Next time the Turkish Ambassador to India is in the City of Joy, he “hopes to visit” the Armenian community. In fact, he wants to facilitate their visit to Turkey, according to The Hindu.
Burak Akcapar, an independent scholar of Turkish history, is the first Turkish envoy to advocate a meeting between the Armenians in the city and a government representative since India’s Independence. Mr. Akcapar was there to launch his book on the Indian medical mission to Turkey to treat Ottoman soldiers injured in the Balkan War of 1912-13.
The number of Armenian Christians in Kolkata has dwindled from thousands to some 500. But many of them still assemble every year in the 18th century church to pray for their ancestors killed in the genocide. The Armenian descendants say the Ottoman government exterminated the minority Armenians in today’s eastern Turkey, their “historic homeland”.
Mr. Akcapar did not apologise, but he took a step forward. “I hope to reach out to the Armenian community here,” he said. “I also like them to go to Turkey to reach out to us. My door is open to the Armenians of Kolkata and I would be happy to meet them,” he told The Hindu before the launch of his book at Oxford Bookstore.
Later, he tried to find out about the community. “I need to know about them,” he said. “Perhaps, I have not come prepared for this, and will plan to meet them on my next visit.”
He said many Turkish Muslims were also killed during the time. “We both have suffered and still shared a lot of our past for thousands of years — we should both hug and cry,” he said.
A city-based historian said the Turkish envoys had never displayed “any willingness to connect the communities” divided by a 100-year-old tragedy.