Con­fer­ence: Con­science and re­spon­si­bil­ity in the Ar­me­nian Geno­cide: new re­search on sur­vivors, İs­tan­bul

Turkish Review - - CONTENTS - EMRE CAN DAĞLIOĞLU

The Hrant Dink Foundation pro­motes and sup­ports re­search that re­veals scrupu­lous acts of con­science dur­ing the events of 1915, find­ing peo­ple who acted ex­em­plar­ily dur­ing that era and en­cour­ag­ing dif­fer­ent ways of re­mem­ber­ing through its “His­tory and Mem­ory Re­search Fund,” cre­ated with the as­sis­tance of Dr. Alper Ök­tem in 2010. On March 14, 2015, re­search sup­ported by that fund was pre­sented at a con­fer­ence ti­tled “Con­science and re­spon­si­bil­ity in the Ar­me­nian Geno­cide: new re­search on sur­vivors.”

Held in Ceza­yir Meet­ing Hall, the con­fer­ence opened with speeches by Ayşe Gül Altı­nay from Sa­bancı Univer­sity and Betül Tan­bay from Boğaz­içi Univer­sity, re­spec­tively, who are co­or­di­nat­ing the project. Af­ter in­form­ing the au­di­ence about in­cen­tive funds, Altı­nay said that they hoped the con­fer­ence would open a door from the past to the fu­ture: “It is cru­cial to talk about those who res­cued peo­ple as well as to un­der­stand that the res­cuers were very few. As Taner Akçam re­minds us, if there had been more res­cuers, the mas­sacre would not have taken place.” Tan­bay said that Ar­me­ni­ans are cur­rently sav­ing Turks and thanked the Dink fam­ily. The con­fer­ence con­tin­ued with a speech by Ök­tem, the spon­sor of the fund. Ök­tem un­der­lined the no­tion of con­science and added: “To­day, I still have dif­fi­culty talk­ing about the geno­cide. How­ever, talk­ing is very im­por­tant to un­der­stand it. I think that mak­ing it clear that ‘there were right­eous peo­ple’ could con­trib­ute to the ac­knowl­edge­ment process in a prag­matic fash­ion.”

In the “Mem­ory and con­fronta­tion” ses­sion of the con­fer­ence, Ab­dul­lah Demir­baş, a former mayor of the Sur dis­trict of Di­yarbakır prov­ince, spoke about the ex­pe­ri­ences of “mul­ti­cul­tural mu­nic­i­pal­ism” that he im­ple­mented in Sur be­tween 2004 and 2014. “De­vel­op­ing a mul­ti­cul­tural cul­ture of liv­ing to­gether is our duty. I didn’t make a con­tri­bu­tion; I just did my duty and brought peo­ple of dif­fer­ent be­liefs to­gether,” Demir­baş said, adding: “In 1915, they had Ar­me­ni­ans for break­fast and in 1924 and 1938, they had Kurds for lunch. That’s why we need to apol­o­gize and I as a Kurd apol­o­gize on be­half of my an­ces­tors for crimes they com­mit­ted against peo­ple.”

The next ses­sion, ti­tled “Mem­ory and com­ing to terms with the past,” started with a pre­sen­ta­tion by Burçin Gerçek, a re­searcher and jour­nal­ist, on of­fi­cers who de­fied or­ders in Di­yarbakır prov­ince. Gerçek told the sto­ries of Mardin Gover­nor Hamid Bey, Beşiri Deputy Qaimaqam Ali Sabit es-Süveydi and Derik Qaimaqam Reşid Bey, who re­fused to obey their or­ders to ar­rest and slaugh­ter Chris­tians and were sub­se­quently killed by mobs co­or­di­nated by the Spe­cial Or­ga­ni­za­tion. In the same ses­sion, Ad­nan Çe­lik, a Ph.D. can­di­date at Paris-EHESS, pre­sented the re­sults of his oral his­tory re­search on the col­lec­tive mem­ory of Kurds about the Ar­me­nian geno­cide, con­ducted with re­searcher and his­to­rian Namık Ke­mal Dinç. Çe­lik said that most of their in­ter­vie­wees re­called and named the events the “cen­tu­ry­old la­ment” (also the name of Çe­lik and Dinç’s book, pub­lished by the İs­mail Beşikçi Foundation in early 2015) and said that they

‘IT IS CRU­CIAL TO TALK ABOUT THOSE WHO RES­CUED PEO­PLE AS WELL AS TO UN­DER­STAND THAT THE RES­CUERS WERE VERY FEW’ -AYŞE GÜL ALTINAY

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