Letter: Archives, Anatolia and Armenia (1)

May 11, 2001

Access to national archives is not an automatic right ("Sealed Turkish archives support genocide claim", THES , April ). The UK and almost all western governments keep some national archives permanently closed. Despite considerable practical constraints, Turkey has done its best to open its archives to researchers from all countries, including to the British-Armenian Ara Sarafian from the Gomidas Institute, whom it knew to be opposed to it.

Between 1921 and December 2000, 3,040 researchers from 78 countries have consulted the Ottoman archives. And between 1995 and 2000, about 180 foreign researchers have used the archives each year.

There has been no destruction of sensitive documents, despite Rubyn Safrasayan's claims in the story that this took place in the 1980s.

It is also nonsense to suggest that Turkey's most powerful families built their fortunes on assets taken from Armenian businessmen since their industrial empires were founded long after the first world war.

That many Turks died in Anatolia in the first world war is not a vague claim but an established fact based on solid demographic evidence. The figure is about 3 million dead, of which many tens of thousands certainly perished at the hands of Armenians.

Demographic work carried out mainly by scholars in the United States also shows that the number of Armenians who perished in the tragic events of this war in Anatolia was well below 1 million and far below the number of Turks who died. Why has this been ignored?

There is indeed a restraining factor in the debate over Armenian deaths, but it comes from the Armenian side. Middle Eastern experts, such as Bernard Lewis of Princeton University, who challenge the Armenian claims of genocide have found themselves being taken to court in France and other countries and fined as "holocaust deniers". They are thus in effect gagged from participating in the debate. This surely is the real scandal.

Korkmaz Haktanir
Ambassador Turkish Embassy, London

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