A Turkish Parliament without Armenians?
We are now at the final turn for the determination of parliamentary candidates before the elections on May 14.
As candidates are being announced one after another, I feel a strange unease inside.
This parliament, which produced a few Armenian deputies after Hrant Dink's murder, may now enter elections promising a transition to a parliamentary system without any Armenian candidates.
As you know, Garo Paylan (HDP) first, then Selina Dogan (CHP) and Markar Esayan (AKP) served as deputies in the Turkish Parliament after 2007. Selina Dogan did not run in the last elections, AKP's Markar Esayan passed away, and now, Garo Paylan will not be able to run unless some flexibility is provided since he is stuck with his party's two-term rule.
Garo Paylan, who ran as a candidate from Istanbul in the first term and from Diyarbakir in the second, became the voice of the silent both in Turkey and in the diaspora. I think even socialist circles would agree that he was a good member of parliament. He not only became the voice of the Armenian people but also spoke for the oppressed in Turkey, submitted questions, and investigated many human rights violations on site.
He did this at a time when the parliament was rendered ineffective by the Palace politics. He made many of our problems visible. Of course, he was not alone, and we should also give credit to his advisers and party comrades.
If he doesn't run again, I think we Armenians will face a significant loss and deficiency, and we will be responsible for it.
You may see this as an HDP criticism, but I think it's better to dig deeper and question the reasons. However, let us keep our right to criticize.
OUR HEARTS ARE ON THE LEFT, OUR EYES ARE ON THE RIGHT
Armenians did not actively participate in politics in this country for a long time. Seeing a representative in parliament has been a dream since the 1960s, but the rising spirit of "unity" after 2007 gave us some hope.
Similarly, thanks to the efforts of the HDP, there have been people from minority communities, especially Assyrians and Armenians, who have held important positions within the party.
In Turkish politics, the heart of the Armenian community is on the left, but their eyes are on the right.
That is, we know that it is the "left" that will voice the demands we need to address our historical problems and heal our wounds, but the "right" will provide the solution.
(I am putting these in quotation marks so that you understand which groups I am referring to, otherwise many people still debate whether the classic definitions of left and right are still valid today.)
This may be due to the fact that the government has remained on the right for a long time.
That's why there were those who said, "maybe these religious people are different" about the AKP.
But their water has boiled quickly too.
After the local elections, Armenians were superficially present in the AKP's politics. They were occasionally visited and their complaints were heard in order to be included in EU reports. However, no permanent solutions have been reached. Instead, solutions dependent on the AKP have always been produced to ensure our dependence on them.
However, when the government changes, the problem does not change, and AKP has always postponed permanent solutions in favor of solutions that keep us dependent on them.
Recently, unfortunately, deeper relationships have been developed through inner circles. They took photos with Suleyman Soylu, who was the Minister of Interior, because the solution was with him.
As you may know, some members of certain groups were associated with both Sedat Peker and Soylu.Formun Üstü
POLITICS OF 'MY SISTERS AND BROTHERS'
I have always seen the approach of the CHP towards us as being neutral. The first CHP-led municipality to open its doors to Armenians was Sisli. The election of Vazken Barın with Mustafa Sarıgul was a significant event for us.
Now, look at where Sarıgul is and what he is saying.
In the minds of the Armenian community, Sarıgul's politics, which were based on phrases such as "kuyriknerıs yev ahpariknerıs" (Armenian for "sisters and brothers") and "Tsezi ge sirem" (Armenian for "I love you"), had long been ignored by politicians but had drawn Armenians closer to the CHP.
He almost convinced me too. The CHP had brought Vazgen Barın, an architect of this approach, into the public eye and had provided significant support to Armenian institutions in the Sisli region.
It wasn't a special case, really. Sarıgul was loved because he provided Armenians with the same services as everyone else, without exception. He didn't do anything extraordinary, he just operated the system, but it wouldn't have happened without Vazgen Barın. He was the first to claim our rights.
OUR STRANGE DISORGANIZATION
Until Garo, those who ran for office from the left or left-like parties were always viewed as 'unelectable'. When Garo was elected, however, since his party was HDP, the leaders of the Armenian community in Turkey, who have always been on the "safe" side, maintained their distance.
Being seen alongside HDP, which has been constantly threatened by the government, could cause more harm than benefit to a community that has already been marginalized in Turkey for years.
Let me quote the words of one of our brothers who is a manager in an important institution: "Advocating for our rights in parliament is one thing, and having the ability to obtain our rights is another. When we constantly tire the government for things that we cannot obtain even if we shout and yell, we are criticized in our institutional meetings as 'but this person from your community in parliament says this to us.' This can sometimes hinder our work in bureaucracy."
Did you catch the subliminal message?
If the ruling party in this country does not recognize the genocide and a member of your community raises this issue in parliament, it may hinder your progress.
But this ruling party also knows something else.
On April 24th, the day when photos of the Armenian intellectuals who were murdered were placed on the desks of parliament and commemorated, many Armenians felt the support of those who marched in the streets with the slogan "we are all Armenians" in 2007.
Such actions somewhat ease the pain in our hearts as Armenians.
That's what it means to have your heart on the left and your eyes on the right.
Now let's talk about our disorganization.
As Armenians, we have a well-organized and established structure in educational institutions and foundations, but when it comes to politics, we are not that organized. We have participated in many political formations on the left and right through individual initiatives. However, we have never been able to create a political mastermind within our own community that is organized enough to be a part of a political party.
Let us explain with an example.
The Syriac communities have organized themselves within the HDP. Therefore, if a representative cannot be elected in the elections, the proposed new 'candidate' suggestion comes from the Syriac components within the HDP. This has ensured that, whether you like it or not, a Syriac deputy has been elected to the parliament with the approval of the community for the last three terms.
On the other hand, the Armenians are disorganized. Although they work individually in many areas within the HDP, there is no institutional organization. Since our longstanding institutions are 'on the right side', they have not been able to stand behind any candidate institutionally until now.
That is why there may not be an Armenian representative in parliament during this new period, which will be the most active period of the parliament.
WHO WILL DEFEND OUR RIGHTS?
For some of us, this situation is not something to be denied. The Turkish left has always given us Armenians the following message in absentia:
"When you leave identity politics behind and become a part of our politics, your way will be cleared."
Remember, when Hrant Dink was organized, he was "Firat Dink"... Alongside many others whose names I will not share here.
Perhaps the problem is that our rights can be defended in a parliament where we Armenians are not present. Perhaps it is about understanding our pain without us saying it, recognizing our problems without us emphasizing them, and taking steps towards their resolution. HDP is the party that has taken the boldest steps in this regard so far...
When IMC television was established, we were providing training for this purpose in the news center. Do Armenian holidays get reported correctly without mentioning an Armenian?
Are the exchange events reported without mentioning a Greek? Can they report on sexual harassment by men without mentioning a woman?
These were the correct journalism codes we needed to reach.
I think to some extent we had achieved these codes. Because those who reminded us during Ramadan about iftar times and frequent broadcast of holiday messages were an Ezidi and an Armenian. I remember that day with a smile.
We need to achieve these codes in the parliament too. Can we commemorate April 24th without mentioning an Armenian?
Will the problems of Turkey's largest minority community be on the agenda?
Can question motions be submitted regarding the excavations of treasure hunters? Will any violations of rights against Armenians, Greeks, or Assyrians be brought up in the parliament?
The potential presidential candidate who is likely to be elected has a lot of work to do in this regard. Since we are not there, the responsibility to “seek forgiveness” for certain groups will be on their shoulders.
What can be done with the supporters of Nihal Atsiz and Turkes, or with structures like the Good Party... That's for the next article.
*Aris Nalci: He began to work at Agos in 1998 with Hrant Dink and his colleagues. He took on various roles as news director, editor, and editor-in-chief. He presented programs on IMC television and for some time took on the position of news director. In the same period, he worked as the editor and presenter of Gamurc – Kopru, Turkey’s first program about minorities which continues on ARTI TV. At various civil society organizations, Nalci worked in the field of minority rights, created exhibitions, and wrote reports. He is one of the editors of the book “1965.” He is also the translator of the book “Paramazlar,” published by Evrensel and Kor publications.