Garo Paylan: I Have Come to Embrace and Celebrate My Armenian Identity -
Garo Paylan: I Have Come to Embrace and Celebrate My Armenian Identity
As Turkey prepares for the upcoming elections on June 14, the Turkish Grand National Assembly is holding its final sessions for this period. During a recent session, Garo Paylan, a deputy from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), provided a summary of this period and stated, “As a deputy, my goal was to lead Turkey towards democracy. However, over time, it became clear that we have fallen behind in terms of achieving a true democracy.”
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We have reached the end of another legislative period and are approaching elections. Regrettably, we were unable to find solutions to any social issues during this period. It is disappointing that we have not been able to make progress in any of these areas. However, the people elect us to solve their problems, and they pay us to do so. Therefore, it is our responsibility to continue working towards finding solutions to the issues affecting our society.
As you can see, we have a diverse society with people from various ethnicities, religions, and beliefs, such as Turks, Kurds, Alevis, Sunnis, Christians, and Armenians, like myself. As an Armenian and Christian citizen, I have always advocated for social peace and urged everyone to work towards a social contract that promotes respect and tolerance for each other’s differences.
Our primary objective should be to ensure respect for each other’s existence, regardless of our differences, as representatives of the 85 million. We must continue to work together and strive for progress, so that we can create a better society for ourselves and future generations.
Our message is to acknowledge and respect each other’s existence.
I did not have a choice in being born Armenian, it was simply the circumstance of my birth. However, I have come to embrace and celebrate my identity through attending an Armenian school, learning the language and culture, and adopting the Christian faith.
Growing up, I formed close bonds with my Turkish and Kurdish friends, breaking down any preconceived notions or biases we may have had about each other. Unfortunately, there are still millions of individuals in our country who have not had the opportunity to experience this type of connection.
It is essential that we take the time to learn about one another’s backgrounds and cultures, and ultimately come to respect each other’s existence. This is the key to building a more peaceful and inclusive society.
There is a pervasive monism that restricts us. We are forced to adopt a singular identity and language, which has been a struggle to break free from. However, we should consider why there needs to be only one language. Our nation is the remnant of an empire where many languages and beliefs coexisted. Why can’t we continue this practice today? Since the imposition of monism, our nation has not prospered as much as it could have.
Consider the fact that 25 million Kurds reside in our country, accounting for one in every four individuals, if not more. The Kurds have a distinct identity and language, yet we have failed to provide them with the opportunity to receive an education in their mother tongue. This is a shame that we should rectify.
Personally, I began my education in an Armenian school, where I learned to speak Armenian. Subsequently, I learned Turkish, English, Spanish, and many other languages. Presently, I am endeavoring to learn Kurdish as well. Starting my education in Armenian did not inhibit my ability to learn other languages. On the contrary, it enhanced my linguistic capabilities. Similarly, beginning one’s education in Kurdish would not impede a Kurd’s ability to learn Turkish, but rather, facilitate it. They would be able to express themselves better, learn Turkish with greater ease, and develop their English proficiency more efficiently.
My aim was to democratize Turkey and bring it towards a more peaceful future. When I became a deputy eight years ago, I had a strong conviction to work towards this goal. However, over time, it became clear that we have fallen behind in terms of achieving a true democracy in Turkey. We all need to engage in self-criticism to understand how we got here.
Unfortunately, those who advocated for democracy and peace have been met with violence because the established order prioritizes its own continuity over progress. It doesn’t matter if it’s the current regime or another one – those who challenge the status quo are met with force.
We believed that democracy would come to our country once Abdulhamid was no longer in power. As Armenians, we held onto this hope. However, things took a turn for the worse, with increasing expenses and decreasing income. Now, we are hoping that democracy will prevail once Tayyip Erdogan steps down. But we cannot be certain of this outcome. It will depend on our collective understanding of democracy and our unwavering efforts towards achieving it. When Tayyip Erdogan departs, there will be a singular opportunity for democracy to take root in our nation. It is imperative that our Parliament assumes this responsibility and confronts the challenges of the past and future of our country head-on.
I heard what my grandmother, who came from a family of craftsmen, said. She recounted how one day the state came and took away her father and all the men, who never returned. Then they took away her mother and all the women. She was entrusted to her Muslim uncle Hasan, who hid her at great risk, knowing that anyone caught hiding an Armenian would be hanged in front of their house. It was thanks to Uncle Hasan’s conscience and wisdom that she survived. Now, it is up to this Parliament to address this pain. If we do not discuss this issue here, it will only be a precursor to discussions in other assemblies.
I believe that the matter at hand should be addressed by the Turkish Grand National Assembly, as I am a citizen of Turkey and have lived there for many years. It is not the responsibility of the parliaments in Washington, Paris, or Berlin to address this issue. I did not betray anyone by expressing this opinion. If we do not discuss this matter in the Turkish Grand National Assembly, my pain will continue to be exploited by other assemblies. This is a situation that worsens my wounds.
This is my plea to the upcoming term’s deputies: let us address and resolve all of our issues within this Assembly, and uphold justice for our constituents without leaving it for future generations to bear. The issues we face today have been inherited from our grandfathers, and we cannot allow them to persist for another three generations. We owe it to our children to tackle these issues head-on. I bid farewell to all of you, hoping that the next set of deputies will have the courage to face these challenges together and resolve them for the betterment of our society.
Translated from Turkish
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