Turkey Halts Controversial Armenia Documentary Distribution to Schools

ANKARA (Hurriyet)–Turkey’s Education Ministry has halted the distribution of a controversial documentary denying the Armenian genocide that was sent to all elementary schools after its move incited fierce reactions among academics and intellectuals in Turkey.

The ministry had distributed "Sari Gelin–The True Face of the Armenian Question," a documentary film developed by the Turkish Army’s General Staff, to all schools around the country, requesting that all students see the film. The Ministry had asked school directors return a "conclusive report" to the related administration by Feb 29, 2009, detailing how students react to the film.

But the ministry, backtracked on Wednesday and said in a statement that the film was sent to schools for the benefit of the teachers, not the students.

There was no directive suggesting watching of the documentary was compulsory in schools, it added. "But some schools used the film inappropriately," the statement said.

Academics have criticized the documentary for reflecting the official ideology of the Turkish Republic, which denies the 1915 Genocide.

"The students were forced to watch that documentary, which indeed had no scientific background. That would only increase hatred and discrimination against the Armenia’s," the History Foundation of Turkey said in a written statement on Tuesday.

Some 500 Armenia’s and intellectuals sent an open letter to the prime minister protesting the ministry’s move, daily Radikal reported on Wednesday. The letter requested the exemption of Armenian schools and Armenian students, who attended classes with Turkish students, from watching the documentary in order to "prevent them feeling guilty, ashamed and excluded from the others".

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