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Erdogan has released the genealogy of thousands of Turks – but what is his motive?

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  • Erdogan has released the genealogy of thousands of Turks – but what is his motive?

    Erdogan has released the genealogy of thousands of Turks – but what is his motive?

    In 2003, the Armenian newspaper Agos, whose editor Hrant Dink was assassinated outside his office in 2007, reported that the Turkish government was secretly coding minorities in registers Erdogan has made Turkey's population registers public AP
    Only in Turkey is the identity of a citizen a matter of national security. That’s why the population registry in Ankara was until now a closed book, its details a state secret. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s definition of “Turkishness” was “anyone who is attached to the Turkish state as a citizen”. Turks came from a clear ethnic identity, untainted by racial minorities or doubtful lineage. That’s one reason why the Nazis lavished praise on Ataturk’s republic, their newspapers mourning his death in black-bordered front pages.

    After all, as Hitler was to ask in several newspaper interviews – and to his generals before he invaded Poland – who now remembers the Armenians? Ataturk had supposedly inherited an Armenian-free Turkey, just as Hitler intended to present his followers with a Jew-free Europe. The Armenian genocide of 1915 – denied by the Turkish government today – destroyed a million and a half Christian Ottoman citizens in the first industrial holocaust of the 20th century. Almost the entire Armenian community had been liquidated. Or had it?

    For the stunned reaction of Turks to the sudden and unexpected opening of population registers on an online genealogy database three weeks ago was so immediate and so vast that the system crashed within hours. Rather a lot of Turks, it turned out, were actually Armenians – or part-Armenians – or even partly Greek or Jewish. And across the mountains of eastern Anatolia – and around the cities of Istanbul, Izmir, Erzurum, Van and Gaziantep and along the haunted death convoy routes to Syria, ancient ghosts climbed out of century-old graves to reassert their Armenian presence in Turkish history. For the registry proved that many of them – through their families – were still alive.

    Until now, for at least two decades – at least before Sultan Erdogan’s post-coup autocracy – thousands of Turks spoke freely, albeit in private, about their ancestry. They knew that amid the mass slaughter and rape of the Armenians, many Christian families sought sanctuary in conversion to Islam, while tens of thousands of young Armenian women were given in marriage to Turkish or Kurdish Muslim men. Their children grew up as Muslims and regarded themselves as Turks but often knew that they were half-Armenian. Tens of thousands of Armenian orphans were placed in Muslim schools, forced to speak Turkish and change their names. One of the largest schools was in Beirut, organised for a time by one of Turkey’s leading feminists who wrote of her experience and was later to die in America.
    The Armenian diaspora – the 11 million Armenians living outside Turkey or Armenia itself, and who trace their ancestry back to the survivors of the 1915 genocide – were the first to understand the significance of the newly-opened population registers, noting that some information dated back to the early 1800s. Up to four million Turkish citizens were reported to have sought access to their family tree within 48 hours – which is why the system crashed – and in the days since it was re-established, according to retired statistician and Armenian demographer George Aghjayan, eight million Turks have requested their pedigrees. That’s 10 per cent of the entire Turkish population.

    The documents can be vague. And they are not complete. There are examples of known Armenian ancestors listed as Muslim without reference to their origin. The names shown for those known to have converted during the 1915 genocide are Muslim names – but the Christian names of their parents are also shown. There will always be discrepancies and unknown details. Many Ottoman registrars did not give accurate details of birthdays: Turkish officials might travel to a village once a month and simply list its newborn under the date of their visit. There are still centenarians alive in Lebanon and Syria, for example, who all possess the same birth date, whatever their origin.

    So why has Turkey released these files now? Erdogan is quoted to have once complained that Turks were “accused of being Jews, Armenians or Greeks”. Tayfun Atay, a columnist for the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, wrote that he was “advised in a friendly matter not to admit that I am a Georgian…What about those who risk learning that they are of Armenian ancestry or a convert? Just think: you think you are a red-blooded Turk but turn out to be a pure-blood Armenian.”

    Journalist Serdar Korucu told Al-Monitor that “if they had done this a few years ago when we were [becoming more tolerant], conspiracy theories would not have been as strong as today, when the state believes we are in a struggle for existence. This is how Turkey reinvigorates the spirit of the Independence War” – to inspire patriotism and pro-government thinking.

    In 2003, the Armenian newspaper Agos, whose editor Hrant Dink was assassinated outside his office in 2007, reported that the Turkish government was secretly coding minorities in registers: Greeks were one, according to the paper. Armenians were two. Jews were three. Korucu recalled how the director of the Turkish Historical Society threatened minorities in 2007. “Don’t make me angry. I have a list of converts I can reveal down to their streets and homes.” The director later became a politician in the rightist Nationalist Action Party.

    Ethnic Armenian columnist Hayko Bagdat placed this in a story he told the Al-Monitor website – including an individual family tale which might be humorous if it was not so charged with tragedy. “During the 1915 genocide, along with mass conversions, there were also thousands of children in exile…The society is not yet ready to deal with this reality.” Imagine, Bagdat said, that Lutfi Dogan, who had served as Turkey’s director of religious affairs, was the brother of someone who was the Armenian patriarch, Sinozk Kalustyan.

    “Kalustyan, who returned to Turkey from Beirut in 1961, was remembered as a saint in the Turkish Armenian Patriarchate and as someone who had served in the most difficult times after 1915. During the genocide, his mother sent the children away and converted to Islam. Later she married [a man called] Dogan, who was of high social standing, and had two girls and a boy. The boy was Lutfi Dogan. When the mother, who was then with the Nationalist Action Party…died, his uncle came in priest garb from Beirut to attend the funeral. Nobody could say anything.”

    This predicament was eloquently conveyed in Fethiye Cetin’s memoir of her grandmother, a respected Muslim housewife in the small Turkish town of Maden, who revealed to her granddaughter that she was Armenian. Most of the men in her village were slaughtered, Seher (her real Armenian name was Heranus) said. A Turkish gendarme had adopted her. Fethiye Cetin, a human rights lawyer who acted for the soon-to-be-murdered Hrant Dink, posted her grandmother’s death announcement in Dink’s paper, Argos: “Heranus lost her entire family and never saw them again,” she wrote. “She was given a new name, to live in a new family. She forgot her mother tongue and her religion…she never ever forgot her name, her village, her mother, her father…She lived until the age of 95.” Relatives in America read the death notice and Heranus’ sister – still alive – called Cetin in Istanbul. A family reunited.

    Perhaps two million Turks have Armenian grandmothers. But they are supposed to believe that the genocide never happened.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/...-a8234346.html

  • #2
    This opening of records by erdogan is to force people to become more radicalized.
    He plays another card with it, religion. For most of this Armenian rooted people it will all come down to being Muslim where it does not matter how they converted. So in a sense, it will also justify the genocide. It will be covered by religion as Turks have allways done.
    If anybody, even slightly deviates from genocide denial can be concidered to have a weak devotion.
    This act also can be related to our government canselng 2009 agreement. This cancelation highlights turkey’s another breach of an international agreement, against which erdogan tries to strengthen Turkish nationalism of which religion is important part.
    This also has to do with Ankara/Baku plannings.
    Gollum is strengthening his back.
    Last edited by Hakob; 03-02-2018, 06:10 AM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Taner Akçam: These findings have the potential to end a century of Turkish denialism Interviewee of Aravot.am is Turkish historian and sociologist Taner Akçam – Mr. Akçam your new book “Killing Orders: Talat Pasha’s Telegrams and the Armenian Genocide” was out in January. Can you please introduce it? – Aram Andonian, an Armenian intellectual and survivor of Genocide, sought out documents to establish the historical record about deportations and killings. In 1918, Naim Efendi, an Ottoman bureaucrat in Aleppo sold to Andonian a cache of 21 original Ottoman documents, along with his handwritten memoir. The memoir included a total of 52 original documents Naim had copied by hand. In 1921, Andonian published The Memoirs of Naim Bey, illustrated with 14 of the original documents. Some of these documents originated with the Minister of Interior Talat Pasha, the architect of the genocide, and contain direct orders for the killing of Armenians. A 1983 book, published by the Turkish Historical Society, asserted that these documents were forgeries. The claim was based on three arguments: 1) an Ottoman bureaucrat named Naim Effendi never existed; 2) this non-existent person can’t have written a memoir; 3) the original documents must be fakes as they contain significant mistakes relating to signatures and dates. Indeed, until today, no evidence was found to prove the existence of a government official named Naim Effendi which would likewise make it possible to authenticate the memoir. The original documents, meanwhile, remained missing. Thus, it was impossible to refute the arguments of the Turkish Historical Society. The topic was remembered as “the fake telegraphs attributed to Talat Pasha,” which became the central pillar of Turkish denialism of Armenian Genocide. After long years of research, I have uncovered the missing evidence needed to disprove the claims of the Turkish Historical Society. I have established that Naim Bey was an Ottoman official in Aleppo; I have discovered original copies of his memoirs, and I have proven that the documents presented within it are genuine. We now have evidence demonstrating both the memoir, as well as the kill orders of Talat Pasha are authentic. These findings have the potential to end a century of Turkish denialism, to revolutionize the field, and to change public debate about the Armenian Genocide because they are rare primary source materials that document the Ottoman government’s planning and execution of the genocide. They have the power to change not only scholarly but also political discourse about the Armenian Genocide. I published these new findings first in 2016 in a Turkish book entitled “The Memoirs of Naim Efendi and the Telegrams of Talat Pasha.” Now it is available in English. But the English version of the book has additional two chapters. These are very important chapters. In their 1983 book, Turkish Historical Society made approximately twelve different arguments against the authenticity of the Naim’s documents. Some of the documents that Naim gave to Andonian, signed by the governor of Aleppo Mustafa Abdülhalik. Turkish Historical Society claimed that these signatures were fake. They published other documents from Ottoman archive with the signature of the governor Abdülhalik. The signatures were a little bit different than the signatures on Naim’s documents, they were not identical. Another issue was related to the dates on the documents. I didn’t deal with these arguments in my Turkish book. Now in my English book, I am introducing in one chapter the question of signatures and the question of wrong dates and showing that Turkish Historical Society’s arguments are wrong. In English book, there is also a very long introduction on Turkish denialism which is not in Turkish book. I discussed the relationship between facts and the truth. My main argument is that Denialism does not only mean to deny the truth or facts, but denialism creates its own facts and creates its own truth. I introduce several Ottoman documents showing that how Turkish denialism has produced documents and created its own truth. I think this is an important particularity of Armenian Genocide. The Ottoman government created facts and truth even during Genocide was happening. From the beginning, they started creating parallel facts, a parallel world of truth based on facts, documents that you can’t really question their authenticity: they are authentic documents. So, if we want to understand Turkish denialism we should know the mechanism how they created these parallel facts and a different world of truth based on these facts. – Mr. Akçam what is your aim for publishing this book? – I don’t have any specific aim. I am a historian and I want the truth should come out. My job is to write on certain historical occurrences with honesty. This is my job. I should be criticized only if I am not honest and not telling the truth. I want to understand one of the biggest human catastrophes in the beginning of the 20th century with all related facts. Of course, we know that the Armenian genocide is very much politicized. Because of this reason we should make a distinction between the academic studies and the politic. How politics can deal with academic production is an issue of the politic. I know that my academic work is a major blow against Turkish government’s denialism. They cannot continue to deny the Armenian genocide with their standard arguments. What I succeed showing with this book is that there are original-authentic killing orders and the Ottoman government intentionally destroyed Armenian population. -Turkish government cannot continue to claim that there was no intention of Ottoman government to exterminate Armenians; there were no killing orders. Turkish government cannot continue to deny that Union and Progress party intentionally destroyed the Armenian people. Of course, they will find some other arguments and continue denying the historical facts. However, they have to find some new argument. The old arguments won’t work anymore. They may attack my personality. Or they may invent some new arguments or some new facts. As I wrote in my book, the truth is not only the facts, the truth is a struggle for the power. If you have the power you have the truth. There is one major difference between Holocaust and Armenian genocide: in Holocaust, the truth has the power, denialists do not have the power they are in minority. In Armenian case, denialist has the power. The United States, Turkey, Great Britain, Israel – these are four major powers that control the truth. They determine what the truth is. There is no other difference between Holocaust and the Armenian genocide. Even though over the years, those who claimed that Armenian genocide is a historical fact, won the power struggle on the grassroots level, among the people in America, in Turkey, in Europe. But we couldn’t turn this into the state’s level. So, this is a power struggle. And my hope is that the people can use this book and won the struggle and truth grasps the political power. – Your Turkish book has already been published for approximately 2 years. Did Turkish NGOs or political figures manage to use it as a tool? – In Turkey the situation is known by everybody: Armenian genocide is not anymore on the agenda of Turkish society. And there is a repressive regime, and this regime is conducting an aggressive war in Syria. They are now attacking the Syrian Kurds. It’s hard to believe that the Armenian Genocide will be an issue in coming years unless there would be a change in the government. Turkey is becoming more and more authoritarian, more and more dictatorial and current problems are more pressing than historical facts that go 100 years back. Despite the fact that there are a lot of parallels what Kurds have been experiencing in these years with those that Armenian had lived during the World War I, the Armenian Genocide won’t be a public topic in Turkey. However, this is the dilemma. Kurds have been experiencing all these because Turks are not ready to face their own history. As long as there is no historic reckoning with the past, Kurds will continue to suffer. Unfortunately, this is the fact. I assume the book will create important discussions and create an attraction here in the United States and in other European countries. There is no end to the fight for truth. We should continue to fight for the truth or justice. This is all that I can say. Ami CHICHAKYAN

      Read more at: http://www.aravot-en.am/2018/02/23/208152/

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