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      Turkey To Acknowledge Genocide by 2015

Turkey To Acknowledge Genocide by 2015   10/11/2005

Turkish Scholars Expect Turkey To Acknowledge Genocide by 2015

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

While a few Turkish scholars on rare occasions have individually
participated in Armenian conferences, never before has an all-Turkish panel
addressed an Armenian audience on issues related to the Armenian Genocide.
Such a unique conference took place at UCLA last Sunday.

The first indication that there were special sensitivities at this academic
gathering was a sign at the UCLA campus directing the guests to the building
where the conference was being held. It said: “Armenian Studies Conference.”
A curious passerby, noticing that the second word, “Studies,” was
handwritten on a piece of paper and taped over the sign, tore off the paper
revealing that the sign originally read: “Armenian Genocide Conference.”

Prof. Richard Hovannisian, the organizer of this conference, said that he
had anticipated 300 people to be in attendance. More than 800 showed up,
obliging some of the speakers to repeat their remarks to the overflowing
crowd at an adjacent hall. Also in attendance was a representative of the
Turkish Consul General in Los Angeles, to make sure that Ankara is properly
briefed on these proceedings.

The first speaker was Dr. Taner Akcam of the Dept. of History at the Univ.
of Minnesota. He said that even though successive Turkish governments had
“purged” the Ottoman archives of evidence linking Turkish leaders to the
planning and execution of the Armenian Genocide, there are still many
Ottoman records that provide ample circumstantial proof of this crime.

Dr. Akcam quoted from several documents located in the Prime Ministry’s
archives that clearly showed the government’s detailed plans to deport
Armenians not just from Anatolia, but from throughout what is today Turkey.
Contrary to Turkish claims that Armenians were merely deported from the
border area with Russia, Prof. Akcam presented evidence that 30,000
Armenians were deported form Istanbul alone and thousands more from other
towns hundreds of miles away from the war zone.

Dr. Akcam revealed that these deportations were pre-planned with the intent
of immediately repopulating the Armenian regions with Muslim immigrants in
order to create a “pure Turkish/Islamic state.” He pointed out that when the
Armenian population of a particular region was reduced to below 10%, the
local officials were ordered to stop any further deportations and killings
from that area.

Regarding the confiscation of the properties of deported Armenians, Dr.
Akcam said that despite the government’s public announcements at the time
that they were entitled to compensation, not a single Armenian received such
payments. Some of the Armenian properties were given to Muslim immigrants.
Other Armenian assets were sold in order to finance the Turkish war effort,
pay the expenses of the Armenian deportations, or build schools and prisons.

Dr. Akcam ended his talk by predicting that the Turkish government would
recognize the Armenian Genocide by the year 2015, the same year as Turkey’s
hoped-for membership in the European Union.

The second speaker was Dr. Elif Shafak of the Dept. of Near Eastern Studies
at the Univ. of Arizona. She emphasized the value of “micro-studies” in
putting a face and a name on the victims of atrocities. She said that for
today’s Turkish youth, history starts with the year 1923 -- the
establishment of the Republic of Turkey, whereas Armenian youth have a much
longer historical memory. She referred extensively to the life and writings
of Zabel Yessayan -- an Istanbul novelist at the turn of the last century --
who documented the personal suffering of Armenians during both the 1909
Adana massacres and the subsequent Genocide.

Dr. Shafak said she wanted to see a democratic Turkey. “We need to face our
past,” she told the audience. “Turkey had transitioned from a multi-ethnic
empire to a homogeneous state,” Prof. Shafak said. Turkey has undergone not
only “an ethnic cleansing, but also a linguistic cleansing.”

The final speaker was Dr. Fatma Muge Gocek of the Dept. of Sociology and
Program of Women’s Studies at the Univ. of Michigan. She related the twists
and turns of the conference on Ottoman Armenians that was finally held in
Istanbul last September after several postponements.

According to Prof. Gocek, some of the Turks attending the Istanbul
conference revealed that they were the grandchildren of Armenians abducted
or sheltered by Turks during the Genocide. She stunned the audience by
estimating that there may be up to 2 million Turks who are partly of
Armenian ancestry!

She also expressed the hope that by the year 2015 Turkey would recognize the
Armenian Genocide. “Armenians have been wronged, but have not been able to
mourn their losses, because of the Turkish denials,” she said. Dr. Gocek
concluded by advocating that Armenians be given Turkish citizenship and the
right of return. She said that Turkey was “the common homeland of both
Armenians and Turks.”

During the question and answer period, Dr. Akcam explained that in terms of
next steps, Turkey could either just apologize or go as far as paying
compensation and making restitution for the Genocide. He said that there was
a wide range of possibilities between these two options. He acknowledged
that this was more of a political rather than an academic issue. He
concluded by saying: had Turkey acknowledged the Armenian Genocide in the
1920’s, other human rights violations may not have taken place later on in
that country!

This was a fascinating conference for the local Armenian community. Many of
them had never before heard Turks talking about issues related to the
Armenian Genocide. All three speakers were repeatedly interrupted with
enthusiastic applause.

Prof. Hovannisian thanked the Turkish scholars for their participation and
promised to the audience that a future conference would deal with the issues
of reparations and territorial demands from Turkey.


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