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06 12 07 - We need to move fast / Appel agir
5th Dec 06 - Aztag/Leb - (From ECKIAN JEAN)
The time has come for Armenians around the world to move forward. In the past couple of decades, we have witnessed a surge of research by independent
scholars who have confirmed that what the Armenians were subjected to - massacres and forced deportations into the desert - was in fact Genocide.
This has of course led to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by some governments and parliaments around the world. Yet, we Armenians await the day when the Turkish government would admit the crimes their ancestors committed.

Armenians are now stuck in a futile argument with the Turks, especially
the successive Turkish government. For the time being, the debate is going
nowhere. Armenians confirm it was Genocide, Turks claim it was not Genocide.
The argument now sounds like the following: ³Yes, it was Genocide and it
been proven by many scholars and researchers.² ³No it wasn¹t Genocide and our scholars and researchers can prove that.² ³Yes, it was.² ³No, it wasn¹t.² ³
Yes.² ³No.²

And it seems Hye Tad is caught in this circular argument, at least for the time being.

But what else can we do? Isn¹t Genocide recognition what we want? At the same time, does Hye Tad have any plans for the ³day after²? What will we do when Turkey finally utters the word we¹ve been waiting for all our lives?
next logical step is of course demanding our lands back, and then we will
a new argument that could go on for ages. ³Give us back our lands.² ³No,
they are not your lands.² ³Yes, they are.² ³No, they aren¹t.²

So it is time that we start focusing on the land issue and open a new front
to get what is rightfully ours. I am aware that most of us could become
skeptic and doubt whether we will ever achieve that: after all, we¹ve been unable to get the Turks to say one word; how will we ever get them to give our
lands back?

Perhaps the following news item that appeared in the Turkish newspaper Radikal on November 7, 2006 could help us envisage our next struggle.

According to Radikal, more than a year ago (17 August, 2005), in Turkey, Mr. Nihat Shahin, the Assistant Director of The Land Registry Office sent a letter to the Turkish National Security Counsel. In this letter, he asked for advice regarding the question of all property-registration books, whether or not these documents should be sent to the administration of the State Archives.
At the time, there was an ongoing program to update and digitalize the old registry of real property.

Radikal continues saying: The Brigadier General of the National Security Counsel, Mr. Tayyar Elmas, also the chief of the Department of Mobilisation and War Planning, replied to this with a letter in which he said: ³The contents of the above-mentioned registry books dated from the Ottoman era are liable to
ethnic and political manipulations (like the unfounded genocide, the Ottoman Foundation, property claims, etc.). For the sake of national interests, it
is undesirable that those documents, partially or completely, be multiplied, or delivered to centers where archival work and research are done. Hence, it
is more desirable that those books stay in the Land Registry Offices with limited access².

Although the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has been claiming that the Turkish archives are open, here comes a piece of news from Turkey itself that some
of their archival material is kept out of the reach of researchers. True, the Turkish archives have been open, but what those archives contain is questionable. The Turks themselves have admitted that only about 10-12% of
archival documents are open to the public.

The Radikal journalist Murat Belge warns Erdogan that before he even challenges Armenia and the world to open their archives, he should know exactly what
Turkey¹s archives contain. The journalist further writes: ³Everybody knows that in the state archives mentioned by Mr. Erdogan the possibility to
discover something new is very small. There is no smoking gun since there have been no official written orders. Nobody does this. No one has discovered any
written order by Hitler to exterminate the Jews either. But undoubtedly, it is impossible in a state mechanism that a deed in this magnitude has not been
registered somewhere in the archives.²

The Land Registry Office in Turkey is concealing a crucial part of our history. These documents give the details and the boundaries of the lands, the
names of the owners, who sold and who bought them. Research through these documents will prove once and for all who the owners at the time were and
when and in what kind of circumstances changes in ownership occurred.

To my knowledge, none of the branches of Hye Tad or any other organization that primarily deals with the Armenian Question has caught up on this news which apparently surfaced more than a year ago, perhaps because they lack the human resources who can read and understand the Turkish language. This needs to
be amended as soon as possible. We need more experts who can read and understand Ottoman Turkish, who can actually be able to detect any discrepancies in whatever archival material that is open to the public.

Regardless, the above piece of news should open another door for us.
Armenians have had the chance to sue American and French insurance companies regarding the life insurances that their grandparents had acquired more than 90 years ago, and many families have received the money. But in my view,getting our lands back is much more important than getting money.

It is time to move forward and get concrete results. We must take the Turkish government to court and demand our lands back, one small piece at a time.
The land registration books should contain all the necessary registrations and any sales that could have taken place. Our grandparents did not sell their lands before they were killed or deported. In fact, many of us still keep this sort of documents that our grandparents carried with them as they were deported. They lived and died with the hope that one day they would return.

To get what is rightfully our property is not connected to whether Turkey admits the Genocide or not. The heirs to those lands are alive and they are now the rightful owners of those lands. We need to move fast before these land registration documents also vanish in thin air.

By Katia M. Peltekian


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