Remembrance of April 24: Serj Tankian’s letter

Dear People Of Turkey,

My name is Serj Tankian. I’m a Lebanese born Armenian American New Zealander.
All four of my grandparents come from the area known as modern day Turkey.
My grandfather Stepan hailed from Efkere in Kayseri, while my grandmother Varsenig came from Tokat.
My other grandparents were from Dortiol and Ourfa. None of them left on their own free will.
They were all survivors of the horrible Genocide committed by the Ittihad government during the last days of the Ottoman Empire.
They were all small children at the time. My grandfather Stepan was saved and spent time in an American orphanage as well as a Greek one before arriving in Lebanon as a refugee. My grandmother Varsenig and her grandmother were saved from slaughter by a Turkish mayor who risked his own life to do the right thing.
These are not some stories in the archives of Turkey or other nations. These are the true stories of my family.
Over 600 years ago the areas where my grandparents came from were known as historic Armenia. When anthropologists dig in Turkey, they find the remains of our civilization along with Helenic/Greek and others.
Turkey is very important to me not just because my grandparents came from there but because my whole race came from those lands that were forcefully taken from them, not by war, or in the changing of borders but by the brutal orders of the Ittihad Government.
What does this all mean to us today? It’s quite simple. Armenians don’t want to hassle Turkey, or create racial divisions, we just want justice so we can all move on from this historical pain that strains our relationship. This is not just about Armenian history but also the history of Turkey.
Will Erdogan’s government do the right thing by coming to terms with all of this? I don’t think so. Neither will the military juntas that have ruled Turkey throughout modern history.
Do you know that your government spends millions of dollars every year to deny this truth in foreign capitals by hiring all sorts of lobbying firms and setting up chairs at universities to re-create the truth to its liking? Do you know how that feels as an Armenian? What a painful experience this is? Is it not enough that I am the grandson of survivors of a horrible tragedy of history? Must I fight propaganda and corruption internationally to regain justice?
Turkey’s modern turmoil to find itself has a lot to do with us Armenians. Our histories, geographies, and blood are too close not to resolve these issues.
Both Armenians and Turks deserve leaders and governments that are truly egalitarian, democratic, and non-corrupt to start with.
In closing, I just want to say thank you to all of the amazing people I’ve met from Turkey who have shared their stories with me while on tour and online and have given me hope of a rapprochement based on truth and justice.
My wish, Dear People of Turkey, is for you to truly find yourself.
On the occasion of April 24,
Peace,
Serj

 

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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