Ohannes Kilicdagi

Ohannes Kilicdagi

Armenia’s earthquake aid and “The Turk has no friend but the Turk”

The proverb “The Turk has no friend but the Turk” is repeated even as over 80 countries have sent humanitarian aid to Turkey’s earthquake region. This rhetoric fuels enmity amongst peoples. In this regard, how is the aid sent by Armenia interpreted?

After the devastating earthquakes in Maras, Turkey, approximately 80 countries sent rescue teams, doctors, and other aid. More than 7,000 individuals as well as tens of thousands of tons of humanitarian aid and hundreds of millions of US dollars have been sent to Turkey. These are gestures exalting humanity. Armenia was among the countries which dispatches rescue teams and aid. Surely, Armenia’s actions were what is right and good — especially when one considers that this aid has an additional and complex psychological dimension for Armenia, which is not easy to overcome. That is to say, in sending aid, Armenia assisted a country that played a significant role in its defeat in a war only two-and-a-half years ago in which Armenia lost more than 5,000 people. It is quite difficult for the defeated party to overcome the barrier created by feelings of anger and revenge, and to extend a helping hand to the victor. In fact, not every soul in Armenia approves of this aid. Despite all this, sending aid is an important gesture on behalf of the Pashinyan government.

On the other hand, some figures and media platforms, especially those coming from Azerbaijan, have been trying to disturb the emerging atmosphere of solidarity and the sliver of a positive image of Armenians in Turkey. From their perspective, the motivations are obvious: it would be difficult for Azerbaijanis to keep Turkey aligned with their course of policy if the hate toward Armenians diminishes in the country. Though it is not the main subject of this article, it is important to note that for the past 150 years, politicians and intellectuals with their origins in Rumelia and Caucasia have radicalized Ottoman-Turkish politics and the existing ethno-religious conflicts and have exacerbated hatred. In the case of the Caucasus, this assessment still holds true as a generalization, for the Armenian politicians and intellectuals who come from that region.

Others, such as a former Turkish admiral, have warned that “neighbors” coming for rescue work might be engaged in activities of espionage. One wonders, which secret would they hope to find in the rubble of ordinary homes? What could they reach that they cannot under normal circumstances as tourists, for example? Putting these questions aside, the purpose of such claims is to obstruct the sympathy and emotional proximity that grows among the Turkish toward neighboring peoples because if enmity against neighboring peoples diminishes in Turkey, this sort of people cannot peddle their “product,” their “shop” closes down, and they “go hungry.” The existence and well-being of these people depend on the maintenance of an antagonistic environment. As such, when the fire of enmity is close to dying down, they fan the flames.

There are also some who repeat the cliche proverb, “The Turk has no friend but the Turk,” even in the face of such solidarity. Although it is not limited to them, again it is the Azerbaijani media who leads this trend. Volunteers have come from as far as Mexico and Taiwan to help. Surely, they have not come for the sake of Turkishness but for the sake of humanity, for the sake of helping those in need? Should they also have said, “The Turk has no friend but the Turk, and we are not Turks. Let other Turks help them?” If even the help coming from dozens of other countries and thousands of individuals is insufficient proof, when and in which case will these people admit, “Yes, the Turk does have friends other than the fellow Turk?” What is the definition or meaning of “friend of the Turk?” It seems that one must support all the political declarations and claims of sovereignty of the Turkish state to qualify as a “friend of the Turk.” Only then can one be considered a “friend of the Turk”.

Beyond this, evaluating the rest of the world and humanity through the binary of “friends or foes” is wrong in and of itself. Assessment of the world and other humans according to their “friendship” or “enmity” toward one’s national identity not only reduces sophisticated life and human relations to a single dimension, but it is also a narcissistic and nationalist egocentrism that believes the earth evolves around one’s own national identity.

Consequently, it is also incorrect to evaluate the issue of Armenian aid according to the binary of friendship or enmity. Of course, every individual in Armenia has not become a friend of the Turks since Armenia’s aid to Turkey, just as every individual in Turkey has not become a friend to the Armenians since Turkey’s reception of that aid. There are still people in Armenia who use racist language targeting Turks just as there are people in Turkey who reject the aid from Armenia on the basis of racist motivations. In all this, what matters is our choice of who to support. Shall we support those who fan the flames of hatred or those who take well-intentioned steps to show that a relationship other than fighting is possible?

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