Difference between revisions of "Conference: Ottoman Armenians During the Decline of the Empire"

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Papers from the conference will be published immediately in Turkish, which was the working language of the gathering, and as soon as possible in English, Ms. Gocek said.
Papers from the conference will be published immediately in Turkish, which was the working language of the gathering, and as soon as possible in English, Ms. Gocek said.

Latest revision as of 05:46, 15 October 2018

On September 24-25 2005, a conference entitled "Ottoman Armenians During the Decline of the Empire: Issues of Scientific Responsibility and Democracy" was held at Bilgi University in Istanbul after two previous attempts which were blocked by the Turkish government. The self-avowed goal of the conference was to call into question the official Turkish account of events. The participants discussed the plight of the Armenians in the final days of the Ottoman Empire, a politically correct way in Turkey of saying the Armenian Genocide. It was the first time this subject was ever discussed so openly in Turkey, other cases of implying wrongdoing by the Ottoman state towards the Armenians have been, and are being currently prosecuted (Including the much publicized case of Orhan Pamuk). Discussing the mass killings of Armenians has long been taboo in Turkey, and scholars who use the word genocide can be prosecuted under a clause in the Turkish penal code on insulting the national character.

Previous attempts to hold the conference

Originally scheduled as a three day conference meant to be held in May, it was cancelled after justice minister Cemil Cicek accused those associated with the conference of "treason" and "stabbing Turkey in the back." This government interference was attacked by the European Union as another sign that Turkey was not ready for EU membership. Prime Minister Recep Erdogan stepped in to say the conference should be held, and it was rescheduled for Sept. 23-25 at Bogaziçi University - days before Turkey's scheduled talks for EU membership. At this point a court ordered that the conference not be held at two of the organizing universities. This once again caused a swift uproar, this time from all over Europe and Turkey as the EU, EC, Turkish government, opposition and press all seemed to come out in support of holding the conference - notably including justice minister Cemil Cicek. The court order was obeyed technically, as the organizers moved the conference to a third venue, which was not forbidden by the court.

Court order

The meeting was rescheduled for this past week at Bogaziçi, University, also known in English as Bosphorus University, but was once again postponed on the eve of its opening, this time because of a legal challenge by The Union of Lawyers that questioned its scientific validity and the qualifications of its participants. The challengers also said it was inappropriate for Bogaziçi, a public university, to be the venue for such a gathering, which they said contravened its mission.

Last week, participants had arrived in Istanbul and the rescheduled meeting looked set to begin on time when the fresh legal challenge against it came to light. A three-judge panel of Istanbul Administrative Court had ruled, 2 to 1, that a legal investigation of the conference's validity should take place, even though its organizers were notified of the decision only the day before the conference was to begin. With that inquiry pending, Bogaziçi could no longer play host to the conference without being held in contempt of the court's ruling. Organizers hastily shifted the venue to Bilgi so the conference could proceed.

Reactions to court order

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was saddened by the new threat to the conference. He characterized the legal challenge as an "anti-democratic development" to which he was opposed. "I want a Turkey where there are freedoms," Sabah quoted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan as saying. Erdoðan said he questioned the just-cause of a court verdict to suspend the conference and added he was in favor of freedom. "Freedom cannot exist in a place where there are people who do not respect the right to think and have beliefs," he added.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul lamented that "there's no one better at hurting themselves than us," and sent a letter wishing the organizers a successful conference.

The European Commission's spokeswoman for enlargement, Krisztina Nagy, said: 'We strongly deplore this new attempt to prevent Turkish society from freely discussing its history. The timing of this decision the day before the opening of the conference looks like yet another provocation.' She said the court order 'illustrates the difficulties of Turkey, and in particular of the judiciary, to ensure effective and uniform implementation of the reforms'. She characterized the court decision as a "recurrent provocation".

Aybar Ertepinar, vice president of the Council of Higher Education, a government-financed organization that oversees all Turkish universities, said on Sunday that although his group had not been invited to take part, the conference should have been allowed to proceed at Bogaziçi. "Our Constitution grants academic and scientific freedom to universities," he said. Taking up the opponents' challenge "was an unfortunate decision of the court that went beyond the borders of its responsibility," he said.

The building is guarded by the police and strict security measures have been undertaken. However several hundreds of nationalists are holding a protest action in the neighborhood. "The meeting is illegal. We will prevent it," a representative of a Turkish right wing party stated.

Several participating academics say the government, which likes to trumpet its pluralist instincts, urged the university to reschedule the event for this weekend.

Academics, as well as a majority of the media, expressed bitter frustration at the judiciary's intervention in the event. Not only did the efforts to block the conference hamper efforts for democratization and freedom of speech in Turkey on its road to the EU, they said, but the persistence of these efforts also magnifies the significance of the conference and its content.

"This is a fight of 'can we discuss this thing, or can we not discuss this thing?"' Murat Belge, a member of the organizing committee, said at the conference opening. "This is something that's directly related to the question of what kind of country Turkey is going to be."

Final rescheduling of conference

With the more than 350 participants once again assembled in Istanbul, the conference's organizers decided that "we can either do this now or we cannot do it all again," said Fatma Müge Gocek, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor who was on the meeting's advisory committee.

Organizers had selected Bogaziçi as the venue for the meeting precisely because it is a public institution, but they decided they had no choice but to relocate to Bilgi. The rectors of all three sponsoring universities welcomed the participants, who met in marathon sessions to condense into two days a program that was to have been spread over three.

Lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz, member of the Executive Board of the Lawyers' Association, said that it was unlawful to continue the conference at a different venue in spite of a court order. Kerincsiz said that demonstrations protesting against the violation of the court order were being staged because they did not find anybody to address themselves to at the Istanbul Governor's Office or the Istanbul Security Directorate.

Conference organization

Academics from Bilgi University, Bogaziçi, and Sabanci University, three of Turkey's leading higher-education institutions, organized the meeting, which they described as the first conference on the Armenian issue in Turkey not organized by state authorities or government-affiliated historians. Bilgi and Sabanci are private.

Nobody was allowed to enter the area except participants in the conference and members of the press. Only members of the press with special permits could take photographs during the conference.

The conference

A total of 267 people attended the conference, the majority of whom were academics and students. 12 sessions were held in the two-day conference to which 786 people were invited. Nine foreign journalists, including two from Armenia, and many Turkish reporters covered the conference.

According to Berktay, the Armenian conference has been organized by Dr. Selim Deringil, Dr. Edhem Eldem, Dr. Caglar Keyder and Dr. Nukhet Sirman of Bogazici University, Dr. Murat Belge of Bilgi University and Dr. Cemil Kocak and Dr. Aksin Somel of Sabanci University. The organization committee has 15 members.

Asked if the participants in the conference only support one view, Dr. Berktay noted that such an allegation is inaccurate. The participants in the conference have termed themselves as representing notions out of the official ideology. Representation of only one side of the matter is not the actual case, commented Dr. Berktay.

Arguments between speakers and participants occurred during the conference.

Radikal reported that on the first day of the conference, which had occupied the agenda for five months, everyone expressed their own views.

Among the participants of the two-day conference were those who acknowledge the genocide allegations.

During the conference, Prof Fikret Adanir of Faculty of History in German Ruhr University said, "A Turkish government may have to accept genocide accusation one day due to impositions. This may please some circles. But I don't think a concession made as a result of such impositions will be beneficial for the future of Turkish-Armenian relations." Adanir said that "he was using the expression 'Armenian genocide' in his academic works", and added, "The dimension of the 1915-16 relocation is far beyond than mass killings. A whole nation, regardless of whether they were women, men, elderly or children, were relocated and died on the roads. Their properties were seized, while those who survived this incident were not allowed to return. There was an Armenian nationalism and a project to establish an Armenian state. Majority of the Ottoman Armenians might have a sympathy towards the enemies of the state (Ottoman Empire) those days. But all these cannot compensate the tragedy which was intentionally caused by the Ottoman government and which it (the empire) ignored."

On the other hand, Associate Professor Oktay Ozel of Bilkent University said that days between the War of 93 and 1923 was a period of tension and clashes. "At the end of this period, the Black Sea region was purified from non-Muslim population," added Ozel.

"There are so many documents in hand with respect to the destruction of Armenians," said Taner Akcam, a Turkish-born professor at the University of Minnesota, and author of books on the subject including, "A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility." "The Ittihat and Terakki Party (Party of Union & Progress) had a plan to purify whole Anatolia of the non-Turks, starting from the Aegean Region, before the World War I, and this plan was carried out in entire Anatolia during the years of the war," Taner told the conference. "Ottoman documents indicate that the decision to relocate the Armenians was made to end a deeper problem defined as the 'eastern problem' and to end the dissolution process of the Ottoman Empire. This decision was not a result of a need that erupted during the war. There are many documents in hand with respect to the destruction of Armenians."

Dr Ahmet Kuyas of Galatasaray University said that the policy of relocation, decided upon by four of the leading figures in the Ittihat and Terakki Party, had had a darker side, with a series of massacres also taking place. Those responsible for these acts were the Minister of War Enver Pasa, Talat Pasa, Dr Bahattin Sakir and Dr Nazim, he said.

The participants were all Turkish speakers and included members of Turkey's Armenian minority like Hrant Dink, the editor in chief of Agos, a weekly Armenian newspaper in Istanbul - on trial himself for saying he was not a Turk, but rather a Turkish citizen of Armenian descent.

The conference is not adopting Orhan Pamuk's provocative stance. Ayhan Aktar, a professor at Marmara University who will attend, says it is not aimed specifically at discussing or endorsing the genocide claim, as some of its critics alleged in May, although participants may choose to do so. The title of the proceedings - Ottoman Armenians during the era of Ottoman decline - is neutral.

A surprise speaker in the conference was Cevdet Aykan, formerly a minister from the long defunct right wing Justice Party (AP), who spoke on the Armenian community in the Tokat region in eastern Turkey, which he had covered in his published memoirs. According to Aykan, out of Tokat's population of 28,000 in the early years of the 20th century, 8,800 were Armenian. He said that in the census of 1924 the Armenian population was down to about 700. "It was not a good thing," he said "Thousands of Armenians lost their houses, country, homeland and some cases their lives," he said. Aykan said he had chosen to take part in the conference to repay debt of conscience. The events of 1915 were interpreted differently by different parliaments and that Turkey should not see the civilised world and those that run it as enemies, he said.

Retired Professor Ilhan Cuhadaroglu was not invited, but talked his way into the conference. He took the floor during the 9th session titled "Armenian cases" and started making comments, eventually shouting, "You cannot bear hearing my comments, but you have to get used to them." In the aftermath of the experienced tension, Chairwomen Professor Nuket Sirman from Bogazici University said she closed the session. Cuhadaroglu later said, "There is an atmosphere of lamentation in the conference. I felt as though I was in Bulgaria or Greece."

Government ministers are being careful not to be identified too closely with the event and the publicity it is sure to generate. According to the university, there will be no official presence.


The building is guarded by the police and strict security measures have been undertaken. However several hundreds of nationalists are holding a protest action in the neighborhood. "The meeting is illegal. We will prevent it," a representative of a Turkish right wing party stated.

Several hundreds of nationalists gathered in front of the university on Saturday shouting out slogans "Betrayers", "It's Turkey - love it or leave it". However, on Sunday, just 20 protestors showed up.

Nationalist demonstrators hurled eggs and tomatoes at participants as they arrived at Istanbul's private Bilgi University to discuss claims that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians during and after World War One.

Some of the banners prepared by protestors read: "Turkish diplomats, victims of the Armenian slaughters, may you sleep in peace for we're on guard," and, "One-sided thesis is not academic."

During a briefing for members of the press, eggs and tomatoes were thrown at journalist Cengiz Candar, one of the participants in the conference, as a sign of protest.

Tomatoes and eggs thrown at former Deputy Prime Minister Erdal Inonu as well, and one egg hit his shoulder. Professor Erdal Inonu, a senior statesman and former leader of the Social Democrat People's Party (SHP), attended the conference as a member of the audience, and was heckled at the gate, while another group of protestors shouted at Inonu, saying, "Dear Inonu, don't go among those traitors." Inonu was quoted to say "This is not a political but a scientific conference,", and while leaving the conference, Inonu told the police: "Do not protect me. I don't care if protestors throw eggs at me." He turned down taxis that were hailed for him as he left. "I will be walking to the Taksim Square, and then go home," said Ýnonu, "This is my country and I am walking home."

A protestor told The New Anatolian that the goal was merely to bring the so-called Armenian genocide to the public's attention to stir up the country and that the meeting was one-sided and non-academic. "It's illegal to say there was no genocide in many European countries," he contested, "but in Turkey it's open to discussion. Are we a more democratic country then?"

Turkish press reaction and coverage

Nobody was allowed to enter the area except participants in the conference and members of the press. Only members of the press with special permits could take photographs during the conference.

As the conference concluded, Ms. Gocek said she felt a real "paradigm shift" had occurred. "We had lots of Turkish journalists there who said they are not going to use the word 'alleged' from now on, in terms of talking about the genocide. They may refer to 'genocide claims,' but they will no longer talk of an 'alleged genocide,'" she said.

The mere fact that the conference had gone ahead prompted strong praise from local media.

"Another taboo is destroyed. The conference began but the day of judgement did not come," said the Milliyet daily.

The liberal Radikal newspaper took a similar line. "Even the word 'genocide' was uttered at the conference, but the world is still turning and Turkey is still in its place," its front-page headline said.

"Free discussion, free protest," said Turkey's top-selling Hurriyet newspaper, noting that both conference participants and demonstrators were freely expressing their opinions.

The New Anatolian wrote: "The controversy-riddled Armenian conference was held over the weekend despite all kinds of obstacles. No one expected any earth-shattering results, but even the fact that such a conference could be held in Turkey and the quality of the debate, even though a bit fiery at times, shows our country is edging towards accepting free debate as part of our culture. It concluded, "Turkey hasn't lost anything but has gained from this Armenian conference. We've shown that we have nothing to hide and most of us can face the challenges of history in a mature manner. The cat is now out of the bag and we all have to start debating these issues in earnest without falling into any nationalist pits."

Turkish Daily News Sept 26 - The highlight of Turkish newspapers yesterday was a twice-canceled conference on the so-called massacre of Armenians at the hands of the late Ottoman Empire, the precursor of modern Turkey.

Milliyet reported that the alleged genocide was discussed for the first time in Turkey sharing ideas and beliefs that don't represent the state's official views on the issue.

Zaman wrote - "A recent conference on Armenians during the decline of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey did not attract the expected level of attention from the European media." Then went on to quote the critical remarks about Turkey in various European media.

Turkish Daily News' Yusuf Kanli wrote: The Armenian claims might be exaggerated. There might not have been as high a death toll as they claim. What happened could have been a result of civil war triggered with the uncertainty brought on with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Whatever explanation one can bring about, what transpired in the first quarter of the last century is a catastrophe. If we are unhappy with the participants of an academic conference, the response cannot be to gather in front of a conference hall and throw rotten eggs and tomatoes at people getting in and out, but rather to convene another conference with participants considered more appropriate and thus contribute to a debate on the issue.

The Turkish Daily News had a column on Sept. 27 titled "If Only They Knew", which began: Gunduz Aktan Calling the Armenian conference under way in Istanbul a "historical" one has no meaning other than to indicate the exaggerated importance some of the participants attribute to their own pitiful egos. This conference is the fifth in a series of meetings, the first of which was held at the University of Michigan, dominated by the Armenian diaspora. The participants have been more or less the same. Their arguments too have hardly been different."...

MILLIYET (By Derya Sazak, Turkish Press - Sept 27 2005) begins: "Another taboo has been broken. The Armenian conference was held, and the world didn't come to an end. These are the headlines of newspapers published in Turkey. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times characterized the issue as follows: 'a groundbreaking event where Turkish academics could for the first time publicly challenge their country's official version of the events leading to the slaughter of Armenians.' People immediately paid attention to the fact that the conference was held, because some tried to block the meeting at Bogazici University with a court order. Three rectors, namely Ayse Soysal, Tosun Terzioglu and Aydin Ugur, resisted the judiciary's intervention in academic autonomy and ensured the meeting was held."

Other reactions

In a long message to the conference, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul expressed Turkey's official view that many citizens of the Ottoman Empire suffered terribly during the war but that claims of an Armenian genocide were false and politically motivated. "Both Turks and Armenians suffered a great deal in the past. "This point should not be disregarded while this tragic period is examined." Gul concluded his long statement by saying, "young generations from all nations must know and draw lessons from the facts that during the last era of the Ottoman Empire the imperialist-colonial powers ruthlessly exploited peoples' ethno-religious sensitivities for their own gains and that some elements, knowingly or unknowingly, became instruments to these provocations. I hope that your Conference will be a contribution to raise awareness on this issue. The Turkish people is at peace with itself and with its history. The approaches of our government and our people towards our past, including Turkish-Armenian relations, constitute an indication of our confidence in ourselves and our future. I convey my best wishes to all participants and hope that the Conference will be a success."

Deniz Baykal, leader of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, said on Sunday he thought the conference was too one-sided in its approach to the Armenian issue, but he defended the right of academics to debate freely.

Organizers of the conference say Turks have been surprisingly supportive of their efforts, despite some panelists suggesting that Ottoman Turks committed the first genocide of the 20th Century.

"This is a fight of 'can we discuss this thing, or can we not discuss this thing?"' Murat Belge, a member of the organizing committee, said at the conference opening. "This is something that's directly related to the question of what kind of country Turkey is going to be."

Addressing the conference on Sunday Professor Baskin Oran of Ankara University's Political Sciences Department said that the event had broken down the last taboo in Turkey. "Concept of class, criticisms of Ataturk, Cyprus, socialism, communism and Kurdistan are no more taboos in Turkey," he said. "There was only one taboo left, and it was Armenian issue. Now, it is no more a taboo."

A different publication said the following about Baskin Oran: Referring to Armenian Diaspora, Oran said, Diaspora talks about 'recognition, compensation and territory', and this prevents 'recognition'. Nobody in Turkey can think of paying compensation for things that an empire (Ottoman Empire), the alphabet of which you have abandoned, did. Moreover, territory claims are nonsense. Oran pointed out that assassins of Turkish diplomats should not remain unpunished, and added, assassins of 35-40 Turkish diplomats were not punished or sentenced to minor punishments. And, this caused as much reaction in Turkey as the 1915 incidents caused in Armenia. And, this was the factor which increased this taboo in Turkey.

"There is no moresensitive issue in Turkey's 20th century history." By Vincent Boland, Financial Times

It is possible to discuss Armenia today in a way that was not possible five years ago, some commentators say, but only on certain terms. Ragip Duran, a journalist and communications lecturer at Galatasaray University who has been jailed for his work, says: "It is OK to talk about sensitive issues (such as Armenia), but only in a certain national context. The Orhan Pamuk case is the best example of the breaking of this taboo."

"We've passed a threshold today," said the rector of Sabancý University, one of the organizers of the conference.

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal said he was pleased with the holding of the conference, the paper reported.

Armenian Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan yesterday condemned protests in Istanbul against a conference titled "Ottoman-Armenians During the Breakup of the Empire: Scientific Responsibility and Democracy Problem."

Parliament Speaker Bulent Arýnc said demonstrators who protested the conference for allegedly backing accusations of genocide were trying to harm the EU candidate country's image abroad. "The only way for Turkey to reach the level of developed countries in terms of democracy and freedom of expression is the expansion of freedoms and the creation of a climate in which people can express their views and beliefs," said Arýnc, speaking in the western province of Manisa at the opening ceremony of a guesthouse for students.

"This conference (the Conference titled "The Armenians during the Collapse of the Ottoman Empire") will have a positive impact on the point of view of foreigners on Turkey", Cem Ozdemir, a member of the European Parliament, said on Sunday. "This conference (the Conference titled "The Armenians during the Collapse of the Ottoman Empire") will have a positive impact on the point of view of foreigners on Turkey", Cem Ozdemir, a member of the European Parliament, said on Sunday. Ozdemir pointed out that there were circles who were uneasy about the resolutions adopted by foreign parliamentarians regarding the Armenian issue, and said, "if we don't want this, such conferences should be held. The most important reason (of such resolutions) is that these matters are not discussed in Turkey. If Turkey debates these matters, the pressure on it will be reduced."

On the other hand, Sabanci University's President Prof. Dr. Tosun Terzioglu said at the end of the meeting that this conference was important because it showed that universities were autonomous in Turkey. "It was also important because academicians and intellectuals discussed each other's views," he added.

Another delegate at the two day conference, Professor Dr Ilhan Cuhadaroglu, said that he felt a feeling of mourning at the conference that almost moved him to tears. "I feel like asking was I in Bulgaria or Greece," he said.

Hurriyet daily's Sept. 26 headline was "Discuss Yerevan All These" implying Armenia should be open to discuss Armenian terrorism and Armenian attacks against the Turkish civilians during the First World War. Armenian terrorists killed more than 40 Turkish diplomats during the 1970 and 1980s.

Harut Sassounian wrote in the California Courier: "Even though there were very few new revelations on the topic of the Armenian Genocide during the course of the conference, the significant aspect of the gathering was the fact that it took place at all. This is the first time that a group of Turkish scholars, facing the wrath of many of their radical compatriots and a legal ban, had dared to challenge the official revisionist position of the Turkish establishment on this issue."

"The most important thing is that this [conference] is happening at all," said Cengiz Candar, a prominent columnist for Bugun newspaper, who was hit by an egg as he spoke outside the conference. "It will help to recoup some of Turkey's negative image and, more fundamentally, its commitment to the EU and democracy." "The judiciary is one of the most reactionary and backward institutions in Turkey, and the illegal [court] verdict reflects the inherent problems," he charges. "But the fact that we are discussing this is ample evidence to be optimistic."

Halil Berktay, coordinator of the history department at Sabanci University, says the opposition was not surprising. "This is a country of more than 70 million, with a strong nationalist past; there are strong forces opposed to the European Union, to democracy and opening up," he says. But, he adds, "the question of what happened in 1915-1916 is not a mystery, it's not like we know just 5 percent. We know 85 percent, so the question is not finding more evidence. The question is liberating scholarship from the nationalist taboos...."

Dr. Davut Sahiner said that the Istanbul Armenian Conference is not a scientific one: `Almost all of the participants pro-Armenian. It is not scientific. No academicians could give a reference to this conference in their serious studies. It is political and they make pro-Armenian propaganda. They invite no serious Turkish researchers. You cannot see Ilber Ortayli, Turkkaya Ataov or Mim Kemal Oke. They called the journalists, populists names, Armenians and pro-Armenians. But, I still support the conference. It should be made. Turkey is not Armenia. Turkey is not Switzerland. Even the Armenians or pro-Armenians can say anything they wish, and no one will be punished or put to prison. You remember, a Turkish scholar from Duke University was put to the Armenian prisons in Yerevan last Summer due to his scientific researches in Armenian archives. No Turkish historian can go to Armenia after this. And all of us know that no pro-Turkish speaker can speak in Lyon or California on Armenian issue.'

Elif Şafak wrote in the Washington Post: "Whatever happens with the conference, I believe one thing remains true: Through the collective efforts of academics, journalists, writers and media correspondents, 1915 is being opened to discussion in my homeland as never before. The process is not an easy one and will disturb many vested interests. I know how hard it is -- most children from diplomatic families, confronting negative images of Turkey abroad, develop a sort of defensive nationalism, and it's especially true among those of us who lived through the years of Armenian terrorism. But I also know that the journey from denial to recognition is one that can be made.

Related events

The Turkish Judicial Officials Union have filed a complaint against 17 people for organizing last week's controversial conference on the Ottoman Armenians, and for making statements about the legal process regarding the suspension of conference.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Higher Board of Education (YOK) released a statement today that said the Istanbul court's decision to suspend the Armenian conference is an intervention in universities' rights to possess scientific autonomy. Yesterday's court decision is one that threatens Turkey's national values. According to Bogazici and Sabanci Universities' rectors, lawyers representing the universities have filed an official objection today to Istanbul Administrative Court no. 4's decision that suspended the conference yesterday.

The Anatolian Times announced on Sept 26 2005 that an "Armenian Conference" will take place at the Istanbul University in March 2006. In a press release, the IU Rector's office said that Istanbul University will hold a conference on the Armenian problem by wide international participation and on basis of international criteria. "The participants, including lawyers, scholars and politicians, of countries who have adopted resolutions accepting and remembering the so-called Armenian genocide will be invited. The Istanbul University will study the matter based on its historical mission and with an objective look. The Armenian problem will not only be handled from an historical perspective but also from a legal, political and sociological perspectives. "The participants will handle the topic from various angles possible scientifically," said the IU press release.

"Turkey has to confront its history, and the fact of the violence of 1915 and 1916, and lack of accountability, sanctioned more [state] violence," says Fatma Muge Gocek, a sociologist at the University of Michigan and a conference adviser. "The discourse is not new; the fact that it is said in Turkey is what matters," says Ms. Gocek. "They are great developments."


NTV MSNBC reported that the conference found there was strong evidence that massacres and widespread deportations had been carried out, but stopped short of describing the acts as genocide.

The Economist wrote: For Turks who want a European future, there was a dollop of hope last weekend, when brave historians managed to hold a conference in Istanbul to discuss the fate of the Ottoman Armenians. It was the first time Turkish pundits were permitted to challenge publicly the official line, holding that the mass deportation of Armenians in 1915 did not amount to a conspiracy to kill them. As participants read out letters between the "Young Turks" then ruling the empire, a rapt audience was left with no doubt that hundreds of thousands of Armenians were deliberately slain.

Professor Oran said however that Turkey could not be held responsible for the actions of a state that no longer existed,

Papers from the conference will be published immediately in Turkish, which was the working language of the gathering, and as soon as possible in English, Ms. Gocek said.