Tuesday, 13 March 2007

No joint study with Turkish state historian Ara Sarafian

In press releases that have been picked up by the Turkish media,
historian Ara Sarafian (Gomidas Institute UK) and Yusuf Halaçoglu,
the head of the official Turkish Historical Society, have been
negotiating a joint study on the events of 1915. (See "A joint
Armenian-Turkish study on the Genocide is proposed - but will it
go forward?," by Chris Zakian, Armenian Reporter, March 3).
On March 8, we asked Mr. Sarafianabout the status of the affair.

ARMENIAN REPORTER: Is there a joint study going on between
Ara Sarafian or the Gomidas Institute and Yusuf Halaçoglu,
the headof the Turkish Historical Society?

ARA SARAFIAN: No, there is no joint study going on.

Q: As I understand it, Mr. Halaçoglu proposed a collaborative study.
You responded by proposing a public, transparent exchange of key
documents as a first step. Mr. Halaçoglu responded that the
documents you want do not exist. Is that the situation in a nutshell?

A: Yes, that is correct.

Q: Please describe the documents you asked for.

A: The documents I asked for are linked to the ostensible deportation
of Armenians in 1915. According to Turkish historians arguing the
official Turkish thesis, Armenians were deported in 1915 according to
two key set of regulations. One concerned the systematic deportation
of people, and the other the resettlement of these people, and their
compensation in relation of what they had left behind. We have
reproduced these regulations on the Gomidas Institute web page

According to these two regulations, there should be two sets of
registers (as well as scores of other documents), for each village,
in each administrative region, giving detailed information on
Armenians who were deported in 1915.

As you know, I do not subscribe to the official Turkish thesis
denying the Armenian Genocide. However, I would be interested to
see any such records that were kept in 1915, as well as all the
gapswithin these records.

Q: What do you think such records would yield if they were available?

A: I would expect to find significant records on deportations and
confiscation of Armenian properties, but with no commensurate
records on resettlement and compensation. This would tell us about
the nature of the "deportations," that is, the expropriation of
Ottoman Armenians by the state, the colonization of their villages
by non-Armenians, and the obfuscation of the historical record.

Q: Do you believe Mr. Halaçoglu when he says these records don't exist?

A: I doubt Dr. Halaçoglu can account for the content of all Ottoman
archives in Turkey. There are several such archives in Istanbul and
Ankara, as well as provincial ones. These archives include
catalogued, as well as uncataloged materials.

I believe Dr. Halaçoglu found the focus of the proposed joint study
worrisome. After all, he is the head of an official state body which
is entrusted with upholding the foundation myths of modern Turkey.
The denial of the Armenian Genocide is part of those foundation myths.

Q: What questions, if any, does the absence of these documents raise
for historians?

A: The absence of these documents suggests that even according to
Ottoman records in Turkey, the deportation of Armenians in 1915
was not a law-governed process. It also suggests the bad faith
of modern Turkish state intellectuals who have published official
Ottoman regulations concerning the deportation of Armenians,
intimating that these regulations were enforced. As Dr. Halaçoglu
has admitted, there are no such records - or rather, there are no
such records, any suchrecords, available for the scrutiny of
historians. This sounds like a cover-up.

From Washington, in brief
by Emil Sanamyan
Turkey boosters admit they've "lost the battle for history,"
but carry on lobbying

Turkish Parliament members will be lobbying the U.S. Congress
against the Armenian Genocide resolution with the help of a
"Pink Book," the Turkish Daily News reported on March 2.
This colorful document "includes detailed information and
documents concerning the genocide allegation."

But even veteran Turkey boosters don't buy into this approach.
At a February 28 Open Society Institute roundtable discussion,
former U.S. ambassador to Turkey (1989-91) Morton Abramowitz
counseled on Turkish efforts to deny the Armenian Genocide:

"I think Turkey has lost, here at least, the battle of history.
I don't think there is anything you can do here which will convince
legislators that this is an open question, that you got to leave it
to the historians. I don't that it is, rightly or wrongly, an
effective argument here.

"And the basic argument and one that has been made repeatedly,
one that I made before the [1991] Gulf War . . . is the extraordinary
and important ties between the two countries which legislators must
understand and balance against whatever [are] their moral feelings.
This is the only reasonable argument that can have an impact."

Journalist Cem Sey with the Turkish service of Deutsche Welle
(Germany) added: "You said that Turkey has lost the historical
battlein the United States already. I believe Turkey lost it
everywhere in the world, including Turkey." Abramowitz appeared
to agree with that, as Sey continued: "Because after Turks
understood that there had been some hundred thousands people
died, everybody knew what happened. So, I think this is not
the debate.

"Therefore I don't believe a resolution in the United States, like
it was in Germany and other countries, that it will cause a big
problem between the two countries. There will be serious
[nationalist] backlash, I'm sure, but it will be temporary."

* * *

Another former Ambassador to Turkey, Mark Parris (1997-2000),
used the "Abramowitz argument" in his "Don't go cold on Turkey"
op-ed in the March 3 edition of the Wall Street Journal.
In its response, the ANCA recalled that souring of U.S.-
Turkish relations were "loudly but falsely predicted" when
President Reagan publicly affirmed the Genocide in 1981 and
whenever U.S. legislation referred to the Genocide, but
never materialized.

"Despite threats of retribution, Turkey has taken only token
steps against the European Parliament, Canada, France, Germany,
Italy, Belgium, Argentina, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland,
Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and other states and international
bodies that have recognized the Armenian Genocide. In fact,
despite all its threats in 2001 against France's recognition of
the Armenian Genocide, tradebetween France and Turkey grew 22%
the following year, and has grown by 131% over the past five
years," the ANCA response went on.

In his response letter, USAPAC's Executive Director Ross Vartian
argued that "it is long past due for the United States to reaffirm
Armenian and American history despite Turkish threats and to
support those in Turkey who serve democracy and reform by speaking freely."

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