28 June 2009

2898) 'Blue Book' Presentation At Turkish Human Rights Association (!) / Ankara & A Symposium, A Book Release And A Turkish Lady With A Mission

© This content Mirrored From  http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com I attended the morning sessions of the Symposium on the 1909 Adana Incidents at the Turkish Historical Society (THS) in Ankara Friday morning (yesterday) and left with Fatma Sarikaya and Julia Gul Arslan around 11:30 AM to be present at the presentation of the Blue Book to the press and the public by Ara Sarafian and Lord Avebury. We were at the Turkish Human Rights Association (THRA) offices a bit early which gave us the opportunity to sit at the table very close to Ara Sarafian and Lord Avebury. The small room was filled with the representatives of the media and TV Channels which must have numbered over 20. . .

The presentations began with an opening speech by the President of THRA, followed by a speech by Ragip Zarakaoglu. Lord Avebury and Ara Sarafian made their usual speeches on the book and why they were in Turkey, introducing the new Turkish version of the Blue Book, stating that the books were already shipped to every member of the TGNA. Gul Arslan was the first one to ask questions, followed by Fatma Sarikaya's questions, which were not fully answered, Fatma asking Ara Sarafian if he had read Sukru Aya's monumental book ''Genocide of Truth'' which tells the truth about the Blue Book..

I was the last one to ask questions and, exhibiting a copy of Prof. Dr. Turkkaya Ataov's ''Response to Blue Book'', told them that copies of this book should also be distributed to the deputies with the Blue Book. I told Lord Avebury that I read the English version of the book which has many input from Ambassador Morgenthau, who himself is not reliable, exhibiting ''The Murder of A Nation'', a chapter from Ambassador Morgenthau's Story published by the Armenian Benevolent Association..

Fatma hanim, Gul Arslan and myself were at today's session (Saturday morning) of the Symposium on 1909 Adana Incidents, (the Armenian and the Jewish presenters preferred to use Adana Massacres) but I had to leave around noon to catch a flight to Istanbul. Sadly, I did not see a single member of the press or TV.

I can safely state that this Symposium was the best organized and most useful symposium that I have attended during the past 14 years since I have been coming to Turkey. There were Turkish, Armenian, American, Azerbaijani, Japanese, Jewish and German presenters and evaluators at the end. Everyone spoke openly and sincerely, many controversial, which I will write about as soon as I find some time (I am at work today for my real job even tough it is Saturday.)

Prof. Dr. Ali Birinci (President of THS) and Prof. Dr. Kemal Cicek made the opening speeches and also spoke during the closing session, which were excellent. One of the three evaluators of the program, German Irma Kreiten, spoke honestly and made the following comments which I hope everyone on the cc of this note will pass on to others:

''The Armenian issue is not only between the Turks and the Armenians. It is about time that the Western European countries admit their involvement in the creation of the Armenian issue and help with the reconciliation between the Armenians and the Turks.''

I was shocked to see the Blue Book released at the THRA and even delivered to the TGNA members, which I can say can happen only in Turkey.

Now I have to go back to my real work.. However, I expect an answer to my question at the top of this e-mail.

Thank you.

Yuksel Oktay
Gul Arslan
English Blogs:
Turkish Blogs:


A Symposium, A Book Release And A Turkish Lady With A Mission
© This content Mirrored From  http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com

Part I

A 2 day Symposium on the 1909 Adana Incidents was held at the Turkish Historical Society (THS) offices in Ankara. Following the opening speeches by Prof. Dr. Ali Birinci, the President of THS, and Kemal Cicek, the head of the Armenian Research Desk at THS, Kemal Cicek made the first presentation, ''What we Know and Don't Know About the Adana Incidents.'' Dr. Cicek emphasized that the purpose of this symposium was really to understand what happened in April of 1909. There were two sessions on Friday with presentations by speakers from the U.S. , Israel , Japan and Turkey , but a prior commitment prevented me from attending these sessions

As I left the Symposium to attend the press conference on the release of a new Turkish translation of the Blue Book, Fatma Sarikaya, a member of the Turkish Forum and Julia Gul Arslan, a lady whom I had met only through the internet, joined us. We went to the headquarters of the Turkish Human Rights Association (THRS) in Demirtepe and took our places near the head table at 12:00 noon quite by chance and across from the presenters who had com from England for this occasion, the head of the Gomidas Institute Ara Sarafian and Lord Avebury. Evidently, they also scheduled a visit to the TGNA and sent copies of the Blue Book to every member of the Turkish parliament.

This commentary is not on the Symposium or the Book Release, which I will write about separately, but on Mrs. Gul Arslan who courageously asked questions during both events and, showing a book of her own, asked Lord if the British would recognize the Azerbaijani genocide and other questions. Earlier, Fatma Sarikaya also asked questions and showed a copy of Sukru Aya's book, ''The Genocide of Truth'' and asked Ara Sarafian if he had read the book. He said yes, but I doubt it. After the meetings, Mrs. Gul Arslan gave me a copy of two books that she wrote, ''Johnny Turkler'' and the English version, ''Johnny Turks - The Honourable Enemy'', published in March and April 2009.

Many people who have studied the Gallipoli Campaign and the Armenian issue believe that if the Allied forces under the command of the British had succeeded in crossing the Dardanelles and reached Istanbul, the Armenians would have started a campaign with the support of Russians, the British and the French, and, following the advise of the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau, would try to force the Turks out of Asia Minor and continue with the massacres that they had started earlier. Therefore, the Gallipoli campaign is very important and should be studied as part of the events of 1915 which were tragic both for the Turks and the Armenians.

The book, “Johnny Turks“, is a collection of memoirs on Gallipoli War in their own words of the ANZACS. It tells the misery, courage, humour and mateship that flourished in the Turkish, Australian and New Zealand trenches and the bravery of ''Johnny Turk.'' The book is dedicated to the memories of the nameless soldiers who fought and died side by side and to Gul Arslan's mother's uncle Suleyman Sahinbas, a veteran of the Gallipoli War, and to the Australians and Turkish-Australians. A poem ''My name is 'Johnny Turk' written by Gul Arslan, 30 August 2008, is also included in the book.

The book also includes the famous saying of Ataturk, the only commander in world history who expressed sentiments towards his former opponents:

''Those Heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours.

''You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in the bosom and are at peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.'' Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Thank you very much Gul Hanim, for being there, for asking questions and for writing books that my children and my grandchildren will cherish for many years. Happy and safe travels back to Australia and best wishes to all of our friends who have devoted themselves to fight against the injustice against the Turks..

Yuksel Oktay
28 June 2009

Blue Book Sent To Turkish Parliamentarians
By Ayse Gunaysu • on July 2, 2009

In 2005, 550 members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) signed a letter addressed to the British Parliament arguing that the 1916 parliamentary “Blue Book,” titled The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-16, was wartime propaganda material—a mere fabrication—and that the parliament today should formally withdraw it.

Clearly, when the TGNA drew up that letter, they hadn’t seen the book, let alone read one line of it. The book had not yet been translated into Turkish and was not accessible in Turkey.

Four years later, on Fri. June 26, 2009, Lord Avebury, the vice-chairman of the Human Rights Group in the British Parliament, and Ara Sarafian from the Gomidas Institute (London), introduced the authorized Turkish translation of the Blue Book in Ankara at a press conference hosted by the Human Rights Association, Turkey and the Ankara Initiative for Freedom of Expression. It was announced during the meeting that copies of the Blue Book translation were sent to TGNA members, individually packaged and addressed to every single Turkish parliamentarian, “in an effort to enable them to be better informed about their subject matter.” Permission was also obtained for the distribution of the book to bookstores in Turkey.

Anti-terrorist police teams took security measures outside the building and quickly dispersed a small group attempting to protest the meeting by shouting slogans against the “allegations” of genocide. It was quite unexpected, yet senior police officers also contacted the organizers and asked if they needed anything, or if they wanted to remove disruptive audience members from the conference room! The police even offered to escort the organizers and guests to the restaurant they were planning on going to after the event.

Addressing an audience visibly eager to hear the speakers, Ara Sarafian, the editor of the uncensored editions of the original Blue Book published by the Gomidas Institute in 2000 and 2005, pointed out that the official criticism of the Blue Book adopted by the members of the TGNA was based on the denial of the existence of the Toynbee papers in the British archives, which gave “incredible details” on the 1916 publication.

The TGNA position, he said, also denied the existence of the printed confidential key that accompanied the Blue Book, which disclosed the names and places withheld in the original publication. “Similarly, the fact that the United States was the main source of information for the British, especially official State Department records from the Ottoman Empire, has simply been ignored, even though the original records in question are still available in United States archives today,” said Sarafian. He thus called the TGNA position a denialist position, as it systematically denied information that was relevant to the issue under discussion, and introduced irrelevant or false information.

Sarafian said the TGNA letter raised some serious questions, such as: “How could members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly pass judgment on a 1916 publication and declare it as a fabrication in such a public manner, when clearly most of them had never seen the work they were criticizing, including the uncensored edition published five years earlier?”

“How and on what basis could they make a judgment that there were no creditable sources related to the Blue Book?”

“How could they rely on official Turkish histories from the 1980’s and 1990’s, without independent and better informed appraisals, for their own assessments?”

“How could their advisers or members of the Turkish press not comment in public debates that there was much more to the issue than what had been discussed?

“How did the TGNA expect the outside world, which has access to the relevant records in Great Britain and the United States, not to criticize or ridicule the official Turkish position?”

“Those who distort historical facts have no place in democratic societies,” concluded Sarafian. “The best way to counter their negative impact is through open public discussions. The uncensored edition of the Blue Book, which has been translated into Turkish, is such an exercise in an effort to re-engage the Armenian issue within a more democratic and open Turkey. I hope that at least some deputies of the TGNA will reconsider their collective position on the Blue Book and distance themselves from it.”

Taking the floor after Sarafian, Lord Avebury summarized the history of the “Blue Book debate” between the TGNA and the British Parliament. “On Oct. 12, 2005, Lord Archer of Sandwell QC, Lord Biffen, and I organized a meeting in Westminster for British parliamentarians to respond to a petition sent to members of the British Houses of Parliament by the Turkish Grand National Assembly contesting the veracity of the 1916 British Parliamentary Blue Book, The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-16,” he said.

“It was our appraisal that the TGNA was not properly informed about the Blue Book. Consequently, on Jan. 27, 2006, 33 British MPs responded to the TGNA petition with a letter to the speaker of the TGNA, Bulent Arinc, inviting members of the TGNA to a face-to-face meeting with their British colleagues to discuss the Blue Book. Since there was no response to that letter, a second email communication was sent on Sept. 1, 2006 to all individual members of the TGNA, inviting them to a face-to-face meeting. Again there was no response. Our final conclusion was that most TGNA members were not aware of the actual content of the 1916 Blue Book, nor the archival trail associated with it. (For copies of letters and reports related to this issue, see www.gomidas.org.) In order to facilitate better understanding and reflection, I suggested that the Gomidas Institute should undertake the Turkish translation of their uncensored edition of the Blue Book, which was replete with discussion and full archival references. I am pleased that they were able to undertake such a major project so that a whole new Turkish readership—not just members of the TGNA—can appraise the Blue Book issue in an informed and balanced manner. The publication of the Turkish edition of the book is a milestone in a historical sense for Turkey and I believe a new era for dialogue will be created after this book.”

Lord Avebury concluded with a quotation from George Santana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” He went on to state that there were dark chapters in the history of all nations and gave two examples. In 1997, the queen of Great Britain personally apologized in Amritsar, India, for the 1919 massacre of Sikhs who were shot in that city by British troops, while in 2008 the British Parliament apologized for the British government’s role in the Irish potato famine.

There were some in the audience who disagreed with Sarafian and Lord Avebury. During the question and answer session, they were allowed by the moderator, Ozturk Turkdogan, the chairman of the Istanbul Human Rights Association, to comment about the “Armenian lies,” to show their denialist books and other printed materials, and to ask Sarafian and Lord Avebury what they would say about the “genocide” of the Azeris by the Armenians. In this way, Turkdogan demonstrated that denialists could express themselves in non-violent ways in place of physically or verbally abusive means, which has often been the case—from the trials of Hrant Dink, Orhan Pamuk, and others, to panel discussions or conferences.

Sarafian told the denialists that they should let the press conference continue, and that he would be happy to discuss what they had to say, sensibly, in another forum, after he saw their literature and had a worthwhile response.

After the press conference, asked about his overall impression about the event, Sarafian said, “We, as the Gomidas Institute, did what we wanted to do. This is part of a process, not an end in itself. A diasporan Armenian organization translated and published a book in Turkey about the Armenian Genocide, and made a public presentation. We called on the Turkish parliamentarians through email messages to come, but none of them did. Next week they will receive their books. I hope the significance of this opening will become apparent. We plan to print more books, make more presentations, and have more discussions in Turkey. And we will press on with the Blue Book issue, in good time, when the members of the TGNA have had a chance to look at our publication.”

Armenian Weekly


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