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)

INTRODUCTION
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.’

COMMUNITIES
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

HISTORY, CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES AND THE ROLE OF YOUNGSTERS
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.’

ARMENIAN-KURDISH-TURKISH DIALOGUE (DAY 1)
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.

  1. ‘THE CONFRONTATION’

Presentations
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.

Discussion
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.

One response to “Report: Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue part 2/3 ‘the confrontation’

  1. Pingback: REPORT: ARMENIAN-KURDISH-TURKISH DIALOGUE PART 3/3 | The Hague Peace Projects·

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