A group of Turkish and Armenian journalists are traveling throughout Turkey, Armenia and Georgia from May 24 to June 6 in order to gain first-hand insight into their neighbors and to report in-depth about Turkish-Armenian relations from the field.
The group is scheduled to visit six places in Turkey: İstanbul, Malatya, Kayseri, Cappadocia, Ankara and Kars. Following these visits in Turkey, the group will travel to Armenia, where they will spend a week visiting cities and villages across the country, including Gyumri, Goris, Sevan and Yerevan.
Organized by the Global Political Trends Center (GPoT) of İstanbul Kültür University in partnership with the Yerevan-based Eurasia Partnership Foundation as part of the Support to Turkey-Armenia Rapprochement project and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Turkish-Armenian Media Reporting Bus Tour aims to establish a network for future reporting on Turkish-Armenian relations.
The group of 15 journalists started their tour in İstanbul on Thursday, visiting the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople in Kumkapı and the Hrant Dink Foundation, which was established in 2007 after the assassination of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, who was shot dead outside his newspaper’s office in Şişli on Jan. 19, 2007.
Nora Mildanoğlu, a member of the foundation, stated that Armenians in Turkey are not stuck in the past, adding that they want to develop a positive dialogue. “Internal dynamics are very important in Turkey. I believe that Hrant Dink’s assassination changed the dynamics in Turkey. Ten years ago, no one spoke about their origins. Now, people in Turkey are questioning their origins,” said Mildanoğlu, adding that change should not come from above but below. Mildanoğlu also said that the problems between Armenians and Turks should not be solved by third parties and that both countries should discuss their problems.
The journalists also met with Rober Koptaş, editor-in-chief of Agos, a weekly newspaper printed in both Turkish and Armenian.
Following their visit to İstanbul, the journalists traveled to Malatya, Dink’s birthplace, where they had the opportunity to visit old Armenian settlements and meet Turkish citizens of Armenian origin.
Serdar Boyacı, who is a Turkish citizen of Armenian descent and the head of the Malatya Armenians’ Organization (HAYDER), welcomed the journalists on Saturday and informed the group as to the situation of Armenians in Malatya as well as his organization’s work regarding the Armenian cemetery there. Boyacı stated that there are approximately 60 Turkish Armenians living in Malatya, adding that his organization’s main goal is to restore the old Armenian churches there, including the Taşhoran Church, which is approximately 800 years old.
The journalists also met Nilüfer Kısak, head of the Diyarbakır-based women rights foundation the Women’s Center (KAMER), in Malatya. Kısak informed the group as to the projects her organization is working on in partnership with the Hrant Dink Foundation.
The Turkish and Armenian journalists’ third destination was Kayseri, where they were accompanied by Dr. Aslıhan Doğan Topçu, an advisor for the documentary “Kayseri Ermenileri” (The Armenians of Kayseri).
They visited one of the oldest churches in Kayseri, the Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Church, and the province’s Armenian quarters, including Efkere and Talas, on Sunday. The group then met with Dr. Mehmet Metin Hülagü, director of the Center for Strategic Research at Erciyes University (ERUSAM) and a member of the Turkish Historical Society (TTK).