Governor of Alabama Retracts Comments On Turkey

WATERTOWN–MA (Hayrenik)–Alabama Governor Don Siegelman on October 3 retracted an August 8 proclamation regarding Turkey–as well as a subsequent August 28 revised proclamation–due to historical inaccuracies. The retraction came after a major statewide grassroots effort focused on setting the historical record straight.

The original proclamation–titled "A Day of Remembrance of the Turkish Tragedy for Liberation to Sovereignty and Independence," and the revised proclamation–titled "A Day of Remembrance of the Tragedies of Citizens of Asia Minor and the Independence Day of the Republic of Turkey," glorified Mustafa Kemal Ataturk–the founder of the Turkish Republic–and perpetuated a number of myths about Turkey.

Among those myths noted in the proclamation was that Turkey has made significant contributions to US foreign policy–that Turkey enjoys a long history of friendship and harmonious coexistence with different ethnic groups under its rule–and that Turkey is a staunch ally of the United States.

Although the proclamation did accurately state that "millions of the Ottoman Empire citizens–from different religious and ethnic backgrounds," died during the years of World War I–it failed to note that these victims were mostly Armenia’s–Greeks–and other minorities massacred on orders by the Turkish authorities in what constituted the first genocide of the 20th century.

Armenian National Committee of America Eastern Region Director Arin Gregorian praised the Governor of Alabama for his commitment to setting the historical record straight. "Governor Siegelman’stood firm in the face of revisionism and has shown the world the importance of maintaining historical truths," Gregorian said.

Gregorian also noted the important role that citizens of Alabama played in informing the Governor of the imminent danger of revisionism. "Alabama citizens of Armenian and Greek heritage refused to allow their state to fall victim to Turkish revisionism," he stated.

The following is the full text of Governor Siegelman’s October 3 statement: "As has been recently stated–the proclamations issued from the office of the Governor on August 8–2001 entitled ‘Day of Remembrance of the Turkish Tragedy for Liberation to Sovereignty and Independence,’ and the amended proclamation issued August 28–2001–entitled ‘Day of Remembrance of the Tragedies of Citizens of Asia Minor and the Independence Day of the Republic of Turkey,’ were retracted due to historical inaccuracies. "In an attempt to correct the historical inaccuracies of the first proclamation–the Policy Director of the Office of the Governor sought advice from some Greek Alabamians considered knowledgeable on these issues. Subsequent thereto–an amended proclamation was issued based on this advice which was offered in good faith. Upon final review of both documen’s by historians of Balkan history of the time period referenced in the proclamations–to my dismay–it has been determined by the Policy Director of the Office of the Governor that both documen’s are historically incorrect–and therefore were retracted. "The original intention was to honor Turkish Alabamians for their contribution to our state showing the respect and honor for all Americans of ethnic descent that have made positive contributions to our great country. "The Governor’s Policy Office regrets any pain that may have been caused to Hellenes–Armenia’s–and Assyrians worldwide due to historical inaccuracies in the proclamations of August 8 and August 28–and due to the misinformation reported by the Turkish media. The Governor’s Office’s considers its involvement in this matter to be over."

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