WIKILEAKS – Stepping out of Ottoman archives – Diplomat: ‘We slaughtered them!’

An incredible article was published today on the Armenian Weekly that quotes yet another Wikileaks cable on the Armenian Genocide of 1915-23 claiming that the Ottoman archives are undergoing a purging campaign to destroy all incriminating evidence relating to this tragic event.  
Consul General David Arnett on July 4, 2004, in a WikiLeaks-released cable originating from the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul said that the s lack of agreement and dialogue on the so-called Armenian “genocide” issue remained a major obstacle to Turkish-Armenian rapprochement.  In his telegram, the US official said that a long-term resolution of this problematic issue can only be built on an open dialogue and healthy academic debate.  
He also said that free and complete access to the Ottoman archives, one of the primary repositories for historical evidence during this period, will be critical to building the mutual trust needed for such a debate. Arnett, according to the wikileaks cable, added that although Turkey has made great strides to open the archives and destigmatize the issue, persistent problems and doubts about the archives continue to undermine efforts to bridge the gulf of misunderstanding between Armenians and Turks on this historical question.

8. (c) Perhaps more important than the question of access, however, is whether or not the archives themselves are complete.  According to Sabanci University Professor Halil Berktay, there were two serious efforts to “purge” the archives of any incriminating documents on the Armenian question.  The first took place in 1918, presumably before the Allied forces occupied Istanbul.  Berktay and others point to testimony in the 1919 Turkish Military Tribunals indicating that important documents had been “stolen” from the archives.  Berktay believes a second purge was executed in conjunction with Ozal’s efforts to open the archives by a group of retired diplomats and generals led by former Ambassador Muharrem Nuri Birgi (Note: Nuri Birgi was previously Ambassador to London and NATO and Secretary. General of the MFA).  Berktay claims that at the time he was combing the archives, Nuri Birgi met regularly with a mutual friend and at one point, referring to the Armenians, ruefully confessed that “We really slaughtered them.”  Tony Greenwood, the Director of the American Research Institute in Turkey, told poloff separately that when he was working in the Archives during that same period it was well known that a group of retired military officers had privileged access and spent months going through archival documents.  Another Turkish scholar who has researched Armenian issues claims that the ongoing cataloging process is used to purge the archives. Armenian Weekly


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