The wall of the Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide is cracking slowly by the efforts of Turkish scholars, intellectuals, journalists and activists. Some decades ago, there were intellectuals who spoke or wrote about the Genocide in a very manner, always afraid of prosecution, arrest, harassment and even jail time. And many were imprisoned because of writing about the Armenian and Kurdish issues. However, attitudes are changing because of education and technology.
The change will come from within, not as quickly as we want, yet, these are all individual efforts and nothing to do with the government. Some people even believe that the Turk doesn’t change.
Levon Vartan, the late historian in Beirut, Lebanon, had published several books four decades ago on the Armenian Genocide, particularly on the inventory prepared by the Turkish government on the “Abandoned Armenian properties”, (1970), as well as “Let the Turk Speak” (1975), quoting many Turkish historians and journalists who were very careful at that time, yet, truthful in their statements about the Armenian Genocide – Ali Shirman, Sinan Akcin, Ismail Besikci (who served jail term for defending Kurdish rights), Hasan Bildirici, Mumtaz Soysal, and others. In 1998, Levon Vartan published a very informative book titled “The Armenian 15 in the Turkish Historiography and the Press”. Informative and important reference books.
In 2008, a group of courageous Turkish intellectuals, to show their sincere commitment, started to gather signatures to apologize to the Armenians for the Armenian Genocide, and by October 2009 gathered 30,000 signatures. Another step forward, a small one, nevertheless, a step forward which was covered by the Turkish press and the internet.
The new generation, not everyone, of course, is becoming more aware of past history and particularly the ones who are studying in Europe or the United States by following congressional debates in the U.S or in other countries following discussions of the Armenian Genocide.
A well known and respected architect, Zakaria Mindanoglu remarked recently that there has been some Turks who have assisted Armenians, Giving an example, he said that Sourp Khatch (Holy Cross) Church on Akhtamar Island was saved from destruction thanks to the efforts of Yasar Kemal, a well known novelists, who was also a reporter for the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhurriyet. “If Yasar Kemal had not gone there, that church would not exist today.”
A well known wealthy Turk, who is such a philanthropist, that he donated $50,000 to the reconstruction of the Diyarbakir church last year. He has also paid for the publication of several books in Turkish on Armenian life and history, one being One Hundred Years of Armenian Life in Ottoman Times, all full of post cards and historic photos.
Again, let me point out, all these are being done by individuals and not the government, yet people see these and become aware of their past history, as to how much they did not know. The Turkish government announced recently that the history textbooks will be rewritten and the minorities will have their share in these publications. Should we give credence to these announcements? How much should we expect? How true will the statement be?