‘Don’t Hate the Turks’: Distinguishing between the People and the Government

“My mom witnessed how her mother suffered from the Armenian Genocide atrocities, screaming, nightmares, and trauma, yet she told us ‘don’t hate the Turks.'”

After hearing my words, many women approached me to show their appreciation for my presentation. They loved the message of solidarity.

(L to R) The author Karine Armen, Professor Elahe Amani, and writer Dr. Rosemary Hartounian Cohen (Photo courtesy of Karine Armen)

On Dec. 2, more than 80 women had gathered in Professor Elahe Amani’s home in Long Beach, Calif., to listen to several female authors’ book presentations. I was one of the guest speakers. I talked about Inner Heaven, a self-published book which consists of 37 seven articles written by my mother in Farsi, which I have translated. The book includes a short story about my grandmother’s survival—how she escaped Garin [Erzerum] and walked to Iraq when she was only seven years old.

My grandmother, Victoria, got married to another orphan from Garin at a young age and moved to Iran. The young couple had five children, but Victoria suffered emotionally, screaming in horror with memories of the Genocide. She always wondered what happened to her baby sister whom she carried for a day then left her under a tree.

The guilt and pain were unbearable. My mother was the oldest daughter and became the family’s caretaker since her mother could not provide for her children.

As I finished my presentation, an Armenian immigration attorney, Alice Yardum-Hunter, shared her grandparents’ genocide story. Her voice was trembling as she talked about mass graves. I had met Alice last April during a program organized by Mediators Beyond Borders. Professor Elahe Amani and Attorney Yardum-Hunter traveled to Turkey in 2013 to participate at the organization’s annual congress. There was also a training session for women leaders from Middle East and North Africa where Gaiane Astoyan, an activist from Armenia, also participated.

There was another Armenian author, Dr. Rosemary Hartounian Cohen, who talked about “the silent genocide” by the Ottoman Turks in the city of Khoy in Iran in 1918.

Her grandfather was killed in Khoy, and her grandmother raised a daughter by herself. Dr. Cohen wrote her grandmother’s story as a memoir in a book called The Survivor. In her book’s acknowledgement she has written: “I have no hate in my heart toward any nation or actual Turkish people. I am just hoping that by showing all the sufferings imposed on innocent people, events like this will be stopped around the world.”

All the author’s messages had one theme in common: human rights. The book presentation brunch included nine female writers—seven Iranian, one Kurdish, one Syrian, and two Armenians. These women have written about their sufferings resulting from sociopolitical pressures. They all mentioned having strong mothers who broke the “rules” and encouraged them to pursue freedom.

During a later discussion with the audience, an Iranian woman mentioned how her eight-year-old son was scared to say his father could speak Turkish because of his Armenian classmates. How sad to have a child living in fear. We talked about distinguishing between the government and people.

This brought back memories of living with fear during the American hostage crisis when I lived in the Washington D.C. area. I was scared to say I was from Iran. If I said I was Armenian, I had to explain that Armenia was part of the Soviet Union—and the typical reply was, “You are a communist.”

I thought of Hrant Dink, the editor of Agos newspaper in Istanbul, who was a progressive Armenian writer who was assassinated in Turkey. I mentioned to this young mother that thousands of progressive Turks marched in Istanbul holding signs reading “We are all Armenian. We are all Hrant Dink.”

We need to teach our young generation that even though the government of Turkey is fascist and corrupt, and even though there are many fanatic Turks, we cannot generalize. We cannot plant the seeds of hatred in our youth.

My mother taught us this many years ago. My mother was ahead of her time.



Karine Armen

Karine Armen (Kurkjian) is a freelance photographer. She has an M.A. in educational administration from California State University, and a B.A. in photography and social work, from the University of Maryland. She has had several photography exhibitions in the Los Angeles area. Her work has been published in AIM (Armenian International Magazine), Ararat Quarterly, The Guardian, and the Glendale News-Press. Currently, she is an elementary school teacher at the Glendale Unified School District. Karine attended two photography treks: Portugal (October 1999) and China (October 2000). She is fluent in English, Armenian, Farsi, and Spanish. Karine’s first poems were in Armenian and Farsi. Since May 2005 she started writing poems in English. Recently she edited, translated, wrote the commentary, and published her mother’s self-help book Inner Heaven.


  1. The headline is accusatory. It assumes as truth what isn’t. Armenians justifiably hate Turks who deny the Genocide. Armenians have no love for Turks who say Turks might have mistreated Armenians but “let’s forgive and not talk about the past.” Bah, humbug.

  2. “Armenian” is a curse word in Turkey. Aliyev today said “Armenians are no friends to the Muslim world.”

    Who hates who here?

  3. Armenians don’t “hate” Turks. That’s a lot of nonsense by those who think that the Genocide is simply history.

    In reality, Armenians are asserting their rights, and they recognize that Turkey poses an existential danger to Armenia today.

    Turkey was about to invade Armenia in 1993, for example. While Russia is somewhat unreliable as an ally of Armenia, if it were not for Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan would have jointly invaded Armenia.

    The danger of genocide has not passed.

    Forget the “hate” part. It makes the person who thinks it’s a matter of “hate” look ridiculous.

  4. The burden is not on Armenians to prove that they do not hate Turks, because Armenians have not done anything to warrant a presumption that they hate Turks.

    Instead, the burden is on Turks to prove that they do not harbor the same hatred their ancestors did when their ancestors committed the genocide.

    Articles like this reinforce the Turkish Government’s framing of the issue–that Armenians are the problem and Armenians are the ones harboring prejudice. We need to be more savvy before writing things like this.

    • “Armenians have not done anything to warrant a presumption that they hate Turks.”
      let’s just forget about those armenian scumbags who murdered around 10.000 muslims in Republic of Van.

  5. Shallow article. Does nothing to address the hatred and bigotry ordinary Turks have towards Armenians. Last I checked there was no state sponsored anti-Turk propaganda from Armenian govt taught at schools. Theyve always pushed the ideal of peace. Can the same be said about Turkey and Azerbaijan?

  6. “Distinguishing between the People and the Government”.

    Ms Armen, I don’t mean to downplay your good intentions, but the title of this article is already wrong before the article even starts. The problem is, Turkey’s current government is the perfect representation of its people. Your proposal is correct in theory, but incorrect in practice, because we are dealing with Turkey, not Switzerland or Sweden.

    When a reversal takes place where Turkey’s 90% fanatical genocide deniers become 10%, then such articles might have a positive message to share. Until then, such ideas can actually do more harm than good. Turks are the ones that have work to do in the realm of ‘do not hate’, not us.

    • So was Trumps Propaganda the “agenda” of your ur people? To generalize like this is simply lazy and ignorant. Truth is, young Turks and Armenians (from the motherland) can care less. It’s the ARMENIANs abroad that are mucking up the waters. BTW, you have no right to tell the Armenians who stayed how to feel and live.

  7. Dear Karine, Thank you for your article and thank you for mentioning “The Survivor”. As you had quoted some lines from my book, I take this opportunity to clarify my thoughts. Only some lines do not justify the idea of the complete book.
    As a sociologist and historian, I don’t think that we are in a position or we should or can forgive a person or a nation for being unjust towards us.
    God is the only One Who can forgive.
    We only can go over it for our good. A normal person will not be able to function correctly, if his/her heart is full of hatred.
    But this does not mean that we have forgiven or forgotten their actions. Nothing can repair or replace the sufferings that were imposed on our grandparents, and the survivors.
    As I mention at the end of the book, I am only hoping that at least the Turks will recognize the sufferings that they have afflicted to our families. I hope that day will come, when they will have the courage to say that they are Sorry for their grandparent’s actions.
    It is only on that day that my grandparent’s bones will find the eternal peace.

  8. I’m a Turk from dad side and I live in Turkey. Since my childhood, we were thought we never did this but they insulted us here. But when I grew up I decided to search because what if … what if they did? Because no one is perfect even my grandfathers so I searched but when I searched in Turkish all articles were pro Turk. So, I decided to search in English and found here. If that really happened I will never forgive my grandfathers….

  9. Unfortunately it isnt just the government problem. Turks have been so brainwashed by multiple dictatorships that they dont know the truth. Most of them refuse or dont want to confront the truth

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.