Happy birthday, Charles Aznavour
Müge Akgün ISTANBUL / RadikalHundreds of unforgettable songs such as “La Boheme,” “She,” “Hier Encore/ Yesterday when I was young,” “La mamma,” “Emmenez moi” and others. One of the most important music figures of our age, master artist Charles Aznavour, turned 90 on May 22. But unfortunately, we have known and evaluated him for the last 40 years not for his music but what he said about the Armenian issue or what he did not. Sometimes as the slave of policies and sometimes nationalism, we have perceived him as an enemy of Turks. We declared him persona non grata. Actually, in his own words, Aznavour has become the scapegoat of people prone to violence on both the Armenian and Turkish sides.
While being perceived as a Turkish enemy on one hand, Aznavour, on the other hand, has received insulting letters from Armenians saying, “I want to spit in your face” because he said, “Let’s change the word ‘genocide’ if it is a word that prevents relations between two societies.”
We have heard what we have wanted to hear for many years, but Aznavour asks that the 1915 “genocide” be remembered but with no hatred. He sometimes goes too far and says “I don’t even care about the word ‘genocide;’ what should be really remembered is the historical event.”
This wish of his came partly true before April 24, with a statement from Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, offering condolences for the 1915 killings.
When I toured the concentration camp close to Munich during the years when the polarization was at its highest, I was very surprised that they were displaying what they had done with all the evidence. I respected it. When I visited the Genocide Museum in Yerevan three years ago, I thought, “I wish these documents and photos were on display in Turkey; then it would be easier to accept what happened.”
Once upon a time, pronouncing the word genocide was equal to treason. Now these days have passed with the prime minister’s statement.
If only we could erase all the arguments of the past. If only Charles Aznavour was invited to Turkey for a cultural event. If only he repeated his words, saying, “I want Turks to respect the pains of Armenians and those who were killed, and I want Armenians not to exploit the issue of the genocide in a way to prevent relations between the two nations.”
Perhaps in this way, those, who are prejudiced, may think one more time. The fact that he is Armenia’s permanent representative to the United Nations and he is symbolically the Armenian ambassador to Switzerland does not show that he is an enemy of Turkey. But just like all of us, he believes it is possible by accepting all of what happened.
Bearing a grudge is not appropriate for either individuals or states. The ancient city of Ani was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012 following a proposal by the Turkish government. And restorations continue. I hope these steps will end with a memorial on the skirts of the Mount Ağrı and the opening of the border gates between Turkey and Armenia on the 100th anniversary of this crime against humanity. And that relations will reach a quite different level.
I hope we will have a chance in the very near future to listen to his songs at a concert in Istanbul. I hope the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) stages such an event on the initiative of the Culture Ministry, and we embrace the son of a mother, who is saying, “My mother was an Armenian-origin Turk and I have never disappointed her.”
He is an artist above all identities; happy birthday, Charles Aznavour.