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050603 - Istanbul conference cancelled
RE: Istanbul conference cancelled ( Gocek)
>>Dear colleagues,
>>It is with a very heavy heart that i write this e-mail message to you
>from istanbul. as you have already heard through stephen feinstein's
>e-mails (thank you, stephen, for staying on top of things), the first
>turkish armenian conference organized by the three prestigious turkish
>universities to demontstrate the multiplicity of thought on the subject
>of 1915 has been indefinitely postponed.
>>From what i have been been able to piece together, the events that led to
>this result developed as follows: initially, there was intense interest in
>the conference and as of last count 720 people wanted to participate. yet
>the excitement produced among the conference organizers was not regarded as
>such in state circles who made two calls to Bosphorus University rector on
>tuesday afternoon: one was from the governor of istanbul asking that such a
>conference not be held due to possible security risks; the other was from
>the chief public prosecutor who wanted copies of all the papers to be
>delivered at the conference sent to his office, implying that he would
>criminal proceedings against those he deemed guilty.
>These calls were accompanied by a speech delivered in the turkish
>on the same afternoon; the content of the speech, according to
>is as follows:
>'Reaction to the Armenian Conference from Çiçek'
>Minister of Justice Cemil Çiçek evaluated the endeavor of the opposition
>intellectuals to arrange a conference at Bosphorus University on the topic
>of 'Ottoman Armenians' as a dagger thrust into the back of the Turkish
>nation. Cemil Çiçek said, in relation to the conference where opposition
>intellectuals are to participate at a time when the Armenian genocide
>allegations are on the agenda, 'I wish I, as the Minister of Justice, had
>not had to turn over my authority to prosecute [upon becoming a minister
>The Minister of Justice Cemil Çicek responded to the talks made [at the
>parliament] outside the set agenda .by the Republican People's Party (CHP)
>¯stanbul deputy ®,ükrü Elekda©£ and the Justice and Development Party's
>Aksaray deputy Ramazan Toprak in relation to the conference on the Armenian
>issue that is to start tomorrow at Bo©£aziçi University.
>Çiçek said: 'There is not a nation that has as clear a conscience and
>as pure a head as the Turkish nation, and history and the archives bear
>witness to this.'
>Expressing that no where in the world could the freedom and independence of
>universities be interpreted as 'irresponsibility,' Minister of Justice
>stated that this conference was totally irresponsible and lacking in
>[In another venue, it is reported that he actually stated 'it is now time
>bring a closure to this era marked by irresponsibility, by lack of
>seriousness, [by those] swearing at the nation, by the propaganda conducted
>against this nation by those who carry this nation's identity cards.']
>Noting that he was curious to wait and see what independent committees were
>going to do about the conference, he said that as the government there was
>nothing they could do."
>These developments seems to have led the Bosphorus University rector Ay©,e
>Sosyal and the Bosphorus University organizer Selim Deringil to postpone
>conference. The information contained in the press release that the BU
>rector sent is, according to, as follows:
>"The written press release of BU stated that BU is saddened to see the
>serious accusations in relation to the conference planned through the joint
>initiation of the faculty members of Bilgi, Bo©£aziçi and Sabanc~
>Universities and hosted by Bosphorus University.[to create] a context for
>scientific discussion.
>This is what was stated in the explanation: 'We are worried that the
>expression of the prejudices in relation to the contents of a conference
>that has not yet been actualized harms the academic freedom of a state
>university. We want to notify the Turkish public that we decided, under
>these conditions and faced with the possible consequences that may emerge
>from actualizing the conference, that it would be more appropriate to
>postpone it.'
>The discussions held by of some of the people who were to participate in
>conference revealed the following in relation to where the two other
>universities stood on this matter: Bilgi University stated that they had
>already been under pressure from the government for having held other
>scholarly meetings on such issues as the headscarf issue that are unpopular
>with the government; they therefore do not feel they are strong enough to
>take on another challenge; also, their campus is also not equipped to hold
>such a large conference. Sabanc~ University will be holding a meeting
>tomorrow morning to decide on what they want to do.
>Even though the conference participants want to at least organize a closed
>meeting among themselves, they have decided not to take any action before
>the Sabanc~ decision and will decide what to do subsequently.
>As to my personal assessment of the matter, I think that the facts that
>a conference was seriously organized to be executed, and that there was
>a groundswell of interest in it demonstrate there is a significant segment
>in Turkish civil society already mobilized to tackle this issue in a way
>that counters the hegemonic state view on the matter. This segment is not
>going to go away and seems to have become, in the face of the present
>challenge of the Turkish state, even more passionate and determined about
>tackling this issue. It is unfortunate that Bosphorus University had to
>give in to the state pressure, but the one who needs to be held responsible
>for this turn of events is not the BU, but the Turkish state in general and

>the current government in power in particular.
>The fact that the state resorted to such pressure to stop this conference
>from taking place reveals, I think, that they feel threatened and perhaps
>think they could bring everything under control through exerting pressure
>themselves. It is extremely unfortunate that such blatant repression
>occurred to produce a result so detrimental to Turkish society, but I think
>we need to note in communicating this course of events internationally that
>we are in support of the initiative of the three universities and the
>Turkish civil society they represent, but strongly condone the undemocratic
>repression of freedom of thought and expression by the Turkish state and
>current government.
>I think that the societal forces in Turkish society are continually getting
>stronger at the expense of the state which reacts by becoming more
>repressive. But world history has revealed time amd again that these state
>measures cannot ultimately contain social movements. So I see this event
>a temporary setback to the democratization of Turkey, but one that, with
>support of the international community who recognizes and reports the
>constructive initiatives taken by the Turkish state, would ultimately
>persevere to eventually uplift the repression of freedom and thought.
>I will keep you informed about the developments; should you want to get in
>touch with me personally, or want to put someone in touch, my Turkish cell
>phone number is 011-90-535 399 7109 (please note that Turkey is 7 hours
>ahead of the US).
>Take care,Müge

Date: Tue, 24 May 2005 19:48:53 -0400
>From: "Gocek, Fatma" <>
>Subject: istanbul conference

>Associate Professor Fatma Muge Gocek University of Michigan Sociology
>Department 1225 S. University Avenue Ann Arbor, MI 48104
>Phone: (734) 647-4228 Fax: (734) 763-6887


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