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Perceptions and Denials of History

In its letter to the editor ["Propagandist Posters Ethnically Offensive To Some," April 24], the Turkish Student's Association falsely revised history and wrongly accused MIT's Armenian Students' Organization of racism against Turks through its display of Armenian culture and history for all to see at the entrance to the Infinite Corridor. The Armenian Students' Organization was accused of displaying items associated with the Turkish genocide of the Armenians -- there were no such items.

In the letter, this display of condensed Armenian culture and history was set equivalent to actions of international terrorists such as bombings and assassination -- this is an outrageous misrepresentation of the display, and totally uncalled for.

It seems as though the Turkish Students at MIT were responding to a display they thought they saw; a display of an event in history that Hitler took his cue from in 1939 when he stated, "Who after all speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" In this letter we were assaulted with a distortion of history. This is not a forum where dates, figures, and dead bodies are counted, and thus, it makes little sense to burden the reader with how many Armenians were exterminated when and how.

Several times during this century, the transformation of the State has been achieved through the disposition of minorities or groups representing the old order. This was the case with the Armenians in Turkey, Jews in Germany, and western thinkers in Cambodia during the reign of Pol Pot. In all these cases, quoting Helen Fein in Accounting for Genocide, "The victims of twentieth-century genocide -- the Jews, the Gypsies, the Armenians -- were murdered in order to fulfill the state's design for a new order ... war was used in both cases (an opportunity anticipated and planned for by Germany but simply seized by Turkey after World War I began)." And in both cases, today, we have denial of documented history by neo-Nazis and the Turkish government directly.

It is unfortunate that we had a knee-jerk reaction to a display of Armenian history and culture by some of the best and brightest that Turkey can offer. Surrounded by simple-minded attempts at challenging the unsuspecting reader, we were "dared" to produce evidence of systematic genocide from Turkish War Crimes trials which took place in Istanbul, Turkey, in early 1919. The following is a verdict against the top leaders of Turkey during World War I, typical of the many verdicts passed against the entire Turkish governmental structure of the time: "The Court Martial pronounces, in accordance with the said stipulations of the Law, the death penalty against Talaat (Turkish Minister of Interior), Enver (Turkish Minister of War), Djemal (Turkish Minister of the Navy), and Dr. Nazim (Turkish Minister of Education)," according to Takvim-i Vekay, (Official Turkish Governmental Gazette) #3571.

It is no wonder that those who deny history challenge those who are innocent of its implications. It is unfortunate that instead of coming to grips with the burden of history, Turkish Students of MIT call for reconciliation with MIT's Armenian Students' Organization in one breath, and in the next, associate them with international terrorist acts for a simple display of Armenian churches, the Armenian alphabet, and an opera house.

Armenian Students' Organization of MIT