ISTANBUL (The Guardian)–Academics and writers in Turkey have risked a fierce official backlash by issuing a public apology for the genocide suffered by Armenia’s at the hands of Ottoman forces during the first world war, reported the Guardian.
Breaking one of Turkish society’s biggest taboos, the apology comes in an open letter that invites Turks to sign an online petition supporting its sentimen’s.
It reads: "My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenia’s were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathize with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers. I apologize to them."
The contents exposed its authors – three scholars, Ahmet Insel, Baskin Oran and Cengiz Aktar, and a journalist, Ali Bayramoglu – to the wrath of the Turkish state, which has prosecuted writers, including the Nobel prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk, for discussing the Armenian Genocide.
The letter has triggered a furious response from ultranationalists, who have labeled it a "betrayal" and an "insult to the Turkish nation".
However, Aktar, a professor of EU studies at Istanbul’s University of Bahcesehir, said Turks needed to apologize for being unable to discuss the issue because of official policy, which has long repressed open debate on the Armenia’s’ fate.
"Today many people in Turkey, with all good intentions, think that nothing happened to the Armenia’s," he told the newspaper Vatan. "The official history says that this incident happened through secondary, not very important, and even mutual massacres. They push the idea that it was an ordinary incident explainable by the conditions of the First World War. Unfortunately, the facts are very different."
"This is a voice coming from the individual’s conscience. Those who want to apologize can apologize, and those who do not should not," he added.
The letter coincides with a tentative rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia.
In September, the Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, attended a soccer match between the two countries, at the invitation of his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian.
But further talks aimed at restoring ties have become bogged down partly because of Turkey’s deman’s that Armenia’stop efforts to gain international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.