Turkey's "Targeting Minorities Games" have restarted*
By Yetvart Danzikyan
Although the subject I am discussing should be obvious considering the title of the article, I would like to emphasize it here. In this article, I analyze the recent attacks against Turkey's Greeks, Jews, and Armenians in social media and politics.
The elections are over. After the general state of confusion experienced by the losers, when we were all trying in vain to figure out which opposition could cope with this agenda, we suddenly found ourselves once again in the nationalistic atmosphere of the '90s. Everything that is happening is once again blamed on the minorities in the country.
In the murder case of Munevver Karabulut, Jews suddenly found themselves in the dock. According to Rezan Epozdemir, the lawyer of the Karabulut family, the perpetrator Cem Garipoglu was from a Jewis family. As Epozdemir claimed, in the Jewish religion, a man who turns 18 must kill a virgin girl to prove himself. When Epozdemir was rightly criticized for making this insane and racist claim, it was mentioned that these claims were contained in court records.
Therefore, we are now facing a scandal. How can this insane story be included in court records? Although I am not a lawyer, I can hypothesize: a) The allegation was part of the prosecution's indictment. If this is the case, then it is a scandal. b) The allegation was part of a witness or defendant's statement. Again, if such a thing was said at the trial, it is scandalous to include it in the court records. c) The court investigated this absurd claim. This is also scandalous. d) A document containing these allegations was submitted during the trial. Just like in point b, if such a document exists, to present it as it being a part of "the court records” is scandalous. In short, this is antisemitism from A to Z.
In the meantime, Greeks are also targeted for trying to hold mass in Sumela. Christian churches celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on August 15 or the Sunday closest to August 15. The Armenian Church, for example, has been celebrating this feast on the Sunday closest to August 15 for centuries, while the Greek Church celebrates it on August 15 on the exact day. The celebration of this feast at the Panagia Monastery in Sumela could have been one of the pleasant traditions of our country. (Panagia is the name given to the icons of the Virgin Mary in Greek Orthodox iconography and eventually to the Virgin Mary herself).
This tradition has even happened before. Because for some time now, with the permission of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government, a mass has been held there on August 15 with the participation of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. This year, however, the Welfare Again Party, the IYI Party, and some far-right circles launched a campaign to prevent this ritual. They claim it is against the Treaty of Lausanne and that there is a particular purpose for not holding this ritual on August 15, and that is Fatih's conquest of Trabzon on the same day.
First, while this ritual has been held on August 15 for centuries, the celebration for the Fatih's conquest of Trabzon was, until 2017, celebrated on October 26. On October 26, 2017, Trabzon Mayor Orhan Fevzi Gumrukcuoglu made a statement during the celebrations:
"Two weeks ago, we organized a history conference. We invited the Turkish Historical Society and the Dean of the Faculty of Science and Literature at Karadeniz Technical University to discuss the wrong date of the conquest of Trabzon. Because these scientists and their teams have revealed the truth about the past, it was determined that the conquest of Trabzon occurred on August 15, 1461, not October 26, 1461. Even the Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Mr. İsmail Kahraman, confirmed this. This is the historical determination put forward by those we invited to that conference. We also wrote to the Turkish Historical Society with the results. In the following years, August 15 can also coincide with August 28 if we calculate Hijri. After reaching an agreement with those institutions, August 15 or 28 will be celebrated in the coming years."
While Christianity has been celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on August 15 for centuries, Trabzon commemorated the conquest in August only six years ago, before it was clear whether it was 15 or 28. Now, why are the Greeks to blame for this situation? Can the IYI Party spokespersons at least explain this?
Another attack came from Imbros. The exhibition 'Imroz'un 1964 Belleği (The Memory of Imbros 1964)', prepared by journalist Melike Capan and first opened in Balat Ioakeimeion Girls' High School in November last year, was to welcome visitors on August 18 at its home in Imbros, now called Gokceada. However, the exhibition was targeted first on social media and then through a statement from the Gokceada City Council. According to the City Council, the display targeted "the spiritual personality of the State ."The exhibition was "full of insults, abuse, and slander ." In the face of this situation, Melike Capan said, "I am canceling the exhibition so that this process will not harm the Greek community on the island or in Istanbul."
It is well known that to expel the Greeks from Imbros, an open prison was built on the island, convicts brought from the mainland were released in the villages, the lands of the Greeks were expropriated under pressure, and eventually, there were almost no Greeks left on the island. (For this process, see journalist Serdar Korucu, "Who's Left in Imbros Now?") Someone is "offended" by the exhibition which presented these facts.
Finally, let's not forget Dersim. The Dersim (Tunceli) Governorate canceled the concert organized by Hay Dersim Culture and Art Magazine last Saturday. The concert was deemed inappropriate "in terms of form and content ." The platform stated that "We Armenians, the indigenous people of this geography, do not have the slightest room for maneuver in the geography where we are autochthonous. No institution dares to stand by us, so we thought we should do something to let the Armenian people come together by organizing events. But could this possibly be allowed? We know the reason for this fear; it is our debt to tell the people about it. You can be anything, but you cannot be Armenian. Claiming your Armenian identity is a political stance."
These attacks and the targeting from all four sides show that we have entered a new era. Yes, April 24 commemorations were already banned for the last two years. Therefore, some may say, "What's new here?". But now the ban has even reached religious rituals and art exhibitions, and even if we say that the IYI Party is trying to make people forget their election defeat, if we consider that one of the ruling partners, the Welfare Again Party, took part in the Sumela campaign and that the AKP and MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) are silently watching all these events, we will probably come to the following conclusion: The more nationalism works, the more it’s pushed forward. AKP got what it wanted and it doesn’t need it anymore; It’s now the turn of the smaller parties. Feeding on enmity and hatred has become a policy again, or rather, as we said in the title, "Nationalism and Targeting Minorities Games," have started again.
*The article was first published on 14 August 2023 in the newspaper "Agos".