Wednesday 25 April 2018 Last Update: 07:43 PM

"The Archives Record the Atrocious Cruelties Perpetrated by the Armenians on the Anatolian People"

Published: 06-03-2016

We have held an interview with Associate Professor, PhD, Fatma Ahsen TURAN:, about the turbulent subject of the “Alleged Armenian Genocide”, who spoke of the academic studies and research work conducted by the Scientific Research Team of Gazi University on the misinterpreted 1915 dramatic incidents which formed the subject matter of a dissertation entitled “The outcry of Anatolian people as expressed in their somber elegies.” We would like, to begin with, to express our heartfelt thanks for having kindly answered our invitation. We should be obliged to you if you kindly tell us about your background and the studies you have carried so far.

Associate Professor, PhD, Fatma Ahsen TURAN: Well, to begin from the beginning, I was born in 1960 in Ankara. I graduated in 1984 from the department of Turkish Philology and Literature of the Faculty of Letters, Languages and History of the University of Ankara. The same year I was among the teaching staff of the gazi University as instructor in Turkish Philology. I obtained my MA degree in 1989 and PhD in 1991 before joining the aforementioned University. In 2007 I went to the Frei Universität in Berlin having obtained the DAAD scholarship of the German Government as research worker at the Turcology Institute. I founded the Turcology Department of the Faculty of Foreign Languages of JMU (Jamia, Millia Islamia) University of Delhi in India (2009-2009). At present in my capacity of assistant professor I am among the teaching staff of Gazi University.

I have several publications to my name in folkloric poetry, unrecorded history, Turkish mythology, and mysticism. Among my publications I can enumerate the following works: “Hacı Bayram-ı Veli identified as The Mystagogue of Ankara”, “İncili Çavuş, the humoristic Minstrel of Ankara from the sign of zodiac of the Turkish Culture”; “Minstrels in Belgium.”; “Hacı Bayram-ı Veli, the Mystagogue, a link uniting Khorasan with Anatolia, and Anatolia with the Balkans”, the product of collaboration between Prof. Refik Turan, A. Erdoğan and Myself; “Women Poets and Musicians of the Past and Present, a joint work of R.G. Saluk and Myself; and “An introduction to the Turkish Mythology” edited by Meral Ozan and Myself and last bur not least “The Sultans of Music and Words”, a huge work of 12 volumes of which I had been the mastermind and the editor.

I was awarded with a reward in token of my contribution to the Turkish Folklore in 2012 by the Organization for the Service rendered to Contributors to the Turkish Culture.

I am married and have two sons and a daughter.  “The documentary conceived and produced by you within the framework of a project sponsored by the Gazi University where you hold classes entitled “The outcry of Anatolian people as expressed in their somber elegies” was shown at the annual congress of ATAA in Washington DC, we shall appreciate your enlightening us something about its layout?

Associate Professor, PhD, Fatma Ahsen TURAN: Associate. Prof. Fatma Ahsen Turan: The idea of this documentary was conceived during our exchange of ideas during the visit we – the teaching staff of the Gazi University – had paid to the ATAA in Washington DC in November 2014. Mrs Lale, propounded that the colloquium we held should be made into a documentary. Upon our return in Turkey we presented our project to the University which was generous enough to sponsor it. We launched it January 2015. The project marched to completion under my direction counted among its collaborators the learned members of our University, namely, Associate Professor Habibe Yazıcı Ersoy, Associate Professor Filiz Erdemir Köse; Associate Professor Ayşe Ülkü Oguzhan Börekçi, Associate Professor Kadir Ulusoy; Canan Kökus, doctorate student; and technical experts Ali Atan, Hasan Ergin, Mehmet Gündoğdu and Ümit Karadağ.

Our consultants were Prof. Reşat Genç, Prof. Refik Turan, Prof. Enver Konukçu, Prof. Necdet Hayta, Prof. Azmi Süslü, Prof. Azmi Süslü, Prof. Mustafa Turan, Associate Professor, Necla Günay, Associate Professor Mehmet Ali Çakmak, Associate Professor, Galip Çağ, MD Col. Ömer Lütfi Taşçıoğlu.

The demographic balance of the male population in 1915, the year alleged to mark the so-called genocide of the Armenians, was on the front lines. The pre- and post- 1915 was a critical period for the Ottoman Empire whose multifarious battle fronts were Caucasia, Suez, Palestine Sinai and Syria, Hedjaz, Yemen, Iraq, Galicia and Dardanelles where manpower was concentrated and where hard fought battles were engaged in. To make a long story short, the Anatolian populations were fatigued as they had suffered considerable loss at the battles they had been fightinh fought, as of the beginning of the twentieth gcentury at Transjordan, and the Balkans during World War I, and were worn-out and hardly capable of suppressing civil uprisings. All able men were at the front. The Armenian population exempted from compulsory military service was counterbalanced by the Turkish population the majority of which consisted of women and children and old veterans. Our history recounts the plight of our women population whose fathers, husbands, brothers and sons were on the front lines.

Historical records divulge the excessive loss of those fallen in action. If one takes into consideration the balance between the Turkish and Armenian populations at localities where the claimed genocide had taken place one is inclined to think that the balance tilts in favor of the latter. This is corroborated by the historical records kept in the Ottoman, Russian, French, British, German and last but not least in the Armenian archives.

The harrowing experiences gone through by people handed down from age to age are of utmost importance as they fill the gaps in our knowledge of history; for the collective minds keep the memories of past events left in the dark for some reason or other. It has been our objective to relate as best as we could the historical events which still linger in the memory of our population as well as in our historical records expressed verbatim et literatim through the unerring language of elegies.

The documentary evidence, the studies of historians, the first-hand testimonies of the public who had witnessed to the incidents handed down, the lamentations of those who suffered as recounted in the words of minstrels give a truthful picture of the Anatolian population victim of Armenian atrocities. The network of urban communities where the said inhuman deeds had taken place comprised Kars, Erzurum, Van and Adana in particular.

The unrecorded history has the privilege of being a face-to-face interview between the interviewer and the witnesses to the incidents whose style of expression is of utmost importance. If the multifarious narrations by the multitude cognizant of the happenings by direct experience agree, then the data of actual tide of events and the information whose sources are man’s minds must of necessity be conformable to fact. As a matter of fact the fons and origo of the present study is man’s intellect. The immediate victims and their next-of-kin and the poems sung by minstrels fill the gaps in historical records. Face-to-face interviews enable us to have access to documentary evidence which had been out of reach. Persons with whom we have had interviews, elegies and legends clarify the details which had so far been inaccessible. To draw the intellectual map of the period in question will provide What are our shortcomings in reinforcing Turkey’s arguments in defending her cause and dismissing out of hand the alleged genocide?

Associate Professor Fatma Ahsen TURAN: Painstaking and remarkable studies have been undertaken in Turkey in connection with the centenary of the so-called “Armenian Genocide”. However, it has become irrefutable evident that the studies conducted in the past and pursued contemporaneously have remained cooped up in its political historical setting.

Study of history is based on official records and documentary evidence. The records kept by historiographers, the documents kept in archives and the works of native and foreign writers and chroniclers and annalists who give a systematically written account comprising a chronological record of events, of wars and of political and cultural movements. Nevertheless, it is a plain fact that there are things inaccessible to chroniclers which are preferred to be kept secret and confidential out of reach of the general public and things that are concealed for one reason or other or simply unknown. Nations pass to future generations through the collective memory the details of the turn of events.

There is no doubt that the observations and statements of historians carry conviction, but there is something even of greater bearing, namely the intelligence imparted by witnesses. The unrecorded history adds much to details that chroniclers may have either missed to observe or judged as useless to mention. The hidden and real aspects of events are more often than not concealed in the accounts given by common people. Thompson, a researcher on collective memory, tries to rally together diverse viewpoints he gleans, as the unrecorded history, he says, has palpable effect on the collective message of history.

To juxtapose the live contents of collective minds with tangible historical data serve to support the thesis propounded. There are many reminiscences, circumstantial evidences bearing out the Armenian cruelties engraved on the memories of the population subjected to hit-and-run raids of Armenian guerillas in Anatolia. There is no need mentioning the fact that the wandering minstrels bore witness to these tragic events and served to propagate round the news through their verses about the social, political and cultural state of affairs.

We have deemed worthwhile to make use of the oral traditions along with the written records. We have quoted passages from elegies. The elegiac poem that sang the cold-blooded murder of Ali Pasha, governor of the Van province was interpreted by Ferhat Durmuş, while the elegy composed telling of the raid to the village Kalo was analysed by Tebrik Düzgün. To televise and broadcast these elegies would highly contribute to the cause since we are well aware that these media have powerful effects on our perceptions, behaviors, observations and reactions. It is evident that along with documentaries, movies would be helpful in transmitting the actual true state of affairs to the public opinion world wide. It is a fact that such informative documentaries contribute to the propagation of unequivocal truths about historical events. Shooting of movies about these undeniable facts is of paramount importance.  We know that the Gazi University carry on valuable scholarly studies on this historical fact, do you know if there is new research project scheduled to be conducted by the university or by you yourself for that matter?

Associate Professor, PhD, Fatma Ahsen TURAN: Associate Professor Fatma Ahsen TURAN: The Gazi University is one of the leading academic establishments of Turkey. I am persuaded that in 2016 and the following years important developments will take place. Our next step will be in the line of verbal communications. I must also mention a book I had commenced before I undertook the documentary which I hope top finish soon. It is entitled “Reminiscences of Armenian Atrocities lingering in the Collective Mind Conceived within the Compass of the Theory restructuring the past.” How about simplifying the horrible events of 1915 for the man in the street?

Associate Professor, PhD, Fatma Ahsen TURAN: The concept of State founded by nations and the ethics thereof are exposed in all their political and social relations. In wars they have taken part the character and ethics of a state and nation can be observed in the battlefields and their treatment of prisoners of war they have taken. Those deprived of the sense of State and who behave like members of an independent band engaged in predatory excursions in wartime, highway men and terrorists delight in cruelty, not conforming to approve standards of behavior vis-à-vis the civilians. The pathetically defenseless women, children and the aged who do not take active part in the conflict are inhumanly treated by guerillas, committees and bandits. The Armenian guerillas were engaged in many a cataclysmic activity aiming at the destruction of the Ottoman army. The Armenian mercenaries in the Ottoman army decamped with their arms. The Armenian bakers poisoned our soldiers by adulterated bread.

In the “Instructions” leaflet comprising 16 clauses distributed by Armenian “Committees” among the villages prior to the uprising and alleged genocide of the Armenians reads “All Muslims living outside the front line who have not turned yet their second year shall be executed wherever they are seen”

The next-of-kin who saw the corpses of their relatives harassed and tortured before they gave up their ghosts had to have recourse to lamentations and mourning for their loss. The elegies improvised on the spot must be evaluated in their media as they will shed light to the historical details. Only the outcry of despair of the witnesses can give one the harrowing experiences of the departed. The yelling and the shrieking of these people expressed in verses can give an idea of the horror involved. Elegy is a pensive or reflective poem typically highly subjective and sorrowful and nostalgic.

The dirge intoned by Ayşe sister from Ercis on the occasion of the murder of her children still fresh moaning in memories reflects coherently the disagreeable truth.

The dramatic event took place in 1915, a bare truth to which the world turns a blind eye. Ayşe sister whose husband is enlisted in the army led a peaceful life although bereaved from her man with her two sons, Ahmed and Mahmud whose head had been severed from their bodies in front of the Kara Yusuf mosque by her neighbors. Ayşe sister who immediately took cognizance of the tragic deed having lost her mind had begun to chant.

Sister Ayşe is just some of a host of people who suffered the consequences of the holocaust. A mass murder took place at the village Kalo (Derecik) in April 1918: 600 hundred people had been massacred. Only 11 people could escape the slaughter. The following elegy composed by Âşık Kahraman (1863-1944) who was one of the happy few who had fled the massacre and who poignantly described the event. Here is an extract:

BEBEK VE ANNESİ.jpgThese elegies bearing testimony to the carnage are the poetic renderings of the sufferings of the autochthonous people which provide reliable evidence for the unrecorded history.

There are other trustworthy witnesses to the tragic events: these are people whose conscientiousness, tender hearts and sense of justice overshadow the crooked politics, corrupt interests and extortionate orders. Some of them are eye-witnesses others scholars who made use of the information they have received impartially in due conformity with professional ethics.

The Armenian massacres were also treated by western authors. For instance, R. Des Coursons in his work “Les Rebellions Arméniennes” describes the Armenian mutineers in Samsun who cruelly tortured the Muslims before executing them.

British lieutenant Norman, in his book TheSlipping Armenian Mask makes the following statement: “The Armenian rebels deliberately inciting the crws to violence and set fire to the houses of the Muslim populations in Diyarıbakır, Bitlis and Arapkir like in other provinces at a time when they were at their Friday prayers in mosques. To quote but a few, 126 Muslims in Diyarbakır and 84 in Bitlis were murdered as they were trying to save their skins.

The American Leonard, Ramsden Harthill who had served respectively in Russian and Armenian armies, in his book Men Are Like That (1928) quotes passages from the reminiscences of Ohannes Apresian.

“I saw the body of a slaughtered woman lying in the courtyard of a ruined house. An infant of about one year of age was trying to suck at her breast. I have seen a host of corpses murdered dispersed reminisced of fallen leaves in the fall. They had been innocent and defenseless people.

1795306md.jpgFuneral elegies, statements of witnesses and the documentary evidence in archives bear testimony to the massive massacres perpetrated in multifarious scenes of action. Groups of individuals were stuffed in hay lofts or such other places and burned alive. Incredible excruciating tortures were inflicted to female population. The wombs pregnant with child had been rent asunder. Chilling horrors never heard before in history took place like cooking the flesh of children and forcing their mothers to eat them. Children lowered down by their parents into wells to protect them from enemy attack saw stones showering upon them. People had been impaled, their skin sloughed off, long cuts and slits slashed on bodies had been filled in with salt. These are just a few instances of the range of torments sadistically inflicted. What was the state of affairs prior to 1915 for the Armenians as an ethic minority among the Ottomans?

Associate Professor, PhD, Fatma Ahsen TURAN: Associate Professor Fatma Ahsen TURAN: I would like, to begin with the status of the Armenian minority enjoyed under the Romans in Byzantium. One thing is certain: oppressed and exposed to maltreatments of all sorts, they were far from being happy with the way things went. The Armenians and the Turks led a peaceful coexistence as of eleventh century. First under the Seljuk’s, and after, under the Ottomans, they lived undisturbed.

A token of the liberality and the religious tolerance of the Ottoman state was the establishment in 1461 in Istanbul of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey, after which there had been a rush of Armenian people who came in to settle in Istanbul. They coalesced with the Turks, so much so in fact that they were designated with the attribute “The Loyal Subjects”. Their peaceful coexistence lasted centuries. In accordance with the traditional Turkish concept of State, Christians and ethnic minorities living within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire were offered adequate protection so long as they remained loyal and faithful to the State. They held dignified positions at The Secretariat of Treasury, of Telecommunication, of Trade, and at the Foreign Office. They served as ambassadors and consuls, namely, 29 pashas, 22 ministers, 33 MPs, 7 ambassadors, 11 general consuls and consuls, 11 academicians, and 41 officials of high rank. A State that entrusts its treasury, telecommunication, trade and foreign affairs with the Armenians is as proof of his reliance in them. The Armenians enjoyed such privileges up until the last quarter of the 19th century under the hegemony of the Ottomans. The budget deficits of the Armenian Patriarchate were at times mended by the Government. While no serious problem ever arose during the Ottoman Empire’s supremacy, the economically powerful governments of the West benefited of the Empire’s decline and began to sow seeds of discord among the population with the aim to use the minorities for their own ends. The part that played Russia in Armenian uprising?

Associate Professor, PhD, Fatma Ahsen TURAN: Associate Professor Fatma Ahsen TURAN: The foreign interference in the state affairs of the Ottoman Empire by major political powers snowballed and the intrusion ended up by becoming an international affair. We must add that one cannot deny of course the negative role played by the Tsarist Russia who fostered the political agitation in order to achieve its aims in the strategic and geopolitical importance of Turkey. Among other disastrous clashes with Russia, the Prut War in 1711 marked a turning point in our subsequent armed conflicts with Russia. The objective of Russia was to take control of the Bosporus and the Straits in order to have a free passage to the Mediterranean, let alone the capture of Constantinople coveted by the Christian world. Had it succeeded in this it would have gained notoriety in the world. As a matter of fact in the war waged by Peter I against Persia Russia had again exploited the Armenians; they pursued the same policy against the Ottomans. The Russia’s presence in Caucasus, our defeats except in the Prut and the Crimean wars, the evident decline of the Ottoman Empire, the rapprochement of Armenians with Russia contributed to the hostile attitude adopted by the Armenians vis-à-vis the Ottoman Empire. The alliance between Armenia and Russia inspired the European nations to endear themselves to the latter country. The Russo-Ottoman war of 1877 made the above mentioned rapprochement even firmer. The Armenian officers in the Russian army were taken advantage of by skilful tactics of the Russians and contributed to their incipient rebellion.

I should like to mention a point the Armenians miss in their alliance with the Russians. Professor Seyit Sertçelik in his remarkable study The Armenian question in the light of the documentary evidence of Russian and Armenian Archives declares that the Russians had had destructive effect on the Armenians. For instance, in 1903 the Tsarist government seized the assets of the Armenian Church and schools and sold them at Erivan. The Turks living in Caucasus sided with the Armenians at the said sales and the closure of the Armenian churches and took part along with Armenians in the manifestations organized against Russia. In the same study, according to the Armenian author Borian, the Armenians were persecuted, sent to exile and saw the closure of their cultural establishments and schools. The number of the Armenian government staff decreased. This, to our mind, aimed at disabling the Armenians whom they deemed to be a threat. Having thus made proof of their might, they intended to incite them to take arms against the Ottomans. The support of Armenians by Russia and European nations actually aimed at using them in their attempt to weaken and debilitate the Ottoman Empire in the first place and the Turkish Republic afterward. The Armenian Diasporas and organizations who were incited to take vengeance on their common enemy were but players acting on the scene prodded by Russia and European nations. Can you tell us something about the present state of affairs about the Russian outlook in reference to the actual Turco-Armenian relations?

Associate Professor, PhD, Fatma Ahsen TURAN: Associate Professor Fatma Ahsen TURAN: There has been no change in its support of the Armenians; it is plain enough. An important part of the Azerbaijan territory is in the hands of the Armenians. The Turks who had been living there had to immigrate. From our point of view, it would be sheer indolence to keep a blind eye to the Russian massacres perpetrated at Karabağ and Hocalı to which the world preferred to keep silent about. What is the actual attitude of Russia toward the Turco-Armenian relations?

Associate Professor, PhD, Fatma Ahsen TURAN: Associate Professor Fatma Ahsen TURAN: Their formerly recognized status continues, the status they enjoyed under the Seljuks and the Ottomans. Armenian scientists, scholars, artists, industrialists and politicians pursue their lines of profession without any let or hindrance. Agop Dilaçar, specialist in Turkish Linguistic Studies Association and its first general secretary, whose contributions to the Turkish language had found favor with Atatürk may well constitute a specimen of the status of the Armenian nationals living in Turkey. In 1915 the date at which the alleged genocide took place he had graduated from the American Robert College in Istanbul. What is the present status of Armenians in contemporary Turkey?

Associate Professor, PhD, Fatma Ahsen TURAN: The privileged and secure social position they enjoyed under the Seljuks and the Ottoman Empire continued unchanged under the Turkish Republic as well. Many a scientist and scholar, artists, industrialists and diplomats are practicing their several professions without let or hindrance.

For instance, Agop Dilaçar, chief specialist and first secretary of the Turkish Language Association who won the favor of Atatürk for his contribution to the Turkish language, the technical consultant and editor of the İnönü Encylopedia may be considered as an admirable specimen of the privileged Armenians. Dilaçar who graduated from the American Robert’s College in 1915, the year of the alleged genocide, may be considered as a factual evidence contradicting the allegations.

There are a good many stars of Armenian origin who contributed to the development of the Turkish cinematic art both as actor, producer and director. Nubar Terziyan who had earned the attributes of “Father Nubar” and “Sweet Uncle” . Amelya, stage player, Adile and Selim Naşid, issues of the famous comedian Naşit endeared t themselves t o the cinema and theater goers; Mother Hafize, the lady caretaker of the school and classes in the film “Hababam Sınıfı” and reputed as a story teller; Vahi Öz who exuded sympathy in his part as Horoz Nuri; Sami Hazinses, slapstick comedian of Turkish movies; Toto Karaca, moother of Cem Karaca and Kenan Pars can be mentioned along with many others who found favor ammong the Turkish public. In an interview, Kenan Pars declared: “I call Turk a person born in Turkey and bearer of a Turkish passport, who leads a life similar to a Turk. And I happen to be a Turk myself. A person feeling in his bones the identity of a Turk is a Turk.” To sum it up, do you have any other message you would have liked to bring to the attention of the American people?

Associate Professor, PhD, Fatma Ahsen TURAN: Associate Professor Fatma Ahsen TURAN: In my capacity of being a citizen of a nation I am proud of, I would like to quote a few words pronounced by Atatürk: “To enlighten once more the minds as to the truth lying behind the sham Armenian Crimea subject and the world of civilized nations and human beings, about the nature of ill-conceived publicity and exonerate the Turkish nation from all unjustified claims and allegation….” We, as a nation endowed with the privilege of being a body of people permanently occupying a definite territory and politically organized under a sovereign government almost entirely free from external control and possessing coercive power to maintain order within the community, have always been in favor of peace. Our mystic poet Yunus Emre well defines the philosophy of tolerance when he says “The person who does not regard the totality of nations of the world as a single State and preach it as such to the public is a rebel against truth.” We, as a nation have always sided with the oppressed and stood against the vicious. We have not destroyed things but have erected them up, we saw no delight in cruelty. We have always been lovers and protectors. We never oppressed people; we have always been lenient toward them. Our compassion for Syrian refugees is a proof of this historical tradition. This issue must be divested from its actual international political character and made into a historical act to be interpreted as such in the minds of the public.

I would like to conclude with the quatrains of an Armenian bard by the name of Pesendî;

Muslims or not, we are all brothers

We all share our country’s woes

Let’s join hands and cease being self-willed

And let strangers shut up their mouth

I say let us stop being partisans, adherent to a party, faction or cause, a nightmare scenarist, agitators and mere spectators but delve into this mystery of history in the light of scholars and documentary evidence classified in the archives.