YEREVAN (Armenpress)—The “wall” of Turkish denial that surrounds the Armenian Genocide has started showing cracks in the course of recent years. The process of breaking the taboo on issues concerning Turkey’s past with Armenia has been led by Turkish intellectuals who have a commitment to democracy and are not afraid to talk about their country’s past. Among these intellectuals is Turkish human rights advocate Ragip Zarakolu, who paid a visit to Yerevan in recent days to participate in the official release of the Turkish-language edition of a book he helped publish, which details eye-witness accounts from the Armenian Genocide.
Armenpress news agency had a conversation with the prominent Turkish publisher and activist about possible changes that may take place in Turkey before the 2015 centennial of the Armenian Genocide.
Ragip Zarakolu says that despite positive changes regarding Armenian issues in Turkish society, the Turkish state is still very much committed to denial, and uses its power to enforce that policy. Even universities and academies, Zarakolu says, are used towards that goal.
Zarakolu explained that it is Turkish denial that persistently keeps the Armenian issue on the country’s agenda. “It’s difficult to fight on all fronts, but the state’s policy of denial is so active that the people start to doubt whether everything really happened the way it is presented.”
The book that Ragip Zarakolu helped publish, The Armenian Genocide: Eye-Witness Testimonies of Survivors, by Vergine Svazlian, has now been released for the public in the Turkish language. The book, which was previously published in Armenian and English contains 700 eye-witness accounts from genocide survivors.
Speaking about his experience in Yerevan, Zarakolu said, “I feel as if I am surrounded by family here. My gratitude to Vergine Svazlian for the work she has conducted.”
Verjine Svazlian, Lead Researcher at the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography at the Academy of Sciences in Armenia, presented her research on the oral tradition of Armenian Genocide survivors, through their eye-witness testimonies and songs revealing their experience.
Svazlian’s presentation was based on the many oral histories of Armenian Genocide survivors, which she personally collected beginning in 1955 from 100 localities in Western Armenia. She undertook these efforts often at great personal risk from authorities in the former Soviet Union and Turkey.
Svazlian began collecting Genocide testimonies as a student at Yerevan’s Khachatour Abovian Pedagogical University, walking door-to-door and village-to-village, searching for Armenian Genocide survivors who had been rescued. Her work is particularly valuable not only because of its volume, but because of the short amount of time that had passed since the Genocide.
Through her interviews, which Svazlian recorded in written, audio, and videotaped form and in different dialects and languages, she also captured testimonies about the self-defense actions that took place in several Armenian towns attacked by the Turkish military, as in Van, Shatakh, Shabin-Karahisar, Sassoun, Musa Ler, Urfa, and others.