'We have been broken with your absence' - open letter to Osman Kavala

Dear Osman,

I did a DNA test recently and learned I’m 99.6 % Western Asian, specifically from Antep, Dersim and Harput. However, this test can’t tell me that I am specifically Armenian. I’ve grown up with this identity and language; it is one I claim with joy.

But my Armenian grandparents and great- grandparents spoke better Turkish than Armenian. And I know that we - Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks - shared the lands my ancestors came from. We lived together.

I see now that this is reflected, literally, in our cells. DNA informs us from ​where in the world we come,​ and we all come from the cradle of civilization. But nations are constructed. They are not biological.

So I sit with the questions of “​What is Armenianess? What is Turkishness?​” As human beings, do we break each other for ideological and/or national differences?

In June, a tiny ceramic bowl from Turkey you had gifted me broke in transit from Berlin to Los Angeles. At first disappointed, I was struck with the idea of putting it back together through the ancient Japanese art form of ​Kintsugi, using gold to reattach the broken pieces. The extraordinary thing about this process is the object becomes stronger in the places where it was fractured. Of course now it also bears a beauty in what could have been seen as its imperfection.

I find this to be a very fitting metaphor. Osman, you’ve been like a ​Kintsugi​ artist in the world - recognising that the places where we are broken out of necessity attract our attention. We belong to each other as human beings - we simply cannot afford to hate, to break each other, to throw each other away.

And now, two years since you’ve been imprisoned on fabricated charges, we’ve been broken with your absence. You’ve been the nucleus of a community that simply needs to find our commonality. Our connection to and love for you has brought many of us in contact, even as you have sat in Silivri prison: a Syrian-Armenian actress/writer, a Turkish professor, a Kurdish puppeteer ... the list goes on and on. Inspired by you, we come together to create; like ​Kintsugi gold you weave us together.

Even though you have been physically separated from us, you’ve continued to catalyse connections!

This is a true testament to the power of love.

It is said, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” I met you at a pivotal moment of an artistic journey/ancestral excavation. Osman, your friendship, guidance, support, and inspiration dismantled my lifelong fear of the other.

The humanitarian work you so passionately have devoted your life to, bridging differences among us through cultural and artistic dialogue and appealing to our highest nature as human beings, was an astonishing example of compassion in action.

​It was with you that I awakened to the knowing that we must do this healing work together.​ In commitment​ ​with open hearts, in dialogue, in painful vulnerability - ​this ​is the recipe to overcome fear and brokenness ... Despite darkness, in fact in spite of it.

The places where we are broken can be the very ground of our awakening - and can necessitate the discovery of our inner gold.

Osman, you changed my life in helping me find my purpose.

As I sit here and ponder the grave injustice of your imprisonment, and the politics of divisiveness that so often attempt to silence the art of love, I’m ever inspired by your patience and wisdom of character.

Like all great teachers, you’ve done your work quietly, humbly, and simply - for the joy of doing it, for the sole purpose of service to humankind, with the goal of making people more whole and, yes, more joyful. In a wonderful bit of irony, this unjust imprisonment has now shed a very clear light on the invaluable work that you have done, that you do, that you will do.

You’ve been recognised with a Freedom of Expression Award, European Cultural Heritage Award and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In a world where misguided forces attempt to maintain power through division and fear, you’ve worked to dispel the ignorance of that delusion. You’ve been a bold, brave example of the truth that ​it is not through separation that we thrive, but through our interconnectedness. The​ wisdom of teachings points us towards this knowing.

When the great Indian sage the Ramana Maharishi was asked, “how do we treat the other?” he replied elegantly, “there is no other.”

Osman, you’ve lived your life in this very way, inspiring so many to do the same. The force of what you’ve catalysed in the world - this connectedness - continues to grow in spite of injustice. Human beings can be physically imprisoned, but there is no imprisoning love.

The community you’ve so lovingly woven together sits with you in unshakable solidarity and grows.

“Gerçeklerin bir gün açığa çıkmak gibi kötü huyu vardir,” goes the great Turkish expression; “truths have a bad habit of coming to light one day.”

We call collectively on humanity’s highest nature and we wait for you, our golden brother.

With great love and respect, your Antepli, Dersimli, Harputlu, Halepli (Armenian) sister,


© Ahval English

The views expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.