Opinion | 01.04.10 | 11:31
Commentary: A Turkish journalist’s observations from Yerevan
There is an urban legend existing for some time.
According to that, Armenia is so poor that it wants the borders to Turkey to open as soon as possible. This way either they can leave for Turkey easily or improve their quality of life with an increase in trade.
This legend may have been true to some extent in the 1990s.
I went to Yerevan a few times in the 90s and I indeed encountered a very poor Armenia. The only place to stay was the Yerevan Hotel where mice ran in the corridor. The streets and buildings were in a bad shape and the quality of life really bad.
With independence in 1992 it slowly started to change and today the improvement in Yerevan has really stunned me.
In place of the ruinous Yerevan Hotel there is now a Marriott and the number of hotels in the city has increased to 10.
Streets have been repaved. Cobblestone pavement or trolley rails cutting into tires have been replaced with streets looking new and clean.
Shopping alleys with their glamorous lights and foreign brands reflect people’s purchasing power. The abundance of restaurants, casinos and nightclubs has stunned me. Previously the number of movie theaters not exceeding two or three in this capitol of 1.5 million now has a very colorful nightlife.
Don’t get me wrong.
Based on what I wrote in the beginning please don’t think that Armenia has become rich and people are living a gorgeous life now. What I am trying to say is that there is no poverty anymore. To describe Armenia’s general situation it would be more correct to say “they are living a moderate lifestyle.”
I wanted to draw your attention to what I hear quite often here. In case the borders are kept closed, Armenians will continue living the way they used to live for the past 17 years and they are not willing to do anything to provide for the opening of the borders.
In return if the borders are opened Armenia will get rid of an embargo and life will become easier. The country will not become rich over night, but life will be easier in many ways. If there won’t be any consent and borders remain closed, then Armenia still won’t die of poverty. Let’s not forget that the opening of borders and lifting of an embargo will support the Armenians morally in negotiations with Azerbaijan. Turkey would seem to support Armenia, even if not as much as Azerbaijan, which is not something to be ignored.
That is why the dispute over borders creates excitement as well as an “It’s not the end of the world” attitude.
Opening borders will also benefit Turkey
To tell the truth, no one knows how much the opening of borders will contribute to Armenia’s economy. Some research shows that the contribution will be moderate to high level, based on investments and trade traffic. But we should not forget that not only Armenia will benefit from this contingency, but also Turkey.
- Armenia, through Turkey, will be able to open up to Middle Eastern and European markets. It will be able to increase the export of goods and import goods cheaper compared to present conditions.
- With the opening of borders tourism from Europe and the Armenian community in Turkey will increase.
- Armenia will be able to sell electricity to Turkey.
- It will also be able to use Turkey’s Black Sea and Mediterranean ports to spread trade.
- Armenia will become a country through which energy lines will run.
- Turkey will also encounter important benefits from the opening of the borders. Regions like Van and Kars will revive in trade and tourism. Goods of Turkish origin will be cheaper in the Armenian market due to short cuts in transportation currently transportation is via Iran and Georgia which makes import quite expensive.
- More importantly Turkey will reach Middle Eastern markets easier. Currently transportation takes too long.
Nobody imagines a life without genocide or the aftermath
The Armenians are so focused on and linked their hopes to Turkey accepting the genocide so much so that they turned it into their lifestyle and when one day Turkey finally accepts it you’d think the world stopped spinning.
When talking to students I asked: “What would you do if Turkey accepted genocide? Would they then ask for territory or compensation?”
They were stunned and didn’t know how to respond.
Genocide has become part of their life so much so that they can’t think of a world in which genocide is an issue any more.
When asking the same question to academics and formal authorities I realized that the aftermath of genocide has never been considered.
It’s interesting but a belief exists in the lines of “Other countries may accept, but it’s hard to make the Turks accept it.” When digging deeper you’ll find two factors. One is that behind these genocide allegations there is no territorial claim but beneficiaries who lost their homes and still hold on to the title deed could sue for compensation. However this issue also seems to far-fetched. Another factor is that even if the protocols were approved in parliament the realization of the historians’ commission in respect to genocide issues would encounter such deep resistance that it would make it almost impossible.
It’s not going to be easy.
It seems very difficult for the Armenian society to ignore a possible suspicion brought about by historians who will pick a subject to pieces which the Armenians are sure the world has already accepted.
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