Last month Rotterdam held its annualÂ International Film Festival. I thought it would be fun to go, so I started to search forÂ films and decided to look at the films whose title started with a Z (myÂ thinking being how could you possibly come up with a film name starting withÂ the letter Z?!). The first film was listed asÂ ZaraÂ and since itâ€™s my name spelled backwards, I decided to go.
The film is written and directed by aÂ Kurdish filmmaker. Itâ€™s the story of a young Kurdish girl that goes back to herÂ village (Zara) after having spent over a decade away. The show I saw was theÂ European premiere, so the Director, Producer and others were present for aÂ brief Q&A after the show. They mentioned the film took a long time to getÂ into production because getting funding was hard; main reason being wasÂ that it is a very melancholic and sad film (and of course lots of people donâ€™tÂ really want to see films like that).
Kurdish people do have a quite sadÂ history. Now Iâ€™m not saying that theyâ€™ve been perfect; every race/culture hasÂ had its share of hurting others. My understanding is the recent history hasÂ been particularly painful as Kurds have been denied their right to exist as aÂ race and their right to have sovereignty over a territory they see as theirÂ home.
The film was indeed quite melancholic.Â What struck me was that I could relate to their sadness. Growing up in CanadaÂ as part of the Armenian Diaspora, I experienced a lot of this sadness in myÂ family and in the Armenian community. The sadness is mostly around whatÂ Armenianâ€™s describe as Turkeyâ€™s denial of the genocide, which took place inÂ 1915. I remember my father telling me stories about why his mother was anÂ orphan; that she saw her parents killed in front of her eyes, because herÂ father was a priest and the intellectuals were the first ones killed. He wouldÂ describe the pain she experienced of being forced to walk through the desert inÂ Syria to finally end up with her sister at an orphanage in Aleppo.
Growing up hearing these stories shapedÂ my understanding of truth. However as I read, explored, and experienced theÂ world I discovered that this was not the version of truth held by others. I gotÂ the chance to challenge my understanding of the truth by engaging others in aÂ meaningful dialogue on this topic as I explored their stories with them. I haveÂ the fortune of having several Turkish friends who are quite dear to me.Â Together weâ€™ve discovered so much in common about ourselves, our cultures, andÂ actually had the chance to talk about our versions of the truth, what it means,Â and how it makes us feel. One of my good friends who I went on my first trip toÂ Armenia has a Turkish mother, and an Armenian father, and speaks both languages. And I fell in love with Istanbul when I went there andÂ definitely plan to visit again soon.
I remember being in Puerto Rico in 2006Â and I met a systems engineer who wanted to find an internship to Turkey. WhenÂ he found out that I have an Armenian heritage he said, â€œso then you donâ€™t likeÂ Turkey right?â€. I was shocked by this statement. It made me realize that someÂ people donâ€™t look at me as a person; they look at me as a race.
I recently read this statement in anÂ article, â€œyou canâ€™t hate someone whose story you knowâ€. I believe that this isÂ the way for people to start looking at each other as humans. Sharing with eachÂ other our stories, our versions of the truth, is for me the only way that weÂ will ever be able to find the “T”ruth.
I capitalized the T in truth as I doÂ believe that there can be one universal truth. I also accept that reality isÂ shaped by the perceiver. My hypothesis is that we can only arrive to the TruthÂ by sharing, understanding, and empathizing about our multiple truths. I believeÂ this can open the door to ending hatred and finding peace.
The only sad part I remember of beingÂ in Istanbul was when I was in line to get food in the cafeteria. The man youÂ served me looked at me and asked, â€œTurkishâ€? I said no and I explained that IÂ am Canadian and Armenian. The smile on his face suddenly disappeared and wasÂ replaced by a cold hard stare. It made me wish we could communicate so I couldÂ learn his story.