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Nurcan Baysal: “Living with the Curse of the Armenians”

Last week, on April 24, 2016 thousands of people around the world commemorated the genocide of the Armenians under Ottoman rule. Once century ago, between 1915 and 1917, hundreds of thousands of Armenians living in the lands that today make up the Turkey were deported from their homes, exiled to faraway lands, and murdered.

The Republic of Turkey does not recognize the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians under the last years of Ottoman rule as “genocide.” According to the Turkish official position, the events were the unfortunate consequences of war wherein both Turkish and Armenian civilians perished, along with tens of other ethnic populations that call Anatolia home.

Despite the state’s official denial, an era of reassessment and reappraisal has begun in the streets of Turkey, especially though the works of civil society organizations, academicians, journalists, and others.

Nurcan Baysal

Nurcan Baysal

In this post, I would like to bring your attention to one such journalist and author, whose main focus is not the Armenians but rather the Kurdish minorities in Turkey. Nurcan Baysal is a Kurdish activist who spent various years working implementing rural development projects in Kurdish villages in eastern Turkey (or as some call the region, Turkish Kurdistan).

As a journalist, she has relentlessly reported from the historical Suriçi neighborhood of Diyarbakır, which turned into a war zone during the latest round of the decades-long Turkish-Kurdish conflict. Since a fragile ceasefire ended last summer, Kurdish towns and cities have been under constant fire and civilians imprisoned in their homes without water or electricity as military curfews lasted for weeks.

A few months ago, I read Baysal’s book O Gün (That day), in which the author gives voice to Kurdish villagers who bore witness to this decades-old conflict.

I was struck to read that Baysal began and ended her narrative with the genocide of the Armenians. Eastern Turkey (or Turkish Kurdistan) also corresponds to lands where large concentrations of Armenians called home before World War I. Baysal’s own village used to be a mixed village with Kurds and Armenians living side by side. In her book, the author recognizes the Kurds’ role in committing genocide. Thus her becomes an act of historical repentance.

Baysal’s book is only available for Turkish readers, but don’t despair. On April 24, 2016, Journal of Levantine Studies published my translation of Baysal’s essay “Living with the Curse of the Armenians.”

I strongly urge you to read the essay, available for free hereThe essay is part of a special issue edited to by Dr. Stefan Ihrig: “The Armenian Genocide and the World.”

Children in Suriçi, Diyarbakır. Photo by Nurcan Baysal.

Children in Suriçi, Diyarbakır. Photo by Nurcan Baysal.

The image of destruction in Suriçi, Diyarbakir: 500-year old Kurşunlu mosque was shelled during clashes.

The image of destruction in Suriçi, Diyarbakir: 500-year old Kurşunlu mosque was shelled during clashes. Photo by Nurcan Baysal

Nurcan Baysal in Suriçi, Diyarbakır. Suriçi is the historical neighborhood in this ancient city ın Eastern Turkey. These streets once used to be the Armenian quarters.

Suriçi is the historical neighborhood in this ancient city ın Eastern Turkey. These streets once used to be the Armenian quarters.

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