646) Turkish intellectuals' letter to Liberation: 'Armenian bill would cause grievous error'

An open letter from Turkish intellectuals sent this week to French daily Liberation urges the rejection of a bill that would criminalize the denial of the so-called Armenian genocide in France.
The letter was signed by Ahmet Insel, Baskin Oran, Elif Safak, Etyen Mahcupyan, Halil Berktay, Hrant Dink, Murat Belge, Muge Gocek and Ragip Zarakolu. It emphasizes that the 1915 incidents were a "disaster for humanity" and warns, "But whatever its aim, such a parliamentary act would destroy joint efforts to investigate the historical facts, so we especially ask our Armenian friends not to cause such an error."

The letter also recalls the efforts of Turkish intellectuals who organized the Istanbul conference on the Armenian issue held last year, even at the risk of being called traitors.

Here are excerpts from the letter:

"We, the Turkish citizens, feel all the burden of the inhuman disaster faced by the Ottoman Armenians during the last days of Ottoman Empire. The agony of Armenians is our agony. The 1915 disaster cannot be denied by anyone who claims to be human. Looking for the reasons and aims behind such a tragedy is nonsense.

"But the democratic process is on in Turkey, as was seen during the Istanbul conference held last Sept. 23-24. This process will chip away at the darkness confronting the public on that issue. Even though the people who struggle for this are branded traitors, we know that these are the stages of a democratic process, so we will keep on struggling through the issue.

"But we have serious concerns about the French Parliament's possible approval of the Armenian bill. Whatever its aim, such an initiative would destroy joint efforts to investigate the facts. Such an initiative would curb free discussion in France and would also create a negative impact in Turkey.

"Such polarization would encourage monologues, as France should very well know. In fact, we need dialogue more than such a vicious argument. Freedom of expression is a universal principle, just like the struggle for the crimes against humanity. Defending one does not mean neglecting the other.

"But today it's a shame that both sides are unable to communicate their understanding to one another. Such a deadlock carries the risk of further, more serious conflicts.

"The pioneers of such initiatives in France or in other places should take into consideration those circles who are trying to avoid free argument about the 1915 incidents.

"Sharing all our concerns, we especially warn our Armenian brothers not to cause a fatal error which could not be easily corrected."

Nursun Erel - The New Anatolian/Ankara


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