Scholar Banned From Ottoman Archives

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GLENDALE-Hilmar Kaiser an Armenian Genocide scholar was "banned for life" from use of the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul last week by Necati Aktas, Assistant General Director of the Prime Minister's Archives. Kaiser, who is of German descent, is affiliated with the European University Institute's Department of History and Civilization in Firenze, Italy and has presented papers at several international symposia on the Armenian Genocide.

Actions taken by Turkish authorities in the past two weeks are politically motivated, since at no time does Kaiser seem to have violated any section of Article 9 of the archival research law, scholars said.

In a letter dated Aug. 12 to Dr. Dennis Papazian, Director of the Armenian Research Center at the University of Michigan- Dearborn, Kaiser discussed the events that led to his "banishment."

"Upon arrival at the reading room of the archives on August 2, I was informed, in a rude way, that my permit had been annulled," wrote Kaiser.

According to the letter, Kaiser "left the room in the company of the official and asked for an application form for a new permit." The man to whom the request was made "left, and came back and ordered me not to fill out the form since they (the archival authorities) would not accept my application," Kaiser explained, adding that according to Turkish law, he had a right to apply. Having made no progress with the official, Kaiser, accompanied by Dr. Neumann of the Orient Institute in Istanbul, went to see Aktas, who reportedly refused to see him. "After about two hours of waiting I was allowed to hand in my application," said Kaiser.

Three days later, Kaiser returned to the archives, with Dr. Neumann, and received a response to his application. "It was negative," and "the authorities gave [him] no specific reason," only that he had "violated paragraph 9 of the archive law."

Kaiser has been in constant contact with reporters on this matter, and has appealed to "all persons of good will," particularly scholars in Europe and the United States, to express their dismay at the "arbitrary action" taken by Turkish authorities. In an effort to bring an end to such actions by the Turkish government aimed at punishing or exerting undue pressure on objective academic research, scholars responded to Kaiser's appeal with continuous dialogue on the matter, via the Internet.

Papazian, in correspondence with the Middle East Studies Association and the Turkish Studies Association, drew attention to discrepancies in the rejection by Turkish authorities, as well as UCLA Professor Stanford Shaw's interpretation of the events that transpired. "Mr. Kaiser was refused service in a "rude way" in the reading room immediately upon his arrival, not after requesting more than 10 copies a day" as Shaw had claimed based on personal inquiries, Papazian said.

According Shaw, Kaiser purportedly was behaving rudely toward archival staff. Shaw's explanation, according to Papazian, "is not in accordance to the letter of Aktas and the regulation of Article 9."

Kaiser refuted Shaw's claims that he [Kaiser] was "loudly abusive of the staff, making it difficult for others to work." As to allegations of special privileges, Kaiser "being attentive to Turkish law" denied having made any such requests. "It is true that I demanded 15 documents per day during my past visits," Kaiser said, referring to his 1995 research of archival materials, but that "was in perfect harmony with the valid rules."

As to the allegations of abuse against the staff, Kaiser expressed disappointment that Shaw "did not give any details" about the incident. "I might add that I personally thanked the reading room staff upon leaving Istanbul. I singled out the good photocopying services, as well as the professional handling of the documents," the ill-treated scholar said, who went as far as comparing the "good performance of the reading room staff with that of other archives." Kaiser dismissed reports of ever having been criticized by archive staff for "loud speaking" as allegations against him claim.

Questions of Kaiser's integrity and "immorality" were raised in a letter by a high-level Turkish official, sources told Asbarez Thursday.

"I have absolute faith in the integrity of Mr. Kaiser," Papazian said, "as does the German Embassy," who according to Kaiser, planned to "intervene personally" on his behalf.

"The banishment of Mr. Kaiser from the Turkish archives is not only reprehensible from the point of view of serious scholarship, but it is also contrary to current Turkish law," Papazian said in a letter to members of MESA, TSA, and the Society of Armenian Studies.