Instanbul Conference on Armenian Genocide Back on Calendar

Justice Minister Cicek takes ?wait and see’ attitude

ISTANBUL (Combined Sources)–A Conference on the Armenian genocide that was abruptly postponed last May–seems to be back-on–reported the Istanbul-based Armenian Daily Marmara.

The three-day conference–which was to open on May 25 at Istanbul’s Bogazici University–but was cancelled under government pressure–has been rescheduled for September 23-25 at the same university.

The original conference–"Ottoman Armenia’s during the Decline of the Empire: Issues of Scientific Responsibility and Democracy," was organized by a group of Turkish historians challenging the official line on the issue.

Turkish academics and intellectuals from throughout the world who dispute Ankara’s version of the 1915-1917 genocide of Armenia’s–were to have lectured at the conference organized by Turkey’s three most prestigious universities.

This time around–organizers are refusing to release any details. Bogazici University rector Ayse Soysal–through a spokesman–revealed that he simply does not want to talk about the subject.

Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek had condemned the original initiative as a blow to government efforts to counter a mounting Armenian campaign to have the Genocide recognized internationally. "This is a stab in the back to the Turkish nation… this is irresponsibility," Cicek told parliament. "We must put an end to this cycle of treason and insult–of spreading propaganda against the [Turkish] nation by people who belong to it"

This time–however–Cicek told journalists–"They did not ask for my input in either organizing or canceling the original conference. They did not ask for my opinion this time either. When the time comes–we will see together just who will say what."

The cancellation drew worldwide criticism from scholars–politicians–organizations–and the media.

Tosun Terzioglu–the President of Sabanci University–one of the organizers of the conference–expressed his disapproval through a formal statement that read–in part: "Those who oppose these meetings can criticize them in one way or another. But what is most important is the freedom to be able to hold such meetings. In addition to being educational institutions–the universities also serve as the guarantors of and as an umbrella for free and creative discussions on topics that are of interest to the country and the world. In the final analysis–they can contribute to societal progress by virtue of their members’ total possession of the freedom of research–thought and expression.

It is extremely distressing and dreadful that–in opposition to these universal values that have also been assimilated in Turkey–the 25-27 May conference at Bosphorus University was brought–because of prejudices and serious accusations–to the point of not being actualized. Not only does this consequence seriously harm the development of the freedom of thought–democracy and civil society–but I worry that it will also become–in the future within the international arena–a significant impediment to Turkey."

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