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Semih İDİZ
02 November 2006 - Turkish Daily News
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!á½p="justify">It is often necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff in order to arrive at the truth. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Turkish-Armenian relations. Judging by what one reads and hears, one would be forgiven for getting the impression that the Armenians have no other worry in this world than seeking revenge from Turkey, with “genocide recognition by the Turks” being their number one-priority in this context.

  “Not so” reports the Novosti Armenia news agency now, citing a Gallup poll conducted in Armenia recently in cooperation with the Armenian Sociology Institute. According to the findings of this study, conducted on 1,200 people over the age of 18, genocide recognition by Turkey is the number-one priority of only 1 percent of Armenians living in Armenia today.

  So what are Armenians really worried about? According to the research cited, the majority of Armenians say that unemployment is the biggest problem for their country. Other issues listed in this context include the poor state of industry, the democracy deficit, serious problems in the area of human rights, corruption and mass migration.

  Put another way, this poll -- conducted between July 31 and Aug. 10 of this year -- the findings of which have just been released, belies many notions attributed to ordinary Armenians in Armenia.

  It also appears from these results that the international campaign spearheaded by the Armenian government, in cooperation with the Armenian diaspora abroad, and aimed at securing “genocide recognition by Turkey, ” is not necessarily the topic that ordinary Armenians want to see their officials spending so much energy on, given the very real problems they are faced with.

  Put simply, ordinary Armenians are more concerned with ordinary bread-and-butter issues, just like any other nation, and want to see an improvement in the condition of their lives -- pretty dire at present -- despite the efforts by Armenian officials and the ultranationalist Dashnaks to put a positive spin on it.

  In other words, there is a world of a difference in terms of the priorities of a nicely comfortable Armenian living in Glendale, California or Paris, France, and one who lives in Armenia and who is trying to maintain his life against increasingly difficult odds.

  One interesting fact to emerge from the French parliament's efforts to criminalize the denial of the Armenian "genocide" was that there is anywhere up to 70,000 Armenians from Armenia working in Turkey today, mostly illegally.

  Even the Armenian patriarch in Istanbul admitted that there were least 40,000 such Armenians in his plea to the Turkish government for more Armenian schools to educate these Armenians' children.

  This means that, for all the attempts to vilify Turks by the administration in Armenia and diaspora Armenians, anywhere up to 70,000 Armenians have not been discouraged by this from trying to seek their livelihood in Turkey, the country supposedly hated to the core by Armenians.

  Neither has anyone anywhere read or heard of an incident in Turkey between these Armenians and the Turks they are in daily contact with. This for me confirms what I have always believed on the basis of my own experience, namely that Armenians and Turks are not that different from one another and that, all things being equal, are capable of getting on much better together than they are with people of other nations, given that they share so much, from social habits to food and music.

  I had, in fact, already arrived at this conclusion during my college days in Dublin in the '70s, when one of the people I got on the best with was my classmate Stefan Yeranosian, an Armenian from what was then Soviet Armenia, who had settled with his family in Ireland.

  Our friendship also allowed us to overcome national prejudices in order to try and look empathetically at the events of 1915, which proved not to be a fruitless effort even though the '70s were nasty times, when Turkish diplomats were being killed in the streets of Europe and North America almost weekly by Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) terrorists.

  But we were two simple souls in a vast wilderness of mutual hatred stoked by ultranationalists on both sides, who still continue to do so today. Coming back to the study referred to above, the fact that Armenians are more concerned with daily problems is probably why the government in Yerevan is trying so hard to get Turkey to eat humble pie.

  This is, after all, a convenient way for the government to try and distract the public's mind from some very real problems that appear to have no immediate solutions. It appears from the study cited here, however, that this approach is not going to alleviate the burden on ordinary Armenians resulting from that country's poor economic situation, though it may appear to curry some favor with diaspora Armenians.

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