Détente for genocide controversy

March 31, 2006

Academics have agreed to a unique co-operation over the issue of Turkey's genocide against its Armenian population.

The proposal to bring together historians on both sides of the debate was made at a three-day conference at Istanbul University.

Yusuf Halaçoglu, president of the Turkish Historical Society and a proponent of the view that no genocide occurred, initiated the plan. "Let's carry out a project together, dig up common graves if there are some, to put an end to numerous demagogical arguments," he said.

The offer was accepted by Ara Sarafian of the Gomidas Institute, a centre for Armenian study.

Safak Ural, conference organiser, welcomed the initiative: "If we fail to explain this problem to our own people, we cannot explain it to others. In order to explain it, we should discuss it."

Two years ago, a meeting planned between Armenian and Turkish academics was cancelled, with each side blaming the other for its failure. Such is the mutual hostility that opposing academics rarely meet.

Mesut Parlak, rector of Istanbul University, described the conference as the "most comprehensive of all meetings to date". Boghos Levon Zekiyan, professor of Armenian Studies at Ca' Foscari University in Venice, said the greatest novelty was the fact the conference had occurred.

"It was the first time a respectable state institution broke the taboo of the Armenian genocide by giving all invited scholars who do not share the official Turkish view an opportunity," he said.

Dozens of invitations were sent to academics who hold the view that genocide against Armenians occurred in what is now Turkey between 1915 and 1923, although fewer than a dozen attended and only four spoke.

Even so, their presence is seen as a significant change in Turkey, where until recently to claim genocide had occurred could have led to prosecution and imprisonment.

Fears that the conference would be marred by nationalist demonstrations proved unfounded.

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Library Systems Manager YORK ST JOHN UNIVERSITY
Chair in Law UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL (MAIN OFFICE)
User Acceptance Testing Technician CAMBRIDGE ASSESSMENT

Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

Globalisation

Times Higher Education World University Rankings data reveal the top 200 most outward-looking institutions

Common cactus finch (Geospiza scandens)

Tiffany Taylor on a thought-provoking view of the forces acting to ensure survival

Stressed businessman answering four telephones

Some surveys show faculty putting in at least 60 hours a week, but research casts doubt on whether this is a productive routine

Student asking question during class

University of Reading research finds link between undergraduate satisfaction and ethnicity of lecturers

Level of quality compass

Authors argue this means universities should spend less on senior academics and give promising younger scholars more of a chance