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.
- MEET-UP WITH THE ‘ROTTERDAM-GROUP’, 3-7-2017
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.