From The Times
February 28, 2009
Father sues Turkish Education Ministry over Armenian ‘genocide’ DVD ‘ SARI GELİN
Suna Erdem in Istanbul
A father is suing the Turkish Education Ministry for forcing his 11-year-old daughter to watch a “racist” and “disturbing” film countering claims that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians in 1915 with graphic allegations of Armenian atrocities against Turks.
The landmark case takes on what human rights activists have called the State’s militarist policy of brainwashing Turkey’s schoolchildren to the point of racist paranoia, aiming to preserve a nationalist status quo criticised by the European Union, which Turkey is keen to join.
“My daughter was very disturbed and frightened by the documentary and kept asking me if the Armenians had cut us up,” said Serdar Kaya, an ethnic Turkish doctor, who is suing the ministry and the child’s school for inciting racial hatred.
“There are many mass graves, bones and skulls in the DVD. They have interviewed old grandads who inspire confidence and compassion. When they say things like ‘They cut off his head’ and ‘They used it instead of firewood’, that is bound to stay with the children,” Serdar Degirmencioglu, a psychologist, told the Armenian newspaper Agos when news first broke that the documentary was being shown to primary school children – including ethnic Armenian Turks.
The Education Ministry says that it has stopped the distribution of the documentary, Sari Gelin (Blonde Bride), named after an Armenian folk song. But it has apparently not recalled it and critics say that it remains part of the curriculum.
Some MPs are bringing up the case in Parliament. The education union Egitim-Sen has condemned the film, and the History Foundation has dismissed it as baseless propaganda.
Another lawsuit has been filed by a foundation set up in honour of the murdered Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. The former editor of Agos was murdered in 2007 by a young nationalist whose links to a group of ultra-nationalists, codenamed Ergenekon, operating within the security forces and state bureaucracy are now being investigated. “In the whole of the documentary the word ‘Armenian’ has been used thousands of times and only with negative connotations,” the Foundation said.
Mr Dink had been one of several high-profile intellectuals, also including Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel literature laureate, and Elif Shafak, the bestselling author, who had been sued by nationalist lawyers over comments and writings alluding to the mass Armenian deaths. “You can see that all those cases were part of a project of manipulation … There is a sick, abnormal tissue of Turkish society that is poisoned by a nationalist, racist virus,” said Ufuk Uras, an independent MP who backs Mr Kaya’s case.
Many historians class the 1915 events as genocide, but even those who reject the term accept that hundreds of thousands of Armenians died when the Ottoman Turks deported them from eastern Anatolia. According to the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the death toll was “more than a million”.
“You go and kill more than a million Armenians, wipe the traces of Armenians from Anatolia, grab their property, and then show children videos about ‘What the Armenians did to us’ … We are cutting these children off from the rest of the world,” said Ahmet Altan, editor of the independent newspaper Taraf.