06 May 2007

1663) International Symposium On The Development Of Turkish-Armenian Relations And The Events Of 1915

Gazi University, Ataturk Research and Application Center, Ankara, Turkey, 23-25 November 2005

A three day symposium, dubbed by some as an alternate to the controversial Sept 24-25 Armenian Conference held at Bilgi University in Istanbul, ended today where over 50 presentations were made during 11 sessions by speakers from 7 countries, including Russia and the USA. However there were no speakers from France or the United Kingdom, countries repeatedly mentioned during the conference as having a direct responsibility in the creation of the Armenian issue, or from Armenia and the Armenians in Turkey or the Armenian Patriarchate either. The Armenian Patriarch of Kandilli attended the Istanbul Marmara Hotel conference, “The Loyal Nation of Armenians” Nov 19-20, 2005, organized by the Federation to Fight Against the Unfounded Armenian Allegations (ASEF). . .

As the presenters and the participants started coming in, the beautiful grounds of the Gazi University, where a huge mural with many likeness of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk greets the newcomers, was filled with police, 500 to 600 according to a female police, who was holding her rifle in her hand, in addition to the regular university security forces, which was a surprise. The number of police forces were increased on the last day when Dogu Perincek was scheduled to attend the conference, to prevent the occurrence of protests that took place last year, as stated by another policeman, although there were no incidents during the entire three day period.

Following the opening speech by Prof. Dr. Hale Sivgin, the chief organizer, who even made reference to the famous Orhan Pamuk comment on the Armenian issue, Prof Dr. Yusuf Halacoglu, the President of the Turkish Historical Society (1) made a speech on the long Turkish-Armenian relations. He stated that the tragedy should be studied by scholars with different views by setting up a commission and having all archives of the involved countries and organizations active during the period opened for their use. A tall order that will probably go to deaf ears on the Armenian side who do not want to hear the Turkish views, as has been proven in the past many times, and will not sit at the same table with Turks, whom they have now labelled as “genocide deniers” and keep their archives closed.

Deputy Parliament Speaker Sadik Yakut also made a presentation and said that the Armenian issue was a national problem which needs to be solved. Speaking on behalf of the Grand National Assembly and himself, Sadik Yakut stated that explaining to the world that the issue was not only related to the Armenians was the Turkish Parliament’s mission. It would have been fitting to hear AKPD Deputy Turhan Comez who has been involved with the Armenian issue, visited Armenia recently and written about his trip and also provided suggestions on improving the Turkish – Armenian relations.

Gazi University Rector Prof. Dr. Kadri Yamac, welcoming well over a thousand participants including many university professors and students, stated that history could not be written by the resolutions passed in parliaments and city councils, as it is being done now. Using a strong language, Prof. Yamac said that those who would like to see the Parliamentary Resolutions be accepted are either Armenians or their agents. During an earlier press conference, Prof Yamac stated that all the participants of the Bilgi Univesrsity Armenian conference were also invited, but that only Prof. Dr. Baskin Oran and Prof. Dr. Fikret Adanir agreed to make presentations.

The first session was chaired by Prof. Dr. Hikmet Ozdemir where Prof. Dr. Norman Stone spoke on “Historian of Armenian Questions” and made interesting comments that the fast growing Turkey is not wanted in the region and that the Armenian issue was being kept current not by the Armenians but by those who want to weaken Turkey. On the Armenain diaspora, prof. Stone remarked that the Armenian issue was being romanticized in order to keep it alive. A good example of this would be the play that was recently staged in NYC, “The Beast on the Moon.”

A presentation by Alexander Dugin “Eurasian Response to the Greater Middle East project” was very interesting, carrying the issue of a hundred years to current times, with reference to the role of the United States in the region . Other spekares included Prof. Dr. Resat Genc of Gazi University on “The Early Period of Turkish Armenian Relations and the Gegorian Kipchacks”, Prof. Dr. Temucin Faik Ertan of Ankara university on “Armenians in Ottoman State Cadres”, and Asst. Prof. Haluk Sevi of Sakarya university on “Activities of Armenian Bands 1900-1918”. However, there were no presentations on the relations with the Armenians who live in and call Turkey home.

The second session was moderated by Ambassador (Ret.) and a deputy from CHP, Sukru Elekdag, where Prof Dr. Hikmet Ozdemir spoke on “Clashes with the Armenian Militia from the Declaration of Mobilization to the Russian Occupation” and gave a detailed summary of the rebellions and clashes across the southern and eastern regions of Anatolia, identifying the time and the location of each rebellion and uprising, including those in Zeytoon, Adana, Sassoon. Prof. Ozdemir emphasized that he was presenting his paper on behalf of the “Military History and Strategic Research department of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

The presentation by Ast. Prof. Kalerya A. Belova of Moscow State University, “The interest of the Combatants at the Caucasian Front During WWI” was controversial and raised several questions which was elaborated on by participants from Azerbeycan and Prof. Ozdemir. Prof Belova repeated essentially what she had stated during yet another conference in 2002. Evidently she has not shown an interest in learning and speaking the truth about the Russian involvement in the Armenian issue, or simply she is not telling the truth.

One of the most famous speakers was Prof. Guenther Lewy, who travelled from the US at age 82 and made a presentation on, “What We Know and What We Don’t Know About the Events of 1915.” During his presentation, Lewy stated that 40% of pre-war Armenians were either killed or perished which translates roughly to 600,000. When he was asked on what he thought about Prof Halacoglu statement that only around 60,000 died and the validity of the 1.5 million figure used by the Armenians, he first stated that 1.5 million number was wrong and that Halacoglu number was not correct either. After the session was over , Lewy was asked about Ambassador Morgentahu book, which he referred to during his presentation as if he was concerned about the death of Turks, referring to a section where the Ambassador wrote about the terrible conditions that the Turks were in, he agreed that it was debatable (2).

Hasan Kundakci, (Lt. general, Rtd.) spoke about “The Law of Relocation: Its Causes and Execution.” The third session was moderated by Gunduz Aktan, who was at Edinburg, UK, early in November, speaking to the City Council members against the proposed Armenian Resolution together with Prof. Norman Stone. (Resolution was adopted by 29 in favour, 16 against votes, which is unjust and sad.) The speakers included Prof. Dr. Sina Aksin of Ankara University, Prof. Dr. Baskin Oran of Ankara university, Asst. Prof Inanc Atilgan of TOBB University, Omer E. Lutem of ASAM (Amb. Rtd.) and Prof Dr. Yusuf Halacoglu.

The fourth session was moderated by Mr. Halil Sivgin where Ass. Prof. Yusuf Sarinay (Director General of State Archives) spoke about “Armenian Relocation and Tribunals, 1915-1916. Dr. N. Bilal Simsir spoke about “Armenian Allegations and the Malta Deportees”, followed by a presentation by Ass. Prof. Feridun Ata of Selcuk University, “Can the Court Martial Tribunals Constitute Evidence for the Armenian Allegations.”

Sukru Elekdag spoke about “The Evaluation of Armenian Allegations From the Perspective of International Law.” Amb. Sukru Elekdag stated that “those who advocate Armenian thesis cannot prove their allegations within the context of the United Nations Conventions on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Article 4 of the Convention states that only persons and public officials can be accused of genocide, not juristic persons or states. Also, Article 6 of the same convention says that those allegations should be determined by competent tribunals.'' Stating that allegations have both political and legal implications, Amb Elekdag proposed that a court of arbitration should be formed to deal with the issue (3). When Amb Elekdag was reminded during a break that the British Parliament had responded negatively to the Turkish parliament’s request for a rebuttal of the infamous “The Blue Book”, which was reported in Zulfu Livaneli column in Vatan (Nov 22) and also in Radikal, Sukru Elekdag said that it was not final yet.

Prof. Dr. Turkkaya Ataov, first complaining about not being allowed to attend the Bilgi University Armenian conference in Istanbul, presented information on his involvement in the 1984 and 1985 Orly lawsuits in Paris and his stay there for five months in “I Support Free Discussion. With My Personal Experience.”

The fifth session was chaired by Prof. Dr. Yusuf Halacoglu where Prof. Dr. Fikret Adanir spoke about “Armenian Genocide Arguments and Historiography.” Dr. Gunay Evinc (Attorney – USA) made a presentation on “The Armenian Pressure on the Freedom of Expression in US and the Law Suit brought by the Turkish-Americans in Massachusett.” Dr. Evinc also appeared on SKYTURK TV Channel where he spoke about the Massachusetts lawsuit and was also featured in a photograph together with former Swiss MP Albert Hourite in Tercuman newspaper on Nov 25. Mr. Hourite expressed his sorrow for the acceptance of the Armenian Resolution by the Swiss Parliamnet and apologized on behalf of the Swiss people, adding that EU is trying to break up Turkey.

The sixth session was chaired by Amb. Omer Lutem where Asst. Prof. Mehmet Yuva from Damascus University spoke on “The Approach of Syrian and Lebanese Armenians to the Issue”, PhD Hakan yavuz of Utah university spoke on “The Concept of Genocide in General and its Politicization” and others.

The seventh session was moderated by Prof. Dr. Bayram Kodaman where speakers told about the Armenian genocide in Azerbaijan and the drama of the Azerbaijani fugitives.

The eighth session on Friday was chaired by Dr. Bilal Simsir where the first speaker was the famous professor from Bilkent University, Prof. Stanford Shaw , formerly with the University of California, who made an excellent presentation called “The Ottoman Holocaust”, giving a complete overview of the tragedy and stated that between 1911-1923, the Ottoman Empire was involved in five destructive wars imposed on them by the great powers and the newly created Christian states in the Balkans. Referring to the “war of independence” led between 1918-1923, Prof Shaw stated that this should really be called “”War of Liberation” and that during the “The Great War of 1910-1915”, sixty percent of the Ottoman population had perished.

Prof. Stanford Shaw stated that both the US and the EU want to hold the Turkish Republic responsible for the events that took place before its founding, emphasizing that no single group should be blamed for the tragedies which cost the lives of 4 to 5 million Turks. Prof Shaw also indicated that bringing large number of German officers and the establishment of the Special Investigation Group were among the reasons to criticize the Ottoman government but not for a deliberate genocide. In order to understand the full account of events, Prof. Shaw suggested that archives of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Red Crescent, the Immigration Office and the Special Investigation Group should also be opened.

During the ninth session, moderated by Prof. Dr. Enver Konukcu, Asst. Prof. Senol Kantarci of Suleyman Demirel University, spoke about “The Second Van Insurgence: An important event Leading to the Decision of Reloaction.” Prof. Kantarci stated that 35-40 thousand Turks were massacred during the Van rebellion.

The highlight of the speeches was the presentation by Dogu Perincek during the final and the 11th session moderated by Prof. Dr. Resat Genc, where Prof. Dr. Selahi Sonyel from London Near East Universtiy also spoke. Dogu Perincek stated that the 4 million Turks in Europe and the 1 million Turks in US would be aroused to defend against the Armenian allegations.

In the above brief summary of some of the presentations, where the names of the presenters and their titles are noted, there was no one from the Bilgi University, Bogazici University or the Sabanci university, which came as a surprise.

Personal observations and suggestions

The November 17, 2005 vote in the Edinburg City Council, where around 41 brave British Turks and their friends fought gallantly against the passage of the proposed Armenian resolution with some help from friends around the world and Turkey and thus showed to the world that Armenian propaganda will no longer go un challenged. It would have been nice to have a representative from the Edinburgh Group to make a presentation at this conference in order to share their experience with the participants, especially a statement issued by one of the councillor to Edinburgh group who voted against the motion and said: “I completely agree with you that we are just being used to perpetrate a myth. This was an humanitarian tragedy, not genocide, if anyone is to be blamed, it is the European powers who for their own greed used the Armenians to try and to bring about the collapse and dismemberment of the Ottoman State. I would also be grateful to receive the excerpts of the anti-Turkish propaganda. I will ofcourse be voting against the motion on the alleged genocide.”

Prof. Stanford Shaw’s presentation provided new information on the Armenian issue and a new terminology (Turkish Holocaust), which could be presented during a special occasion at the US Museum of Holocaust, such as on April 24, 2006, where a demand for the removal of the Hitler panel can also be registered in person.

Although “Development of Turkish-Armenian relations” was the main title of this important symposium, there were no presentations or suggestions related to this, which I might have missed. A representative from the Avrasya Foundation could have told the vast audience the inroads that they have been able to make through their efforts and the publication of their excellent magazine, “Turkish & Armenian WM, Women’s Magazine” whose goal is to replace mutual mistrust and conflict with reconciliation and dialogue. Another organization which has been working on the improvement of relations through business relations is the “Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council”

There was no mention of the cultural exchanges between Armenia and the Turks either, which I might have missed, or any reference to the fact that the Turkish Government has taken an important step for the restoration of historic Armenian Church in Lake Van.

Almost all of the moderators were also themselves presenters. It would have been an excellent idea to have university students handle this position, giving them the experience and also training for future conferences . It would also been a good idea to have representatives from the ordinary public make presentations, especially those with first hand experience in the fight against the incredible anti-Turkish propaganda around the world. In the United States where a play “The Beast on the Moon” has made incredible damage to the image of Turks using the alleged Armenian genocide as a pretext.

There was an Exhibition by the State Archives in the hallway of the Conference centre, many dating back to the late 1900s, including some letters from the Armenian organization thanking the French government for their contributions. There was also several stands where books were available for sale, including:

- Ovanes Kacaznuni, Tasnak Partisinin Yapacagi Bir Sey Yok (1923

- What is the Truth? – Documents and Publications on Genocide, by Azerbaijan Cultural Association

- Azerbaycan Misak-I Millisi – 28 Mayis Istiklal Beyannemesinin Tahlili

- Azerbaycan Turk Kultur Degisi

There were no handouts or copies of the presentations. The organizers promised that all the presentations would be published soon and made available to anyone interested on this issue. As the above conference was coming to an end, there were several messages over the internet announcing more conferences to be held in the next 6 to 12 months, including one in Istanbul on December 15, 2005, one in Kayseri and another one in the US in April 2006. The proceedings from the above symposium could be useful for these conferences.

As a last comment, I would like to suggest that in future conferences emphasis be given to the Turkish-Armenian relations in Turkey and elsewhere. Here is a real life story of a Turkish woman who meets an Armenian in the United States by chance and learns that her grandfather had protected Aram (not his real name) during the temporary relocation of Armenians in 1915 and facilitated his emigration to the United States, the grandfather of the Armenian. Nesrin (not her real name) goes to one of the northern states in America to pursue her education in medicine. On the arrival date she goes to a restaurant and hears people sitting at the next table speaking Turkish. She introduces herself and starts a conversation with them. Upon learning that she is Turkish, they tell her that they are Armenian, but welcome her. Aram tells her that in 1915 before the soldiers come to their home at a town in eastern Turkey for their relocation, a Turkish man takes them to his house. They stay with him for a while before they migrate to the United States. The Turkish man sells the Armenian family's house and other properties and sends the proceedings to the Armenian in the US.

The Armenian prospers in the US and when Nesrin tells him that the Turk who had helped the Armenian family was his grandfather, he invites her to stay at his house. Nesrin tells the Armenian that she will check in at a hotel first, so her family knows where she is, and than come to their house for a visit. She keeps her promise and goes to the Armenian's villa and they reminisce about the old days in Anatolia. The Armenian invites Nesrin to stay at his house and sponsors her education for two and a half years as she was his own daughter. Nesrin returns to Turkey ten years ago and starts working at a hospital and regularly corresponds with the Armenian who helped her.

There must be many stories similar to the one above, which is seldom told for a variety of reasons. I went to American High Schools in Turkey where there were several Armenian students who were my best friends. We never thought about being different and always had good relations. When I was first introduced to the Armenian issue after attending a commemoration service at the Riverside Church in New York City in 1965, I listened to incredible stories from Robert Morgentau, the NYC Attorney General at the time, and the son of Ambassador Henry Morgentau who published a book written primarily by his Armenian secretary and Armenian translator about the Armenian issue, “Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story”. Chapter 24 of the book was re-issued by the Armenians as "The Murder of a Nation" in 1975, which does not tell the true story of what happened.

This writer happens to believe that reconciliation between the Armenians and the Turks is possible if the Armenians accept the facts as they actually happened and not as fabricated by some Armenians. An international discussion of the issue should be held with all the participants of the First World War and the non-goverenmental organizations active at the time with the documents that they possess and put this issue to bed so the Armenians once again can be friends with the Turks.

Yuksel Oktay, PE
Civil Engineer
Istanbul, Turkey
November 25, 2005

Notes:

(1) Prof. Yusuf Halacoglu was also a member of the organization board, which included Sukru Elekdag, Halil Sivgin, Omer Engin Lutem, Prof. Dr. Resat Genc, Assoc. Prof. Yusuf Sarinay and Prof. Dr. Kirali Murtezoglu.

(2) Prof. Guenter Lewy presented signed copies of his new book, The ARMENIAN MASSACRES in OTTOMAN TURKEY – A Disputed Genocide” to many of the speakers. He was asked if it would have been better to include Turkish or Moslem in the title, stating, “THE ARMENIAN AND MOSLEM MASSACRES in OTTOMAN TURKEY” and leave out “A Disputed genocide” since over 530,000 Turks were also massacred by the Armenians, according to Prof. Halacoglu. He did not agree, arguing that the way the Armenians were massacred during the relocation were different, which is debatable.

(3) Even though there were over 24 TV cameras and many reporters during the opening session of the Symposium, there was very little coverage in the TV news and very little written in the newspapers. There were also very few articles in the internet, the one from Meltem Deniz being the only one in English, as far as I could observe.
26/02/07



Comments:
Ergun KIRLIKOVALI
* More such panels, papers, more presentations presenting the Turkish suffering and losses in early 1900s are needed.

Everyone must understand clearly that what we, Turks and Turkish-Americans, are fighting is “perception”, not “reality”. The perception today is, unfortunately, primarily based on Armenian distortions, embellishments, and falsifications, thanks to Armenian propaganda saturated the West since 1915.

But perceptions are known to change. All we have to do is keep telling our side of the story until the day the West, indeed the world, learns to include the very real and more profound Turkish pain and suffering into this equation. As they do, the perception will gradually change from the unfair, biased, and bigoted charge of genocide to a more balanced, honest, and truthful reality of irregular war fought by Ottoman-Christians and Ottoman-Muslims causing a catastrophe for “all inhabitants of the area” (not just Armenians.) The role of Czarist Russia, France, England, US Protestant missionaries, the New York Times, and Armenian nationalist violent organizations, all unified in a massive front against the Ottoman Empire and all hell-bent on destroying the Turk one way or another, must also be well understood.

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