Dissident conference stirs tensions in Turkey
ANKARA, May 24 (AFP) - 16h42 - Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek
Tuesday accused of "treason" a group of academics organizing a
conference to question Turkey's official position on the mass killings
of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, the Anatolia news agency
The three-day conference, which opens Wednesday at Istanbul's
prestigious Bogazici University, will be attended by Turkish academics
and intellectuals who dispute Ankara's version of the 1915-1917
massacres, recognized as genocide by several countries.
Cicek condemned the initiative as a blow to government efforts to
counter a mounting Armenian campaign to have the killings recognized
internationally as genocide, which many fear may cloud Turkey's bid to
join the European Union.
"This is a stab in the back to the Turkish nation... this is
irresponsibility," Anatolia quoted Cicek as saying at a parliamentary
"We must put an end to this cycle of treason and insult, of spreading
propaganda against the (Turkish) nation by people who belong to it," he
The opposition joined the criticism.
Sukru Elekdag, a senior MP for the main opposition Republican People's
Party and a retired ambassador, called the conference "a treacherous
project" aimed at disseminating pro-Armenian propaganda "under the
guise of research."
Conference organizers said in a press statement that "it is high time
Turkey's own academics and intellectuals collectively raise voices that
differ from the official stannce" on the Armenian killings.
"The expression of critical and alternative opinions will be to
Turkey's benefit, because it will show how rich in pluralist thinking Turkish
society actually is," the statement said.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen were killed by the
Ottomans in what was a genocide between 1915 and 1917.
Ankara argues that 300,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in
civil strife during World War I, when the Armenians took up arms for
independence in eastern Anatolia and sided with Russian troops invading
the crumbling Ottoman Empire.
Ankara fears that the genocide allegations could fuel anti-Turkish
sentiment in international public opinion and cloud its image at a time
when it is vying for EU membership.
War of words before conference on Armenians
Monday, May 23 2005 @ 10:38 PM Central Daylight Time
A conference to be held between May 25-27 at Bosphorus University is
sparking arguments before it has even started. The conference,
organized by the Bosphorus, Bilgi, and Sabanci Universities, is entitled "Ottoman
Armenians During the Collapse of the Empire: Scholarly Responsibility
and Problems with Democracy," and is expected to attract wide
The sharpest criticism so far of the conference has come from Professor
Ilber Ortayli of Galatasaray University, who has said:
The same old team of people
"The people invited are the same ones who are always invited. There is
no way the issues can be argued healthily." Ortayli went on, "Maybe
they couldn't invite Professor Yusuf Halacoglu (embattled Turkish professor
recently accused by a Swiss prosecutor of violating Swiss law by
denying the Armenian genocide), by they should have invited retired diplomat
Gunduz Aktan for his knowledge of law....In this country, there is
democracy, everyone can do what they want. Everyone can account for
their actions. My views on this matter are clear."
Professor Yusuf Halacoglu also had criticisms for the upcoming
conference: "They have invited people who will echo the views of the
Armenian side. Why haven't they invited me? If they see me as
representing the official view on the matter, they must be defending
the diaspora view of things."
Professor Berktay of Sabanci University: No need for Halacoglu to
In answer to much of the criticism, Professor Halil Berktay of Sabanci
University had this to say: "The official response of the Turkish
government on this matter has practically been memorized. Conferences
on the Armenian question have been organized for years in this country.
All of them have been one sided; historians that criticized freely were
never invited. There is no need for Professor Halacoglu to
"re-enlighten" us on his views."
Retired diplomat Elekdag: Goal of conference is to stain Turkey
Retired diplomat and Republican People's (CHP) Party MP Sukru Elekdag
had these strong words for the conference organizers: "There is a
desire to broadcast Armenian propoganda. No one was invited to speak about
history in an objective and honest way. It is very sad that a meeting
whose objective is to stain Turkey is being held at Bosphorus
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