1478) Sarafian bows to diaspora pressure, says Halaçoglu

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The possibility of joint research by Turkish and Armenian historians into the 1915 tragedy of Anatolian Armenians -- described by Armenians as a genocide but contested by Turkey -- has fallen through, Yusuf Halaçoglu of the Turkish Historical Society (TTK) announced yesterday in Ankara, blaming Armenian diaspora pressure for the failure. . . .

Late last month, following an open call from Armenian origin British historian Ara Sarafian of the London based-Gomidas Institute, Halaçoglu expressed readiness for a joint case study on the treatment of Armenians in Harput in 1915.

However, in an electronic message sent to Halaçoglu on Feb. 28, Sarafian said: "If the relevant Ottoman records you previously qualified as meticulously kept are not available, then we cannot proceed. Obviously I am disappointed."

Sarafian was referring to Halaçoglu's remarks during a television interview when he said that Sarafian might not be able to find what he was looking for in the Ottoman archives.

Disclosing Sarafian's message at a press conference, Halaçoglu urged Sarafian to disclose what documents he said he had regarding the events of 1915.

"I particularly want to stress that Mr. Sarafian has probably been subject to pressure," said Halaçoglu. "As a matter of fact, a news report published by [bilingual Armenian-Turkish newspaper] Agos said that the Armenian diaspora was very angry with Sarafian because of his proposal to study together with Turkish historians," he added.

"A big opportunity for both Armenians and Turks has been missed after Sarafian gave up the idea of studying together. In spite of this, we will continue keeping our doors open."

Earlier this week, the Gomidas Institute released a press statement and quoted Sarafian as saying: "Primary sources outside of Turkey indicate that the 1915 deportation of Armenians and the liquidation of their properties were regulated by Ottoman state authorities. Armenians were deported under the auspices of Ottoman officials. And most deportees were killed through privations and outright massacres on their way or in their places of exile (most notably Der Zor). Our sources indicate that there never was a resettlement program as historians defending the official Turkish thesis suggest."

The Gomidas Institute said it hoped that Halaçoglu would "explain why he thinks that the Ottoman deportation and resettlement registers the Gomidas Institute requested do not exist -- especially those on Harput and its environs."

Halaçoglu also announced he had agreed with historian David Gaunt of Södertörns University College in Sweden to conduct joint research and jointly open mass graves in Nusaybin in the southeastern Anatolian province of Mardin which Armenian historians say may contain the remains of victims of the alleged 1915 Armenian genocide.

For some time, Halaçoglu and Gaunt have been negotiating a date for a meeting in Mardin. Gaunt offered to come to Turkey between April 23 and 25, Halaçoglu explained and added that he had no hesitation to conduct the opening of the gravesite on April 24, the anniversary of the alleged genocide, thus he accepted Gaunt's proposal for the date.

The mass grave in Nusaybin was discovered by villagers in August 2006. The area where the mass grave lies is on a line of ancient defense works and underground storage rooms dating back to Roman times. Halaçoglu, with a confident tone, reiterated his theory at the press conference that the remains are from Roman times.

Separate samples from the remains will be analyzed both in Turkey and Sweden as well as at an international institute which the Turkish and Swedish delegations will determine jointly, Halaçoglu said.

Today's Zaman Ankara

President of the Turkish History Association, Professor Yusuf Halaçog(lu, said on Friday that British historian of Armenian origin Ara Sarafyan had backed away from a planned initiative for joint studies on the alleged genocide of Armenians.

At a press conference yesterday, Halaçog(lu said the British historian had informed him via e-mail that Sarafyan would not participate in the joint studies. “I am watching the developments from the Turkish media; I am sorry that we'll not be able to move ahead with the joint project,” Sarafyan said in his message to the Turkish historian.

Showing the press a copy of Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, which published an article “Diaspora reactions to Sarafyan,” Halaçog(lu said the article in the bilingual paper indicated why Sarafyan gave up the project.

Halaçog(lu also said mass graves claimed to belong to Armenians and Assyrians in Mardin would start to be opened on April 24, the commemoration day of the alleged genocide.
March 10, 2007
ANKARA – Turkish Daily News


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