28 Nisan 2013 Pazar

A Turkish Poet on Armenian Reconciliation


Cahit Koytak, born 1949, is probably the greatest living poet of the Turkish language. He is a devout Muslim, a man of vast and philosophical vision, a jazz lover, a latter-day Sufi. He published this poem on April 24, 2013, the 98th anniversary of the Armenian tragedy.

Koytak is a difficult poet to translate – his sinuous syntax hardly carries into English, and the suggestivenes of phrase may sound hollow to unfamiliar ears. I have done my best. You must take me on my word that the original, here, is good poetry as well as a powerful call to action.


2015, The Year of Armenian Homecoming – A Poet’s View

Shall we be reconciled when we admit to be the heirs of Union and Progress,[1]
that band of devilish murderers,
and apologize in their name?  

Shall we, who swear by the honesty of the Prophet and witness to the unity of God,[2]
we who never stood, never stood willingly, in the ranks of those murderers
                in their path of rage and bloodshed,
shall we ask for reconciliation
for having never moved a finger to seek justice and to redress the crime,
for nearly a century,
though we all knew of the enormity of the crime,
and knew the perpetrators,
and yet pretended that there was nothing amiss,
and tolerated those who said so?

Shall we seek reconciliation,
we who are the other members of the same great family, sharing the same house,
for failing to see, blindly, for so many years,
that what was done to them, and to their children, was done to us,
and that their pain, and the pain of their grandchildren, was our pain,[3]
and for doing nothing to call out for justice, and to lighten their burden?

Shall we offer reconciliation
for our indifference, our carelessness, our blindness?


For sitting on, or for keeping silent while others sat, for so many years,
on  the homes, on the gardens and fields and the villages
                from which the Armenians were driven so brutally?


Or, to deserve a great and true reconciliation,
for all this and for all our other debts and perfidies,
shall we open our heart wide enough,
and invite them back into it, their home?

Shall we open our heart wide enough,
to deserve a true and great reconciliation,
that we wish them to come back, with joy and trust,
to the homes, the villages, the fields and gardens which are theirs,
          and see to it that they do so safe and secure, and with a cloudless heart?

Shall we make our table broad enough,
to deserve this great redemption,
that we tell them “the earth belongs to God, and is wide enough;
the earth is His, and we are His family;
His is the land, the house, the shop, the fields and the grain that we all share at His table,
His bounty is large enough to be yours and ours, and this country[4] is your land as well as ours?”


Shall we open our bosom wide enough,
that we reach across the frontier at Ardahan[5], and call,
“see, we live under the same skies,
the same rainclouds wet our fields and our forelocks,
our dreams share the same night,
so let us fling open not only the gates,
but the boundary itself,
and render it as nothing,
and let our arms which reach out to embrace you
be long enough to circle the globe,
to Peru, Argentina and Arizona,
to embrace your spread-out seed”?[6]

Shall our hearts generate a joy great enough
that we proclaim the year 2015 “The Year of Armenian Homecoming”,
and turn it into a year of
homecoming feasts,
homecoming rites,
and homecoming follies?

Shall our soul generate candor and goodwill enough,
and kindness and love great enough to fill the heavens and the earth,
that we invite the lost sons, the lost daughters, and the estranged children of this family,
not only back to their homes in their homeland,
not only to their homes and gardens here,
but back to their homes in our heart,
to the gardens and fields that blossom in our arms,
into the mountains and valleys of our inner soul?

Shall we, to deserve this year of 2015 as a year of Birth,
not only for us and the Armenians, but for all mankind,
a year of homecoming, a year of rediscovery,
a year to breathe in the spirit of God, and the great communion that embraces us all,
can we, the Muslims, weep for those children and women, and the elderly,
who were driven from their homes, murdered, allowed to perish on the road,
abused and soiled and dishonored,
by the devils of that time,
as much as we weep for the victims of Kerbela,
for Hasan and Huseyn, and their women and children?[7]

And shall the year 2015 be, for them too, the Armenians,
a year of reconciliation, a year of joy and redemption,
that they shall deserve by weeping
for the pain of those other sons and daughters of the family,
victims of the mayhem of Hnchakists, Tashnakists and what other wild band,[8]
loosed at a time when our house was on fire,
and for those who, more recently,
lost their homes and their land, and their lives, in Karabagh?
Shall they weep, as they weep for Jesus son of Mary,
or at least lend an ear of sympathy to those who weep?




[1] The Committee of Union and Progress (İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti) ruled Turkey 1913 to 1918, carrying out the ethnic cleansing of not only the Armenians, but the Greeks, Bulgarians and others as well. The Turkish Republic was founded by their direct heirs and allies. Neo-Muslim opinion in current-day Turkey regards them – somewhat facilely, perhaps – as a criminal gang that brought the Ottoman Empire down.

[2] The poem addresses “us, the Muslims”. The phrases regarding God and Prophet are code for the Islamic aversion to the founding principles of the Republic.

[3] Viewing the later generations of the Armenian diaspora as victims of tragedy is a huge mental leap for Turkish opinion. It was never, to my knowledge, voiced before.

[4] The original has Anadolu. The English term Anatolia simply does not carry the resonance of the original, which has come to mean the homeland stripped of the nationalistic and exclusivist overtones of Turkey, Turkish, Türkiye. Türkiye is the home of the Turks, Anadolu is the common home.

[5] A town near the Armenian border. The land border between Turkey and the Republic of Armenia has been closed since 1994. An increasingly vocal school of thought now maintains that the border should not only be opened to traffic, but that it should be abolished altogether.

[6] The Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, has voiced the possibility of offering Turkish citizenship to members and descendants of the “Turkish diaspora,” i.e. all those Turks and non-Turks banished from Turkey.

[7] The murder of Hasan and Huseyn, grandchildren of the Prophet, at the desert fort of Kerbela, is mourned by all Muslims, but more so by those of Alevite/Shiite persuasion. Their murderer, Yezid, is a synonym for “devil” in Turkish, and that is the word used here twice to refer to the perpetrators of the Armenian massacre.

[8] Turkish public opinion is accustomed to see the Armenian nationalist parties of the turn of the 20th century as blood-soaked terrorist bands, and there has been too much recent propaganda about the bloodshed in Karabagh during the Armenian-Azeri war of 1992-1994. The poet deals with these sticky subjects gently.

2 yorum:

  1. düzyazıyı (bakmayın mısraya benzesin diye orasından burasından kırıldığına) hakiki şiir etmişsiniz, helal olsun hocam.

    YanıtlaSil
  2. Hani Ermeni Soykırımı Abdülhamid'le başlayan bir süreçti? Olayı bir avuç "yezit" İttihatçıya yıkmak niye? Diğer yandan "devout" Müslümanlar "Siyonistlere kök söktüren ulu hakan" Abdülhamid'le ilgili ne düşünür? Questions, questions.

    YanıtlaSil