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Declaration Made By American Academicians (May 19, 1985)

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ATTENTION
MEMBERS OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
(May 19, 1985)

The undersigned American academicians who specialize in Turkish, Ottoman and Middle Eastern Studies are concerned that the current language embodied in House Joint Resolution 192 is misleading and/or inaccurate in several respects.

Specifically, while fully supporting the concept of a "National Day of Remembrance of Man's Inhumanity to Man," we respectfully take exception to that portion of the text which singles out for special recognition:

". . . the one and one half million people of Armenian ancestry who were victims of genocide perpetrated in Turkey between 1915 and 1923 . . .."

Our reservations focus on the use of the words "Turkey" and "genocide" and may be summarized as follows:

From the fourteenth century until 1922, the area currently known as Turkey, or more correctly, the Republic of Turkey, was part of the territory encompassing the multi-national, multi-religious state known as the Ottoman Empire. It is wrong to equate the Ottoman Empire with the Republic of Turkey in the same way that it is wrong to equate the Hapsburg Empire with the Republic of Austria. The Ottoman Empire, which was brought to an end in 1922, by the successful conclusion of the Turkish Revolution which established the present day Republic of Turkey in 1923, incorporated lands and people which today account for more than twenty-five distinct countries in Southeastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, only one of which is the Republic of Turkey. The Republic of Turkey bears no responsibility for any events which occurred in Ottoman times, yet by naming 'Turkey' in the Resolution, its authors have implicitly labeled it as guilty of "genocide" it charges transpired between 1915 and 1923;

As for the charge of "genocide" no signatory of this statement wishes to minimize the scope of Armenian suffering. We are likewise cognizant that it cannot be viewed as separate from the suffering experienced by the Muslim inhabitants of the region. The weight of evidence so far uncovered points in the direct of serious inter communal warfare (perpetrated by Muslim and Christian irregular forces), complicated by disease, famine, suffering and massacres in Anatolia and adjoining areas during the First World War. Indeed, throughout the years in question, the region was the scene of more or less continuous warfare, not unlike the tragedy which has gone on in Lebanon for the past decade. The resulting death toll among both Muslim and Christian communities of the region was immense. But much more remains to be discovered before historians will be able to sort out precisely responsibility between warring and innocent, and to identify the causes for the events which resulted in the death or removal of large numbers of the eastern Anatolian population, Christian and Muslim alike.

Statesmen and politicians make history, and scholars write it. For this process to work scholars must be given access to the written records of the statesmen and politicians of the past. To date, the relevant archives in the Soviet Union, Syria, Bulgaria and Turkey all remain, for the most part, closed to dispassionate historians. Until they become available, the history of the Ottoman Empire in the period encompassed by H.J. Res. 192 (1915-1923) cannot be adequately known.

We believe that the proper position for the United States Congress to take on this and related issues is to encourage full and open access to all historical archives and not to make charges on historical events before they are fully understood. Such charges as those contained H.J. Res. 192 would inevitably reflect unjustly upon the people of Turkey and perhaps set back progress irreparably. Historians are just now beginning to achieve in understanding these tragic events.

As the above comments illustrate, the history of the Ottoman-Armenians is much debated among scholars, many of whom do not agree with the historical assumptions embodied in the wording of H.J. Res. 192. By passing the resolution Congress will be attempting to determine by legislation which side of the historical question is correct. Such a resolution, based on historically questionable assumptions, can only damage the cause of honest historical inquiry, and damage the credibility of the American legislative process.

SIGNATORIES TO THE STATEMENT ON H.J. RES. 192 ADDRESSED TO THE MEMBERS OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

RIFAAT ABOU-EL-HAJ
Professor of History
California State University at Long Beach

SARAH MOMENT ATIS
Professor of Turkish Language & Literature
University of Wisconsin at Madison

KARL BARBIR
Associate Professor of History
Siena College (New York)

ILHAN BASGOZ
Director of the Turkish Studies Program at the Department of Uralic & Altaic Studies Indiana University

DANIEL G. BATES
Professor of Anthropology Hunter College
City University of New York

ULKU BATES
Professor of Art History Hunter College
City University of New York

GUSTAV BAYERLE
Professor of Uralic & Altaic Studies
Indiana University

ANDREAS G. E. BODROGLIGETTI
Professor of Turkic & Iranian languages
University of California at Los Angeles

KATHLEEN BURRILL
Associate Professor of Turkish Studies
Columbia University

RODERIC DAVISON
Professor of History
George Washington University

WALTER DENNY
Associate Professor of Art History & Near Eastern Studies University of Massachusetts

DR. ALAN DUBEN
Anthropologist, Researcher New York City

ELLEN ERVIN
Research Assistant Professor of Turkish
New York University

CAESAR FARAH
Professor of Islamic & Middle Eastern History
University of Minnesota

CARTER FINDLEY
Associate Professor of History
The Ohio State University

MICHAEL FINEFROCK
Professor of History
College of Charleston

ALAN FISHER
Professor of History
Michigan State University

CORNELL FLEISCHER
Assistant Professor of History
Washington University (Missouri)

TIMOTHY CHILDS
Professorial Lecturer at SAIS
Johns Hopkins University

SHAFIGA DAULET
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Connecticut

JUSTIN MCCARTHY
Associate Professor of History
University of Louisville

JON MANDAVILLE
Professor of the History of the Middle East
Portland State University (Oregon)

RHOADS MURPHEY
Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Languages & Cultures & History
Columbia University

PIERRE OBERLING
Professor of History
Hunter College of the City University of New York

ROBERT OLSON
Associate Professor of History
University of Kentuck

DONALD QUATAERT
Associate Professor of History
University of Houston

WILLIAM GRISWOLD
Professor of History
Colorado State University

WILLIAM HICKMAN
Associate Professor of Turkis
University of California, Berkeley

JOHN HYMES
Professor of History
Glenville State College West Virginia

RALPH JAECKEL
Visiting Assistant Professor of Turkish
University of California at Los Angeles

JAMES KELLY
Associate Professor of Turkish
University of Utah

PETER GOLDEN
Professor of History
Rutgers University, Newark

TOM GOODRICH
Professor of History
Indiana University of Pennsylvania

ANDREW COULD
Ph.D. in Ottoman History
Flagstaff, Arizona

MICHAEL MEEKER
Professor of Anthropology
University of California at San Diego

THOMAS NAFF
Professor of History & Director, Middle East Research Institute
University of Pennsylvania

WILLIAM OCHSENWALD
Associate Professor of History
Virginia Polytechnic Institute

WILLIAM PEACHY
Assistant Professor of the Judaic & Near Eastern Languages & Literatures
The Ohio State University

HOWARD REED
Professor of History
University of Connecticut

TIBOR HALASI-KUN
Professor Emeritus of Turkish Studies
Columbia University

J. C. HUREWITZ
Professor of Government Emeritus Former Director of the Middle East Institute (1971-1984)
Columbia University

HALIL INALCIK
Member of the of Arts & Sciences
University Professor of Ottoman History American Academy
University of Chicago

RONALD JENNINGS
Associate Professor of History & Asian Studies
University of Illinois

KERIM KEY
Adjunct Professor
Southeastern University Washington, D.C.

DANKWART RUSTOW
Distinguished University Professor of Political Science
City University Graduate School New York

STANFORD SHAW
Professor of History University of California at Los Angele

METIN KUNT
Professor of Ottoman History
New York City

AVIGDOR LEVY
Professor of History Brandeis University

DR. HEATH W. LOWRY
Institute of Turkish Studies Inc. Washington, D.C.

JOHN MASSON SMITH
JR. Professor of History
University of California at Berkeley

ROBERT STAAB
Assistant Director of the Middle East Center University of Utah

JAMES STEWART-ROBINSON
Professor of Turkish Studies University of Michigan

FRANK TACHAU
T'lcftessoT oV^diiuc University of Illinois at Chicago

DAVID THOMAS
Associate Professor of History Rhode Island College

WARREN S. WALKER
Home Professor of English & Director of the Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative
Texas Tech University

WALTER WEIKER
Professor of Political Science Rutgers University

MADELINE ZILFI
Associate Professor of History University of Maryland

ELAINE SMITH
Ph.D. in Turkish History Retired Foreign Service Officer Washington, DC

EZEL KURAL SHAW
Associate Professor of History
California State University, Northridge

FREDERICK LATIMER
Associate Professor of History (Retired)
University of Utah

BERNARD LEWIS
Cleveland E. Dodge Eastern History
Princeton University

GRACE M. SMITH Visiting Lecturer in Turkish
University of California at Berkeley

DR. SVAT SOUCEK
Turcologist,
New York City

JUNE STARR
Associate Professor of Anthropology
SUNY Stony Brook

DR. PHILIP STODDARD
Executive Director, Middle East Institute
Washington, D.C.

METIN TAMKOC
Professor of International Law and Regulations
Texas Tech University

MARGARET L. VENZKE
Assistant Professor of History
Dickinson College (Pennsylvania)

DONALD WEBSTER
Professor of Turkish History, Retired

JOHN WOODS
Associate Professor of Middle Eastern History
University of Chicago

 

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