553) Ottoman Empire Granted Broad Religious Freedoms To Non-muslim Minorities

NEW YORK - ''Non-Muslim minorities were granted broad religious freedom under Ottoman Empire,'' Omer Lutem, chairman of the Institute of Armenian Studies, said on Wednesday.
Taking the floor in a seminar at the New York Columbia University on ''Minorities in the Ottoman Empire'' Lutem said: ''according to sources, nearly 2 million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire. During the World War I, Armenians collaborated with the enemy, i.e. Russian forces. Therefore, the Ottomans had to fight against both Russians and Armenians. On the contrary of all allegations, Armenians were not deported. They were merely relocated in different parts of the empire. Some of them died during the transfer. However, Armenians exaggerated number of casualties and qualified the relocation as 'genocide'. In fact, number of killed Muslim civilians was much higher.''

''On the other hand, Armenians signed the Gumru Treaty in 1920 and acknowledged the borders drawn with the Treaty of Sevres. Therefore, they cannot have territorial claims from Turkey,'' he added.

Meanwhile, Eurasia Strategic Studies Center Chairman Gunduz Aktan said, ''there are personal and collective memories on one hand, and history on the other. Memories belongs to the Armenian diaspora. But the history is much more objective. We (the Turks) have also memories about the events. Dialogue and cooperation are necessary to form a common recollection. Actually, Turkey is the party which has launched initiatives to this end. Lately, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed to set up a joint commission, however, the Armenians rejected the proposal.''

Published: 3/22/2006



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