New Publication about Diyarbakir: Migirdich Margosyan’s “Gavur Mahallesi” (Infidel Quarter)

Next week Gomidas Institute/Aras Yayinevi will release the English translation of Migirdich Margosyan’s “Gavur Mahallesi” [Infidel Quarter]. This is a wonderful translation of a wonderful book about Diyarbakir. Advance orders get free postage and packaging. Please support such publications.

Migirdic Margosyan had the courage to write about his hometown Tigranakert (Diyarbakir) in the 1980s. And more daring than that is his translating it into Turkish. His important and courageous venture in telling the story of the Armenian past to the Turkish public is a pacesetter. Gavur Mahallesi (The Infidels’ Quarter, 2006), the new Turkish version of his Armenian short stories, depicts the every day life and struggle of Armenians of the post-World War II Diyarbakir (a Turkish city in the vicinity of Tikranakert) segregated in their quarter, the quarter of the infidels. The modus operandi was to always stay low key and not to irritate the Muslims, who despised the non-Muslim and looked at them as the enemies of their homeland.

The inhabitants of the Gavur Mahallesi knew well that they are the continuation of the “rejects of the sword,” a humiliating, demeaning term that the Turks invented to call those Armenians who somehow managed to stay alive. “Rejects of the sword” is a term used to this day, a loaded phrase that carries the history of a nation, the state of mind and psychological disposition of the survivors of a great catastrophe. But they also learned how to cherish their ancestral land, symbolized in their village, without bringing about the suspicion of the authorities. Young Migirdic learned to sing the praise of Hretan, his father’s native village, and lament the scattering of its sons and daughters. He learned to yearn for Hretan he had never seen, and where now only Kurds lived.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mıgırdiç Margosyan is a native of Diyarbakir and a popular, award winning author. His works include “Söyle Margos Nerelisen?” (1995), “Biletimiz İstanbul’a Kesildi” (1998), and “Dikrisi Aperen (Dicle Kıyılarından)” (1999). The current title, Gavur Mahallesi, was first published in Turkish (1992), then Kurdish (1999) and now appears in English (2017).

ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR: Matthew Covanec is a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin, where he studies modern Turkish and Arabic literature.

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