22 March 2007

1530) Halacoglu & Sarafian Emails

Yusuf Halacoglu, head of the Turkish Historical Society (TTK), late last month started an initiative for a joint academic study of the so-called Armenian genocide claims and in particular a alleged mass grave site near Harput, southeastern Anatolia, but his Armenian counterpart Ara Sarafian rejected the TTK head's invitation, for reasons which became the subject of much media speculation. TNA said late last month that a joint commission of scholars could conduct excavations near Nusaybin to determine whether the recently unearthed grave contains the remains of Armenians and Assyrians, another people claimed to be massacred by Turks.

However, when Sarafian refused the invitation of Halacoglu, the excavation plans were shelved.

TNA now reveals the details of the process and the email traffic between the two academics over the issue, based on the documents made available by Halacoglu himself.

The details and the emails are as follows:

Fatih Altayli from Sabah daily claimed in his March 13 column that Yusuf Halacoglu, head of the Turkish Historical Society (TTK), refused to open up all the archives and show certain documents. "His Armenian counterpart Ara Sarafian decided not to meet with Halacoglu, claiming that there's no meaning in the meeting if some documents are hidden or not shown," wrote Altayli.

Likewise, Mehmet Ali Birand headlined his March 14 column "Armenians score a goal." Based on Altayli's statements, Birand claimed that the meeting was cancelled due to our unwillingness to share some documents and he asked, "Then why do we invite these people?" Ismet Berkan from Radikal daily also claimed that Halacoglu is reluctant to meet with historians.

Halacoglu stated that he already declared the facts in a March 9 press conference and gave reporters copies of emails between Sarafian and himself. "No, I repeat that neither have I been unwilling to open the archives, nor have I said I would only open only a part of them," said Halacoglu. "Moreover, I don't have any authority to hide documents or not show them. Every person who does research knows this. The administration of the State Archives belongs only to the State Archives General Directorate." Halacoglu added that all archives regarding Armenians are open to researchers at http://www.devletarsivleri.gov.tr

"So the accusations of journalists Altayli and Birand are untrue," said Halacoglu, and added that he has always been willing to cooperate with foreign colleagues, especially Armenian ones, on this issue. "I'll continue to my efforts to cooperate," he said. "As for Sarafian, emails send by him to me and my replies were given to reporters, and anyone who wants to read them is welcome. If those mails are examined carefully, it's clear why Sarafian changed his mind. On such a sensitive subject, everyone should be more careful not to lead to misunderstandings."

First email of Ara Sarafian dated Feb. 22:

Dear Dr. Halacoglu,

I am writing to thank you for agreeing to undertake a case study of the events of 1915 in the Harput area. I hope that we will be able to reach a better understanding of our different positions on this period. I certainly look forward to examining Ottoman deportations records from Turkish archives today.

Since you accepted our offer, I would like to publicize our preliminary agreement and use the opportunity to raise some funding and to approach specialists for the work ahead. I hope you will also be able to find the means to carry out the work in Turkey as well. I realize that the work ahead will not be easy for either one of us.

Perhaps we can arrange a meeting in Ankara some time soon and meet face to face. I will keep you updated on a weekly basis. Should you wish to discuss any matter with me, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Ara Sarafian

Email I sent on Feb. 26 in reply:

Dear Dr. Sarafian,

I received your mail. I want to thank you, too. No one can understand each other on this issue better than us, I guess. Please don't fall prey to newspaper reports. They write many things according to their biases. Let's set a date to work together and talk face to face. Let's determine the principles, what kind of work we'll conduct, who will be on the committee and which archives we'll research. We have to work on these issues. Let's have a dialogue directly, not via the newspapers. If this isn't inconvenient for you, would you write your letters in Turkish? In Turkey almost everyone supports the idea of working together. This will be a good start. We are scholars and accept the result we get.

Wishing you success.


Yusuf Halacoglu

Reply of Ara Sarafian dated Feb. 28:

Dear Dr. Halacoglu,

I have been following developments on Turkish news channels and I am sorry we couldn't proceed with our joint project.

The project I suggested last week was in good faith. I thought it would be both challenging and productive for both of us. If the relevant Ottoman records you previously characterized as meticulously kept are not available, then we cannot proceed. Obviously I am disappointed.

I hope we will be able to work together on new projects in the future. Next time I will write to you directly and avoid any undue public discussion.


Ara Sarafian
Gomidas Institute,

My reply mail dated Feb. 28:

Dear Dr. Sarafian,

I have to say that your mail disappointed me. I told you that I'd be glad to cooperate with you. We would be do research in Ottoman archives and see what happened together. I mentioned that meeting face-to-face would be better. I can appreciate your condition. Until I receive a reply to my mail, I'll inform no one. Maybe you could change your mind. As you know the one who told the newspapers first wasn't me, but you sent your mail to the papers. I await your reply.

Yusuf Halacoglu

22 March 2007
New Anatolian


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