By Hambersom Aghbashian
Gonca Sönmez-Poole is an American citizen of Turkish descent. She is a TV producer, filmmaker, writer, and a member of the Boston media community for the past 28 years. She has spent two decades working for WCVB-TV’s Chronicle program, followed by thirteen years managing her own nonprofit organization, Mediation Way, Inc.. She holds a BA in mass communication from Emerson College and is a graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy’s mid-career MA program. After earning her master’s degree, she has worked in television both within the United States and internationally, and since 2007, she has been volunteering for a number of Armenian-Turkish dialogue projects in and around Boston. She is the founder of TAWA (Turkish-Armenian Women’s Alliance), a grassroots effort among a diverse group of Boston-based Armenian and Turkish women who met at regular intervals between September 2012 and May 2014. For the past seven years, she has dedicated her free time to Armenian-Turkish dialogue work around Boston, Massachusetts.(1)(2)
In her article “Armenian genocide: Why many Turkish people have trouble accepting it” (May 4, 2012), she wrote “I now use the word genocide when speaking about the massacres of 1915 because doing otherwise would be a retreat into ignorance on two fronts, both intellectual and personal. I know I simply cannot go on denying the true depth of brutality and suffering brought upon the Ottoman Armenians, and the animosity and hatred 1915 perpetuated for nearly a century. On a more personal level, such a denial would be an affront to all of my new friends and acquaintances … not only because they happen to be Armenian, but because they are human beings whom I care about.”(3)
On May 4, 2012, Gonca Sönmez-Poole wrote in “Global post, “Many Turkish people, who are just starting to learn about their own history, feel that somebody is always trying to shut them up unless they start any sentence with the “G” word. Genocide is the word that encapsulates the events of 1915: large-scale deportations and massacres. To Armenians, this is known as the Armenian Genocide. Turkish people speak of the same events in the context of other factors that occurred during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. They don’t deny there were large-scale deportations and even murders. They acknowledge the killing of women and children as a result of the deportations. But they have a hard time describing all of this as “genocide.”(4)
“When they died“ is Gonca Sönmez-Poole’s article where she wrote“ …many Turkish people, don’t disguise the elephant in the room. Whether the realization comes after a quarter of a century, as it did for me, or overnight with luck and soul-searching, I believe that all Turkish people need to know and accept one simple truth: somewhere, somehow, an ancestor of theirs may have taken the life of an innocent Armenian person just because that person was Armenian. When that bit of information is understood, genuinely accepted, digested, and settled into the hearts and minds of every Turkish person, then, and only then, can we all start a new chapter. And in that chapter, the discussion will no longer be an argument about the term genocide, the definition of intent, or the total tally of killings on either side, it will simply be a discussion about the question we want to leave for our children to ponder: how do we deal with the “other”?(5)
“Elephant in the room” is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss. It is based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there have chosen to avoid dealing with the looming big issue.