Blogs > HNN > JAPAN AT LEAST APPOLOGIZED - TURKEY HAS YET TO DO SO

May 28, 2005 1:01 pm


JAPAN AT LEAST APPOLOGIZED - TURKEY HAS YET TO DO SO



TURKEY: ARMENIAN GENOCIDE CONFERENCE IS POSTPONED
Istanbul, 27 May (AKI) - A conference questioning Turkey's official policy that the 1915-21 mass killing of Armenians under Ottoman rule never took place has been postponed following pressure from the government. The conference, initially slated to be held at the Bhosphorus University on Wednesday, provoked outrage among nationalists, after participants said they would challenge the commonly held view in Turkey that the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians was due to the epidemics and other hardships suffered during deportations after separatist Armenian militants joined sides with Turkey's World War I enemy Russia and started killing Turkish civillians.

“How can this be a scientific conference? Some of the participants are even not historians” wrote Ruhat Mengi in the daily Vatan, apparently refering to one of the conference organisers, Prof. Murat Belge, Head of the Literature Department at Bilgi University, the only Turk who has joined the 90th anniversary commemorations of the genocide in the Armenian capital Yerevan on 24 April.


But the strongest criticism came from the Turkish justice minister and government spokesman, Cemil Cicek.

“The conference would be tantamount to stabbing Turkey in the back,” he said.

After Cicek’s remarks the Bosphorus University announced that the conference had been postponed.


The decision was welcomed by officials and others who refuse to even consider the Armenian allegations, but liberal columnists, conference participants and pro-democracy activists slammed the government's reaction.


"I am very sad and disappointed. It would have been a forum that showed that democracy worked in Turkey and that different voices can be heard" said Muge Gocek, a Turkish professor of sociology at Michigan University who traveled to Istanbul for the conference.

“The biggest mistake is criticising the conference as being one-sided. People like Cicek think that they have the authority to decide what is in the ‘national interest’ and they shape the society according to their decisions”, Belge wrote in his column in the Radikal daily on Friday.

The liberal paper’s headline on Thursday read: ‘Zero tolerance on thought’

The Human Rights Association (IHD) was also critical of Cicek.

"We strongly condemn the politicians and especially the justice minister who prevented the Armenian conference from taking place through pressure, threats and statements that make [organisers] targets" the IHD said in a statement on Wednesday.

Hans Jorg Kretschmer, the European Union Commission's representative to Turkey said that the government's did not fit in with ideas of democracy.

Organisers have said they intend to hold the conference, however a date has yet to be specified.





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