A veteran Turkish journalist has characterized the World War I massacre of Armenians in his country as genocide in a new book, defying the government’s stance on the sensitive issue.
Hasan Cemal – a columnist with the Milliyet daily, and the grandson of WWI Ottoman Empire general Cemal Pasha – lays out the evolution of his thinking on the issue in the book “1915: The Armenian Genocide.”
“The pain of 1915 is not an issue of the past, but of the present,” he writes in the foreword. “We can only find peace and finally rest by making our peace with history – but with the real history, not an invented or altered one like ours – and ridding ourselves of the virus of exploiting it.”
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in a 1915-16 genocide by the Ottoman Empire. Turkey says 500,000 died of fighting and starvation during WWI and categorically rejects the term genocide.
The Turkish official view has been disputed in the country by some academics and intellectuals since the late 1990s. Some historians in 2005 held a conference to debate the Armenian question.
“I know your pain of the genocide, I share it,” Cemal last year told a Los Angeles conference attended by many members of the Armenian diaspora.
He distanced himself from the Turkish state ideology even though his grandfather was murdered by an Armenian activist in Tbilisi in 1922.
Turkey’s Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk went on trial in Turkey for telling a Swiss newspaper in 2005 that his country had killed “30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians”, but later the charges against him were dropped.