Setting The Record Straight

By Jason Freeman Correspondent

Chicago Daily Southtown, IL
Feb 12 2007

>From 1915 to 1917, in a period that many scholars feel the first
great genocide of the 20th century occurred, hundreds of thousands
of Armenians were forcibly removed and massacred by the Turkish
government during what is now referred to as the Armenian Holocaust.

But it’s not quite as cut and dry as the history books might tell.

According to Turkish historian, sociologist and author Taner Akcam,
who gave a lecture Sunday afternoon at Saints Joachim and Anne
Armenian Church in Palos Heights, many in the Turkish government
deny responsibility for the deaths and claim they were a result of
deportation movements during the first World War.

That’s why Akcam — who recently published a book on the subject called
"A Shameful Act" — feels it is necessary to bring the truth to light.

>From 1 to 1:30 p.m. in the church’s fellowship hall, Akcam spoke to
the dozens in attendance about the Armenian Holocaust and offered
proof that the Turkish government was indeed responsible for the acts.

Akcam focused his discussion on the Ottoman Archives, a collection of
historical sources related to the Ottoman Empire that he said sheds
light on the Armenian Holocaust.

"Two factions have formed around different assessments of the Ottoman
Archive materials," he said. "Those who argue that the events of
1915 were not (an) intentionally planned destruction of the Armenian
population but unexpected consequences of the deportation due to
the war, rely exclusively on the Ottoman documents … in order to
support their claim."

In using the same documents that the Turkish government has used to
deny the events, Akcam said he hoped to show the hypocrisy inherent
in that system of thought.

"At the beginning of 1913, there were already official agreements
between Greece and Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire to exchange the
population," he said. "It was legal ethnic cleansing."

But although Akcam stressed that the Turkish government should take
responsibility for the massacres, he also helped mend the ill feelings
many Armenians have toward Turkish people, said church pastor and
Armenian Father Tavit Boyajian.

After a meeting with a Chicago Turkish organization a few weeks ago,
Boyajian realized something about himself.

"As I sat there, I became aware … that in my heart, I carry a
prejudice against Turkish people," he said. "I have been raised in a
society where there is a lot of resentment, there’s a lot of anger,
and I don’t really think I realized how much I have internalized that
until I was sitting across the table from some Turkish people."

It was a feeling that Boyajian said Akcam helped him overcome.

"This man is a tremendous honest, thoughtful, caring human being,"
he said. "He has done more to help me get over those feelings than
anything else."

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