Prof. Akcam, a long time human rights activist now in exile from his native Turkey, apparently did not endure the personal attacks against him.  He did what an average historian would do: go after the documents and sources used on the racist website.

File six in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Institutional Archives, Accession no. 1997-014, box 152 was the answer. This was a personal communication that “Holdwater” made reference to not realizing it was public domain. Making reference to “Holdwater’s” xenophobia that he would lose his job if his identity were revealed, Prof. Akcam the “terrorist” used a nuclear bomb called revealing the truth.

And the truth is – “Holdwater” is Murad Gumen, a celebrity Turkish-American cartoonist and creator of “Wonderguy” (1993) with an unbelievably “wonderful” hate for the Armenian people and the tragedy called genocide that they experienced in 1915.

Taner Akcam’s two articles on Holdwater in English are available and originally published at Blogian.

The Economist: Clash of civilisations

An article from the English Economist quotes Hasan Zeynalov as saying he doesn’t believe in dialogue. Zeynalov is the one who is working to keep the Turkish-Armenian border closed, as we mentioned several weeks ago. Our “findings” on Zeynalov are at


Clash of civilisations

May 17th 2007 | KARS
From The Economist print edition

Beleaguered Armenians in Turkey—and a closed border with Armenia

FOR a seasoned diplomat, Hasan Sultanoglu Zeynalov, Azerbaijan’s consul-general in Kars, eastern Turkey, is unusually indiscreet. He openly complains about Naif Alibeyoglu, the mayor, who is promoting dialogue between Turkey, Azerbaijan and their common enemy, Armenia, just over the border. “I don’t believe in dialogue,” Mr Zeynalov snorts. He recently ordered his compatriots to boycott an arts festival organised by the mayor after finding that “there were Armenians too.” Like his masters in Baku, Mr Zeynalov is unnerved at the thought of his country’s biggest regional ally suddenly making peace with Armenia.

He will have been cheered by the victory of Serzh Sarkisian, Armenia’s nationalist prime minister, in a general election on May 12th. Mr Sarkisian is said to have engineered a last-minute ban on Turkish observers of the election. “I think it would be unnatural to receive observing representatives from a country that does not even wish to have a civilised official dialogue,” he commented… (see the Economist website for the rest of the article)

Racism for home, tolerance for abroad

Editorial note: The entry below is an original article written by a Blogian reader who would like to remain ananymous. Readers can submit their original (unpublished in other places) work to [email protected] for consideration.

Both sides of the story

Complaining about international film depictions of the Armenian Genocide, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s foreign policy advisor supports a new international film about Turkish benevolence towards Jews during the Nazi era. Oddly enough, the Turkish-American production company is best known for a 2006 domestic hit film which was widely criticized as anti-Semitic.

The Turkish Daily News reports that BMH Worldwide Entertainment is filming The Ambassador, about a Turkish diplomat who saved Jewish lives during World War II.

BMH’s 2006 film, The Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, wildly successful in Turkey, was heavily criticized in Turkey, Germany, and Israel as racist and anti-Semitic. Gary Busey co-stars as a Jewish U.S. military doctor who cuts out the organs of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and sells them to wealthy clients in New York, London, and Tel Aviv. There is no sympathetic Jewish character to balance out this portrayal, reports the Jerusalem Post.

The initials BMH stand for the company’s co-founders: Los Angeles sports promoter Bjorn Rebney; Chicago financier, Assembly of Turkish American Associations former Midwest VP and past president of the Turkish American Cultural Alliance Mehmet Çelebi; and Chicago PR/marketing executive Hüma Alpaytaç Gruaz, who is reportedly married to Rebney.

Based in Los Angeles and Chicago, BMH shares a fax number with the Alpaytac PR/marketing firm, which promotes the Chicago Turkish Festival. Alpaytac’s clients include the Turkish American Cultural Alliance and the Turkish Consulate.

Confirming official Turkish support for The Ambassador, Çelebi told TDN:

BMH Worldwide Entertainment has been working with Member of Turkish Parliament and previous President of the Federation of Turkish-American Associations Egemen Bagis, who has spent many years in the United States and is very aware of and concerned about Turkey’s image around the world. He has been a great supporter of this and other projects that will enhance Turkey’s image across the globe.

Bagis, the president of the U.S. Caucus in Turkish Parliament, had given the first clue about the project last week in Parliament. Bagis, also a member of advisory council of the Turkish Film Council in the United States, suggested,

Prominent figures of the diaspora pay Hollywood to make genocide movies. We too have wealthy people; however, we don’t have a culture of investing in Hollywood. We should also be relying on such methods and commission movies explaining Turkey’s side of the story.

Two sides to the story? Sure. Racism and anti-Semitism for domestic consumption, tolerance and harmony abroad.

American Politics and the Question of Recognizing the Genocide

Let’s for a minute think about the American administration and the issue of officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide. America is in a tough position. It has never denied the Armenian Genocide, and has lately insisted that Turkey should be the first to recognize the Armenian Genocide as such, not America.

This policy was first revealed in an unnamed interview to the Los Angeles Times that I reported a month ago. An official U.S. press release from February 8, 2007, now quotes Asst. Secretary of State Daniel Fried stating the same idea:

I’ve always been of the view that democratic countries need to take a hard look at the dark spots in their own history. And by the way, I start with my own country. We do have dark spots in the United States. Our past includes a past in which slavery was an institution that existed in this country for centuries. We fought a civil war to end it and still its affects linger to the present day. That is a dark spot and we had to confront it honestly.

Our treatment in the 20th Century of Japanese-Americans in World War II; our treatment of American Indians were dark spots in our history. We had to deal with this honestly and painfully.

Our view is that Turkey is going through a process of looking at its own history with Armenians. The killings in 1915 were horrific. They need to be looked at honestly and without taboos, but not because Americans say Turkey should look at this. It should be looked at because Turks in the process of building a democracy and deepening a democracy are looking at these issues for their own reasons.

I think this process is going on in Turkey. It is painful, it is emotional. There are nationalist forces and it was an extreme nationalist, it seems, who murdered Hrant Dink and there are millions of Turks who reject this dark legacy of nationalism including the hundreds of thousands of Turks who marched in the streets of Istanbul at the Hrant Dink funeral saying things like we are all Armenians, we are all Hrant Dink, which I interpret as Turkey’s rejection of nationalism.

So my argument to the Congress will be that this natural, painful process in Turkey needs to be allowed to unfold with encouragement and support, but not pressure from the outside. That will be my argument.

Now I don’t expect that everyone will accept it, but I will make the case as best I can. And it won’t be just me. There will be more senior people than I making the case and pointing out that Turkish-U.S. relations should not be damaged for no good purpose.

But this is obviously a very emotional issue and I believe it is in Turkey’s interest for its own reasons to take steps to examine its past and to reach out to Armenians worldwide and to Armenia despite the fact that Turks don’t like all of the things that Armenian communities say.

What Fried is saying is actually rational, if you insist on the idea of “Turkey reaching out to Armenia.” The 1919 court martials in Turkey to punish the perpetrators of the Armenian massacres were pushed by Britain, which occupied what would be Istanbul at that time. When the first criminal, Kemal Bey, was hanged in the Bayazkirt square as a result of the trial, many Muslims marched in the streets calling the executed murderer a Turk victim of foreign occupation. They would not accept punishment of their compatriot criminals when the British were the ones who pushe. (this is from Taner Akcam’s A SHAMEFUL ACT book that I am almost finished reading) .

What the U.S. administration is saying is that look, if we pass a resolutin acknowledging the Armenian Genocide we will end up promoting Turkish nationalism and maybe lose the hope for Turkey ever recognizing the Genocide. The claims is basically that they want the best for Armenians (as always).

This new argumentation seems very reasonable and even compelling, although Mr. Fried would not be qualified as the most honest politician (you figure out why).

If we agree with Mr. Fried’s compelling argumentation, the theory still lacks in answering how and if ever Turkey will come to acknowledge its crime against the Armenian nation. If the American adminisration finds that Turks need to recognize the genocide before America does so, why is America ignoring the growth of denialist institutions established by the Republic of Turkey in major American universities? Freedom of Speech? Perhaps. But these are institutions established by foreign governments to spread a particular agenda and fabricate history. The same rhetoric was not used by America not to to fire its ambassador John Evans when he acknowledged the Genocide saying though his statement did not reflect the American foreign policy. On the other hand, it is also true that the Bush administration did not prevent Andew Goldberg’s “The Armenian Genocide” from airing on PBS last year.

Can’t the administration still tolerate the passage of the resolution in Congress and tell Turkey that it doesn’t reflect the administration’s position? Congress represents the people of America, and if the people want to have an official proclamation acknowledging the Armenian Genocide as such, the administration can disagree and tell Turkey they are still cool.

The other question is whether the people of Turkey will ever recognize the Genocide. There are few, if any, countries that have voluntarily addmitted of being guilty of genocide. Germany was not the organizer of the Nuremberg trials. Cambodia’s perpetrators are still unpunished and say they still do not see a reason” why they would “have killed our own people.” Rwandan history is not told in Rwanda. The Sudanese president denies the ongoing genocide in Darfur, and even “open minded” America, in the words of Asst. Secretary State Daniel Fried himself, finds the genocide against the Native Americans a “treatment” that was a “dark spot.”

Again, I still find Mr. Fried’s arguments reasonable. But as the case of Hastert turned out to have been, there are things that we may not know at this point. After all, Fried said he would be lobbying the Congress not to pass the resolution:

Later today I am going up to meet with key figures in the Congress about this bill and I expect our efforts will continue.

It is not clear who the “key figures” are, especially when Mr. Fried said in the official interview transcript that a meeting between the Turkish foreign minister with the House Speaker Pelosi did not take place (apparently she refused to mee with Gul), because

The Speaker, let me put it this way, does not always listen to all the advice from the administration.

Being asked about the resolution again, Mr. Fried finally gets to the point as close as he can get. He says he wants more people – like the only Turk who has won the Nobel Prize and been tried for “insulting Turkishness” after referring to one-million Armenian deaths – in Turkey to approach the subject themselves and be honest about history by taking America’s example:

The debate in Turkey about its history, the position of writers such as Orhan Pamuk, the position of intellectuals, the participation of Turkish scholars in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission some six years ago is all the result not of any outside pressure. Orhan Pamuk doesn’t care at all what the Americans think. It’s the result of internal Turkish processes. I applaud these, and I hope that Turkey for its own reasons will do everything it can to reach out to Armenia and Armenians.

Great nations are not afraid to confront the dark spots of their past. The United States had to do so and we were not our best selves, we were not true to our best traditions until we had done so.

Nationalism Comes to Soccer Match

AP via Yahoo. Turkish youths hold a banner that reads: ‘We are from Trabzon. We are Turkish. We are all Mustafa Kemal’ as a reaction of the killing of the ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Trabzon, Turkey, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2007, during a Turkish Super League soccer match between Trabzonspor and Kayserispor.

First, the youths fantasized about killing. Then they carried out the crimes, emboldened by their violent imaginations. Eight suspects from Trabzon, including the alleged teenage triggerman, are under arrest in the Jan. 19 killing of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Istanbul.

The slaying prompted international condemnation as well as debate within Turkey about free speech, and whether state institutions were tolerant of militant nationalists.

Mustafa Kemal, Ataturk, is the founder of modern Turkey. (AP Photo/Tekin Atay)

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