Turkish Community Revises History of Its Country


YEREVAN, JANUARY 21. ARMINFO. Turkey begins self reflection over
Armenia. While an exhibition in Istanbul devoted to the daily life of
the Armenians in Anatolia at the start of the 20th century is breaking
attendance records, Turkish society is beginning to reflect on the
Armenian question, erased from official history for the past 90 years
The exhibition “my dear brother”, which opened on January 8, has
attracted 6,000 visitors in 12 days according to organizers, a record
for local galleries. AFP Office in Istanbul reports.

Through 500 postcards from the period, the exhibition endeavours to
show, city by city and with supporting figures, how omnipresent
Armenian communities were across the Ottoman territory and their role
in society. “In Turkey, history has always been taught about one
people — the Turks, as if there had never been any other people on
the territory. When we speak of Armenians, they are not described as
an integral group of society but as a source of problems,” explained
Osman Koker, exhibition director.

“It’s to fill this void, because I have an 11-year-old daughter who is
getting this kind of education at school, that I have decided to
publish a book and put on this exhibition,” said Koker, an historian
turned editor. “Without this realization, it will remain impossible to
discuss the events of 1915,” he said, referring to the Armenian
massacres committed between 1915 and 1917 by the Ottoman
armies. Convinced of Turkish society’s growing curiosity about its
past, Koker, nonetheless acknowledges that any change in mentality
will take time. “A majority of the public, especially in the country
areas, consider the simple word ‘Armenian’ an insult,” he said.

Even if a handful of academics and amateur historians have attempted
to re-examine Turkish history, it is not easy to break the deep taboo
which has been deeply ingrained in the general consciousness by
official history. “Until 1980, Turkish school textbooks quite simply
didn’t mention the Armenian massacre,” explained Fabio Salomoni,
author of a book on the Turkish education system.

“With the first acknowledgments of ‘genocide’ by Western governments
and the increasing number of attacks by Asala (an Armenian activist
organization), a paragraph was then added excluding all Turkish
responsibility for the deaths of Armenians, explaining in the context
of a war…” he said. Even if Turkey acknowledges the massacres, it
objects to the term ‘genocide’ and the figures of 1.2 to 1.3 million
killed, as claimed by the Armenians, estimating the number of victims
at between 250,000 to 300,000. Even though Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently opened an Armenian museum in Istanbul –
just before the European summit in Brussels which gave a date to
Ankara to start negotiations for joining the European Union (news –
web sites) – there is no question of overturning the existing
orthodoxy concerning the Armenians.

Several state-subsidized organizations continue to conduct research
aimed at showing that if there was a genocide, it was more likely
committed by Armenians against the Turks. The Turkish population has
still not fully acknowledged the problem; in this context, imposing a
solution can only provoke hostile reactions,” said Etyen Mahcupyan, an
Armenian from Istanbul and writer for the daily newspaper Zaman.

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