Where is the homeland?
Life is interesting. You may feel an affinity for regions where you have never been before, where you or your ancestors have no connection in any way. For instance, Malta. Years ago, on a windy and wet December morning, when our plane landed at the airport and the doors opened, I felt at home. First, I said, “It’s natural, this is a Mediterranean island like Cyprus, and I am homesick.”
The stone walls on the edges of the fields, which looked like they were going to be destroyed if you touched them, were like the walls of my grandfather’s olive garden at Elanoz. I closed my eyes as if I, like very much the trips I made during my childhood, were going from Nicosia to my grandfather’s farm in Kotsiakis. I inhaled that scent in the air… Was it that of the maquis shrubland, heather and rosemary that produced that smell reminding me of my childhood?
Then I noticed the towns as I walked through the footprints left by the Knights of Malta. Although similar in many respects, that Mediterranean island state was very different from Cyprus. Most importantly, although the two elements that make up the islanders retained many different characteristics, they were able to demonstrate a common culture, language and even the ability to build a future together. It wasn’t my homeland; I wish the peoples of my homeland had the ability to reconcile as much as the Maltese and build a common future rather than pulling each other into bloodshed and enmity. Who’s right and who’s wrong doesn’t really matter at this point. They succeeded to build a common future under the same frying sun, we failed spitefully, and at this point, we are only at the point where we can only understand the meaning of living together by getting a divorce. In this respect, the European Union also faces a golden role to play, but unfortunately, it is not aware of this possibility. Within the EU, two states can, in fact, form an indirect federation and perhaps a framework for a more sincere arrangement after walking such a road for a while.
When we landed in Delhi on the first scheduled direct flight, I think it was 2007, we were greeted by a spectacular crowd of voices and images. We stayed in a historic hotel that was magnificent and for decades, Hollywood celebrities and historical figures stayed. We visited Agra, Taj Mahal, Jaipur and many more places, but my obsession was to visit Kashmir, Srinagar, Mogul Gardens, where Indian authorities were very reluctantly granting anyone travel visas due to the violence in the region at the time.
We arrived in Srinagar accompanied by a guide and with very strict security measures. Our hotel, which was previously a Hilton hotel but was converted into a state guest house in those days, was hidden behind sandbags.
Our local hosts were very concerned about the safety of me and my wife because the local elected administrator had very recently survived an assassination attempt, but was wounded. However, since I was at a place I dreamt of a lot since my childhood and has always considered myself a “platonic Kashmiri,” I was extremely happy to be there.
After meeting with local administrators, soldiers, and walking around the Mogul Gardens and even the Governor’s Mansion and the magnificent grove next to it, I was able to somehow contact Muslim dissidents and listen to them. How sad that the Kashmir issue, which could be a haven of peace between India and Pakistan and will make great contributions to the two countries and the region before anyone else, cannot be solved. When I left Kashmir, I felt sad as if I was leaving Cyprus. Unfortunately, opportunities to visit the Pakistani part of Kashmir have always been postponed so far, due to earthquakes or other problems. It’s fate.
Years ago, in 1992, a ceasefire was not yet been declared. Russian-backed Armenian attacks were advancing in Nagorno-Karabakh. Cities and regions were falling into the hands of Armenians one after the other. As members of the TRT and AA teams, we watched the war with great pain as we see escapees, witnessing misery and cruelty.
There came a moment when on our one side was Iran, while on the other three sides of us were lands occupied by Armenian soldiers; we were besieged. After a few minutes of evaluating the situation, we thought if we fall into Armenian hands obviously we would be tortured to death but “if we are caught by Iranians, we will be tortured the most, they will not kill us, after a while hand us back to Turkey in one piece” and thus decided to escape into Iranian territory. Since Iran already moved its borders as far as 30 kilometers inside Azerbaijan, demonstrating a great example of humanity so that Azerbaijani escapees can reach comfortable free zones through that “presumed” Iranian territory, we entered the Iranian territory comfortably. We even “borrowed” a large can of gasoline from a temporarily abandoned military garrison for our vehicle that ran out of gas. After going about 90 kilometers inside Iran along the border, we returned to Azerbaijani territory around Beylegan. Surat Husseinov had staged a coup. Haidar Aliyev, who came from Nakhichevan, became head of Ali Mejlis and declared a state of emergency. Since it was past midnight, the wises way was to drive our car toward Baku through those secondary roads.
Exhausted, we saw the lights of a farm around 3:45 a.m. We haven’t eaten or drunk in almost 20 hours, so we’re desperate. If there were soldiers, we would surrender. As we approached the farmhouse, we heard an old man shouting at her wife: “My wife, get up! We have guests…” Turkish culture. At that hour of the day, the tandoor was burned, a few chickens they had were cooked and fresh grapes were brought from the vineyard. We were given a feast… In the meantime, we found out in the conversation that these people, who welcomed us and spoke in a smooth “Turkish Cyprus dialect,” were displaced people from occupied Agdam. A relative had temporarily placed them in that vineyard. Tears poured down our eyes. What a generosity!
That evening, I had one of the greatest experiences of my life. Once again, I have come to believe that the true homeland is the language.