Defiant French scholar to turn Turk

January 19, 2007

French historian and writer Jean Michel Thibaux has applied for Turkish citizenship in protest at the French law making it illegal to deny the "genocide" of the Armenians by the Turks in 1915-17.

Armenians claim that up to a million people perished during their forced "relocation" to the desert. Mr Thibaux, however, asserts that his extensive research into Ottoman, French and Russian archives proves there was no genocide.

The Turks have always claimed that the deportations were a necessary security measure and, save for a brief period in about 1920, have consistently rejected the Armenians' claims.

But while Turkish historians reject the terms "genocide" and "holocaust", some admit that large numbers of Armenians perished during the operation.

The Turkish Interior Ministry has given preliminary approval to Mr Thibaux's application. If it is accepted by the Council of Ministers, Mr Thibaux will take the name Atakan Turk.

He has been offered a lectureship at Akdeniz University. According to vice-rector Mehmet Aktenin, Mr Thibaux was not asking for a salary. But the university will arrange housing for him on campus.

Professor Aktenin said he would begin teaching there as soon as his citizenship process was complete.

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