Attaining Innocence -- Overcoming Turkey's Dark History

Four years ago, my father passed away in Turkey. My mother and I went there this year to settle some undealt paperwork.

"It was only two years ago that I learned of your existence, there was a TV series in which one of the characters named Joseph, was the Assyrian/Syriac," the administrator of the municipal office said unashamedly.

She has since traveled to my native city Midyat in southeast Turkey - to see for herself - the old grounds of Assyrian / Syriacs. I pointed out my childhood home on a picture she showed me. She carefully asked my mother and I about why my Turkish is poor, why we left the country, and why we never moved back. Her nervousness made her drop some papers on the floor. She held up her sun-bleached hair with a pair of Louis Vuitton sunglasses, wearing a gray sleeveless top and a skirt.

Outside you could hear the call to prayer - it was the month of fasting - Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Most outdoor cafés were still full of people who either drank traditional tea or ate ice cream. They were dressed as if in any other tourist resort. I told her about my grandparents' suffering, why my parents are illiterate, and about how we got stuck in Sweden; because they were afraid that something would happen to us children if Turkey ended up in war with Greece. A Christian country fighting a Muslim country. The Christians in Turkey were therefore seen by some as the enemy.

She wanted to know about the genocide of my people in the shadow of the First World War. When I told her most of my grandmother's family was thrown into a well after being brutally murdered, as well as how my grandmother survived the well, the tears began to flow from the administrator's eyes. With wet eyes, she ordered tea for us while I gathered her papers that had fallen by my feet. Mother felt safe with our new acquaintance. She couldn't stop talking about the five Assyrian / Syriac girls, briefly kidnapped from school when she was a child. The scare tactics, so Christians could be excluded from education. That is why my mother can't write. "It feels like I'm the perpetrator, as if it is I who has kidnapped and killed. I have gone to the best schools in the country, researched at one of the better universities.

"You are our country's shame, the fact that you don't even exist in teaching materials means I can never trust research again."

While she wiped away her tears, she asked if there were books about us in Turkish. I thought of the book I am reading this summer, "The last Christian", how it keeps me awake at night. The author Klaus Wivel traveled to Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria to answer the question if Christians are persecuted. What he saw shocked him, and he managed to convey the feeling. This is a book that should be in every school, the book that all politicians ought to read. But it has barely been mentioned, with only Swedish and Danish versions available.

She asked a vital question. "I read the newspapers in other languages. Why don't journalists report on the expulsion of non-Muslims currently taking place in many Muslim-dominated countries?"