Czech Parliament Hosts International Conference on Armenian Genocide

–Parliament members announce intentions to draft resolution to recognize the Genocide

YEREVAN (Yerkir/RFE/RL)–A one-day conference on the Armenian genocide was held at the Czech Senate on Tuesday sponsored by former Czech President Vaclav Havel and organized by the Armenian Club and Senate member Jaromir Stetina.

Stetina said the Czech parliament members were drafting a resolution on recognition of the Armenian genocide. He said Czech lawmakers wanted to follow the example of neighboring Slovakia that recognized officially the Armenian genocide 18 months ago.

Professor Vahakn Dadrian of the Zorian Institute was the keynote speaker at the conference and gave a report on the documen’s kept in the Turkish archives.

The conference was also attended by Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosian–European Armenian Federation Chairperson Hilda Choboian–German’scholar Tessa Hoffman and Turkish human rights activist Yeldag Uzcan–who resides in Germany after being harassed in Turkey.

German academic Dr. Tessa Hofmann set the tone.

"We have to be very aware that if a country is not pushed forward as Germany was after the Second World War by the victorious allies nothing really happens," she said. Dr. Hofmann also brought up the question about Turkey’s entry into the European Union. "My conviction is that Turkey first of all has to give freedom of speech–research–and opinion to deal with its past."

Hofmann said that the taboo on speaking about the Armenian massacres in Turkey was acting like a cancer in the country–spreading more taboos and acting like a brake on the development of civil society.

Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosian readily agreed with that–although he added that he saw cause for optimism in the changing face of Turkish society.

"We will have in fact in 10 years–in 15 years–a more modern Turkey and we hope that this Turkey will recognize what happened in the past," Kirakosian said.

But in the meantime–he said–the past lingered on in Turkey’s refusal to open diplomatic relations with Armenia and its blockade of the Turkish-Armenian border:

"The Armenian-Turkish border is remaining as the last Iron Curtain," Kirakosian said. "The walls fell down after the fall of the Soviet Union and communism but still we have closed border and we have a closed border with a country who is willing to become a member of free Europe. It’s not a normal thing."

Yeldag Ozcan–a Turkish writer on minority rights in Turkey–said she welcomed the pressure from the EU for Turkey to cast light on the dark corners of its past. More people were now beginning to discuss the Armenian issue and other taboos. But–she said–Turkey needed to go much further.

"I think there cannot be a dialogue [with the Armenia’s] without an apology." Ozcan said. "We cannot start a dialogue as if nothing has happened. First we have to admit that we and our ancestors are the guilty side–we have to accept there was a crime. We have to apologize and then we can start a dialogue."

Like all the speakers–Hofmann agreed with that–but went a stage further–recalling that the Armenian genocide of 1915-16 played a major role in persuading the international community to act against crimes against humanity.

"Without the Genocide–there would not be a UN Convention and–further on–there would not be a permanent tribunal of the United Nations," Hofmann said. "You can say that 100 years of time and reaction is a slow speed but–on the other hand–there was a reaction and we can only hope that the punishment of genocide will lead to prevention."

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