Trauma and forgiveness: comparing experiences from Turkey and Guatemala
Çelik, Ayşe Betül and Kantowitz, Riva (2009) Trauma and forgiveness: comparing experiences from Turkey and Guatemala. In: Bloch-Schulman, Stephen and White, David, (eds.) Forgiveness: Probing the Boundaries. Probing the Boundaries. Inter-Disciplinary Press , Oxford, pp. 179-190. ISBN 978-1-904710-62-2
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Guatemala and Turkey are both examples of countries that have experienced violent conflicts in the past two decades. Turkey’s ongoing Kurdish Question, which took place primarily between PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan - Kurdistan Workers’ Party) combatants and the Turkish military, occurred between 1984 and 1999, involved a short-lived period of negative peace between 1999 and 2004, and has sparked again in recent years. In Guatemala a brutal ethnic conflict resulting in the death of 200,000 people was fought for 36 years between the military regime and the URNG (Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca); it peaked between 1981 and 1984, yet persisted until the Peace Accords were signed in December of 1996. Although occurring in two different political and cultural settings, both of these conflicts had lasting consequences on individuals who continue to suffer from memories of disappearances and murders, as well as communities subsumed in collective trauma resulting from the ongoing effects of violence. In this paper, we will comparatively study individual and communal understandings of justice, acknowledgment of past mistakes, forgiveness, and trauma. The data for the Guatemalan case come from Riva Kantowitz’s fieldwork in Guatemala from 2003 to 2005, and the data for the Turkish case come from A. Betul Celik’s fieldwork in the southeast Turkey during this same period. In the following sections, we will briefly present relevant literature on forgiveness and reconciliation and discuss personal reflections from victims regarding their readiness (or not) to forgive the perpetrators, as well as the way in which a lack of forgiveness and reconciliation affect communities and society, and the comparative nature of these cases (i.e., is there any relevant transfer of learning from one case to another?) In the last section, we will discuss the comparative results and use these to make an argument for a multiple-level conceptual understanding of forgiveness. The paper focuses not on the process of trauma but its affects on the victims’ understanding of justice and forgiveness.
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