By Thomas C . Nash
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
WATERTOWN, Mass. — In 2006, Ece Temelkuran published a series of articles about a trip to Armenia — her first — in which she hoped her Turkish readers would join her in learning to understand their neighbors.
As she recounted to an audience at an event sponsored by Friends of Hrant Dink at the Watertown Public Library last Thursday, the reaction to the series was less than positive.
“One of the e-mails said, ‘How dare you, woman? How dare you make them look like human beings?’”
Temelkuran said the response only further illustrated her editor’s point: that most Turks lacked even a basic knowledge of Armenians after decades of nationalism erased nearly all traces of shared history.
The editor, Hrant Dink, then sent her on a trip to France to interview members of the Armenian Diaspora. More hate mail came, and Dink asked if she would consider writing more about the divide between Turks and Armenians.
“I already had enough hate mail,” Temelkuran recalled. “But he was really determined. He said, ‘Why don’t you come over to dinner and I’ll convince you?’ Three days later, he was dead.”
Temelkuran, an accomplished journalist known for her “From the Edge” column for the daily Haberturk, had worked with Dink.
Dink’s murder solidified Temelkuran’s resolve, leading her to interview Armenians in the US, France and Armenia itself for a book she titled Deep Mountain: Across the Turkish-Armenian Divide. In those interviews, she described working toward creating an understanding of the story of the Armenian people that would resonate with a Turkish audience.
The book, Temelkuran said, is meant to serve as a reintroduction of Armenians for her fellow countrymen, who, like her, “are tainted by nationalism (and) by apathy.” It has sold 100,000 copies in Turkey so far, and has recently been translated into English.
Audience members came with questions about Dink’s legacy and her own thoughts on the journey she took to understand Armenians.
“I never thought of myself as a nationalist,” Temelkuran noted. “But then I found in myself the same indifference, and the same apathy. Hrant crying humanized the Armenian issue for me.”
Temelkuran spent much of her talk addressing Dink’s 2007 murder — and how it changed Turkey’s perception of him. Many Turks, she said, had long assumed that his longstanding advocacy for understanding between Armenians and Turks had been a result of being on Armenia’s payroll.
The television images of the murder scene outside of the Agos office changed their minds. His shoes were visibly worn, which many took to be a sign that he couldn’t have been making all that much money.
“Looking at that hole, they said, ‘Oh, that guy is poor,’” Temelkuran explained. “That hole in his shoe made a hole in the Turkish people.”
“Hrant’s death was an important lesson for this generation: to feel something about the Armenian issue,” she added. “It was as if we need (him to be) a victim in order to understand him as a human being.”
“For Turkish people, Hrant’s death was a time machine. They realized 1915 wasn’t that long ago.”
Temelkuran ended the talk by addressing the denial of the Armenian Genocide as a political tool in modern day Turkey. “It’s a very important brick in the establishment. Once you take it out, the house will collapse.”
More information about Deep Mountain and links to Temelkuran’s series of articles on Armenians are available at www.en.ecetemelkuran.com.