Lost in Istanbul

My first time in Turkey changed my perception of happenings in Turkey totally. Even though it might be not quite objective to try to comprehend Turkey based only on impressions from Istanbul and Ankara, I was amazed to find it so liberal and European-like! Another thing – I am truly astonished to find so many similarities between our cultures and my “native” dialect. Turkish people – just as Armenians – appeared to be exceptionally friendly, incredibly entrepreneurial, but at the same time somehow reserved, distrustful, and sad. Maybe it’s only my own subjective perception, but despite all the jolly looking crowds walking along the Istiklal and the recent economic achievements of the country, Turkey seems to be full of sadness and fear. I used to think that we – Armenians – have been and still are the victims of Turkish government and nationalistic policies. Now I believe that Turkish people too are among the victims of their own government!

Then I discovered Hrant Dink! Quite differently than I knew him from the other side of the border! I used to think of him as an incredibly smart and brave Armenian-Turkish journalist, who fought for truth till the end. But in Turkey I came to know him as someone who shaped a new era  – an era of culture of truth! Pro-government officials and opposition, NGOs and just ordinary people – everyone we met in Turkey divided time in two: before Hrant Dink and after Hrant Dink!

I was lost in Istanbul. The city that I wholeheartedly love – the majestic multicultural architectural heritage, colorful streets, its warm and friendly people… the city that I hate for all the crimes it hosted… for all the violence it silently witnessed. I am lost.

Go left… and then straight forward ..and then again straight – a boy with huge eyes tried to help me out. Straight forward? How do I go straight forward in a city of not a single straight street?

Straight forward to opening borders between countries! Armenia will break out of the blockade! Turkey will stipulate development in Eastern regions! Straight forward to opening borders also between Turkish and Armenian people? Is there a way -  even a twisted one through the mutual distrust, hatred and pain accumulated over so many years?

“I am from Ermenistan” – I said cautiously smiling. “Welcome” – they cautiously smiled back.

Back in Yerevan I keep asking myself, is there a way out of sadness and hopelessness for my exhausted heartbroken people, whose identity is tied to genocide? Is there a way out of silence for these cautiously smiling people on the other side of the border, living decades in a land of military rule and controlled freedom?

23 comments on this post.
  1. Ella:

    The only way straight forward is to forgive. Forgive does not mean to forget, but forgive we must if we are to break free from the bondage we are in. And we are to forgive first because that’s what our faith calls us to. Like you, I was am in love with Istanbul and like you, I am lost because I cannot be wholeheartedly in love with it, knowing its past, its history. Thank you for your post.

  2. gaytzag Palandjian:

    To Hermine Darbinyan,
    Alas,you disappoint me even further in my view of our brethren and sisters of Armenia ,who do not really grasp the meaning of being ´BAHANJADER¨,DEMANDANT.For we, the heirs and descendents of those who LOST everything in Western Armenia,as well as in your colourfully described ISTANBULLA(I always insert a at end) for I know some Caucasian turco-azeris from my younger yeasrs and those in Istanbulla are of the same genes and species.Whether Berlin university educated,or the like and/or from the deep Andadolou(Western armenian) they bear the same instincts,same characteristics-even though now they read and write in latin charcters,they still ostentate the idea(of course inwardly,not exposed on the streets of Istanbulla or Ankara) that they are ex-ottoman Turks, capable of again thrusting into Europe(this time EU membershipwise,not by fire or sword).so you see these people ,who still oppress near 16,or 18 million k u r d s (used to call them insistently,Mountain Turks,finally gave up when ex pres. Francois Mitterand wife openly challenged them to accept truth ,that those are K U R D S , no Turks!!!) let me carry on they are chaning , indeed, but yoiu know what young lady(who has a lot to learn yet)they do all that in order to enter and form part of the CIVILIZED(so to say)WORLD, in order that they can again pluner and enjoy easily taken over riches, culture what not.For they HAVE NONE OF THEIR OWN.The may trumpet, that oh yeah we have now progresse!!!. my foot!!! nada,nothing except get AID free nION RETURNABLE AID FROM UNCLE SAME FOR OVER 50 YRS and boss around in that area.I would not be surprized if all their recent tries to enter EU,plus refused to chief over Arab countries and Ifran, they suddenly make incursions ,like into MOSUL, to take over the Oilfields there, and/or yet another one towards East,to connect with Azerbaboons and on to UYGHURLAND(in present China) where they came from .To which they must prepare more, for there waiting for them will be world´s other NEW POWER!!!!
    so please forget about ISTANBULLA, leave it to poor bolsahayes who somehow get by in that multitude and by and by (will take a very long time) try to make Arkadash-brotherlike-Turks c h a n g e ….through some new turk intellectuals(if not the fake ones set forth by their cunning govt.) so easy, go easy do not get deceived by their sugar coated language..Before you Zabel Yessayans´ have discovered them and HOW!!

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  7. Sofia:

    “I am from Ermenistan” – I said cautiously smiling. “Welcome” – they cautiously smiled back.
    Cautiously? hm, sometimes I think maybe I should as well have said it cautiously?
    But do you know how I represent myself in Istanbul, and in other parts of Turkey I have been so far? I shout out loud with my nose up… ERMENISTAN :) and of course with smile…
    I don’t know how I do this…but I do this… yes, sometimes I am warned to say it in less expressive way, and I do it once or twice, but mostly I say it with pride….and heck, whoever has trust or distrust…it is not my problem… usually the respond is warm if these are Kurds (warmer than naturally could be) and if it is Turk it is warm in most cases … and only unless it is Armenian (local) I feel the coolness :) no blaming… I understand … :)

    p.s. I think the last 4 posts counted from below are spams (not counted mine) :D I encountered with such spams when I was admin of another website :)

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  9. Aslan Sungur:

    Thanks for this amazing article, which is reflecting my first days impressions in Yerevan. I felt lost in the begining of my Armenia advanture. However, now as a Turkish student in Yerevan, I am aware that I and we are able to improve our relations in long term. Just like author asserts, it is a matter of not having good governance which means undemocratic regimes.

  10. Gokce Hubar:

    Thank you for visiting Turkey and seeing it on your own, exploring how people feel. Unfortunately, most of the researchers do not do this. They prefer reading books written by non-objective authors who act as if they have specific duties; like provoking them to hate each other. The victimness of Armenians and the isolation of Turks in the international arena shouldn’t be considered as a goal for the peace process among us. Instead, some other powers would make the most of the opportunity to easily control the region. I feel really sad about this. But, having read your article, I’m still hopeful that one day Armenian society understands that there are more important things than always being enemy to any Turkish thing in this world; and that Turkish society tries to open bridges between young generations. I don’t know if it sounds like pouring salt into our wounds. But we should give a try.

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