The participants visited Gyumri, Talin, Echmiadzin, Yerevan and several villages in Armenia and documented stories of survivors who fled to Eastern Armenia, the then part of the Russian Empire, at the dawn of the 20th century.
“Though the diplomatic process between the two countries which started in 2009 was suspended, we consider the political contact between the countries highly essential. This program brings together young people from both societies to spend time and discuss the challenging periods of history. I believe such gatherings in Armenia and Turkey will enhance the reconciliation,” said Matthias Kiesler, Ambassador of Germany in Armenia.
Diplomatic efforts are not enough to achieve a success, the ambassador believes.
“The efforts may have a positive effect only when they are coupled with the active involvement of the two societies. Actually, too many emotions will only hinder the process.”
Matthias Klingenberg, Regional Director at DVV International Caucasus and Turkey, shared the five flagship elements of the program.
“The first element is the Growing Archive. It is a mobile exhibition which has grown from our long journey. It showcases people's stories, photos, belongings, etc. It is a unique way of telling about the Genocide and the present reality,” Matthias Klingenberg said, adding the second element is the involvement of two writers who will write a diary of the travel and what they have experienced.
The third element includes exhibitions, discussions and performances, with the next element being the Road Magazine which will be published during the travel and will tell memories of the meetings and people the team got to know.
“The last is the oral history component. The team members are going out to interview citizens of both countries to talk about their memories and perception,” said Matthias Klingenberg.
Ayşe Öktam from DVV International Turkey believes Turkey must take the first step in the Armenian-Turkish relations and recognize the Armenian Genocide. “If we as citizens of Turkey recognize the Genocide, any other country will do the same.”
Haykak Arshamyan from Hazarashen Armenian Centre for Ethnological Studies believes the more reconciliation programs in various society sectors, the broader the dialogue between the societies will be.
“Turkey has opted for a policy which only fuels the clashes in the region. Most importantly, when young people from Armenia and Turkey meet within such projects, they communicate, listen to the other, work and make friends,” said Haykak Arshamyan, “There cannot be closed borders in the 21st century.”
Özlem Çaykent from the History Foundation “Tarih Vakfı” describes the program as an effective platform for establishing a dialogue and relations between people. “It was important for us to record memories, listen to them, especially to those who survived the Genocide,” said Özlem Çaykent.
Matthias Kiesler shared thoughts on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Germany. “2015 is a significant year for Armenia and the German President once spoke on this. Now we lack the resolution of the Bundestag. The bill on the Genocide recognition will be discussed at the Bundestag in autumn, as I know. There are currently hearings on the matter.”
Next year in Turkey the participants will look for signs of former Armenian life and its extinction in the collective memories of peoples with different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds. They will visit Haydarpaşa Station in Istanbul from where Armenian intellectuals were deported on April 24th, 1915, and Ayaş, a former concentration camp near Ankara.
Acting Together is a joint initiative of the DVV International and its partners, the History Foundation “Tarih Vakfı” and Hazarashen Armenian Centre for Ethnological Studies. It is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.
Arpine Arzumanyan, Website Editor
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