Being an Armenian in Turkey (18): My mom was right!

Being an Armenian in Turkey (18): My mom was right!
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“The murderers are still living among us. Those responsible were all promoted; they became ministers, governors, police chiefs”

We were listening attentively to Brother Hrant.

We were all jumped out of our seats. He spoke out, pulling no punches. With all his excitement and sincerity, he spoke one by one about what we thought was unspeakable. He influenced Turkey, and the intellectual circles of Turkey unexpectedly rallied around him. Even though the number of those who acted with him was not large, it was a group that had a great impact on society. These people were heard on the most important issues in Turkey. See, Turkey has changed, my mother was wrong!

I had just started to believe this was the case…

And what happened? My mother was proven right!

She insisted on telling me how much Brother Hrant was in danger and that this country would not allow such things to take place. "This will end badly," she kept saying. "No way," I would reply, "if anything happens to Hrant, the whole world will rise up!"

Well, I was right about that. The whole world really rose up when something happened to Hrant. But so what, what happened when the whole world rose up?

The murderers are still living among us. Those responsible for his death were all promoted; they became ministers, governors, police chiefs. In the self-confident world I had built for myself, where I thought, "I have grown up, I am aware of another kind of reality, I have this knowledge and I must share it with the whole world;" well look what had happened! In those days I better understood why the people who had gone through September 6 and 7 looked at life with fear…

Unfortunately my mom was right!

These days she is saying the same kind of things again, and maybe she is right, as she was before. But hasn't something changed for my mother, too? Of course it has. We also broke down her walls, and from within. For example, I married a non-Christian woman. Now, have I done something bad? Today the in-laws, my wife's family, are pretty much the people with whom my mother has the best relationship. I am not saying that she was 100 percent in the right, nor am I saying that everything that happened was bad.

But I have begun to better understand the minorities that I used to disapprove of, struggle against, and despise. I don't mean that I approve of them. If I did approve of them, I would act like them. However, I do understand them. I don't treat them as cruelly as I used to. I mean, it doesn't bother me so much that they speak in hushed voices, that they're afraid, that they bury their heads in the sand. I don't underestimate the knowledge that they have anymore; I admit that it's true. At least there was a good chance that it turns out to be true.

If you want me to summarize the entire process, I have a short history of vacillating back and forth between feeling Armenian, feeling angry about being Armenian, understanding what it means to be Armenian, and, of course, often being compulsorily Armenian and often compulsorily non-Turkish. And I guess I am the sum of all of that.

For sometimes I am a compulsory Armenian and because sometimes they may need an Armenian, and they look around their immediate environment... And they call you. That's how my adventure with Yasam Radio began.

The radio needed an Armenian. They ended up finding me, of all people.

*Hayko Bagdat was born in Istanbul in 1976, as the fourth child of an ethnic Greek mother and an Armenian father. After attending the Armenian schools Esayan and Mkhitaryan, he began studying history at Istanbul University in 1994. Due to the unexpected death of his father, he was unable to complete his studies. He began his journalism career in 2002 with a program on a radio station covering minority issues for the first time in Turkey, and worked as a journalist, columnist and commentator for Turkey's mainstream media. In 2007, Bagdat was among the founders of the "Friends of Hrant" group, which was formed after the murder of journalist Hrant Dink and that continues its search for justice. Bagdat's first book on being an Armenian and 'the other' in Turkey, Salyangoz (Snail) was published in 2014, his second book, Gollik, in 2015, and his third book, Kurtulus Cok Bozuldu, in 2016. His one-man stage performance "Salyangoz," based on his book, thrilled audiences in many cities in Turkey in 2016 and was subsequently acclaimed with tours all over the world. In 2017, Bagdat moved to Germany and continues to work as a journalist and producer in Berlin.