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In Istanbul, a Crack In the Wall of Denial
Old 27.09.2005, 09:34   #1
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Default In Istanbul, a Crack In the Wall of Denial

In Istanbul, a Crack In the Wall of Denial
We're Trying to Debate the Armenian Issue
By Elif Shafak
Sunday, September 25, 2005; B03

Iam the daughter of a Turkish diplomat -- a rather unusual character in the
male-dominated foreign service in that she was a single mother. Her first
appointment was to Spain, and we moved to Madrid in the early 1980s. In
those days, the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia, known as
ASALA, was staging attacks on Turkish citizens -- and diplomats in
particular -- in Rome, London, Zurich, Brussels, Milan and Madrid; our
cultural attach? in Paris was assassinated in 1979 while walking on the
Champs-Elysees. So throughout my childhood, the word "Armenian" meant only
one thing to me: a terrorist who wanted to kill my mother.
Faced with hatred, I hated back. But that was as far as my feelings went. It
took me years to ask the simple question: Why did the Armenians hate us?
My ignorance was not unusual. For me in those days, and for most Turkish
citizens even today, my country's history began in 1923, with the founding
of the modern Turkish state. The roots of the Armenians' rage -- in the
massacres, atrocities and deportations that decimated Turkey's Armenian
population in the last years of Ottoman rule, particularly 1915 -- were
simply not part of our common historical memory.
But for me today, and for a growing number of my fellow Turks, that has
changed. That is why I am in Istanbul this weekend. I came to Bosphorus
University to attend the first-ever public conference in this country on
what happened to the Ottoman Armenians in and after 1915. As I write, we are
fighting last-minute legal maneuvers by hard-line opponents of open
discussion to shut the conference down. I don't know how it will turn out --
but the fact that we are here, openly making the attempt, with at least
verbal support from the prime minister and many mainstream journalists,
highlights how far some in my country have come.
Until my early twenties, like many Turks living abroad, I was less
interested in history than in what we described as "improving Turkey's image
in the eyes of Westerners." As I began reading extensively on political and
social history, I was drawn to the stories of minorities, of the
marginalized and the silenced: women who resisted traditional gender roles,
unorthodox Sufis persecuted for their beliefs, homosexuals in the Ottoman
Empire. Gradually, I started reading about the Ottoman Armenians -- not
because I was particularly interested in the literature but because I was
young and rebellious, and the official ideology of Turkey told me not to.
Yet it was not until I came to the United States in 2002 and started getting
involved in an Armenian-Turkish intellectuals' network that I seriously felt
the need to face the charges that, beginning in 1915, Turks killed as many
as 1.5 million Armenians and drove hundreds of thousands more from their
homes. I focused on the literature of genocide, particularly the testimony
of survivors; I watched filmed interviews at the Zoryan Institute's Armenian
archives in Toronto; I talked to Armenian grandmothers, participated in
workshops for reconciliation and collected stories from Armenian friends who
were generous enough to entrust me with their family memories and secrets.
With each step, I realized not only that atrocities had been committed in
that terrible time but that their effect had been made far worse by the
systematic denial that followed. I came to recognize a people's grief and to
believe in the need to mourn our past together.
I also got to know other Turks who were making a similar intellectual
journey. Obviously there is still a powerful segment of Turkish society that
completely rejects the charge that Armenians were purposely exterminated.
Some even go so far as to claim that it was Armenians who killed Turks, and
so there is nothing to apologize for. These nationalist hardliners include
many of our government officials, bureaucrats, diplomats and newspaper
They dominate Turkey's public image -- but theirs is only one position held
by Turkish citizens, and it is not even the most common one. The prevailing
attitude of ordinary people toward the "Armenian question" is not one of
conscious denial; rather it is collective ignorance. These Turks feel little
need to question the past as long as it does not affect their daily lives.
There is a third attitude, prevalent among Turkish youth: Whatever happened,
it was a long time ago, and we should concentrate on the future rather than
the past. "Why am I being held responsible for a crime my grandfather
committed -- that is, if he ever did it?" they ask. They want to become
friends with Armenians and push for open trade and better relations with
neighboring Armenia . . . . as long as everybody forgets this inconvenient
claim of genocide.
Finally, there is a fourth attitude: The past is not a bygone era that we
can discard but a legacy that needs to be recognized, explored and openly
discussed before Turkey can move forward. It is plain to me that, though it
often goes unnoticed in Western media, there is a thriving movement in
Turkish civil society toward this kind of reconciliation. The 50 historians,
journalists, political scientists and activists who have gathered here in
the last few days for the planned conference on Ottoman Armenians share a
common belief in the need to face the atrocities of the past, no matter how
distressing or dangerous, in order to create a better future for Turkey.
But it hasn't been easy, and the battle is far from over.
Over the past four years, Turks have made several attempts to address the
"Armenian question." The conference planned for this weekend differed from
earlier meetings in key respects: It was to be held in Istanbul itself,
rather than abroad; it would be organized by three established Turkish
universities rather than by progressive Armenian and Turkish expatriates; it
would be conducted completely in Turkish.
Originally scheduled for May 23, it was postponed after Cemil Cicek,
Turkey's minister of justice, made an angry speech before parliament,
accusing organizers of "stabbing their nation in the back." But over the
ensuing four months, the ruling Justice and Development Party made it clear
that Cicek's remarks reflected his views, and his alone. The minister of
foreign affairs, Abdullah Gul, announced that he had no problem with the
expression of critical opinion and even said he would be willing to
participate in the conference. (As it happens, he has been in New York in
recent days, at the United Nations.)
Meanwhile, the Armenian question has been prominently featured in Turkish
media. Hurriyet, the nation's most popular newspaper, ran a series of pro
and con interviews on this formerly taboo subject, called "The Armenian
Dossier." The upcoming trial of acclaimed author Orhan Pamuk, charged with
"denigrating" Turkish identity for talking about the killing of Kurds and
Armenians, has been fervently debated. Various columnists have directly
apologized to the Armenians for the sufferings caused to their people by the
Turks. And stories have been reported of orphaned Armenian girls who saved
their lives by changing their names, converting to Islam and marrying Turks
-- and whose grandchildren are unaware today of their own mixed heritage.
All this activity has triggered a nationalist backlash. That should be
expected -- but organizers of the Conference on Ottoman Armenians were
nevertheless surprised last week by a crafty, last-minute maneuver: a court
order to postpone the conference pending the investigation of hardliners'
charges that it was unfairly biased against Turkey. The cynicism of this
order was clear when we learned that the three-judge panel actually made its
decision on Monday; it was not made public until late Thursday, only hours
before the conference was to begin.
Organizers said they would try to regroup by moving the site from Bosphorus
University, a public institution, to one of the two private universities
that are co-sponsors. We were encouraged by the immediate public reaction:
Not only did some normally mainstream media voices denounce the court order,
but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in televised interviews, repeatedly
criticized it as "unacceptable." "You may not like the expression of an
opinion," he said, "but you can't stop it like this." Foreign Minister Gul,
in New York, lamented what effect this would have on Turkey's quest to join
the European Union: "There's no one better at hurting themselves than us,"
he said.
Whatever happens with the conference, I believe one thing remains true:
Through the collective efforts of academics, journalists, writers and media
correspondents, 1915 is being opened to discussion in my homeland as never
before. The process is not an easy one and will disturb many vested
interests. I know how hard it is -- most children from diplomatic families,
confronting negative images of Turkey abroad, develop a sort of defensive
nationalism, and it's especially true among those of us who lived through
the years of Armenian terrorism. But I also know that the journey from
denial to recognition is one that can be made.
Author's e-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>
Elif Shafak is a novelist and a professor of Near Eastern Studies at the
University of Arizona. She commutes between Tucson and Istanbul.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
Есть люди, которые всегда идут в первых рядах; в случае успеха они объявляют себя вождями, в случае поражения - говорят, что их гнали вперед как заложников. (c)

Old 27.09.2005, 10:24   #2
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[edited later]
Interesting article.

Old 27.09.2005, 11:00   #3
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Armenian rebuke deals blow to Turks' EU ambition

By Stephen Castle in Brussels
Published: 24 September 2005

Turkey received a direct rebuke from the European Commission yesterday after a court ruling prompted the cancellation of a conference of historians to discuss the massacre of Armenians early in the last century.

Coming just 10 days before Ankara is due to open EU membership negotiations the judgement prompted an unusually blunt condemnation from the Commission, which described it as "yet another provocation".


Old 27.09.2005, 12:05   #4
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Бел, это та же Элиф Шафак, чьи статьи я дважды постала тут... смелая баба

Old 27.09.2005, 12:09   #5
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Кто-нибудь в курсе, где можно найти полный список участников этой конференции?

Old 27.09.2005, 18:26   #6
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agust- this was special for you >(

Old 29.09.2005, 13:06   #7
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Armenian Conference At Istanbul University In March 2006

Published: 9/26/2005

ISTANBUL - An ''Armenian Conference'' will take place at the Istanbul University in March 2006, said university sources today.

In a press release, the IU Rector's office said that Istanbul University will hold a conference on the Armenian problem by wide international participation and on basis of international criteria.

''The participants, including lawyers, scholars and politicians, of countries who have adopted resolutions accepting and remembering the so-called Armenian genocide will be invited.

The Istanbul University will study the matter based on its historical mission and with an objective look. The Armenian problem will not only be handled from an historical perspective but also from a legal, political and sociological perspectives.

''The participants will handle the topic from various angles possible scientifically,'' said the IU press release.


Old 13.10.2005, 14:13   #8
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Турецкий историк Халиль Берктай считает, что события 1915 г. есть не что иное, как «геноцид»

Октябрь 12, 2005

Турецкий историк Халиль Берктай в своей речи на семинаре НАТО ”Rose Roth” заявил, что события, имеющие место в Османской империи в 1915 году, могут быть квалифицированы исключительно как «геноцид». В интервью журналистам историк также заявил: «Я не знаю, каким будет конечное дипломатическое решение по армянскому вопросу, но это важный показатель развития демократии в Турции», сообщает информационное агентство «Ноян тапан».

Согласно Халилю Берктаю, в Турции есть отставные генералы, радикальные националистические партии, средства массовой информации, которые против членства страны в Европейском Союзе, некоторые люди бывают слишком рады, когда европейские должностные лица высказываются против вступления Турции в ЕС. «Они надеются, — продолжает турецкий историк, — что Европейский Союз может совершить крупнейшую политическую ошибку и потребовать, чтобы признание Геноцида армян стало прямым предусловием для начала переговоров».

Халиль Берктай выражает мнение, что армянский вопрос будет решен, если Турция достигнет полноценной демократии и свободного обсуждения проблемы. Уже есть очень значительные внутренние силы, которые сражаются за демократию, за открытое общество. Эти силы, в частности, и требуют полной свободы в обсуждении армянского вопроса. Многие шаги на пути к этому уже сделаны, и Халиль Берктай убежден в необратимости данного процесса.

Напомним, что турецкий профессор Халиль Берктай был главным организатором конференции по армянскому вопросу, прошедшей в Стамбуле в сентябре.


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