Garo Paylan: AKP government has no respect for Armenians' traditions

Garo Paylan: AKP government has no respect for Armenians' traditions
Update: 03 August 2022 00:22
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Turkish government uses regulations to prevent minorities from administering their own foundations

HDP Deputy Garo Paylan commented on the problematic elections within the foundations that belong to minorities. Paylan says, “democracy is going to guarantee our future and also our foundations, properties, churches etc.”

The state interfered with the election of the Patriarch. Do we see the same thing again on the elections about the administrators of the foundations?

Unfortunately, this government has no respect for our traditions. We have traditions. We have been living in this land for thousands of years. This includes hundreds of years during the Ottoman era. During that period, we could elect our patriarchs and rule our foundations. Also in the Turkish Republic, we still could elect our patriarchs as per our traditions.

Why does the state interfere in this election?

 As you all know, two years ago we lost our patriarch and wanted to hold the election. Bu this government did not show any kind of respect for our traditions. They did not allow normal candidates to attend. They only allowed two candidates who were living in Turkey but this was against our traditions. I object to that kind of election. Moreover, we have been holding our elections for foundations since 2013. They took our right to choose “who governs our foundations.” We have been struggling for nine years. These are all against our traditions.

The AKP was proud of its minority policies until 2010. What has changed?

AKP, the ruling party, was more democratic in its initial years in power. And they were only referencing EU, democratization etc. We benefited from it, we must admit. Those years were quite good for minorities; we could talk, make demands… But Erdogan and his party have lost their way. The only thing remaining thing is repression. We of course have properties but what is more important is democracy. Voicing your demands is more important than having properties. Let’s assume all of these properties were given [to us]. If there is no democracy, they could take it back. What gives us the guarantee is democracy. Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian etc. We are asking for democracy. Democracy is going to guarantee our future.

Why does Turkey want some powerful man to represent whole community?

This government was on the way to democratization, but they have been off that path since 2015. They are ruling the country with repression and demolish all the institutions. They are appointing “trustees” to rule the institutions. They want to do the same thing to our foundations. They give power to “trustees” and only want them to speak. But we want democracy as all Turkish people. If we cannot govern our foundations with democracy, this means we are not going to govern them effectively. We have churches, schools, hospitals… This means, we will not have any future. We are a minority. We need support. But this is not support. This policy means demolishing our hope for the future. We need democratic elections and support coming from the state. If you give power to someone and let them speak only as you wish, this means that minorities will not be represented democratically.

Let’s go deeper a bit. Why does the state choose some men to be more powerful? Is the state trying to create “acceptable minorities” after “acceptable citizens”?

This is the politic of state. They want the trustees govern everything. In all institutions, also in Armenian foundations. There is a fear factor for minorities. Sometimes people think that we should not make Erdogan angry. That somebody who Erdogan likes can speak for Armenians. This is how they think. If we have demands, we should speak about it. But Erdogan and his government want “trustworthy” people to govern and speak for minorities. This is not democracy. We should be governed by the people we elect.

Can one person represent everybody?

Of course, this is impossible. Nobody can speak for 100 percent of the communities -even I cannot. Many Armenians like me, but some do not. This is democracy. These foundations have not been doing elections for more than nine years. We should hold the democratic elections. This is what we want. Then they can speak about their foundations. I am speaking about minority rights. Latest regulations which were issued by the government are not democratic. We need democratic regulations and an election.

*Born in Istanbul, Kadikoy in 1989, he has written for many different newspapers and magazines. He received his Cultural Studies Master's degree from Bilgi University. His first book “Futbol mu? Yok daha neler” was published in 2012, which was a compilation of his many interviews. He analyzed Resat Nuri Guntekin’s political views in his own material in his second book “Operada Mucella Suzan,” which was published in 2019. His first novel “Aksamlar Artik Serin” was published in November 2020, and his second novel “Biraz Ses Olsun” was published in January 2021.