This is the third and last part of the report from the peace conference in Caux. Read here the first part and the second part.


The next day, right after breakfast, we heard the story of Letlapa Mphahlele. A ‘former extremist or freedom fighter and nowadays a peacebuilder in action in South-Africa ’, as he was introduced by the moderator.

Mphahlele: ‘Growing up in South-Africa I always felt there was something abnormal in my country. I heard elders whispering. That something was not right. Africa, the land of our forefathers was taken by white people. I heard that the apartheid-regime said that communism was no good. “If they were saying that”, I thought to myself, “than communism must be a good thing!” The land belonged to the African people. And therefore it was time to be one of the terrorists.’

The moderator: “But as the leader of your group, you have also ordered attacks against civilians, what about that?”

Mphahlele: “It was a tit-for-tat action, the South-African regime killed children on a massive scale. It was legitimate violence for me that could not be criminalized. You cannot equate the oppressor with the oppressed, like you could not deal with Nazi Germany without armed confrontation. If I could return to that time, I would struggle even harder, minus the attacks against civilians. Because reflecting on the situation, I realized that I killed my comrades from the other side.’

Moderator: “Do you believe in God?”

Mphahlele: “No. Forgiveness is not a destination. Forgiveness is a life-long journey.”
Well, that was a quite interesting interview to start our day. Everybody wanted to know more about Mphahlele, but we had to go on. A panel discussion: ‘Causes and Consequences of Extremism and Violence: drivers and responses.’

The first panellist: Christian Picciolini, founder of ‘Life after Hate’ and former nazi skinhead with Italian roots. He wears a black t-shirt with ‘MAKE EMPATHY GREAT AGAIN’ imprint.

Picciolini: ‘Italians had to work hard in America to make it. I felt lonely and didn’t really fit in my own community. I had multiple identity crises. So in 1987, when I was smoking a joint in the mall,  an old skinhead walked up to me and said, “don’t you know that’s what the communists and Jews do, to keep you docile.” For the first time in my life, I started to have a serious conversation with someone. We first talked about pride. That I should be proud of my Italian roots. After a while I gave up my family. And my life became less about pride, and much more about hate. Blaming others that they wanted to take our pride. The blacks and Jews. I took over the whole organization and made it bigger than ever. But after years I realized that I never had interaction with the people I hated so much. Once I got in touch with them, this pushed out the hate. We talked about unemployment, housing and other problems we have. This is when humanization starts. When you discover that we face the same problems.’

Well, that was another heavy-weight speaker in the morning. I felt for the next speaker, Carol Mottet. She directly said: ‘I have no personal story. Never experienced violence in my life,’ but added something which is maybe the crux of the problem when we are discussing violence in non-western countries: ‘My relation to violence is indirect. In offices we discuss about terrorism and counter-terrorism. This culture is not giving any workable solutions. We have to understand the root causes of violent conflict.’ Paul Turner form Creative Associates agreed with her: ‘Violent extremism is a manifestation of violence. Counter-terrorism is a short-term, symptom-based, solution. We should focus on the issues of exclusion.’


The community group is a safe space. People can discuss freely about everything. Today we talked further on the issue of extremism. “What is extremism?”, the community-coordinator asked to ignite a dialogue. With participants from countries like Israel, Turkey, Ukraine, Palestine, America, it wasn’t so difficult to have a heated debate about the definition of extremism and whether states can be terrorists too? According to some ‘extremism’ and ‘terrorism’ is ‘a planned act with a political reason, states commit war crimes.’ Many reacted too that statement. ‘Terrorism is used by the dominant paradigm.’, said one, ‘States are the biggest terrorists. They define as powerhouses who is the terrorist or not’, said another. After almost everybody said its piece we switched over to the causes of extremism. In this one idea came above as main source to extremism:

  • ‘The allocation of resources, or the imbalance of power, based on difference, which leads to exclusion.’


Exactly 24 hours after the Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish ‘confrontation’ we were in the same room. The second dialogue session starts with short personal presentations.

The teacher Gzamsine Hasan Kaboglu about the Laz-minority in Turkey. There are about 200.000 Laz’ who speak a variety of the Laz-languages. Mainly in the cities of the Black-Sea coast: Xopa, Batumi, Artvin. The border between Georgia and Turkey divided the Christian Laz and Muslim Laz since Ottoman times. The Hemshin Laz have a special place among the Laz’. They speak the Armenian language, but are Muslim. They have been Islamized.

Hasan tells about the Hemshin in Xopa. ‘They were always beaten up and otherized by ‘normal’ Laz people. But in the last 10 to 15 year there is more contact between Hemshin and Laz people. They are a very entertaining and enjoying people.’

Begüm Özcan, coordinator at Bogazici University, first has to say that she felt really bad about the discussion yesterday. ‘It was really a shock to me. I’m from Izmir/Smyrna. We were never told about this page of history. But the troubles didn’t stop in that period. In the eighties and nineties a lot of Kurds came to Izmir, as refugees. Turks complained about the Kurds, that they took our jobs. There is also a lot of hate-speech against Greeks. That they burned the city in 1922 and raped our woman. Hrant Drink was murdered in January 2007, in front of his office Agos. President Erdogan, our troublemaker, even apologized for the fact that someone called him an Armenian. The freedom of expression is under enormous threat.’

Vardouhi: ‘In Armenia I was student of Turkish studies. People are always amazed when they hear that you can actually study Turkish in Armenia. But it is possible. For a long time now. Growing up in Armenia, I remember that I refused to listen to Turkish songs. In conversation with a professor of Genocide studies, Ugur Umit Ungor, out of the Armenian context, I realized that it was a nationalistic thing to do that. I first denied that it was nationalism. Begum already mentioned Hrant Dink. He was an important thinker and wanted to open the Armenian community to all the peoples of Turkey. Through AGOS, the left-wing oriented weekly paper. This was something which was unheard of. New things developed around him. I just want people to be aware of Turkish people in Turkey, struggling academicians, journalists, students, etc. They are under a lot of pressure. It’s more important than shouting Armenian Genocide in Lebanon or The Netherlands.’

Then, like yesterday, the room was open for discussion. A lot of people calmly said things with respect to each other. As if we had to make things up. We even had Paul Turner with us, of the panel discussion in the morning. But it was the talk of Arshalouys Tenbelian that mesmerized all: ‘In Lebanon there is really nothing for fourth generation survivors. You must understand Lebanese Armenians. We are on survival-mode. Its not the la-la land. We are daily oppressed in an Arab country. They ask us: “Are you Lebanese or Armenian?” When I say Armenian, they ask, “Where is your country or why don’t go back to Armenia?” This goes on, on a daily basis. I went to Armenia. But it didn’t felt as my home. My home is in Cilicia. And last 24th of April, the commemoration of the genocide, some Arabs at the university said “enough is enough, get over it”. It felt as if all our inner wounds opened up again. This is the first time in my life I see Turks. We need closure. We need to find ways for therapy. Maybe yelling some time is also therapy for our trauma. Therefore, I’m really willing to make an action-plan at the end of this dialogue.’

A native Australian, a descendent of Aboriginals said that they were also colonized and had the same feelings against white people. “It’s really the same, but I never heard of the Armenian genocide.”

So we ended the dialogue today more peacefully.

Photo 3: Panel discussion: ‘Causes and Consequences of Extremism and Violence: drivers and responses.’


Shalisa Hayes lost her son to gun-violence in America. Driving down the street Hayes with her son she mentioned that her son asked her: “How do you open a community centre?” Not long afterwards he was shot. ‘I found out that my son was dead through Facebook’. We were shocked. But Hayes continued. ‘My son wanted a community centre. So 15 kids organized a car wash. After a lot of help from the community, we have a community centre in Washington now. Instead of being in the street kids now work in the community centre, feeding, for instance, the hungry.’

Hayes organizes meetings with other mothers who lost relatives to gun violence. For six years now. ‘We almost have 30 million dollars now and I found out as a black woman it’s difficult to find support groups for people who lost someone. We must make sure that our babies stay remembered. At least we have an obligation to try.’


The prisoners outside
Fusun Erdogan is a journalist who lives in exile in The Netherlands. She was 7 years in prison for charges of attending a meeting of the Marxist-Leninst Communist Party. She fled Turkey in 2014. We watched a documentary about her family. She works now as a journalist the radio channel ‘Özgür Radyo/Free Radio’ in Brussels. In the documentary somewhere she talks with her son on phone while she was in prison and says: “The actual prisoners are the ones outside’.

Kurds oppressed in Turkey
How are we going to break free? Maybe her presentation about the Kurdish question can give us some answers.

‘There was a peace process from 2013 in which the Kurdish side took steps. There was even an actual agreement with the Turkish state known as the ‘the Dolmabahce-declaration’ of February 2015. But the president of Turkey distanced himself soon after the declaration and even said “there is no Kurdish question anymore in Turkey.”’

In June 2015 the AKP-government lost a parliamentary majority of seats for the first time since it came to power in 2002, due to the Kurdish party HDP won seats in the parliament crossing the 10% threshold.  ‘Erdogan didn’t accept the results of the election of June 2015 and opted for another election in November. But now starting a new war against the Kurds in between.’

From the summer of 2015 on, Kurdish cities in the south-east region have faced horrific times.

‘More than 1000 people died. 150 people were burned to dead in a basement in Cizre. In this fire also a friend of mine was killed.’

The situation worsened after the coup in July 2016. More than 70.000 people are fired. 10.000 people of the Kurdish HDP are arrested. ‘Nobody knows what the next day will happen in Turkey. Thousands of media-outlets are closed down. There is only AKP-media now in Turkey. During the referendum 2,5 million votes were stolen.’

What to do?
‘For people gathered here, we touch each other with our personal stories. Our work is hard, because we face a fascist dictator in front of us. But if we can solve the Kurdish question in Turkey, this will be also be of help for other people’s strives. It will lead to a general democratization. We just have to want this and move towards that goal.’

Armenians and Turks
After Füsun Erdogan’s presentation the floor was for Tato Martirossian: ‘When I came as a 10-years old to The Netherlands from Armenia, I had never met a Turk in my life. One of my best friends now, Zeynep, who is from Turkish origin, said that she never heard of the Armenian genocide. That was a big shock. How could something that is so prominent in Armenian life’s, be non-existent in the lives of Turks? Then I read about the Turkish propaganda-machine and learned about their unknowing situation. When Turks and Armenians come together there is always a wall of distrust, with awkward pauses. Sometimes Turks say “I have a lot of Armenian friends”, as if they are filling up holes in their memories. But there are also a lot of Turks who put their lives in danger. Different of the Turks we see in media, shouting “Türkiye, Türkiye!”. I think Armenians should also know about these Turks.’

The Australian sorry-campaign
The concluding words were for John Bond who gave a presentation about the sorry-campaign for the Aboriginals in Australia. A good example of how civil society can move the government into an official position. Bond: ‘We did what the government refused to do. We said sorry.’

This presentation was the last statement of the Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue of Caux 2017. For the future we agreed to, if possible, a follow-up in The Netherlands, Lebanon or Georgia, before Caux 2018.

Report: Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue part 2/3 ‘the confrontation’

This is the second part of the report from the peace conference in Caux. Read here the first part.

1. Introductory speeches and meet-up with participants from Lebanon, Turkey and Armenia (4-7-2017)

We arrived around 16.00 o’clock at Caux. The introduction was already underway. The organization requested to take our seat in the main hall without checking-in. Shontaye Abegaz, the Forum Coordinator, was talking about the ‘Six Pillars of Human Security’: good governance, food security, sustainable living, care for refugees, inclusive economics and healing memory.

From the brochure: ‘This forum brings together people working to advance just governance and human security in their situations. Every participant brings valuable knowledge and insights to the table. Through a combination of interactive sessions – plenaries, participatory workshops, training and space to reflect – we seek to co-create approaches which can help address personal, national and international challenges.’

Abegaz: ‘Our goal is create a world free from fear and hope that you can find in Caux someone you don’t know and with whom you can really connect.’

Then, Ashley Muller stepped in, the communications coordinator, and explained about the ‘community-system’ of Caux. Every participant is registered into one of the seven community groups. In these groups people can reflect and discuss further on what has been discussed in the plenary sessions or elaborate on their own personal struggles in their home country. The community-groups are also used to divide tasks with regards to corvée duty in the kitchen, one of the most interesting community-building activities at Caux

The Forum Director, Nick Foster, emphasized the special history of the Caux palace after World War II. It was used as a place where warring sides (Germans and French) came together to rebuild Europe. Also Jewish refugees who escaped death camps were hosted here to recover. ‘Burning international questions were discussed back then, and hopefully we can find inspiration here for what troubles us globally nowadays. We are faced with never-ending wars in the post 9/11 era, we have identity divisions in our home countries, terrorist attacks that instill fear and hatred against Muslims.’ Foster also mentioned economic divisions: ‘the eight richest man have as much as wealth as 3,5 billion people’. A disastrous disbalance, and endangering the social cohesion in the world. Another point he made: the role of young people. ‘It is time to integrate the new generation into the decision-making process. Without their creativity, without openness, it’s not going to happen.’

Armed conflict and the ‘hope’ of diplomacy
Keynote-speaker of the opening day was Pierre Krahenbuhl, Commissioner-General for the UNRWA. He made a case for peaceful solutions in armed conflicts and drew on his experiences with the Palestinians. ‘I oppose and reject the idea of the inevitability of war. I find it impossible to reconcile with the careless idea that “wars exists”. The five challenges we face about war:

  • Most conflicts now are intrastate conflicts
  • The long duration of armed conflicts
  • Fragmentation of conflicts in thousands of armed groups
  • Radicalized non-state actors feed on general injustice and impunity
  • Focus of western powers on military intervention while there is no evidence that it did any good to resolve conflicts

All by all, the focus is too much on conflict management. Instead, we should re-legitimize conflict-resolution. Krahenbuhl: ‘A couple of weeks of ago we had the 50th anniversary of the Six-day war of 1967. I was born in 1966, meaning that if I was born in Palestine I would have lived all my life under occupation. The whole problematizing feature is that people were told: “if you believe in diplomacy, a solution will be found”. We failed to deliver on that promise. Without recognizing the pain of the other, there can be no healing,. On the other hand it is important to see people not solely as victims. They are also actors in their own lives. Dialogue is a process in which we should continuously strife to discover the humanity of the other. No security is sustainable if it comes at the expense of the insecurity of others.’

After dinner the Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish delegations of several countries got in touch which each other to plan the three day dialogue program ahead of us.

  • First day: two presentations about the Armenian genocide, one from Nora Kalandjian , Christine Andekian and Vardouhi Balyan, and one from Tayfun Balcik.
  • Second day: presentations from participants of Turkey (Ghamzine Hasan Kaboglu, Begum Özcan) about the shrinking political space for free media and opposition politics in Turkey and the Laz-minority.
  • Third day: presentation by Füsun Erdogan about her experiences as a journalist and her time in prison in Turkey.

PHOTO 2: Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish participants plan the three day program.


The first day of the Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue at Caux began with the presentation of Vardouhi Balyan, Nora Kalandjian and Christine Andekian about the Armenian genocide and the Armenian communities in Armenia and the diaspora. In relation to Turkey and Turks, they identified the denial of the Armenian genocide as the main obstacle for reconciliation. Balyan: ‘As a matter of fact a cultural genocide is still continuing in Turkey, because, for example, Armenian schools are not funded by the Turkish state. Armenian culture in Turkey only survives through the effort of Armenians who set up their own private schools. Tayfun Balçik discussed the memoires of the pan-Turkist Sevket Sureyya Aydemir. In his presentation he focused on (1) Turkish-Islamic suffering, (2) Turkish-Islamic supremacy and (3) revenge-feelings after losing wars to Christian minorities in the Balkan (1912-1913). According to him, this historical context is essential to understand and explain (but not excuse) what happened to the Armenians and other minorities during the Ottoman and republican era.

Vardouhi mentioned the emotions that rose up when she first came to Caux in 2015. ‘Why are you going there?’, people in her environment asked here. ‘You don’t talk with Turks’ was the status-quo. After a question about ‘what after Caux’, Bedel Bayrak explained about the follow-up activities The Hague Peace Projects was involved in last year: ‘One of the many activities we realized was The Hague Freedom Book Fair in February 2017. We invited speakers from Turkey, also people we met in Caux. The dialogue continued in different contexts and we broaden the discussion to different fields as well.’

Than a question came from a Lebanese Armenian participant: ‘but what about the lands we lost in Cilicia (South-Turkey)’. That question led to a whole quarrel about whether lands could be given back? The participant received a lot of reaction: ‘giving land back isn’t possible, because other people live their now.’ And would it be a solution? The discussion harshened. Emotions took over. A participant from the Dutch delegation felt offended and said ‘how can I give land to you, I don’t live in Turkey’. Another participant from Lebanon: ‘I’m a fourth generation survivor. My roots are very important. We want access to our roots.”

Than the journalist Füsun Erdogan intervened and said: “Armenians and Turks are two traumatized people. The Armenians still feel the pain of the destruction of their people and the Turks are traumatized by the sins their forefathers committed. Both people have to carry that history. But what is the answer? The youth should come together. Progressives in Turkey always say: because we didn’t acknowledge what happened in 1915, the Dersim genocide against Kurds in 1937 happened. And Kurdistan is still burning.’

Now a participant form Turkey reacted: ‘The discussion as it goes now will bring nothing. I think we should first start with eating and drinking, and talk about other things. If you want to persuade Turks, this is not the way.’ Some disagreed vehemently with that proposition.

An outsider to the conflict, from Nepal, was amazed by the fact that all parties were in the same room. That led to some sort of reflection by all sides. But not for long. Even after the official closing of the dialogue, the discussion went on. More eruptions of emotions occurred. But at a certain moment, (dinner-time!), we called it a day and left the room knowing, this is not over yet.

Report: Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish Dialogue part 1/3

The Caux Forum of Initiatives of Change (IOC) is an international event in which peacemakers, human rights activists, civil servants, academics, journalists and students from all over the world gather to discuss about peaceful solutions for violent conflicts, economic inequality and human security.

Last year, in july 2016, The Hague Peace Projects (HPP) was represented by the project coordinators Bedel Bayrak, Tayfun Balcik and workgroup member Fatma Bulaz, they were involved in a lot of discussions that the forum provided for. This ranged from the relationship between white and black Americans in the United States, to Israeli-Arab dialogue, counter-terrorism and many other subjects that concern the global human security.

One of the pillars of the IOC Caux Forum is called ‘healing memory’. HPP has, with its own Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish workgroup, a special interest in the international dialogue taking place at Caux under this pillar. More specifically, the dialogue identifies the acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide, the Kurdish question, the democratization of Turkey and struggles in home countries as key issues to discuss. These problems (from 12 until 17 July 2016) gained extra momentum last year as a result of the attempted coup in Turkey on the night of 15July. A lot of participants from all over the world came to us with the question: ‘what is going on in Turkey?’ As a group we were in constant touch with relatives and friends in Turkey and updated each other and other participants until 5’o clock in the morning. The remaining days in Caux were no different.

Back in The Netherlands our activities to reduce tensions between several groups intensified. But the negative effects of the attempted coup and the following purges in The Netherlands proliferated: from violent incidents inside the communities itself, to diplomatic crises, racism and discrimination against ‘normal’ Turks and Muslims by mainstream institutions and society.

With the municipality of Rotterdam (the city in The Netherlands which bore the brunt of all the ‘Turkish tensions’ last year) HPP agreed to cooperate. We organized in November 2016 a dialogue-afternoon: ‘Time to Talk: Kurds and Turks in dialogue’. With dr. Michiel Leezenberg as key-note speaker, we talked mainly about Kurdish and Turkish literature, but also the repression in Turkey and xenophobia in Europe. After his speech the teacher Suna Floret, journalist Iffet Subasi, student Burak Yildiz, anthropologist Bedel Bayrak and historian Tayfun Balcik shared personal stories about growing up as Turks, Kurds and Armenians in The Netherlands. The day came to a conclusion with dialogue-tables for interaction with the public.

In January 2017 the municipality received our plan to organize a trip to the Caux Forum 2017 with a diverse group of people from Rotterdam. This report is meant to give you an insight about our activities with the Rotterdam delegation before, during and after the program in Caux. 



On Monday, a day before we flew to Switzerland, the participants from Rotterdam came together for the first time as a group.

Attendees: Tato Martirossian, Helin Dogan, Burakhan Çevik, Fusun Erdogan, Fatma Bulaz Zeynep Kus, Bedel Bayrak, Tayfun Balçik

After we introduced ourselves, we had a short dialogue-session.

Tato: ‘It is important to see the humanity of the other. Only after acknowledging each other as human beings, dialogue can be fruitful. Talking from a position of superiority have brought us nothing so far. It was a whole process for me to come to this disposition. Until I was 10 years old, I hadn’t seen a Turk in my life. My image of Turks changed enormously since then.’

Burak: ‘I had that with Kurds. So this is very important for me. My family is very conservative.’

Fusun: ‘I’m a journalist and came here after I was released from prison in Turkey. About the Armenian genocide, I can say that my grandmother was Armenian. They called her ‘Mavis’. That is not a Turkish or Kurdish name. I also had an uncle. They called him “Ermeni Hasan/Armenian Hasan”. But he never talked about his roots. I think he was afraid to do that.’

Fatma: ‘My parents come from Igdir, in Eastern Turkey at the border of Armenia. There was an Armenian church there. It was destroyed in 1960. I have Azeri roots, probably tracing back to Yerevan in Armenia. Igdir is very diverse. Azeri’s, Kurds, islamized yazidi’s make up the city’s population. About Caux 2017, I’m really interested in the follow-up, what will come out of it? I hope we can set up big seminars in Europe and show the real and diverse history of this region to everybody who is interested.’

Tato: ‘I think that we as diaspora communities have the privilege to play a keyrole in promoting dialogue and peace, because we have more access to information from several sides.’

PHOTO 1: IOC, HPP and the Rotterdam delegation just before entering the plane at Schiphol Airpart to Swtizerland.

Film screening ‘Virunga’ – Environmental Sustainability and Peace in DRC

During this meeting we’re gonna watch the awards winning documentary “Virunga”, named after a National Partk in eastern Congo. The movie focuses on the conservation work of park rangers during the rise of the violent M23 Rebellion in 2012 and investigates the activity of the British oil company Soco International within the UNESCO World Heritage site.

A review in the New York Times stated about the film that “Showcasing the best and the worst in human nature, von Einsiedel’s “Virunga” wrenches a startlingly lucid narrative from a sickening web of bribery, corruption and violence.”
After the sceening we’ll have a discussion to put it in context and understand more of the situation of the conflicts in the Great Lakes Region. We also would like to explore the link between environmental sustainability and peace in the region, and what we as a diaspora can do to foster both of them.

Entrance is free, donation is appreciated (cash only)

When: Friday 14 July
Time: 6:30pm
Venue: Paviljoensgracht 20, 2512 BP The Hague