Among thousands of Lebanese Armenians, I was most probably the only Turkish witnessing live the march for 1915’s mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire.
The crowd had huge banners in hand with some strong statements on: “Run Turkey, run… But you can’t hide..” “1,500.000 Armenians massacred, but we survived. We’ll tell you the history of Turkey’s atrocities…” “95 years! Time for Recognition and Compensation…”
As also expected, this year’s commemoration received more attendants than before according to some, which was an obvious result of recently strained relations between Turkey and Armenia.
Writing about the march is a bit of a yearly cliché… But for me, what was most intriguing this time is afterwards…
In the lack of a taxi, I had to catch a public bus that would take me back to Hamra from Bourj Hammoud where the gathering took place.
I jumped into the first bus I’ve seen, and found myself in a privately rented van carrying only Armenians with flags and posters against Turkey.
While walking towards the back seats, I heard some Turkish words floating around, which I first thought was an illusion of my sub-consciousness. But… no.. There were two elegantly dressed up Armenian Lebanese elderly in their early 90s at the very back seat, discussing the content of the speech in Turkish!
“Well, they are also right, but at the end we all need peace…” one said, while the other one next to him was bearing an approving face.
A bit shocked but pleased to meet such people daring to speak Turkish in a private van carrying protestors to chant against Turkey, I sat next to them to find out how this irony could have happened.
I was lost anyway, apparently the bus wasn’t the right one. Not because of its passengers, but the direction was about to take me to a completely different part of Beirut… So I decided to follow them till the end to ask my questions in Turkish which I myself could not dare to do in the bus. Yes, I stalked them.
I dropped off with the very old one, and asked in Turkish “Wow, you just spoke my mother tongue in a car of Armenians which had gathered to curse my country!”
He was surprised to hear me, not because of the language I used, but because I used the term “cursed.”
I invited him for a cup of coffee but he was more insistent on inviting me over their place and to meet his family.
Well, nothing to lose… Human stories are always more interesting to me than the politics.
So I ended up in a beautiful apartment at Hajin, eating a very tasty dish of Fasulye -almost the same as of my mother’s way of cooking- with a friendly Armenian Lebanese family whose members were marching against my country just 15 minutes ago.
Ok, it’s not the first time I’ve been invited to dine with Armenians in Lebanon, but the same happening on 24th of April is something that I was not expecting at all.
To be honest I was going to write about the tension, the anger and hostility… But just a bus trip I took back home changed most of what I’ve planned to be doing right now…
I wrote a piece about it for Turkish Daily Radikal which can be read here. It has just got a bit more details in a non-blog format.
By the way, I had received some emails from a few readers for my previous articles, most of which were accusing me for being too reconciliatory. I’m sorry but I’m trying to please you too… But it just doesn’t work, I’m afraid.