The difficulties of the non-Muslims who feel obliged to hide their true identity in public!

Most of us learned the true identity and religion of theater and cinema actor Rana Cabbar when he passed away. His name is Rana and his real surname is Solakyan. He is an ethnically Armenian artist of the Catholic faith.

He was a talented actor, May he rest in peace!

First of all, ethnicity is not an identity that a person can choose. An individual can choose religion and can abjure it too. A person can deny his, her ethnic identity, but the same individual cannot change it. Every ethnic constituent in Turkey is an integral part of the Turkish Nation.

Rana Solakyan was not the first non-Muslim one who hid his real identity and felt to hide himself. Probably many people and artists hide their real identity like him, of course, there are also artists who do not hide or need to hide themselves. Not only artists, but also there are so many ordinary non-Muslim citizens who live and work with their real identities in every field of life.

We do not have the right to ask our non-Muslim citizens why they feel to hide their identities!

Nobody should make excuses by looking left and right. Anybody should not hide behind the excuses such as “But in Greece, they treat the Turks of Western Thrace like this, the Armenians did not leave a single Turk in Armenia, Israel beats the Palestinians.” The non-Muslims I am talking about here are our own citizens. They all have the identity of the Republic of Turkiye and the citizens of the Republic of Turkey are equal within the laws regardless of their ethnic origin and religious faiths. Our non-Muslim citizens come first before the Turks, who are the citizens of the other countries. The Republic of Turkiye is such a big state that it cannot be reduced to two letters “T.C” in front of our names on social media and public institutions. The great state handles the rights and problems to find a solution with the authorities and governments of the countries the cognates belong to, with diplomacy at the table.

The Non-Muslims are the native people of Anatolia and Istanbul. Particularly the Rums, Armenian and Syriac people with the Jews, who are the minorities of today. If they see themselves as the “other” in Turkiye and to hide their identities for feeling better, we should blame ourselves and the governments we chose. The political powers have the responsibility of the policies they implement in violation of the Constitution, the grave mistakes they made over the years.

We do not have the right to ask the non-Muslims who lived the 1934 Thrace Pogrom, 1942 Varlik Vergisi “Wealth Tax” Disaster, the Istanbul Pogrom of 6–7 September 1955, the 1964 Greek Exile, why do you hide your own identity. We don’t have any right to ask, why do you use a double name in accordance with your religion and ethnicity! If they felt free like us, the Muslims, they would not use double names. It is not possible to heal the wounds of these painful events. Whenever we open our mouths to insult each other, we use the ethnic identities of non-Muslims to insult each other; ” you are an Armenian, you are a Jew, you are a Greek, you are a Byzantine bastard” fall from the mouths of many of us.

I don’t like to play to the audience. To be frank, what Turkish Jews have any bond in citizenship with Israel? They are indirectly or directly always being targeted through their identity Judaism by politicians and media in every Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What could be natural other than having ties from the heart, ethnically and religiously every Jew has a heartfelt bond with Israel, and none of us can claim that it is wrong. Criticism of Israeli policies cannot turn to our own compatriots, the Jews, both are different things. The biggest trauma of the Turkish Jews experienced after the 1934 Thrace Incidents is undoubtedly the terrorist attacks on Neve Shalom Synagogue in 1986 and the Synagogues in 2003.

Our own citizens were victims of terrorism in their places of worship. Since 1986, Jews could have not freely been to their places of worship, they go with fear and hesitation every time they go.

Everyone should think why do Turkish Jews live fearfully because of pro- Palestinian terrorism? If we do not feel their pain, worry as our own, we have a big problem as the citizens in our mentality. I used to think of 1942 Varlik Vergisi “Wealth Tax” as an understandable practice due to World War II, if the tax was applied to everyone equally and at a reasonable rate, regardless of Muslim and non-Muslim and if the Askale Exiles were not.

The Non-Muslims made those fortunes with hard work and they always paid their taxes to the state. The application of Wealth Tax 1942 led to handover the fortune in a trauma that our Armenian, Greek and Jewish citizens suffered great pain in World War II, which we did not enter. In addition to these, there are non-Muslim citizens who could not afford to pay the tax and were sent to a labour camp in Askale, Erzurum, some lost their lives there. The Wealth Tax was a disaster for our non-Muslims.

The Istanbul Pogrom of September 6-7, 1955 is the greatest shame in the history of the Republic. Our own citizens committed looting and disgraceful crimes against non-Muslims, especially the Turkish Greeks, the Rums. The riot was an organized event, following the false news that stir-up the events: “A bomb was thrown at Ataturk’s house in Thessaloniki.” In fact, the bomb of hatred and looting thrown by those who attacked the streets with false news, fell on the hearth of our non-Muslim citizens in various parts of the country, especially in Istanbul and Istiklal Street.

The result of the attacks and lootings, an Istanbul, almost without Greeks, despite the fact that their rights are guaranteed in the Lausanne Treaty, which was signed in 1923. Along with the burned down places of worship, workplaces, attacked citizens and other disgraceful crimes, and Istanbul whose identity and culture have changed fundamentally, and the rest of the Greeks in one night deported to Greece in 1964, the Greek Exile.

The Istanbulite Greeks, whose population is less than a village, are fighting for existence in Istanbul, their native homeland, their churches are used more for funerals than marriage ceremonies, because their numbers are decreasing dramatically with the aging of population. The education of clergymen in the Heybeliada Seminary, was under the guarantee of Lausanne Peace Treaty from 1923 to 1971, but we discovered(!) following the 12th of March 1971 Military Coup, the seminary was against the Treaty of Lausanne and our constitution!

In a country, everyone should practice their religion freely, should train their clergy freely, but we ignore our signature and obligation. A very large majority who against the military coup supported the decision on Heybeliada Seminary. Today, the Turkish Greek Orthodox clergy are trained in Greece, some Greek citizen clergy become Turkish citizens due to Turkish Greeks population’s decrease.

Let the readers answer; would the clergymen educated according to the Greek curriculum or the clergy educated in the Heybeliada Seminary School be in favour of the Republic of Turkiye?

Patriarch Bartholomew - Metin Yilmaz
Patriarch Bartholomew – Metin Yilmaz

May God give him a long life, after the present Patriarch Bartholomew, the new patriarch can be someone who trained in Greece.

First of all, the Fener Greek Patriarchate is an institution belonging to the Republic of Turkiye, the Patriarch and the clergy working in the churches are citizens of the Republic of Turkiye. Dr. Sadik Ahmet was a notable politician of the Western Thracian Turks, who lost his life in a traffic accident in Greece that left many questions behind. The street in front of the Patriarchate is named as Dr. Sadik Ahmet. Before Sadik Ahmet, the street was given the name of Grand Vizier Benderli Ali Pasha, who hanged Patriarch Gregorius V because he had written a letter to the Russian Tsar in support of the 1821 Greek revolts.

Ahmet Cevdet Pasha asserted in his work, “Tarih-i Cevdete”, Sultan Mahmut II thought that the execution of the patriarch was unfair. Sultan Mahmut sent Ali Pasha to exile and just eight days after the Patriarch Gregorius V’s execution on April 30, 1821 Ali Pasha was executed in Cyprus. The Greek uprising gained even more momentum as a result of the patriarch execution.

Mehmet the Conqueror - Patriarch Gennadios II
Mehmet the Conqueror – Patriarch Gennadios II
Today, there are a handful of remaining Greek citizens in Turkiye. What is the meaning of message or is it an intimidation given by the name of Sadik Ahmet to our citizens because of the problems between Turkiye and Greece? Whatever the meaning of the message is, this does not suit the Republic of Turkiye. Give that street the names of Ottoman Greeks who earned the respect of both Turks and Greeks such as Marko Pasha, Kostaki Antopulos Pasha, Patriarch Gennadios II, who was the first patriarch under Turkish rule, whom Mehmet the Conqueror also respected. Give the name of Sadik Ahmet to the big streets, or if you are going to send a message to Greece, give his name to the border gate with Greece!

Our Syriac citizens also have the same problem as the Greeks have in training their clergymen, they have to go to Syria to train clergy there. Every Turkish citizen should ask themselves, is the modern Republic of Turkiye behind Syria in terms of human rights and religious freedoms, why are our Syriac citizens training their clergymen in Syria?

The religion of the state is justice and justice should be for everyone, the Republic of Turkiye is secular and should be at an equal distance from everyone.

I am not going to argue in this writing the 1915 Armenian Deportation, which was taken under the conditions of World War I. This issue was settled with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 and the Malta Tribunal of 1919-1921. This issue so far should have prevented from being used as a weapon against Turkiye today. Leaving all this aside, Armenia was the first state to recognize the Turkish Grand National Assembly Government, namely the Republic of Turkiye, with the Gyumri Agreement signed on 3 December 1921.

It is not possible for Armenia to act independently from the Diaspora Armenians, who are the children of former Ottoman citizens in France, America and Lebanon because they are positioning themselves against Turkiye. However, Turkiye’s friendly hand should be extended for peace to this country. Turkiye is the country preferred by the people of Armenia for business and thousands of the Armenian citizens live and work in Istanbul. Turkiye should lift the embargo which already has been pierced via Georgia since the beginning of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1990s. Azerbaijan in 2021 liberated Armenian occupied Karabakh. The bitterness of the Armenians of Armenia and the Armenian citizens of Turkiye, the largest non-Muslim population in Turkiye, should be relieved.

The matter is long, and it gets longer as I write. If a non-Muslim Turkish citizen struggles to exist by hiding his religion, identity and name, as the late actor Rana Cabbar did in this way, we are both responsible and guilty for their difficulties.

Metin Yilmaz – NationalTurk

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