One constant of Islamic polemic against the West is that Muslim spokesmen never, ever acknowledge any wrongdoing by Muslims. It is always the fault of the non-Muslim party, always someone else’s responsibility. This tendency manifests itself on a large scale in the ongoing Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide. Mention it, and either the Turks are irked, or — in this case — mum.
“A devastating document is met with silence in Turkey,” by Sabrina Tavernise in the IHT, March 9:
ISTANBUL: For Turkey, the number should have been a bombshell.
According to a long-hidden document that belonged to the interior minister of the Ottoman Empire, 972,000 Ottoman Armenians disappeared from official population records from 1915 through 1916.
In Turkey, any discussion of what happened to the Ottoman Armenians can bring a storm of public outrage. But since its publication in a book in January, the number – and its Ottoman source – has gone virtually unmentioned. Newspapers hardly wrote about it. Television shows have not discussed it.
“Nothing,” said Murat Bardakci, the Turkish author and columnist who compiled the book.
The silence can mean only one thing, he said: “My numbers are too high for ordinary people. Maybe people aren’t ready to talk about it yet.”
For generations, most Turks knew nothing of the details of the Armenian genocide from 1915 to 1918, when more than a million Armenians were killed as the Ottoman Turk government purged the population.
Turkey locked the ugliest parts of its past out of sight, Soviet-style, keeping any mention of the events out of schoolbooks and official narratives in an aggressive campaign of forgetting.
But in the past 10 years, as civil society has flourished here, some parts of Turkish society are now openly questioning the state’s version of events. In December, a group of intellectuals circulated a petition that apologized for the denial of the massacres. Some 29,000 people have signed it.
With his book, “The Remaining Documents of Talat Pasha,” Bardakci (pronounced bard-AK-chuh) has become, rather unwillingly, part of this ferment. The book is a collection of documents and records that once belonged to Mehmed Talat, known as Talat Pasha, the primary architect of the Armenian deportations.
The documents, given to Bardakci by Talat’s widow, Hayriye, before she died in 1983, include lists of population figures. Before 1915, 1,256,000 Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire, according to the documents. The number plunged to 284,157 two years later, Bardakci said.
To the untrained ear, it is simply a sad statistic. But anyone familiar with the issue knows the numbers are in fierce dispute.
Turkey has never acknowledged a specific number of deportees or deaths. On Sunday, the Turkish foreign minister, Ali Babacan, warned that President Barack Obama might set back relations if he recognized the massacre of Armenians as genocide ahead of his visit to Turkey next month….