Turkish, Armenian intellectuals to meet for closer dialogue

VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU

Intellectuals from Turkey and Armenia are set to gather in the Turkish capital on the anniversary of the 1915 killings of Armenians during the last days of the Ottoman Empire.

The meeting is set to occur at a time when the historic normalization process between the two countries has stalled.

Turkish and Armenian intellectuals will meet in Ankara on April 24 and 25 to discuss the events of 1915 and attempt to improve dialogue between the two nations in an event organized by the Ankara Freedom of Thought Initiative.

“We believe the problem between the two nations will be solved only by dialogue,” Sait Çetin, a writer, human-rights activists and one of the organizers of the forum, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“Matters that concern us in the first degree are being discussed in the capitals of the world because we cannot manage to talk [about them] ourselves. The sincerity of the West is arguable, and Turkey has an attitude of denial,” Çetin added in a March 22 e-mail interview.

Participants in the forum will talk about the events leading up to the 1915 killings, which Armenians refer to as “genocide,” as well as their political implications. Topics of discussion are set to include “The Armenian issue from a historical perspective,” “From [the Committee of] Union and Progress to Kemalism – official ideological denial and termination of the issue,” “The Turkification of the capital” and “The Armenian issue: How to handle it?”

Writer Temel Demirer underscored the importance of such dialogue in order to ensure a more peaceful future, saying that the official ideology in Turkey has tried to cover history up. “We, as Turkish intellectuals, want to face the truth,” he told the Daily News in a phone interview.

When asked about possible reactions, Demirer added: “I do not blame people who say the genocide did not happen. If there is such a thing called freedom of speech, everybody should show respect to each others’ freedom of expression.”

Çetin said the event had originally been planned to take place Jan. 19, the anniversary of the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, but the group had difficulty finding a suitable location in Ankara for that date.

“Actually, it is good that [the meeting] coincided on this date,” he said, referring to April 24, the date on which Armenians commemorate the “genocide.”

“We are going to present a perspective as different as we can for Ankara and Yerevan on the solution of the historical problems,” Çetin added.

‘Genocide’ resolution

The normalization process between Turkey and Armenia hit a new obstacle after a U.S. House of Representatives committee endorsed a resolution calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to label the 1915 killings of Armenians as “genocide.”

Ragıp Zarakolu, a founding member of the Human Rights Association and the owner of Belge International Publishing, said that the voting in the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 4 had the atmosphere of a football match.

“Such a tragic event becomes a political issue because the Turks and Armenians cannot solve it among themselves,” he said.

According to Zarakolu, many of the forums about the events of 1915 have only started to take place in Turkey since the year 2005, which he called “the year zero for Turkey. It is the year many taboo topics started to be discussed. It was impossible before that.”

The forum will to take place in the hall of the Construction Engineers’ Chamber on Necatibey Street in Ankara.

In addition to Çetin, Demirer and Zarakolu, the 20 scheduled attendees include Sevan Nişanyan, an academic, linguist and writer; Professor Baskın Oran, a political scientist; and Khatcig Mouradian from the U.S.-based Armenian Weekly.

According to Çetin, the discussions at the forum will not be limited the events of 1915, but will also include what happened before and after, as well as contemporary reflections on the subject.

Hürriyet Daily News

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Conference on Genocide to Be Held in Ankara on April 24

By: Weekly Staff

ANKARA, Turkey (A.W.)—On April 24-25, a symposium on the Armenian Genocide, titled “1915 within its pre- and post-historical periods: denial and confrontation,” will be held in Ankara. Organized by the Ankara Freedom to Thought Initiative (AFTI), the symposium will not only address the history, but explore issues like the confiscation of Armenian property and reparations.

Confirmed participants include Ragip Zarakolu (publisher), Recep Marasli (author of The Armenian National Democratic Movement and 1915 Genocide), Sait Cetinoglu (activist and writer), David Gaunt (genocide scholar, author of Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia During World War I),  Henry Theriault (professor of Philosophy, Worcester State University), Baskin Oran (author, professor of Political Science at Ankara University; one of the initiators of the apology campaign of Turkish intellectuals), and Khatchig Mouradian (Doctoral student in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University; editor, the Armenian Weekly).

Dedicated to the memory of Hrant Dink, the symposium will comprise of four sessions: a) the Armenian Genocide from a historical perspective, b) official ideological denial from the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) to Kemalism, c) Turkification of the Economy and the issue of the confiscated Armenian Property, and d) what needs to be done and how?

The Armenian Weekly will provide in depth coverage of the conference.

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