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I think amne­sia is the word you use also for those suf­fer­ing from Alzheimer’s. In Turkey, amne­sia has become a way of life, or of sur­vival, and a way of governing.

But Alzheimer is not only a sim­ple string of episodes of amne­sia. It includes a loss of mean­ing, a cri­sis con­di­tion that grows from episode to the episode announc­ing the next. If Turkey was a per­son, on top of its per­ma­nent prob­lem of repres­sion lead­ing to a gen­er­al­ized psy­chosis, you could say that as it grows old­er, it cul­ti­vates all kinds of mem­o­ry loss­es, indica­tive of proven Alzheimer.

Oh, I just remem­bered why! I was pil­ing the media rags of 2020 into stacks when it came back to me.

You know how there is always a week about some­thing to sell or to blath­er about, the week of bed linens, the week of agri­cul­ture, the week of energy…Everybody has one of those in their coun­try. For instance, once Wom­en’s week is over, they hur­ry to make us for­get it with the week of Turk­ish men’s strength.

Well, while I was putting away the rags, only in the three past months, I was able to make stacks of the Syr­ia week, the gas week, the Libya week, the HDP trai­tors’ week, the Ottoman great­ness week, the Hagia Sophia week… In short, a bunch of stuff I had for­got­ten since the last week of the “Armen­ian dogs” was bare­ly inter­rupt­ed by a tem­po­rary cease-fire. From the look of the lat­est edi­tion in my hands, I have the feel­ing they are announc­ing a Cyprus week out of which I can make anoth­er stack.

News out of which you can make lit­tle piles tied with string before hand­ing them over to Alzheimer. The only point they have in com­mon is the sound of boots and of cocked guns. Have you noticed? From whence cometh I, in what con­di­tion do I wander?

The only news that stays in my mind through it all is the “hap­pi­ness of being Turk­ish”. Because, ever since my ear­li­est child­hood, I was made to repeat this oath, over and over and over again. Here again, I’m sur­prised that this should be the only com­mon fea­ture shared by all that is hap­pen­ing. Now that I’m way over my eight­i­eth year, I wonder.

There are at least two sta­ble ele­ments in my Alzheimer: Turci­ty and mil­i­tarism, the nation and war…I’m get­ting bet­ter, I sense I’ll be able to go home soon.

But, I hes­i­tate. Because there are also in-between stacks. Stacks of “domes­tic news”. Gen­er­al­ly, you can clas­si­fy them under “asso­ci­at­ed ter­ror­ism”. From the con­fis­ca­tion of the goods of a jour­nal­ist’s who was forced into exile to the denun­ci­a­tion and dis­play­ing of this human rights defendor or that oth­er one, mov­ing on to the pro­hi­bi­tion of a play inter­pret­ed in Kur­dish, you can choose your head­lines. All of them are “ter­ror­ists”. Where are the judges ! With this, we fall into vol­un­tary Alzheimer. Or, if you pre­fer, the vital neces­si­ty for self-censorship….

So to refresh my mem­o­ry, I read the “for­eign press”. You know, the one that tells us about the beau­ti­ful sec­u­lar Turkey pri­or to Erdoğan. And there, while read­ing arti­cles that hov­er between anti-Turk­ish racism on the theme of things were so much bet­ter bet­ter and those who make a gen­er­ous use of erasers when cov­er­ing the dam­age caused by Turci­ty, I tell myself I had for­got­ten that Alzheimer can also be contagious.

And I remember.

I remem­ber that Turkey is about to have just one cen­tu­ry of exis­tence. I remem­ber that in the upheavals of the end of empire at its birth, in my moth­er’s days in fact, pop­u­la­tions came from all over to repop­u­late this coun­try which, in the midst of a world war, went on assas­si­nat­ing and deport­ing what was left of Arme­ni­ans, Yezi­di, Syr­i­acs, then the Greeks, Jews, then… From my moth­er’s childood to this day, this coun­try has always mas­sa­cred those it calls its “minori­ties” and blamed “for­eign­ers”. If my moth­er had kept her old news­pa­pers and I had kept all of mine, they would ooze blood and mil­lions of tears on my floor.

Take a his­to­ry book on Turkey: Alzheimer. Even the word geno­cide is tabu. There is talk of crises, of nation­al rev­o­lu­tion, of the dif­fi­cult child­birth of the repub­lic. And we hide the amne­sia under Atatürk’s astrakan bon­net. We don’t remem­ber and we have been using the eras­er for a cen­tu­ry now. We won’t be cel­e­brat­ing the repub­lic, we’ll be cel­e­brat­ing the eras­er and those who use it so well. Alzheimer for all! And a dose of mus­lim opi­um at will! And for those still in doubt, a reminder of Ottoman glo­ry. So much for the past and its commemoration!

The Ottoman wash­es whiter because he com­bines a desire for pow­er, dear to our nation­al­ists, and the Sul­tan’s nos­tal­gia as he reigns on his peo­ple of Islam. And the sky turns blue, so does the prayer rug. I read some­where that this was expressed in some­thing called the “tur­co-islam­ic syn­the­sis”. But oth­ers talk about it much bet­ter than I can. And I call again on all those in Europe still yam­mer­ing about “the beau­ti­ful Turkey pri­or to Erdoğan” and invite them to read all that before talk­ing about what they only know from their con­tacts with Istan­bul’s Kemal­ist circles.

Nor have I for­got­ten that if our old-time sol­diers, those that were known as “the Repub­lic’s pro­tec­tors”, always ready for a coup d’é­tat, no longer blow their trum­pets in the name of pow­er, it is because the Euro­pean Union helped Erdo­gan to remove them. Here again, Alzheimer strikes because that was less than twen­ty years ago, just as a cer­tain sus­pi­cious coup d’é­tat less than twen­ty years again was used again as an eraser.

And where are they now, our hand­some be-rib­boned and be-medalled ones? Some mas­sa­cred Kurds in 2015–16, some­thing they have always been adept at doing, then they made room for oth­ers still mas­sacring Kurds, this time with the help of beard­ed ones in uni­form in Syr­ia. Removed from pow­er, they are now inte­grat­ed in the a more glob­al mil­i­ta­riza­tion of Turk­ish soci­ety. That’s syn­the­sis for you!

When I see Alzheimer applaud­ing the vic­to­ries of lit­tle “Mehmet” on our bor­ders and well beyond, on what cur­rent neo-Ottoman delir­i­um calls “our lands” I tell myself these per­ma­nent con­di­tions of cri­sis end up eras­ing all con­science, all mean­ing to reality.

I’ve for­got­ten the rest.

Here again, in Turkey because of the hap­pi­ness of being Turk­ish, Covid-19 does­n’t only erase taste and smell, it eras­es mem­o­ry also.


Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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