06 May 2010

3068) Minutes of Ankara Symposium on Genocide, Consequences

© This content Mirrored From  http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com ANKARA, Turkey (A.W.)—On April 24, as genocide commemoration events were being held one after the other in different locations in Istanbul, a groundbreaking two-day symposium on the Armenian Genocide began at the Princess Hotel in Ankara. It was the first time a conference on the Armenian Genocide that did not host any genocide deniers was held in Ankara. Moreover, the conference did not simply deal with the historical aspect of 1915; for the first time in Turkey, a substantial part of the proceedings was dedicated to topics such as confiscated Armenian property, reparations, and the challenges of moving forward and confronting the past in Turkey. . .

Below are the minutes from the symposium, prepared by Yucel Demirer and read at the closing. The minutes are translated from Turkish by the Armenian Weekly staff.

***

After two days of intense, tiring, but productive meetings, we are at the end. I want to start by thanking every contributing person, institution, and group, especially Sait Cetinoglu and Mahmut Konuk, and by emphasizing the somber excitement we felt at the vigil for the victims of the genocide in Ankara on April 24, 2010.

It is important to say a few words about the situation our organizers found themselves in when they were preparing the meeting, in order to understand the process. Our meeting was organized by volunteers. In November 2009 we made a reservation for a hall, and in December paid the sum. However, a week before the meeting, we were informed that they wouldn’t let us use the space because they were “repairing” it. That must have made Teoman Ozturk, in whose name the hall is called, turn in his grave. We faced a similar difficulty regarding the hall we are in today. First we had to announce that we had canceled the meeting. Then we started it again, and yesterday we were before you with the participants that we could gather.

I felt I had to say this to underline the continuity in state policies, rather than to complain.

Our meeting was important, as Fikret Baskaya pointed out, in virtue of bringing the subject to the level of its real owners—ordinary people like us. It has been a modest but significant step for contributing to the common honorable history of peoples against the official historian, whose mission is to darken and polish.

As Baskin Oran stated in his talk, there are complex but inter-related aspects of the issue. Even though we are only at the start of the process of understanding and interpreting the slaughter and raid that advanced by a domino effect—as Oran expressed, by “whoever was struck in Anatolia, struck the Armenians”—the Ankara symposium was also important because it pointed to critical academic and social opportunities.

As it has been stated in the two-day long meeting, to understand the process, internal and external factors must be examined calmly and separately. The shameful “one-way passport” example that Adil Okay referred to should not be seen merely as a problem of the past, in Mahir Sayin’s words; it must be studied in all the aspects that damage our collective psychology. What underlies this is the necessity today of keeping our Kurdish brothers away from what the Armenians faced in the past…

In the second session, Ismail Besikci drew attention to the archive fetish, and stressed a crucial methodological point by his deduction that the order for two prison massacres in the 1990’s would not be found in the archives in 2080.

Sait Cetinoglu took the unending issue of continuity and discontinuity in the Ottoman and the Turkish Republic mentalities, which is usually discussed on an abstract level, to the level of continuities in the officials with the examples he provided.

Tuma Celik, from the European Assyrian Union, spoke of the past and present victimhood of people other than Armenians, and deeply moved us when he told us how he had to change his name to Tuna at high school.

Besikci’s note regarding how the concept of an archive is used and abused by official history writing was answered in the third session in the afternoon by young researchers Mehmet Polatel and Asli Comu. Polatel discussed how emval-i metruke (abandoned properties) were plundered, to whom they were distributed, and how the capital was Turkified. Comu discussed, on the basis of archive material, how and to whom the Armenian properties were distributed in the cases of Adana, Tarsus, and Mersin.

On the second day, in the panel titled “The Armenian Question: What to Do and How to Do It?”, Khatchig Mouradian began his talk by stating that it was not possible to define the Turkish people as a monolithic bloc, and emphasized that the 1915 genocide should be discussed as an issue of justice rather than an issue of democracy. He noted that, contrary to customary opinion, apology and reparation are not divisive of peoples, but rather constitute the beginning of a healthy relationship.

Ragip Zarakolu started by talking about the people from Maras and Diyarbakir whom he met in Sao Paulo, and stated that the Diaspora Armenians, who are always seen as a problem in Turkey, in fact reflect well on Turkey and refute false generalizations. Zarakolu stated that in Turkey, the institutions and committees that are interested in the Armenian Question are kept a secret, and that they should be brought to light.

Henry Theriault referred to the many examples of confrontation and apology in the world, and discussed the negative effects of genocide denial on large sections of the society. He argued that it was wrong to take the politically influential Armenia and Turkey as equals, and that the only way to make real political progress was through reparations for the victims of the genocide.

Eilian Williams discussed the process of public opinion formation in the smaller European countries, and stressed the prejudices that were entrenched in, and could be traced from, culture and folklore, which was an important reminder for future research.

Sevan Nisanyan objected to Theriault’s opinion about reparations, and stated that, as a tax-paying citizen of Turkey, compensation to great-grandchildren would not be a solution. Drawing attention to the principle that crime is personal, Nisanyan argued that such demands would not be conducive to the process, but rather would hurt the chances of living together in this country. Nisanyan suggested, instead, that symbolic and moral endeavors such as renaming the Halaskargazi Street as Hrant Dink Street be taken. He stated that real understanding could be achieved through a socio-economic reading of the process.

Temel Demirer began his talk with Arat Dink’s words—“a hundred years ago we were prey, now we are bait”—and claimed that the reality of massacre was a standing preference in the history of the state and could be only dealt with by confronting the official ideology. He stated that the republic was founded by the Malta exiles, and that at the foundation of the capital reserves lay genocide plunders. He described the denial as an ongoing pro-Ittihad attitude of the Turkish Republic, and concluded that the source of the solution would be a radical confrontation and the mutual support of the peoples.

Harry Parsekian, the son of an immigrant to the U.S. in 1911, said that he didn’t blame the people of Turkey and that mutual understanding was necessary, but that without an official apology the process would come to a halt.

Sarkis Hatspanian, who is in prison in Armenia, said in his statement that it was appropriate to view the genocide on the basis of destruction and denial, and that the genocide was the elimination of the idea of Armenia, which was seen as an obstacle to Turkish expansion.

Recep Marasli discussed the role of the Kurds in the Armenian Genocide in his poster statement. Even though the Kurds did not participate in the planning and decision-making process, he said, they were not mere collaborators, but part of a strategic alliance with the genocide committers, an alliance that had a historical background.

In a statement by Garbis Altinoglu, it was emphasized that the Turkish-Armenian problem had deep and highly complex roots, and that it would be impossible to confront the perpetrators of the genocide without objecting to and fighting with the manifestations of persecution on the national basis and social injustice.

In the closing session, Tayfun Isci, Ali Ulger from the Kizilbas Journal, Zeynel Sabaz from the Kaldirac Journal, Barista Erdost from the Socialist Democracy Party, Partizan representative Kenan Ozyurek, Cemal Dogan from the Federation of Democratic Peoples, Mustafa Kahya from the Socialist Party, Nur Yilmaz from Alinteri Journal, Yasar Batman, Huriye Sahin, and Mahmut Konuk from the Ankara Freedom of Thought Initiative, spoke.

In these two days, even though there have been those who characterized the massacre of the Armenians as something other than genocide, the majority of the symposium organizers and speakers described it as genocide, and stressed the need for decriminalizing the genocide label, for the state to face this reality and fulfill its responsibilities, and for a democratic constitution that can end single-minded approaches and treat all differences on an equal basis.

The participants stated that the Armenian Question had an historical background that went beyond the question “What Happened in 1915?” and that its solution would originate from the evolutionary dynamics of social history—not by the interference of the EU or the U.S., but by the peoples themselves and according to the principle of the fellowship of the peoples. And they expressed their hopes that there be no more genocides Turkey.
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