Sunday, March 07, 2010

Friday evening, to the LSE for a showing of Gagik Karagheuzian's documentary on the Blue Book, the Bryce/Toynbee compilation of testimonies on the Armenian Genocide of 1915-16. The Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) sent a petition to the UK Parliament in 2005, calling on us to repudiate the Blue Book as false wartime propaganda. Our Speaker replied non-committally and referred the letter to the Foreign Office, who quietly filed it in the House of Commons Library.

We picked the issue up, and wrote to every member of the TGNA, suggesting a dialogue between MPs from the UK and Turkey, with their academic advisers, to examine the authenticity of the Blue Book. Not a single reply was received. In the meanwhile the scholar and publisher Ara Sarafian, who had already produced a modern edition of the Blue Book restoring all the names which had been omitted for reasons of confidentiality originally, translated the document into Turkish, and we sent copies to every member of the TGNA. I accompanied Ara to Ankara where we held a press conference to launch the Turkish edition.

Delivery of the books to individual members of the TGNA was blocked, but at least we had broken the taboo on discussion of the issue.

Obviously, only one or two of the Members who signed the petition to the UK Parliament had any idea of the contents of the Blue Book, because of their lack of English, and were in no position to assess its authenticity. The fact that none of them picked up the invitation to discuss the subject indicates that they had no confidence of their ability to defend their position.

Gagik's film covered Ara's research in Ankara and in the US, where the original witness statements are archived, and our attempts to get the issue freely debated in Turkey.

After the showing there was a panel discussion when Ara, David Miller, former UK Ambassador to Armenia, and myself gave 10-minute statements on the film and the issues it covered, followed by a stimulating question and answer session between the panel and the audience.

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