BY AYSE GUNAYSU
Armenian Weekly columnist Ayse Gunaysu reports from Istanbul on yet another effort by the Turkish Grand National Assembly to stifle discussion about the Blue Book.
The delivery of the Blue Book to the members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) has been rejected by the Speaker of the TGNA. The 550 copies of the new authorized Turkish translation of “The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-1916,” a 1916 publication of the British Parliament known as the Blue Book, had been individually packed and addressed to each member of the TGNA after the launch of the book in Ankara by Lord Avebury, vice-chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group and Ara Sarafian, director of the Gomidas Institute, on June 26, 2009. The 550 copies were returned to the printing house. Delivery through a cargo company in Ankara was later arranged.
The Turkish edition of Blue Book released in Ankara was published by the Gomidas Institute (London), which had also published the uncensored editions of the original 1916 publication, edited and with an introduction by Ara Sarafian, in 2000 and 2005 respectively.
A report published in the August 5 issue of the daily Hurriyet revealed the truth behind the TGNA’s refusal of the books. In a news item by Hurriyet correspondent Sefa Kaplan, Sukru Elekdag is quoted to have said that it was he who called Speaker Koksal Toptan (the deputy of the ruling AKP) and told him not to give permission for the distribution of the books. Here is how Sukru Elekdag justified his action: “Toynbee had himself confessed that the book was a collection of lies. I consider it my duty to stop the delivery of the books. I don’t think that this is censorship. It is inappropriate to let a book which is nothing but a propaganda tool distributed and promoted.”
Sukru Elekdag said he hadn’t received any invitation from Sarafian but he is ready to discuss the Blue Book issue with Sarafian either in England or in Turkey.
Ragip Zarakolu, the owner of the Belge Publishing House and the Vice-Chair of the Human Rights Association in Turkey, organized the delivery of the books through a cargo company. He said the ban on the book by the Speaker of TGNA was a scandal and a usurpation of the right of MP’s to exercise their free will. Zarakolu said they will send the copies to the home addresses of the TGNA members.
Contacted by phone, Ara Sarafian commented, “Elekdag is concerned about his own legacy. He has misled and compromised the TGNA on the Blue Book issue for many years. Now he wants to stop his colleagues from finding out what he has done. We will invite Elekdag to a public meeting and hold him accountable for his views.”
Sukru Elekdag is a retired ambassador and the architect of Turkey’s domestic and international strategy against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. He was the one behind the well-known TGNA letter to the British Parliament, signed by 550 members, demanding the withdrawal of the Blue Book and acknowledgement of the fact that it is nothing but a war-time propaganda tool, a “fabrication.”
For more information about the blue book issue, including copies of the invitations sent to Elekdag and his colleagues for a dialogue regarding the Blue Book see www.gomidas.org.