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    Commission of historians welcomed by academic

    by Vercihan Ziflioğlu
    22 Nisan 2009 - 00:00Son Güncelleme : 22 Nisan 2009 - 10:17

    ISTANBUL - While most Turkish and many non-Turkish historians continue to object to the term "genocide" as an accurate description of Armenia’s tragic years around 1915, recently there has been a convergence of views. The earliest Turkish historian to move beyond the black and white debate was Halil Berktay of Istanbul’s Sabancı University. Berktay has suggested "proto-genocide" might be a better term, given that the legal definition of genocide was written made 33 years after 1915.

    One of the few Turkish figures to embrace the emotional word "genocide" without reservation is Taner Akçam, a scholar at Clark University in the U.S. His use of that word netted him an indictment for "insulting Turkishness" at one point, a charge of which Turkish courts acquitted him.

    In the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent Turkish visit, his past use of the symbolic term and comments in Turkey that his views have not changed in the run-up to April 24 are evidence enough for Akçam, who believes Obama is likely to use the term in his expected address Thursday.

    Turkey’s proposal
    "I’d say there is a high possibility of such recognition, it’s not possible to say he absolutely will do so," Akçam told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. More important for Turkey and Armenia, he said, is a full and candid exploration and discussion of the two societies’ mutual history and he said he welcomes Turkey’s proposal for a commission of historians as a positive step.

    But it should not be tasked to "come to a decision about history," but rather to work to complete the still incomplete archival record, he said. Akçam pointed out that many documents would still need to be presented to the historians committee once it is founded.

    There are other archives, including references in Boston and at the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem as well that have not yet been made fully available to scholars, he said.

    More archival work will not change anyone’s broad conclusions, he said, but will facilitate better understanding.

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