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Blood Apricots, Part I and II

by Keghart.com Editorial Board. April 27, 2011 and April 20, 2012.

Posted: Saturday, September 01, 2012 at 05:17 PM UT



Blood Apricots, Part I

by Keghart.com Editorial Board. April 27, 2011.

“Our individual and collective efforts to obtain justice for 1915 become a cruel farce when we buy Turkey-made goods.”

— Keghart.com Editorial Board

Last year Keghart.com ran an editorial, condemning citizens of Armenia who vacation in Turkey. It was unfortunate that we had to comment on a trend which should never have emerged.

Nowadays there’s another regrettable Armenian behavior, here in North America. We are referring to Armenians who see nothing wrong in buying Turkish goods, especially food products. The trend is not as high profile, public or blatant, but still it’s as hurtful to the Armenian nation as the unconscionable sun seekers of Yerevan. We have no way of measuring the volume or dollar value of these made-in-Turkey product purchases. However, that’s of secondary importance in this debate.

Our individual and collective efforts to obtain justice for 1915 becomes a cruel farce when we buy Turkey-made goods. What would be the reaction of odars, who are familiar with our recent history and Genocide recognition campaigns, when they hear Armenians are merrily shopping for Turkish sweets and biscuits? What kind of message are we sending denialist Turks who would love to believe we are slowly giving up our sacred cause, the memory of our 1.5 million martyrs. As well, what kind of hypocritical message are we sending to our children? How can we have the Ararat vista on the living room wall when we are serving Turkish pickles in the kitchen?

It’s not just pickles. It’s dried apricots, it’s hazelnuts, it’s figs, halva, olive oil, spices, candies, biscuit, denim jeans, towels, shirts and more.

Those who say we should separate Turkish individuals from their government and not boycott Turkish goods, are sadly mistaken. Turkish businesses, often heavily subsidized, are one with Ankara. It’s Turkey Inc. in every way, except in name. For example, prominent Turkish businessman, Kaan Soyak, funds his denialist campaigns through his import/export firm. The recent and newfound political and military confidence of Turkey is to a certain extent rooted in the country’s healthy economy. Buying Turkish goods further fattens Ankara coffers.

Besides, why buy Turkish products when there are alternatives from other Middle Eastern countries? Every product line listed above is also available from neighboring countries. Quality and price are also none issues since there isn’t much difference between Turkish and other Middle Eastern products and prices.

These Turkish products often come from Western Armenia and Cilicia. The “Turkish” hazelnut or apricot you put in your mouth might have come from trees planted by your ancestors on Armenian land. Armenians who were slaughtered by the Turkish government and irregulars. Everyone has heard of the “blood” diamonds of West Africa. How about the blood apricots, hazelnuts, olives…of Turkey?

Some Armenians, who wish to excuse their disgraceful behavior, might point out that the Republic of Armenia imports millions of dollars worth of Turkish products. We would like to remind these lame apologists of what many an Armenian father, over many generations, has advised his children: Yetteh engert daniken tsadkeh, toon al guh tsadkehs? (“If your friend jumps from the roof, do you follow suit?”

A few days ago we commemorated the Genocide. We gathered, listened to impassioned speeches, sang songs, perhaps wept. Then we went home. These remembrance gatherings would be hypocritical and a waste of time, unless they are followed by action--no matter how small the initiative seems. 

An Armenian boycott of Turkish products will not bankrupt Turkey; it wouldn’t even make a dent on their economy. However, as we said, that’s not the point. The boycott should be an automatic, part and parcel of our cause. A boycott will also make us proud that we do follow our words by action. A boycott would—even if in a small way—help our communities come together in a demonstrable collective action.

Next time you pick up that jar of olives at the Middle Eastern grocery store, please check the label, and put it back if it says, “Made in Turkey.”

 

Blood Apricots, Part II

by Keghart.com Editorial Board. April 20, 2012.

Our individual and collective efforts to obtain justice for 1915 become a cruel farce when we buy Turkey-made goods.

Keghart.com published the above in an April 27, 2011 editorial titled “Blood Apricots”. We condemned Armenians in North America who think nothing of purchasing Turkish goods from supermarkets.

The question now is more dire: what does an Armenian shopper do when her Armenian-owned Middle Eastern store begins to carry a wide assortment of Turkish food products? This new development—hurtful and inexplicable—has materialized since our 2011 editorial. Whether it’s Arz Bakery in Toronto or Kradjian in Los Angeles, some Armenian groceries have begun to import Turkish goods with unseemly enthusiasm. Once a tiny portion of its inventory, now Turkish packaged foods make up anywhere from 25% to 30% of the packaged food items at Arz Bakery.

A few years ago one could see the occasional Turkish pickled eggplant or imam bayelduh on Middle Eastern grocery shelves. Now it’s an avalanche, particularly at Arz. Blghour, tomato paste, biscuits, chocolate, jam, hot pepper, apricots, cucumber pickles, pasta, rice, tea, black olives, gherkins, sauces, frozen foods, pastries and even croissant from Turkey have begun to dominate the packaged food inventory of Arz Bakery. The names of Turkish food brands and manufacturers—Alafia, Baktat, Basak, Berrak, Bernak, Burcu, Cicek, Dimes, Dogus, Esme, Filiz, Marmarabirlik, Reis, Tamek, Tukas, Turkes blaze across the aisles, making one feel she is in an Ankara supermarket.

In addition to the above, there are Turkish dry fruit offerings which are difficult to identify, since they are sold loose.

Turkish domination at Arz has been boosted by other recent developments: the sale of non-food Turkish items such as tea cups; the packaging of Turkish goods under the Cedar and Phoenicia brand names. These names are synonymous with Lebanon. We have no idea why Turkish goods are parading under the Lebanese flag. A few weeks ago Arz committed another faux pas. While in the past the Turkish products were packaged goods, Arz has extended Turkish presence to fresh produce, namely lemons. Cilicia is the lemon heartland of Turkey. Five years ago (most recent statistics) Turkey exported 286,213 tons of lemon, mostly from our Giligia, now Turkified to Cukurova. The lemon at Arz was exported by Aksun Agricultural Products of Mersin, near Adana. Our lands, which were stolen from us through butchery and deportation, are being exploited to sell us fresh produce. And the seller is an Armenian family.

Finally, the Toronto grocery store has begun to sell…(gasp)…Azeri pomegranate juice called AzPom. Pomegranate brought to you with the compliments of people who daily threaten the destruction of Armenia/Artsakh. The satiric possibilities would challenge Hagop Baronian, Yervant Odian, and Saroukhan.

One could say that spotlighting a few stores is unfair. There are other Armenian grocery stores in Toronto and elsewhere in North America, which are selling Turkish food products. However, Arz Bakery’s and Kradjian’s special place in their respective communities justifies our focus. Arz is not just another store: it’s the most successful Armenian retail store in Toronto, if not in Canada. A significant percentage of its customers are Armenian. It arguably is the best Middle Eastern store in Toronto. It’s clean and the service impeccable. The store has supported, through advertising and other means, various community projects. Until the recent invasion of Turkish goods, it was a store Armenians were proud to patronize. In light of the vast expansion of Turkish presence at Arz Bakery (it means cedar—the symbol of Lebanon) we wonder about the reaction of Armenian shoppers to the sad development.

It could be said that Arz and Kradjian have every right to sell any food product. After all, Armenia buys millions of dollars of goods from Turkey. True. But Armenia does so because it has no choice. Besides, as we said in our earlier editorial—Yetteh engert daniken tsadkeh, toon al guh tsadkehs? (“If your friend jumps from the roof, do you follow suit?” 

Armenian grocery stores have a choice: they can import the same products from Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, even Saudi Arabia and Bulgaria. They can buy produce from Armenian produce exporters in California (Sam’s Son, Fowler Fruit Packaging, etc.). When California is a stone’s throw away, why cross an ocean and the biggest sea to buy from people who not only tried to annihilate us but also deny doing so, have blockaded our homeland, and threaten Armenia/Artsakh in case Azerbaijan attacks our brothers and sisters?

We are aware that Turkish business and government are often one. Turkish exporters are subsidized by Ankara. Turkey has a huge export dumping program.  Turkey ignores anti-dumping rules, just as it ignores justice when it comes to our demands. As a result of the underhanded Turkish government-business compact, the country has become the world’s largest producer of hazelnut, cherry, fig, apricot, quince and pomegranate. The price might be right, but do pride, conscience, the blood of our 1.5 million martyrs factor in the purchase decision?

An English poet said April is the saddest month of the year. He was not referring to our April. In a few days we will again gather in our churches, community centres, at genocide monuments in Armenia and in Diaspora to remember our martyrs and commit ourselves to securing justice from Turkey. How can we look into the mirror and say we are committed to our national cause when we blithely spread Turkish jam on Turkish-made croissants, drink Dimes fruit juice, prepare various Armenian dishes with Burcu blghour, and sip Basak Turk Kahvesi?

Arz and Kradjian management have every right to decide their inventory, but Armenian shoppers also have the right to decide which store to patronize.

At a Toronto cafe two Armenians were recently overhead discussing Arz. One of them said that as an alternative to Arz, he could hardly wait for a Canadian supermarket chain to open a rumored store specializing in Middle Eastern foods.

His friend pointed out that the Canadian supermarket might also sell Turkish products.

The first man said, “I will still buy from the Canadian store. After all, Turkey didn’t kill 1.5 million Canadians.



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