The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 29.0°F | Overcast

Call for Reconciliation Betweeen Student Ethnic Groups

We were disappointed to see continued misrepresentation of history in the Armenian Students Association's letter to the editor in last Friday's issue of The Tech ["Perceptions and Denials of History," Apr. 29].

We were upset to see continued allegations against the Turkish nation about an "Armenian genocide" and "Turkish expansionism" in letters submitted to The Tech by the Armenian Students Association. Although more Kurds and Turks were killed by Armenians and Russians during the 1914-1915 conflict in Eastern Anatolia, we prefer to get over the grievous incidents of the past and look to the future.

We would like to make some corrections to the claims made by the letter of the Armenian Students' Association. First, the comparison of the Turkish government to the Nazis is out of place as it was the state of Armenia that cooperated with Nazi Germany in World War II. On the contrary, Turkey has always been a haven for persecuted minorities in Europe. When Spanish Jews were nearly exterminated by the Spanish Inquisition, the Ottoman Empire granted these people political asylum and invited them to Istanbul.

During WWII, many Jewish and Polish citizens persecuted by the Nazis took refuge in Turkey. Some of these people are still living in Istanbul after the liberation of their countries. Additionally, many Armenians are currently living in Turkey.

To compare events of 1914-15 in the Ottoman Empire with Hitler's planned extermination of European Jews in WWII is a disservice to the memory of millions of victims of the Nazis whose only crime was to be born Jewish. German Jews were loyal citizens, in contrast to the Ottoman Armenians, large numbers of whom joined the invading Russians and served as a fifth column behind Ottoman lines during the ethnic cleansing of Turks and Kurds in the area.

As for the purported Hitler quotation on display, "Who today remembers the Armenian extermination?" the intent is clear. Link the "Armenian cause" to that of the Jewish victims of WWII, and you convince the public that the Armenian experience, too, must have been genocide.

Secondly, the information about the Martial Court Trials of 1920 in Istanbul presented in the last letter of the Armenian Students' Association is irrelevant to our case. It is true that the Prime Minister of the Ottoman Empire and some cabinet members were condemned to death, but the reason had nothing to do with Armenia or Armenians. They were found guilty for engaging the Ottoman Empire in World War I without parliamentary approval.

Around the same time, the British forces occupying Istanbul carried out exhaustive searches of the Ottoman archives, as well as those of other countries, in an attempt to substantiate Armenian allegations. After three years, during which 100 Ottoman military and political leaders were held in detention at Malta, the British Crown law officers dropped all charges: not only was there insufficient evidence to convict anyone of war crimes, there was no evidence to warrant a trial.

We obviously do not believe that the Armenian Students Association has any connections to any terrorist organizations. We aimed our condemnations at the small extremist groups in Turkey and Armenia that would support such barbaric people. Although Armenian organizations around the world continue to brainwash their young and support such savagery, we count on the Armenian Students' Association to prove that this is only a small group of fanatics by announcing their condemnation of terrorist organizations.

We leave it to the MIT community to judge the Armenian students' claim about the innocence of the Infinite Corridor display they prepared. But we note here that the board was preoccupied with quotations that were either made up or taken out of context such as one from our founding father Ataturk, and that half the board had nothing to do whatsoever with the truly rich culture of Armenia.

The last thing we want to see is an escalation of counterattacks between the groups. Our belief that no single group should and can be singled out for the atrocities committed in the region continues to hold: if there is a burden, then both sides will bear it. It is troubling to watch groups of young people offend each other because of something that happened seventy years ago, to people three generations past, and in a region of the world which none of them have probably seen. It is worrying to see whole generations of young Armenians committed to avenge some event whose very existence is questionable.

This is not right. As civilized individuals in a modern world, we should do everything we can to counteract the forces and temptations to bedevil those we should befriend. There is no reason why Armenians and Turks in 1994 cannot get along. Hence, in line with our policy to bring peace and prosperity to the region through friendship, on behalf of the Turkish Students Association we extend an invitation to all members of the Armenian Students Association at MIT to put our (or rather, our grandparents') differences aside and work on our similarities.

Nothing could be more important than the reconciliation of unjustified feelings and the establishment of a deep and meaningful relationship between the two communities as an example to others at MIT and around the world. We hope to see members of the Armenian Students Association at MIT work with us towards a more peaceful future for our countries.

Tolga I. Uzuner '94,

Umit E. Kumcuoglu '94