07 March 2008

2380) The Near East Foundation Exhibition On The Armenians On Nov 26, 2003

The Museum Of The City Of New York

November 26, Wednesday was a beautiful autumn day in New York city, a prelude to the wonderful ‘’Thanksgiving Holiday’’ the following day where almost every American in the US and around the world sit down for a family dinner of turkey. On the same day New Yorkers interested in culture were treated to another ‘’Turkey feast’’, but this was not something edible but . . hateful. The Museum of the City of New York located on the Museum Avenue (5th Ave.) near the 103rd street has been hosting an exhibition since October 4 entitled ‘’Near East/New York’’. The exhibition is suppose to be the story of America’s oldest international development agency, ‘’The Near East Foundation’’ founded in Manhattan in September 1915 to respond to the urgent humanitarian crisis facing refugees in the Ottoman Empire.

The Museum of the City of New York is housed in a beautiful building, once the mansion of the powerful Rockefeller family. When I asked the attendant after paying the senior citizen fee what is the best way of touring the museum, he told me that I should start at the top 5th floor and walk down. ‘What floor is the Near East Foundation exhibit?’’ I asked. ‘’On the basement floor’’ he said, with a strange look on his face.. ‘’I will start there and walk my way up’’ I said. I also wanted to see the exhibition called ‘’Big & Green: Toward Sustainable Architecture in the 21st Century’’.

The Near East Foundation Exhibition

The exhibition covers a small area along the hallways between the entrance and the elevator, featuring archival posters, photographs, correspondence, publications and the Oct 4, 1915 and Feb 27 1917 issues of the New York Times. Among the correspondence is a letter with Anatolia College, Selanica letterhead, dated May 1925 praising Christopher C. Thurber, the director of the Near East Relief in Sivas next to a note which states that Mr. Thurber had traveled with deportees from Sivas to Constantnople and lived with 11,000 genocide survivors in the Selemieh barracks until they left for Greece.

There is a large map of Turkey, but titled ‘’The Near East’’ showing cities where Armenians lived with routes of their travels. There are copies of several ‘’Near East Newsletters dated June 1925, March 1924 and March 1927. An undated photographs showing a large crowd at the Izmir port has the following note next to it: ‘’In the second mass deportation of Armenians, more than a million refugees massed on the Turkish coast, mostly in Symrna. Small boats took them out to ships, which transported them to Near East Relief feeding stations in the Greek islands and Macedonia’’. This must have been around 1920s.

The two framed front page of the New York Times, both tell the story of the Armenians. The October 4, 1915, Monday edition of the NYT has a long article with the heading : Tell of Horrors Done in Armenia, report of Eminent Americans’’. Ambassador Morgenhtau must be among the ‘’Eminent Americans’’ that the NYT relies on for its reporting. How sad. Now that the NYT has appointed an ombudsman, Mr. Daniel Okrent,
The Assembly of Turkish American Associations, the Federation of Turkish American Associations, the Turkish Forum and all organizations should write to the Ombudsman demanding the correction of earlier news reported in the New York Times.

The most interesting document is a chart showing the Armenian refugees in countries of the Near East, entitled ‘’Destitude Persons - 1917’’

© This content Mirrored From TurkishArmenians  Site armenians-1915.blogspot.comPs. The above table -Click To Enlarge- was jotted down in a hurry and therefore may not be accurate.

If the Near Eastern Foundations claims that the total number of destitude people in 1917 was around 2,140,000, mostly Armenians according to their reports, how could 1,500,00 Armenians have been killed, as the Armenians claim, when the entire population of the Armenians in the Ottoman lands around 1915 was a little over 1,500,000 according to historians.

As I was taking notes and copying the above chart, a lady with a pig package in her arms came over and asked me if I was ‘’Armenian’’. I hesitated for a moment, than I said ‘’No, I am Turkish, Turkish-American, and I have a few things to say about this exhibition’’. Than I started telling her that what was being exhibited was only one side of the story, that the Near East relief and later Near Eastern Foundation had done an incredible job in helping the refuges, but why only the Armenians. I also told the lady that what the American people were being told as Armenian genocide, perpetuated by this exhibition, was not something that everyone agreed on. ‘’I am not the person to talk to’’ she said and gave me the name of the director of the Museum, Kathy Benson (Tel 212 – 534 1672, X-255), who she said was on vacation. I plan to call her and ask her the same questions and also why a publicly funded museum was being used to exhibit only one sided events.

As I went around a second time, I noticed a young lady looking at the photographs. I asked her if she knew anything about the events that led to the re-location (not deportation as the exhibition claims) of the Armenians. She said no and stated that she was an art graduate and happened to go to the basement to see another exhibition, Fire engines. Seeral groups of young students also watched the exhibition with horror in their eyes, which reminded me the exhibition that was held at a Dallas, TX museum in 1990 called : A Genocide Untold: Luco’s Story, curated by an Armenian artist from New York Barsamian.

It is obvious that the exhibition was put together in a hurry with the purpose of perpetuating the ‘’Armenian genocide claims’’, praised even by the governor of New York, Mr. Pataki.

After visiting several other exhibitions on the upper floors and looking at the displayed fantastic and rich rooms of the once Rockefeller Mansion (I suppose around the same time frame) on the top floor, I headed to 46th Street and First Avenue to participate in the Demonstration Against Terrorism and recent bombings in Turkey. When I arrived at the site, I asked several Turkish friends if they had seen the exhibition at the City Museum. None had seen it, and not very many showed an interest in seeing it either when I gave them the brochures except Ms Oya Bain of ATAA, Washington DC who said that she will definitely see it. I hope many Turks will go to see the Museum and write to state and city officials protesting the use of public funds in support of claims of a selected group pf Americans.

The attendance at the event arranged by the Federation of Turkish American Associations was very small, may be around 120, mostly Turkish may be around 25 Jewish (I counted when a Jewish lady was asking around as to how many people were at the gathering, and later stating that 120 is a lucky number, since in Yiddish, she said, people say ‘’May you live to be 120’’). This is a different story which I hope others will write about. Zaman representative was there and several other newspapers too, I suppose. Milliyet in its Nov 28 edition carried a small photograph with brief reference to the demonstration.

Yuksel Oktay
Istanbul, Turkey, November 29, 2003