Armenians snub mayor’s call for return

Armenians snub mayor’s call for return

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Armenians snub mayor’s call for return

Diyarbakır Mayor Baydemir’s call for return fails to convince Armenians.DAILY NEWS photo

Various well-known names among the Armenian diaspora have reacted negatively Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir recent invitation to Armenians and other non-Muslim peoples, whose ancestors lived in the southeastern province before they were forced to flee during the events of 1915, to return to the city.

Ara Sarafyan, the director of the Gomidas Institute in London, and whose family’s origins lie in the Turkish provinces of Yozgat and Elazığ, was among those to react to Baydemir’s invitation.

“Baydemir’s call is not enough. And what is more, it could be manipulated by the Turkish nationalists.

Even though the intention is good, Baydemir is a politician above all,” Sarafyan said, adding that a considerable part of the diaspora has its origins in Diyarbakır. “As in most provinces, Armenians were also massacred in Diyarbakır. Why should they return to the city they left with great pain?”

“An Armenian, an Assyrian and a Chaldean, whose grandfathers or great-grandfathers were born in Diyarbakır, have the same right to live in Diyarbakır as I have, [speaking] as a Kurdish person who was born in Diyarbakır. I would like to invite all the ethnic groups whose ancestors once lived in Diyarbakır back to Diyarbakır again. Come back to your city,” Baydemir said, addressing Turkish and Armenian journalists on Sept. 25 on the sidelines of a roundtable conference called “Expanding the Scope of Dialogue: Media and Armenia-Turkey Relations at the Current Stage,” organized by the Yerevan Press Club in Diyarbakır.

“I don’t believe it is a serious and sincere call. It has no meaning for us; no one could come back. What would we find out about ourselves if we returned? I would of course want to return the land where my ancestors were born, but it is not possible under such conditions,” Suzanne Khardalian, a film director currently residing in Stockholm whose family comes from Adıyaman and Maraş, said.

‘Why Diyarbakır?’

Garo Yalick, who currently lives in France but whose family has origins in Van and Mardin, said the call did not make any sense to him.

“They only remember to call on Armenian when they are faced with political problems. So I want to ask: Why should we come back?” Yalick said.

The Armenian press also criticized Diyarbakır’s being chosen for the “Turkey-Armenia Relations” conference organized by the Yerevan Press Club and chaired by Boris Navasartyan, because the Kurdish issue is so intensely felt in the city.

A column about Baydemir’s invitation, asking “Why Diyarbakır?” was published by Hagop Çakıryan, a columnist for the Armenian newspaper Azg who specializes in Turkey.

“Diyarbakır is being introduced as the capital city of North Kurdistan, while Osman Baydemir is regarded as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s [PKK] representative. Baydemir is also seen as an enemy in political circles in Turkey,” Çakıryan’s column read.

The fact that Sunday’s meeting’s was held in Diyarbakır would not be useful for the dialogue between the two countries, Çakıryan told the Hürriyet Daily News. “Diyarbakır is a city associated with the Kurdish problem. It must be the last place to go in terms of Turkey-Armenia relations. While the Yerevan Press Club chair was saying this meeting would contribute to Turkey-Armenia relations, Baydemir both underlined the events of 1915 and made a call for the return [of non-Muslim ethnic groups],” Çakıryan said.