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ARTICLES EN ANGLAIS


  • A Human Rights Lecture Dedicated to the Memory of Hrant Dink
    United Human Rights Council

    Pasadena, California
    Kani Xulam
    January 15, 2010

    On November 2, 1965, a man drove a barrowed Cadillac into the parking lot of the
    Pentagon in Virginia. He got out of it somewhat lost in his thoughts. He grabbed an
    eleven month-old baby girl from the passenger seat and a jug of gasoline from the trunk.
    He walked to a grassy spot outside of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s office.
    He placed the baby girl a few yards away from himself. He poured the jug of gasoline on
    his head. Lighting a match, he lit the seams of his pants where they met his shoes. All at
    once, he became a ball of raging fire and died within seconds.
    On August 20, 2009, a man placed a log on a rural road in Zonguldak, Turkey. He then
    hid behind a tree and waited for a pickup truck to approach. It did. It was carrying a
    family of four -- a mother, a father and their two daughters, ages 24 and 26. The sisters
    got out of the vehicle to clear the way. He shot them to death point blank. He then
    targeted their parents. They died in their seats. Walking to their house, he slaughtered
    two more. One was his wife, the family’s youngest daughter; and the other, her brother,
    its youngest son. He grabbed a five-month-old baby, his son, from the crib and went to
    his father’s home.



  • What do these stories have in common? Can they teach us anything of value? The media
    branded their actions as crazy. The authorities denounced the American and arrested the
    Turk. Was that a proper thing to do? If people in power had bothered to go beyond the
    headlines, the war in Vietnam, the reason behind the first act, might not have gone on for another ten years, and the one in Kurdistan, where the Turkish killer had first acquired his taste to shed blood like water, might have been seen in a different light and, why not, brought to an end as well. Alas, that is not what happened in either 1965 or 2009. Tonight, I want to share with you some of my reflections about war, peace, evil, and forgiveness and their implications for us, as Armenians, Kurds, Turks and Americans.
    First, a little bit of perspective about the American may be in order here. It turns out, he
    was not crazy at all. Or even if he were, he was crazy good. We need those crazy-andgood folks from time to time. Thomas Jefferson would not have disapproved of what he did. The author of America’s Declaration of Independence thought every generation
    needed its rebels to avoid ghastly mistakes or degeneration. We are creatures of comfort
    and habit -- sometimes to our detriment. When our countries sign up for gratuitous
    murder, we are insane to allow it. The wages of war are seldom peace and tranquility.
    And if destiny has thrown a bit of compassion, understanding, tolerance and love onto
    our personal lots, then it has also burdened us to share them with others, especially those
    who have appointed themselves as our adversaries.
    2



  • The American who became a ball of raging fire on that November day in 1965 was a
    Quaker by faith and a minister of a church by profession. The little girl that he took to
    the Pentagon was his youngest daughter, Emily. He had two other children and a wife.
    They all knew him as a beloved father and caring husband whose Christian name was
    Norman Morrison. They lived in Baltimore, Maryland. On the morning of the day that
    he ended his life, a news story had rattled him. The reporter had interviewed the priest of
    Duc Co, a village in Vietnam, who had witnessed the death of his parishioners, some of
    whom children still in diapers, by Napalm by American forces. As a man of the cloth,
    what could he do to stop it? Immolating himself and his baby in front of the building that
    oversaw the war effort, he thought, might just do the job. Unfortunately, it didn’t.



  • Those who were in charge of the U.S. government were incapable of hearing the cry of
    his soul. They continued with their hypocrisy and folly for another decade. A senseless
    war poisoned the life of the planet between two peoples who should never have gone to
    war in the first place. Today, that is clear to us. Or is it? Doing a little bit of research on
    the topic, I have reached a different conclusion. It is, I should perhaps say, clear to the
    Vietnamese. In Vietnam, Norman Morrison’s pictures adorn stamps and history books.
    Streets and schools are named after him. Prose and poetry keep his memory alive. But in
    the country of his birth, very few Americans know of his contribution to peace. Many
    more still think we can never cure ourselves of war and its devastating consequences.
    If this story of the American pacifist is heartrending and uplifting at the same time, the
    story of the Turk, Safak Koksal, who killed almost all of his wife’s family, is too painful
    to contemplate. A little bit of his past is in order as well. To begin with, he was a veteran
    of Turkey’s killing fields in Kurdistan. There, he had apparently murdered eight Kurds -
    - by his accounts -- but he didn’t call them as such, for him, they were lesler, a Turkish
    word, which translates to something like, stinking carcasses. But perhaps he was living
    through a lie. Perhaps like his government, he knew that killing Kurds for being Kurds
    was wrong. And wrongs never add up to a right, do they?



  • The wrongs that were inflicted on the Armenians when our grandparents were alive or the ones that I witnessed as a Kurd growing up in Turkish occupied Kurdistan should not be conflated with what Safak Koksal did to his in-laws. You were targeted because you
    were Armenians. We were fools to help your destroyers. Like some Poles and some
    Ukrainians who helped the Nazis, some of us allowed ourselves to aid and abet the cause
    of evildoers. I am glad to note that Kurds occupying higher positions of authority, than
    yours truly, have asked you to forgive us. The dead are beyond the purview of this
    lecture, but the living heal faster if their pain is acknowledged. Count me among those
    who are with you in your hour of grief and remembrance.
    I can’t help but share with you, since I am on the topic of wrongs, a personal anecdote
    that relates to the cataclysmic events of 1915 as well. I grew up in a village that I thought was Kurdish. All its inhabitants were, and it never crossed my mind to dig into its past.



  • Years later, in Washington, DC, I befriended an Armenian who startled me with his
    revelation that it could actually be Armenian. He said, “The name of your village,
    Gavgas, means Caucasus, in the Armenian language.” I couldn’t help but think of its
    blood drenched past. My parents were quiet on its origins. In Turkey, it was not safe, for
    a long time, to second-guess our status as “Mountain Turks” or our homeland as
    “Turkey.” The village was given a new Turkish name, but we never bothered to use it;
    we continued using its original name. Today, again, it is drained of its inhabitants. What
    will its fate be like tomorrow? Will peace ever be among its blessings?
    After your people’s existential brush with death in the 1890s and 1910s, we came under a policy less ghoulish but just as grotesque -- extirpation through cultural genocide --
    with the establishment of the new Turkish state. Because no one accounted for what was
    done to you, no one has bothered with what is being done to us. But I have not come
    here to lend my support to the maxim that misery likes company. If anything, my
    presence should be seen in the light of the old Victorian observation that one cannot feel
    real compassion for other people unless one has first experienced what they have. Safak
    Koksal, the Turkish soldier, suffered from demons that were not natural to humans. We,
    as Kurds, know this. You, as Armenians, can lecture the world on the topic. His
    government failed him; he, in turn, failed his son, his wife and his extended family on
    both sides. He needs our help, as does his government. And here is a question that is
    worth more than 64 thousand dollars: how do you aid a government that refuses to
    acknowledge past wrongs and will not stop committing new ones?
    I don’t know about you, but all I see is a vicious cycle.



  • “Our past,” as Nathaniel
    Hawthorne once put it, “is a rough draft of our present and our future.” Is it? What if
    that past is too painful to remember and too gruesome for repetition? As a kid, I
    witnessed a Turkish soldier manhandle my father for his lack of proficiency in the
    Turkish language. I made up for that deficiency, mastered the language of our
    oppressors, but honesty compels me to say it out loud: I am struggling with the concept
    of forgiveness. The best that I can muster, by way of responding to that hurt, is to make
    sure that the generation that comes after me is not subjected to the same. A future in
    which we co-exist in full equality with the Turks is the only redeeming path I see in front
    of us. How we get on that road has been my preoccupation for the past 16 years. I would
    like to share with you two related observations about my quest. Perhaps you will engage
    me with some of your reactions after my talk.



  • The first one belongs to Edmund Burke. He was an Irish statesman. He served in the
    British House of Commons. A year before the American Revolution, he penned a
    statement -- people later titled it Reconciliation with America -- in which he warned his
    majesty’s government not to make the mistake of branding all Americans as rebels. With
    his all-encompassing rhetoric, he noted, “I do not know the method of drawing up an
    indictment against a whole people. I cannot insult and ridicule the feelings of millions of
    my fellow creatures[.] … I really think that, for wise men, this is not judicious; for sober
    men, not decent; for minds tinctured with humanity, not mild and merciful.” We all
    know what Great Britain did with that advice. Will those who are entrusted with the
    government in Turkey ever see or hear or feel or heed it?



  • The second observation comes from Leo Tolstoy. Towards the end of his life, the
    Russian novelist took a keen interest in the lot of ordinary people and reflected deeply on
    4 the question of evil the way our best scientists, these days, focus on the eradication of
    H1N1, better known as swine flu. In his book, The Kingdom of God is Within You, he
    wrote movingly of our blind spots and offered ways to check on them worthy of his
    renown as one of the greatest novelist ever to walk in our midst. In his words, “Those
    who do evil through ignorance of the truth provoke sympathy with their victims and
    repugnance for their actions, they do harm only to those they attack; but those who know the truth and do evil masked by hypocrisy, injure themselves and their victims, and
    thousands of other men as well who are led astray by the falsehood with which the
    wrongdoing is disguised.”
    No one who reads Tolstoy can close his books unaffected. When the Ottoman thugs took
    advantage of a servile Turkish population to extirpate your people, they crippled you and
    have, ever since, earned the loathing of the civilized world. Most historians would agree
    with Tolstoy that the present day Turkish authorities, like their forefathers, feel
    impervious to the weight of the historical crime because of their ignorance. With us
    Kurds, they are trying to do the same, but the truth is catching up with them. No amount
    of hypocrisy can cure or hide Safak Koksal, the Turkish conscript, from the Turkish
    public. They can’t hurt Kurds unhurt. The Turkish soldier may have killed eight Kurds,
    but he also killed six Turks. Our honorees, Hrant Dink, Eren Keskin, Leyla Zana, Akin
    Birdal and Ayse Gunaysu, Armenians, Kurds and Turks alike, have been sounding the
    alarm bells urging the Turkish authorities to change course. They make me proud, as I
    know they do you. I salute them, both living and nonliving, as you do with a night of
    remembrance like this one.
    I began my talk with the desperate acts of two disparate fathers and would like to end it
    with the stories of their children. Emily is now 45 years old and has two babies of her
    own. In 1999, she visited Vietnam and was honored like a favorite daughter. The
    Turkish baby is now 10 months old. At birth, his father had given him the name of
    Dogukan. It is an ominous name, given the events of his life. It means “eastern blood”
    in Turkish. His late mother had urged his father to drop the word blood from the name,
    pleading, we should just call him, East or Eastern, but her husband had not budged. He
    had served in Kurdistan, which the “modern” Turks call “ the East.” There, he had killed
    eight Kurds in ambush or open battle. There, he had seen Kurdish blood flow like water.
    There, instead of conquering “demons,” he had been conquered by them. Now that he is
    behind bars, Dogukan has become a ward of the state. If I thought the Turkish
    government would consider it, I would make a case for adopting him. Perhaps with some
    Kurdish love, he would live to redeem his name. Instead of shedding the blood of others,
    as his father did, he would, like Hrant Dink, urge the Turks, the Kurds and the Armenians
    alike to cleanse their blood from the poisonous effects of intolerance and hatred. That
    would bring a smile to the face of Hrant Dink. Another would be if Dogukan befriended
    his grandson on Facebook.

    http://www.kurdistan.org/Current-Updates/pasadena011510.pdf


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