Abdullah Gul decides to open previously censured gathering of academics
ISTANBUL (Combined Sources)–Bogazici University rector Ayse Soysal and the President of Sabanci University–Tosun Terzioglu–told the press on Tuesday that Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul would be opening a conference titled "Ottoman Armenia’s during the Decline of the Empire: Issues of Scientific Responsibility and Democracy."
The conference was initially scheduled for May–but postponed after Turkish justice minister Cemil Cicek branded it "a dagger in the back of the Turkish people." It has been rescheduled to take place at Istanbul’s Bogazici University on September 23-25.
Soysal and Terzioglu both stressed that such conferences must be viewed from an academic standpoint–without forgetting that the universities do not necessarily share the views of lecturers. They defended their right to criticize politically motivated opposition or support of such discussions prior to their onset–saying that such tactics directly harm the fundamental freedoms of science and education. They suggested that viewpoints could more appropriately be addressed–-fully reviewed and criticized in academic circles–after presentations are allowed to be made.
Though they did not elaborate on Gul’s appearance–Hurriyet newspaper reported that in a phone conversation with Soysal–Gul responded to the invitation–saying that he would have to check his schedule for conflicts.
However–Gul confirmed that he would be launching the conference. "The rector requested that I speak–and I accepted. We have no reservations or concerns about this matter. Why should we bury our head in the sand? That is what I said about the first planned conference that was postponed unnecessarily. Our society can undoubtedly debate this issue."
But the Turkish Justice Minister had condemned the original initiative as a blow to government efforts to counter a mounting Armenian campaign to have the Genocide recognized internationally. "We must put an end to this cycle of treason and insult–of spreading propaganda against the [Turkish] nation by people who belong to it," he had told parliament.
According to the AKI news agency–the conference will feature 12 sessions and lectures by 38 academics; panel discussion topics will include "Deportation and Massacre,"Disaster and Rescue Stories,"Memories and Witnesses," and "Things the World Knew that Turkey did not know."