Armenian in Istanbul: Diaspora in Turkey welcomes the setting of relations and waits more steps from both countries

The Armenian community in Istanbul, Turkey gladly welcomed the Armenian-Turkish protocols signed last week in Zurich, but many believe that ratification of protocols in the parliament of both countries will take longer than it was expected at first. (According to non-official data there are some 50,000-70,000 Armenians in Istanbul.)

Political scientist Ara Kochunian, the editor-in-chief of Istanbul-based ‘Zhamanak’ (Time) daily says that even though the protocols will enter the Turkish parliament (Grand National Assembly) next week, their discussion and signing will not happen that fast.

“The protocols should be taken to the parliament on October 21, but it does not mean that they will be discussed immediately,” Kochinian says. “I believe that this process will be frozen till February, next year, and from March, when a month will be left till April 24, it will become active again.”

Unlike him, Eyup Can, news coordinator at one of the greatest Turkish nationalistic newspapers Hurriyet, believes that the protocols will be ratified in the nearest future.

“I think they won’t wait until April. It will happen in 2-3 months, as the government has a very strong timeline about these procedures,” he says.

However, both Kochinian and Can share an opinion that the ratification of the protocols, and especially, the opening of the border cannot take place without concessions concerning Nagorno-Karabakh issue from the Armenian side.

“It would be an unrealistic to believe that without assuring progress in Karabakh issue, it would be possible to reach this point,” Kochinian says. “And if the process of Karabakh issue remains in this format, the Armenian-Turkish process will not develop fast.”

Meanwhile, Can reminds that Turkey closed its border with Armenia because of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.

“And if today the border were opened without the settlement of that issue, it would be confusing for Turkish people,” the representative of Hurriyet newspaper stresses.

And even though the fact of connecting the Nagorno-Karabakh issue with the problem casts doubt on the ratification of the protocols, both, the Armenians of Istanbul and Turks greet the fact of signing the protocols.

Yonca Poyraz Doğan, journalist of Today’s Zaman daily says that signing the protocols was a
step against the status quo.

“Turkey is eager to establish good-neighborly relations with all its neighbors, and now it is Armenia’s turn,” he says.

Harutyun Ergunesh, the only Armenian representative of Istanbul’s Shishli district administration, shares the viewpoint of his fellow-townsman Yonca.

“I believe that thanks to it, from now on the relations with Armenia will be better. The trade will develop, Istanbul Armenians will have easier travel from Armenia to Turkey, to Istanbul,” Ergunesh says.

Bagrat Estukian, journalist at another Istanbul-based Agos Armenian weekly believes that the establishment of Armenian-Turkish relations is a necessity for this phase of development in both countries.

“The Armenian Diaspora was more sensitive towards this issue,” Estukian says referring to the signing of the protocols. “But unlike (other) Diaspora Armenians, those of Istanbul have a positive attitude towards those protocols and the establishment of relations.”

Moreover, Estukian is sure that the signing of the protocols will not affect the process of Turkey’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

“The Genocide stopped being a merely Armenian Cause, it is also Turkey’s problem,” Estukian says. “Turks have a problem with their past.”

Estukian says that during the recent years Turks were more open to the issue of discussing the fact of the Armenian Genocide.

“There are several publications clarifying the Armenian theses concerning the Armenian Genocide. If we take the number of ordinary citizens willing to speak about it, it is rather small, but as for representatives of the Turkish intelligentsia, here their number is significant.”

Another editor of Agos weekly, Aris Nalci also agrees with Estukian. “I do not think that the signing of the protocols may have a negative influence upon the process of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.”

Ulrike Dufner, director of Turkey-based German Heinrich Böll Foundation, thinks that after signing and later ratifying the protocols, discussions over the Genocide will increase in Turkey.

“It needs projects fostering communications between journalists or artists and intellectuals. As there are restrictions in Turkey about using the word genocide not everybody who is asked will use the word. But the number of people who are ready to debate over the issue is increasing,” says Dufner.