Friday, January 6, 2012

We did not do any genocide, they betrayed us – true or false?

The Ottoman State did not engage in genocide against Armenians. Some of the Armenians who collaborated with Russians and thus stabbed the Ottoman army in the back died during their treachery; some died from hunger, sickness, and the cold during the deportations which were executed upon the suggestion of the Germans; and some left with the Russians because of their treachery; and thus diminished the Armenian population in Turkey.

O True O False

This true or false question was the first of the fifteen questions in a midterm exam in the History Department at Dicle University in Diyarbakır last spring. The students who were interviewed by the Tigris News Agency (Dicle Haber Ajansı, DİHA; see Evrensel) stated that “Such a racist question totally aims at leading [us to choosing “true”]. We know that history was not like this but we are forced to mark a lie as correct.” They noted that they were afraid of being subjected to an investigation for marking “false” as the question was clearly referencing the official Turkish history of 1915; so they marked “true.”

Rober Koptaş, the editor-in-chief of the Armenian-Turkish daily Agos, called the midterm question “a blow to free thought.” Koptaş also underlined the hate speech involved in the question, noting that crimes like “Zirve Publishing, the murder of Hrant Dink, Andrea Santoro” were perpetrated as a result of racist leads like this one (see Evrensel).

You can read a phone interview (in Turkish) with Assistant Professor Yılmaz Polat, who gave this exam, on Radikal. For an interview (published in Turkish) with Dr. Haykak Arshamyan, who teaches at Yerevan State University, see Bianet.