An open letter addressed to people of Turkey by System of a Down lead singer Serj Tankian was published in Agos, a bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper in Istanbul ahead of the April 24 commemoration of the Armenian tragedy.
“I’m a Lebanese born Armenian American New Zealander. All four of my grandparents come from the area known as modern-day Turkey. My grandfather Stepan hailed from Efkere in Kayseri, while my grandmother Varsenig came from Tokat. My other grandparents were from Dortiol and Ourfa. None of them left on their own free will,” writes Tankian, adding that all of his grandparents were survivors of “the horrible Genocide committed by the Ittihad government during the last days of the Ottoman Empire.”
“They were all small children at the time. My grandfather Stepan was saved and spent time in an American orphanage as well as a Greek one before arriving in Lebanon as a refugee. My grandmother Varsenig and her grandmother were saved from slaughter by a Turkish mayor who risked his own life to do the right thing. These are not some stories in the archives of Turkey or other nations. These are the true stories of my family,” he says in the letter.
Tankian underlines that Turkey is very important to him not just because his grandparents came from there “but because my whole race came from those lands that were forcefully taken from them, not by war, or in the changing of borders but by the brutal orders of the Ittihad Government.”
“What does this all mean to us today? It’s quite simple. Armenians don’t want to hassle Turkey, or create racial divisions, we just want justice so we can all move on from this historical pain that strains our relationship. This is not just about Armenian history but also the history of Turkey. Will Erdogan’s government do the right thing by coming to terms with all of this? I don’t think so. Neither will the military juntas that have ruled Turkey throughout modern history,” writes the musician known for promoting a message against genocides through his songs and other activities.
Compared to the statements of Australian and other western politicans, Tankian’s letter seems more objective. At least, he doesn’t villify the whole Turkish nation or Ottoman empire for the tragedy and points to the pan-Turkish Ittihad government of the time as the main protaganists.
According to him, Turkey’s modern turmoil to find itself has a lot to do with Armenians. “Our histories, geographies, and blood are too close not to resolve these issues. Both Armenians and Turks deserve leaders and governments that are truly egalitarian, democratic, and non-corrupt to start with,” Tankian concludes.