Did any of my grandfathers kill Armenians?

Did any of my grandfathers kill Armenians?

Naciye Belgin Akaltan - belgin.akaltan@hdn.com.tr
Did any of my grandfathers kill Armenians

DHA Photo

I have been contemplating for a long time, just like the one last week, writing this second piece… This is again difficult because those who dig into these matters are accused of unimaginable things… 

My status: There is no likelihood for me to win or even apply for an international prize, so I am not trying to look nice to the westerners… I am almost 60; I don’t have any career plans… My next step is retirement. There is no material, professional or positional interest for me in writing or defending the argument, “We know of the victims; where are the killers?” I am not after fame either.  

It is only and only the urge to find the truth… To find the genetic fault I kind of feel we all have, something encrypted in us, the “warrior” nation… Perhaps it is some kind of DNA that is also found in Serbs… But the Serbs are Christians and their atrocities are forgiven in 24 hours once they change their regime. We, the poor Turks, are constantly accused, pointed out, held responsible, questioned, hated… our neighbors demand land from us and also compensation even after 100 years. The Germans are forgiven but we will still be accused for the next 200 years to come, if not 300. 

The regime changed in Serbia, and all of a sudden they were welcomed to the EU. Here, a huge, centuries-old empire was collapsing, the entire world was warring with each other, our land was snatched by bigger powers, a new country was formed through the ashes of the empire, almost a whole generation died, but we are still held responsible for tragic, cruel but chaotic events of 100 years ago. 

Having said that, let me go back to the argument of where our killer ancestors are and what kind of motives would make one kill, massacre or “deport to death” their neighbors and friends, a fellow ethnic group.    
I am an ordinary Turkish citizen, born and brought up in Istanbul to well-educated parents. My father’s side is from Istanbul; my maternal grandparents are from the Black Sea. My husband is from Ankara; his father’s ancestors migrated from Crimea (because of another massacre and deportation) first to Syria then to a central Anatolian town, Eskişehir. Then half of the family moved to Ankara. My mother-in-law was from the Black Sea region, from Giresun. That family adopted an Armenian orphan. 

I don’t think any of my grandfathers or their fathers were ever involved in any killing of anybody. My paternal grandmother whose name I share and hate (the name) is “Naciye.” I have no idea who Naciye’s father is. But I have the name of my paternal grandfather Mustafa Nadir’s father written somewhere. According to my calculations he would have been dead or too old to be involved in any massacre since my grandfather was 61 years old in 1915. 

Well, my maternal grandmother Zekiye’s father I think was a merchant. But he died when she was young. I’ll go and look at my notes… And now, this is funny: my maternal grandfather Ömer’s father was a captain who went all the way to America and now take a deep sigh, the fool came back. You know at those times – it must be the 1860s according to my calculations- when everybody was migrating to America. 

Italian families, Irish families and all other European families were settling in America. If he had stayed there and not come back, maybe I would have been Nancy Betty Ackerman now, instead of Naciye Belgin Akaltan. 
I have not heard of any Armenian killing stories from my parents, at all. We were an Istanbul family and had been in Istanbul way before anything happened.  

My husband’s mother’s family is from Giresun, as I said above. They adopted their Armenian neighbors’ daughter, saving her from the killings. As a not-so-clear, vague story as the children of the family remember what their parents had told them: This Turkish family from Giresun lived close to an Armenian neighborhood. They were out of town when they heard about the attacks, the fire, the killings and the upheaval in Giresun. They rushed to save their Armenian friends but apparently they were too late. When they arrived, all of them were killed; their houses were set on fire. They found the little girl, Annik, alive. They took her and raised her like their own daughter. She had nobody left from her family. She never married, but as far as I know lived a happy life with this family. I even met Annik myself once or twice. My husband remembers her as a happy, joke-telling, nice “aunt.” She died in the 1980s. I wish I had talked to her and interviewed her. 

Also, a person I know whose family is from Elazığ, from a village… That person has heard the memories of village elders. Their village was on the deportation route. “The Euphrates ran red for many days,” they would say, during the mass killings. The village people decided to relocate their village; they moved to another location, first to avoid witnessing the inhuman, sickening massacres they had to see happening in front of their eyes and second from fear of the possibility of the pillaging, the killing and the stealing to turn on them. They physically moved their village to be away from all these atrocities.

The river flowing red, a village relocating itself to avoid seeing the massacres, your neighbor’s house being burnt down and everybody but a little girl being massacred… You save a baby from her mother’s breast… These are very and very sad memories and scenes… Maybe it is the right time to cry all together…