Testimonies from Western Armenia

We present you the post by the vice-president of Human Rights Association in Turkey, former head of Constantinople branch, lawyer Eren Keskin on the Genocide commited against Armenians,

‘‘As a Human Rights Association, we commemorate the memory of the 1915 genocide victims since 2005. We have organized a lot of events and these activities were not banned until 2 years ago.

The genocide commemoration event organized on the street in 2019 was banned, during which our posters where confiscated and three of our friends were arrested. In the investigation launched afterwards, the prosecutor decided not to prosecute, considering that different opinions could be put forward about historical events and that this was within the scope of freedom of thought.

However, this year, especially as US President Biden has used the word “genocide”, things got messed up. The Minister of Interior Affairs has targeted the Human Rights Association, which has been commemorating the genocide since 2005. 

I was informed about the Genocide against Armenians not for a political reason, but because of afamily event.  My grandfather was a lawyer, deputy governor, and was known as a democrat. My uncle, my father’s twin brother, decides to marry for the second time. When he told my grandfather about that, he made a condition for the marriage to take place. The name of my aunt Josephine would be turned into Hülya and she would accept Islam. My aunt accepted these conditions. 

My uncle’s wife Josephine and her family were the best and cheerful people I have ever known. We used to go to the movies all together. Aunt Josephine’s nephews, Alex and Arthur, were teaching us Zati Sungur games (illusion).

When they got married I asked my mother, “Are we going to call aunt Hülya?” My mother said that what my grandfather did was very shameful and added, “Always call your aunt Josephine.” This answer has been effective in my struggle. 

I started learning some things about the Genocide against Armenians when I was 16-17 years old. One day I asked my aunt, “Was your family affected too?” She answered me, “Don’t talk about this anywhere, please. This is a dangerous issue,” she said, saying that her family was also affected by the genocide, but that I should not talk about it. 

It was that day that the Genocide against Armenians became clear to me. It’s so painful that a person is too afraid to express their own pain.

My uncle died at a young age and my aunt brought up his two sons from his first marriage as her own children, and adopted them and passed on his inheritance to them. My aunt was very sick, she was on her deathbed. One day I went to see her. In her room I saw her nephew sharing his thoughts with a priest invited from the church. My aunt was crying, the priest was crying too. She could barely speak. But It felt that my aunt was holding her own funeral that day. Perhaps with her decision, she was saying to the priest, “I never gave up.” I was moved by that scene.

I think that conversation between the two was important enough to understand the political realities we talked about today. After a while, my aunt passed away. She was buried like a Muslim. But I’m sure my aunt would have wanted her burial to be as she told the priest that day. Maybe my aunt actually rebelled from the bed she slept in that day and told the priest that she once again denied an identity imposed on her. 

I did not go to my aunt’s funeral. I went to church that day. And I honored her memory in the way I thought my aunt would want to. I still remember. 

I’m asking now. My aunt was not alone, my aunt was an Armenian who had to obey the power. Can we consider what my aunt lived and suffered, what was imposed on her, only as great pain, or was it a continuation of the Genocide?

Erek Keskin