Propagandist Posters Ethnically Offensive to Some
We would like to express our sincere grief and astonishment over the recent postering along the Infinite Corridor concerning the alleged Armenian massacres in 1917 and now. It is our feeling that postering of this type is very malicious and serves no positive cause.
The posters allege that the Turkish people were responsible for massacring the Armenians in eastern Anatolia in 1916-17. Nobody denies that shocking and grievous tragedies occurred at that time. What is misrepresented is the identity of those who suffered: in truth, Turks and Kurds suffered just as much, if not more, than Armenians.
Statistics taken by independent sources show that the population of the eastern Anatolian provinces decreased from 2.3 million Turks and Kurds and 1 million Armenians in 1913 to 0.6 million Turks and Kurds and no Armenians in 1925. The losses inflicted on the Muslim population by the Russian imperial armies and the Armenian militia are just as big as the losses of the Armenians.
The Ottoman Empire never took an official position nor gave any orders to massacre Armenians at any point in time. In 1916, after the Armenian rebellion to break away from the Ottoman Empire and to join Russia, the Ottoman government decided to relocate the population of the revolting towns further south into Syria in order to maintain the war effort.
On the contrary, it was the Armenian side in cooperation with the Russian Tsar who undertook a policy of ethnic cleansing in the Russian occupied territories in 1915. After the Turkish defeat in World War I, there was a trial in Istanbul, conducted by the Allies, for the Ottoman officers who served in the region during the relocation. Most of the officers were found innocent, and only a few were charged with negligence. No evidence was found in the direction of a genocide plan. The archives of the Empire are made public in Istanbul: we dare anyone to prove us wrong.
Whatever the sad events of 1916 were, we, as civilized and conscientious members of the world community, prefer to limit our action to condemning the small extremist groups within the Turkish and Armenian nations. We are strongly against putting all the blame onto the members of one nation as a whole. We believe in the eternal friendship of the Turkish and Armenian nations; we have to get over the past and cooperate in order to create a brighter future for the region.
However, the Armenian side has repeatedly tried to keep the conflict going. Thirty Turkish diplomats have been assassinated by the Armenian terrorist organization, ASALA, since 1970. A bomb planted at the Orly Airport in France caused the death of more than one hundred Turkish and French civilians. Furthermore, the attitudes of the Turkish and Armenian politicians are significantly different. Armenians still mobilize innocent young people against Turks and vow for revenge in "Armenian Genocide Day" around the world.
The Turkish side, however, prefers to call its memorial days "Children's Day" or "Youth Day" rather than reciting past sufferings over and over (Funnily enough, the Armenian Republic recently decided on April 23 as its day of commemoration, the same date as Children's Day in Turkey, an important national holiday).
A further untruth in these posters concerns the current military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region of Karabakh. Although the writers of the poster claim that Armenians are being massacred by Turks, the international observers tell another story. Armenia invaded Azerbaijan in 1990 and currently holds 15 percent of Azerbaijani territory under occupation. Several thousand Azerbaijani civilians have been killed by the Armenian militia and 500,000 Azerbaijanis have been thrown out of their homes during the cold winter months.
Both the United States and the United Nations have condemned and severely criticized the Armenian side for its aggression. Unfortunately, the Armenian side has continuously blocked the peace negotiations supported by the Conference on European Security and Cooperation, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the United States, Iran and Turkey.
Despite the endless aggression of the Republic of Armenia, the Turkish government has given humanitarian aid of food, supplies and energy resources to the people of Armenia up to 1993. At this point, the claim by the Armenian students' association that the Armenian people are the victims is a blatant misrepresentation of reality.
Be it known that being a Turkish student in Europe and the United States is not easy. Young Turks around the world are continuously forced to defend the actions of an Empire which no longer exists. Furthermore, an active and militant community of fanatics and racists operate to give a false impression of Turkish society today. For example, films like the "Midnight Express" have wrongfully scarred the Turkish image in a fatal way.
We would also like to address the intimidation felt by the Turkish population around the world from fanatic Armenians and other devoted anti-Turks. Turkish students who leave their homeland for an education in the United States or in Europe are shocked (as we were) to find out that some (not all) of their neighbors breed intense hatred and rage in a truly racist sense.
The Turkish Consulate in Boston was closed in 1979 because Armenian terrorists killed the Consul and bombed the premises. A Turkish businessman who owned a pawnshop in Harvard Square was murdered by Armenian terrorists. After bombings and murders of Turkish Students in the area, the New England Turkish Students Association was closed down in the early 80s. Researchers' homes were bombed after publication of a book theorizing that the claims of the Armenians about 1917 are largely invalid.
Any Young Turk who has heard terror stories such as these finds it difficult to stand up and do anything. The very recent past has shown that racism knows no end to cruelty. As a result, this intimidation has caused the Turkish side to be continuously underrepresented.
It is not right for MIT to provide a medium in which certain ethnic groups can fire away at others in an offensive and untruthful manner. Grief and suffering of oppressed people around the world should be made known to the MIT community, but misrepresentation of facts and groundless political propaganda should not be allowed.
After studying in the United States, working in Europe for two summers, and confronting so much anti-Turkish hatred and fear, we still continue to believe that people can live together peacefully. Our closest friends in the United States are Greek and Armenian, and they are proof that with friendship comes understanding. These people are among the smartest at MIT, and we deeply value their friendship.
We do not claim that the Turkish side is always right, nor do we believe it. We just want people to know that there are always two sides to any story. Yet, no matter how understanding we try to be, it is offensive to come face to face with hatred, lies and racist remarks.
Tolga I. Uzuner '94, Umit E. Kumcuoglu '94, and Turkish Students at MIT