2435) 24Apr2008 Ist Bilgi Uni Panel : A Sarafian, R Zarakolu. . What Happened On 24th April 1915 In Istanbul?

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“A Democratic Pluralist Life Is Difficult Without Coming To Terms With 1915”
Bia News Service, 27-04-2008
Speaking at the panel “What happened on April 24, 1915?”, Sarafian, Keskin, Aydın and Zarakolu say that still not talking about what happened and not coming to terms with the past, the problem persist in different forms.

Speaking at the panel “What happened on April 24, 1915?”, organized by the Human Rights Association (İHD), Ara Sarafian, a historian at the Gomidas Institute, who specializes in the late Ottoman period, told that “April 24 was the political act of the Committee of the Union and Progress. April 24 opened the way for the liquidation of the Armenians in Anatolia.” . .

Also: See Here for the Follow Up On This Panel

The publisher Ragıp Zarakolu, the lawyer Eren Keskin and the writer Erdoğan Aydın participated in the panel held at İstanbul Bilgi University yesterday. While more than three hundred people watched the panel, there were many police officers around the university.

April 24 stands for the few days in 1915, during which 220 Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul were arrested and today this day is acknowledged as the “genocide commemoration day” by all the Armenians around the world.
“The same mentality persists”

Giving the opening speech, the IHD branch president Gülseren Yoleri stated that the genocide claims were still neither discussed nor accepted and the same was the case regarding the Kurdish problem.

“They could not live in their own land, nor die in it. They made enemies out of Kurds, Turks, Armenians, Greeks, the neighbors.”

Stating “the mentality of the Committee of the Union and Progress continues”, Keskin added that “If we do not discuss the Committee of the Union and Progress, the Special Organization (Teşkilat-i Mahsusa), Şemdinli incident, 6-7 September pogrom of 1955 against Greeks in Turkey and the latest Ergenekon incident, we will not get very far.”
“We have failed to come to terms”

Saying “I think that there is a generation that represents an enlightened conscience, like the hundreds of thousands who walked behind Hrant”, Aydın likewise added that “Since we did not come to the terms with what Armenians, Assyrians, Syrians went through, the Kurdish problem, the May First celebrations, the Alevi problems persist as individual paranoids.”

Zarakolu also stated “April 24 also forms a model for the arrests of the intellectuals.”

“There is a visible and an invisible state: there is the Special Organization and the Ottoman civil servant who could not adjust to this new method.”

Reading an article Hrant Dink wrote about April 24, Zarakolu added that “This society can emphatize, provided that nobody overshadows it.”
Sarafian: There were 2 million Armenians in 1913

Sarafian talked about the historical documents regarding the genocide claims.

“According to the 1913 census of the Istanbul patriarchate, there were 2 million Armenians within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. The great majority of Armenians lived in the country with Turks and Kurds, intermingling with Muslims. Most Armenians lived in Istanbul and in the East. Those Armenians not in the war zone were exiled as well.”

“40 thousand Armenians lived in Harput, divided into 50 settlement regions. Not a single village was left after 1915. Harput plain was not a war zone. The local Armenians were very passive and they could do nothing against genocide.”

“On April 24, 1915, Armenians from various professions in Istanbul such as intellectuals, politicians, artists, and teachers were sent to Ayaş and Çankırı. In Ayaş, 55 out of 70 people were slained. About the fate of the 150 Armenians who were sent to Çankırı, no definite information has been discovered.

* This news was compiled from Atılım, Milliyet and Radikal.

A common enemy that is called hate by Vercihan Ziflioglu
Istanbul – Turkish Daily News, Saturday, April 26, 2008

VICIOUS CIRCLE: Turkey's stance toward Armenians has only helped the efforts of Armenian lobbies and committees, says Sarafian. Armenians, meanwhile, make comical claims for land that only serve to reinforce Turkish reluctance to engage in dialogue.

Neither Turks nor Armenians are interested in free-thinking researchers, says historian Ara Sarafian, arguing that both Armenian and Turkish nationalists seek to prolong the animosity between the two peoples

Turkey and Armenia must together create the opportunity to secure a peaceful future and the current tactics of the Armenian diaspora are not helpful in the view of the director one of that same diaspora's leading think tanks. That iconoclastic view was shared by Ara Sarafian, who heads the London-based Gomidas Institute on the sidelines of a conference this week held by Bilgi University on the day often associated with allegations of an Armenian genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks that is said to have begun on April 24, 1915. Indeed the date is important Sarafian told the Turkish Daily News, as on that day, “ 220 Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul were arrested and were never heard of again.” But, he said, the ongoing campaign by the Armenian lobby to generate declarations by parliaments around the world, a campaign bitterly opposed by Turkey, has hardly produced the desired results. It is time for a new approach, he said. This was the message Sarafian shared at the conference, organized by the Human Rights Association (I.HD) Istanbul branch and held at Bilgi. And it was a theme Sarafian returned to in a conversation with the TDN. He said nationalists among both Armenians and Turks are fed by hatred and animosity. The researcher agreed that Armenian lobbies and committees are certainly organizing anti-Turkish activities, but argued it is wrong to categorize the entire Armenian diaspora as a single camp. Turkey's stance toward Armenians has only helped the efforts of these Armenian lobbies and committees, he said. Armenians, meanwhile, make comical claims for land that only serve to reinforce Turkish reluctance to engage in dialogue. “Problems will not be solved by people talking from their comfortable chairs in Los Angeles,” he said.

‘Those who accused Dink of being a Turkish agent made him a hero' On Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, who was murdered by a teenage Turkish nationalist on Jan. 19, 2007, Sarafian noted a particular irony. For years, many in the Armenian diaspora accused Dink of being a Turkish agent for his views that development of empathy between the two communities was not served by genocide polemics. Now that he is dead, those same critics of Dink when he was alive have turned him into a hero. “Dink created an opportunity for Turkish-Armenian rapprochement but that is now lost,” he said. If the genocide issue was solved all these lobbies and groups would face serious hardship because they would have nothing to do, he said. “We have lived like enemies until now. From now on, we must work for peace,” said Sarafian, adding that the only thing separating Turks from Armenians was religion.

Neither side is interested in free-thinking researchers: Sarafian said neither Turkish nor Armenian nationalists wanted free-thinking researchers, accusing some professors of Armenian origins in the United States of creating obstacles for German researcher Hilmar Kaiser and noted that some invitations for meetings were canceled at the last minute. “Even this interview will make me a target of some groups,” he said. Being a historian is mutually exclusive from being Armenian, he said, adding that most of his own family was lost during the incidents in 1915. “As a historian, my duty is to objectively seek the truth. In the 1990s, I conducted research in Turkey,” he said. However, he and Kaiser had encountered serious obstacles during his studies in the Prime Ministry archives, claiming that they were eventually barred from entering it. The Turkish press was manipulating the exchanges with Turkish History Foundation Chairman Yusuf Halaçog(lu, he said. “Upon Halaçog(lu's invitation to work together, I proposed to center our studies in Elaz?g(. I asked for a list of Armenians deported from the province. If these people were exiled to somewhere and then continued their lives, there must be records. After this request, Halaçog(lu invited me to Ankara and also told a reporter on CNN-Türk, ‘Sarafian knows well that such incidents never took place under the Ottomans.' After this statement, I decided to put a stop to the decision to work together. Halaçog(lu, with that statement, showed his stance. As a historian, it is impossible to conduct an objective study.”

Armenians accuse Ottomans of committing organized massacres of Armenians in 1915 that was tantamount to genocide. This week Armenia's new president announced the campaign to secure international recognition of such claims will continue. Turkey dismisses the allegations and argues that there were huge numbers of casualties on both sides and most were caused by inter-communal fighting and wartime conditions. To date, parliaments in some 20 countries have passed resolutions supporting the Armenian position. The United States and the United Kingdom have remained notable exceptions and refrain from use of the word “genocide”

Killings Of Armenians In Ottoman Empire 'Genocide,' Says Sarafian in Istanbul
April 25, 2008, TDN

Thousands of social facilities, churches and schools that once belonged to Armenians cannot be seen in Anatolia today, providing more convincing evidence than written documents that the World War I-era killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constitute "genocide," an American historian said yesterday.

“Although there were around two million Armenian people living in Anatolia during the Ottoman Empire before 1915, today it is not possible to find any historical or social mark reminding them,” said Ara Sarafian, head of Gomidas Institute in London, an organization that carries out research on Armenian history.

Sarafian was speaking at a conference titled “What happened on April 24, 1915?” held in Istanbul by the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD).

Several intellectuals discussed the "genocide" claims of Armenians and argued that Turkey has to face its history without ignoring or denying the truth.

“All of us, who kept quiet and did not resist to the killings of Armenians are guilty, no matter what you call what was done toward the Armenian people living in the Ottoman Empire; genocide or injustice,” said Eren Keskin, a lawyer.
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“April 24 is a symbol for the Armenian community all around the world since many Armenian intellectuals were exiled to the central Anatolian provinces of Çorum and Çankırı where only some of them could survive. They were murdered by the gangs supported by the Ottoman Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa [Special Organization, created in 1913 under the imperial War Department],” said Ragıp Zarakolu, a prominent intellectual and writer. Zarakolu said this date is the first time in Turkish history where intellectuals were arrested collectively.

“I was arrested in the middle of the night. I was lucky that I survived, unlike many of my Armenian colleagues who were arrested in 1915,” he said, noting that discussions on the issue should not be based on number of Armenians killed since they were all individuals and intellectuals who had unique lives. “It is not the numbers but what Turkey lost intellectually and socially after having exiled and murdered Armenians that is significant to remember,” he said.

The mainstream ideology as well as its alternatives should be questioned in Turkey in order to prevent such discrimination, said Keskin, noting that both all ideologies are based on militarist and male-dominated organizations. Keskin said the Turkish Republic was built on an ideology that excludes all identities except Turkish and Sunni.

What Happened On 24th April 1915 In Istanbul?

Panelists: Eren Keskin : 24th April 1915 from Human Rights Perspective

Ragip Zarakolu: 24th April – A milestone setting an example for the annihilation of intellectuals

Ara Sarafian: Why Armenians Commemorate 24 April 1915 to Signify the Beginning of the Armenian Genocide: a Critical Examination.”

Erdogan Aydin :Historical Consciousness and Confronting the History

Presented by Human Rights Association Istanbul
Thursday, 24th April 2008 02:00 p.m. Bilgi University, Dolapdere Campus . .
Human Rights Association Istanbul Branch
Press Release, 24th April 2006

Today, 24th of April, is worldwide recognized as the date signifying the Armenian Genocide. Only in Turkey it indicates a taboo. The Turkish state mobilizes all its resources to deny the meaning of this date.

At diplomatic platforms Turkish officials and their advocates claim that they recognise the “big tragedy” and they only object to its being named as a “Genocide”. That’s not true. At every occasion in Turkey not only the Armenian Genocide, but also the great agony of the Armenian people is denied and attempts are made to justify the genocide.

It was only last month that during a Symposium on the Armenian-Turkish relations the denialist official theses were voiced one after another, offending the Armenians in Turkey and elsewhere and insulting the memory of their grandparents. Lies were told in the name of “science”., like “Armenians have always sold their masters”, “deportation was a means of crisis management”, “death toll of deportation is comparable to the death toll of flu epidemic in England that time”, “there is no other people as noble as the Turkish nation in the world, it is impossible for them to commit a genocide”, and many more, humiliating a people who was one of the most advanced in science, art, literature, and in all other aspects.

Denial is an constituent part of the genocide itself and results in the continuation of the genocide. Denial of genocide is a human rights violation in itself. It deprives individuals the right to mourn for their ancestors, for the ethnic cleansing of a nation, the annihilation of people of all ages, all professions, all social sections, women, men, children, babies, grandparents alike just because they were Armenians regardless of their political background or conviction. Perhaps the most important of all, it is the refusal of making a solemn, formal commitment and say “NEVER AGAIN”.

Turkey has made hardly any progress in the field of co-existence, democracy, human rights and putting an end to militarism since the time of the Union and Progress Committee. Annihilation and denial had been and continues today to be the only means to solve the problem. Villages evacuated and put on fire and forced displacements are still the manifestation of the same habit of “social engineering”. There has always been bloodshed in the homeland of Armenians after 1915. Unsolved murders, disappearances under custody, rapes and arrests en masse during the 1990’s were no surprise, given the ongoing state tradition lacking any culture of repentance for past crimes against humanity.

Similarly the removal of a public prosecutor and banning him from profession just for taking the courage to mention an accusation against the military, a very recent incident, is the manifestation of an old habit of punishing anybody who dares to voice any objection to the army. And today’s ongoing military build up of some 250,000 troops in the southeast of Turkey is the proof of a mindset who is unable to develop any solution to the Kurdish question other than armed suppression.

Turkey will not be able to take even one step forward without putting an end to the continuity of the Progress and Union manner of ruling. No human rights violation can be stopped in Turkey and there will be no hope of breaking the vicious circle of Kurdish uprisings and their bloody suppression unless the Turkish state agree to create an environment where public homage is paid to genocide victims, where the sufferings of their grandchildren is shared and the genocide is recognized.

Today we, as the human rights defenders, would like to address all Armenians in Turkey and elsewhere in the world and tell them “we want to share the pain in your hearts and bow down before the memory of your lost ones. They are also our losses. Our struggle for human rights in Turkey, is at the same time our mourning for our common losses and a homage paid to the genocide victims”.