The New York Times publishes article about Fethiye Cetin
07.01.2010 17:59 GMT+04:00

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ The New York Times published an article about
Fethiye Cetin, Turkish layer of Armenian heritage, who was a young law
student when her grandmother Seher took her aside and told her a
secret she had hidden for 60 years.
She, the grandmother, was born a Christian Armenian and had been saved
from a death march by a Turkish officer, who snatched her from her
mother's arms in 1915 and raised her as Turkish and Muslim.

Her grandmother revealed to her that her real name was Heranus and
that her biological parents had escaped to New York. Heranus, Ms.
Cetin learned, was just one of thousands of Armenian children who were
kidnapped and adopted by Turkish families during the genocide of up to
1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1918. These
survivors were sometimes called `the leftovers of the sword.'

`I was in a state of shock for a long time - I suddenly saw the world
through different eyes,' said Ms. Cetin, now 60. `I had grown up
thinking of myself as a Turkish Muslim, not an Armenian. There had
been nothing in the history books about the massacre of a people which
had been erased from Turkey's collective memory. Like my grandmother,
many had buried their identity - and the horrors they had seen - deep
inside of them.'

Now, however, Ms. Cetin, a prominent member of the estimated
50,000-strong Armenian-Turkish community here and one of the country's
leading human rights lawyers, believes a seminal moment has arrived in
which Turkey and Armenia can finally confront the ghosts of history
and possibly even overcome one of the world's most enduring and bitter
`Most people in Turkish society have no idea what happened in 1915 and
the Armenians they meet are introduced as monsters or villains or
enemies in their history books,' she said. `Turkey has to confront the
past but before this confrontation can happen, people must know who
they are confronting. So we need the borders to come down in order to
have dialogue.'

Ms. Cetin, who was raised by her maternal grandmother, said the
borders in her own Muslim Turkish heart came down irrevocably when
that grandmother revealed her Armenian past.

`My grandmother was trembling as she told me her story,' Ms. Cetin
said. `She would always say, `May those days vanish never to return.''

Ms. Cetin, a rebellious left-wing student activist at the time of her
grandmother's revelation, recalled how confronting Armenian identity,
then as now, had been taboo. `The same people who spoke the loudest
about injustices and screamed that the world could be a better place
would only whisper when it came to the Armenian issue,' she said. `It
really hurt me.'

Ms. Cetin, who was imprisoned for three years in the 1980s for
opposing the military regime in Turkey at the time, said her newfound
Armenian identity inspired her to become a human rights lawyer. When
Hrant Dink, editor of the Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, was
prosecuted in 2006 for insulting Turkishness by referring to the
genocide, she became his lawyer. On January 19, 2007, Mr. Dink was
assassinated outside his office by a young ultranationalist.
Ms. Cetin published a memoir about her grandmother in 2004. She says
she purposely omitted the word `genocide' from her book because using
the word erected a roadblock to reconciliation. `I wanted to
concentrate on the human dimension. I wanted to question the silence
of people like my grandmother who kept their stories hidden for years,
while going through the pain.'

When Heranus died in 2000 at age 95, Ms. Cetin honored her last wish,
publishing a death notice in Agos, in the hope of tracking down her
long-lost Armenian family, including her grandmother's sister
Margaret, whom she had never seen.
At her emotional reunion with her Armenian family in New York, several
months later, `Auntie Marge' told Ms. Cetin that when her father had
died in 1965, she had found a piece of paper carefully folded in his
wallet that he had been keeping for years. It was a letter Heranus had
written to him shortly after he had left for America.
`We all keep hoping and praying that you are well,' it said.