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For the participants of the “Eyes of Cultures” project the first place to visit in Turkey was the town of Mus in May 21. A group of young people from Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey got the chance to see the old town of Mush which is still dominated by the ruins of old Armenian houses. Kids running around and trying to communicate with the foreigners accompanied the group for their short journey.
The second place to explore in Mus was nearby Cengili village which was named after the second biggest monastery in Turkey. Eyup Omur, the Mukhtar (this is how the locals call the mayor of the village) of Cengili village nearby Mus hosted the participants at his house. The group gathered around a tea table together with some villagers. Eyup Omur took responsibility of showing his guests around and telling the history of the famous monastery. As he told, in 1918 when Kurdish people started settling in the village they used the church (then occupying 16000 sq km ) to make houses . The villagers got 366 rooms out of the monastery. A little part of the monastery has been saved as a church. According to the Mukhtar, before 2009 the church was used as a store for the villagers. Only in 2009 when he became the mayor of the village he ordered to empty the church and now, as he said, he is trying to cooperate with people who will be willing to rebuild the church. “Ermeni, Kurdish and Turkish kardeslerdir.”[Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish people are brothers], he says when participants are already to leave.The visit to Haspet castle was another way to go together and another experience of exploring a historical monument located in Mus area. A local Armenian from the nearby village and Kurdish young people joined the participants on their way to the castle.
Murat bridge was the last destination to be explored in Mus. After completing the program, that is taking photographs, participants joined a group of local young people who were having their graduation party. Hand to hand, shoulder to shoulder they danced together and felt the spirit of unity.
Participants of the project also met with Hayrettin Aslan, the President of “Daron” Armenian association in the town of Mus. Heyrettin Aslan shared his experience about how it is to have an association which is meant to contribute to the prosperity of the Armenian culture in Modern Turkey.
After a day full of emotions for some participants and adventurous for others, participants shared their feelings about their impressions and perception of Turkey-Armenia relations before the project and after the part of their participation in it.
Gor, 27, from Yerevan: “Perception of Turkish people has always been positive for me because the past events are not the fault of the people but the government. But now I am disappointed that there are still people who don’t accept the Genocide but I do not blame them because this is what they learned at school, as they tell. Also, I feel sorry and even more disappointed now as I saw and realized that we as Armenians have lost that much of our cultural heritage. There should not be a discriminatory approach when it comes to cultural heritage and historical monuments but what I witnessed in the places that we visited made me truly upset: all I saw was just disrespect towards a culture, a nation and a history. But there is also a positive thing to be mentioned: I have met a lot of people who take care of historical monuments no regardless of who it belonged to. And also I met people who were sorry and ashamed of what their old government did.”
Kaan, 25, Ankara: “I don’t think about nations at all. Well, what makes me think about something or someone doesn’t depend on where it is from it depends on who it is or what it is. The only chance to learn about the relations between Armenia and Turkey is generally the Media but I prefer not to get any influence from it, so, what I care about the relation is just about being me individually and someone that I get in touch with. I feel unfortunate to see those monuments destroyed and abandoned. The saddest thing for me to see was that people had used the stones of the church, which was destroyed in the war in 1915, to build their houses or to build a school.”
Toma, 23, Akhalgori: “I knew this story of the Genocide of Armenians, Kurds and Greeks by the Ottoman Empire. But I have friends in Georgia who are Armenians and Kurds who migrated from the east part of Turkey and I didn’t have any special expectation that there will be any special problems because 100 years passed after the Genocide. My family and I left our hometown because of the war and the ethnical cleansing of Georgians from this part of Georgia. After one year I met Ossetian people and had no problems thus I thought it would be the same in this case as well and there will not be problem when they [Armenian participants] see their cultural heritage. I didn’t see any bad stereotypes because I had not talked about the Genocide with the people.”