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Instanbul’s Armenian Genocide Conference Continues to Cause Stir

ISTANBUL(AFP/Reuiters)–A conference on the genocide of Armenia’s will be held on Saturday at a new Istanbul location to circumvent a Turkish court ruling banning the meeting–organizers said on Friday. The CNN Turk television channel said the rectors of Bilgi University in Istanbul had agreed to a request by the organizers to host the conference.

The Turkish courts ruling following a complaint by nationalists–comes just days before Turkey is due to start talks on joining the European Union.

One of the organizers of the conference on ”Ottoman Armenia’s During the Fall of the Empire,” Dr. Halil Berktay of the Sabanci University–remarked that the conference must take place as soon as possible so that democracy–academic freedom and university’s autonomy are not damaged.

Meanwhile–chairman of the Turkish Confederation of Revolutionary Labor Unions (DISK) Suleyman Celebi has noted that the court decision that suspended the Armenian conference is against laws and scientific freedom. ”The conference was initially postponed due to a reaction from the Minister of Justice of Turkey. The conference was re-scheduled for September 23-25 with the cooperation of Bogazici–Bilgi–and Sabanci universities," Celebi said.

A group of Bogazici students protested the Istanbul court’s decision by putting tapes on their mouths. The students stressed that the court decision to suspend the Armenian conference is actually a blow to democracy and academic freedoms in Turkey.

The first attempt to stage the conference in May was abandoned after Turkey’s justice minister accused organizers of stabbing Turkey in the back.

The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford in Istanbul says it was illegal even to discuss the issue until a very recent reform inspired by Turkey’s bid for membership of the European Union.


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