Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Great War for Civilisation by Robert Fisk

I put Robert Fisk's book on my reading list because I was intrigued by his thesis that the dynamics in the Middle East are still very much driven by the legacy of WW1 even though to us in the West that war has become such a remote memory.

To be honest the book is just too long a read for me. I did, however, dip into his chapter on the genocide of the Armenians and so, if such a thing is possible and not too incoherent to be saying, it has been a time of mourning in my Turkish soul.

As a Turk, in reading it, I did not find Fisk intending or wanting to be personally offensive to Turks. I did not detect any attempt in the chapter at moralising, or demonising or seeking to feel superior at the expense of Turks.

It was a moving historical essay is all I can say.

And the chapter ended with the following story of a blind Armenian in a nursing home clutching his Braille Bible:

"Down the corridor, a very old man is lying on his bed.He is Haroutioun Kebedjian. He is holding in his left hand a bible in braille and his right hand is fingering embossed paper letters. He greets me with a smile, sightlessly. It is now the year 2000 and he is ninety-three years old, so he was eight when he survived the Armenian Holocaust. His memory is as clear as his emotions :

"We lived in Dortyol.My father was called Sarkis and my mother was Mariam. There were ten children including me and my brothers and sisters. The Turks collected all the peoples with their donkeys and horses. We were to go to Aleppo and Ras el-Ain. But they started killing us on the way. The Turks forced us to the Habur river and by the time we got there, there was only my mother and my sister and me left. They told all the women and the men to take off all their clothes. My sister was eighteen and a man on a horse came and grabbed her and put her on his horse. He did this in front of us. It happened in front of my eyes. I was not blind then. And they started to beat my mother. As she begged them not to take my sister, the Turks beat her to death. I have always remembered that as she died, she screamed my name :'Haroutioun! Haroutioun!' Later an Arab Bedouin took to me his house and I stayed there for three years. The war was over and then people came saying they were looking for Armenian orphans. I said I was Armenian, so they took me to Aleppo. There I caught a virus that affected my eyes. I was suddenly blind and I was only eleven years old. Until I was twenty-three I was filled with rage because the Turks took my sister and beat my mother in front of my eyes until she died. But when I was twenty-three, I felt this was not the right way to be a man, so I began to pray to God so he would see me. I was making peace with myself. Now I am ready to meet my God. I am at peace. Last year when the big earthquake happened in Turkey, it killed so many Turks. And I prayed to God for those Turks - I prayed for those poor Turkish people. "(Fisk, p.435-436)

1 comment:

Robert said...

Thanks Celal, this is indeed a moving account. Thank you for being willing to share this.