Presidency's Director of Communications Fahrettin Altun said, "So-called 'Armenian genocide' allegation is a nonfactual slander, engorging itself solely on political accounts.
The "International Conference on the Events of 1915" was organised by the Presidency's Directorate of Communications to discuss the historical background, legal aspects and current reflections of the events of 1915.
The opening speeches of the conference, live-streamed online, were delivered by the Presidency's Director of Communications, Prof. Fahrettin Altun and President of the Turkish Historical Society, Prof. Birol Çetin.
Director of Communications Altun stated that the ideas to be put forward in the event would contribute to revealing the facts because the history could be understood accurately with the modest, though brave individuals' confidence in truth.
Defining the last century as an exceptional period that has witnessed critical turning points in history, Altun said, "The 20th century was defined by world wars, collapsing empires, changing borders, and the rise of democracy. The world has undergone a massive political transformation, like a change of shell. While centuries of practices, borders, and governments have changed, great pains have been endured. The suffering experienced in almost every region has been carried from parents to their children not only through history books but with tales and memories. While some events turned into myths and lost touch with reality, some incidents could not get their share of the reality they deserved."
Stating that the 20th century has witnessed a critical event in that sense and that three great empires have dispersed at the end of the First World War, Altun said, "The Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire and Tsarist Russia all underwent complex transformations with impacts that have lasted until today. According to records, 65 million soldiers were mobilised in this first global war, and 38 million civilians and soldiers died. Given the period's low population, such a high loss inevitably caused considerable trauma in all countries that participated in the war."
"We deeply feel the suffering experienced in relocation"
Noting that the Turkish nation, which had shown heroism on numerous fronts, had been seriously impacted by the war which claimed the lives of millions of people, Fahrettin Altun stated the following:
"The Ottoman nation, as a whole, combated unprecedented challenges during the Empire's final years. We fought hard in Çanakkale, the Caucasus, Hejaz, Palestine and Iraq. Unfortunately, incidents that occurred caused great suffering to the Anatolian people during the First World War, which dragged all sides of the war, including the Ottoman Empire, into indescribable chaos. In the same period, thousands of our soldiers froze to death and thus martyred in Sarıkamış; and on the Caucasian front, our forces fighting against the Russian armies attacking the Ottoman lands were stabbed in the back by the Armenian gangs that were cooperating with the enemy. While various fragments of the Ottoman nation joined forces for the sake of homeland, some structures that collaborated with then enemies emerged in some places.
As a result of the conflicts in Eastern Anatolia, tens of thousands of Turks and Armenians lost their lives. Upon these events, some Ottoman citizens of Armenian origin in the Eastern Provinces, who were harbouring the gangs that were disrupting the acts of the army, attacking the civilians and cooperating with the enemy army, were subjected to the Relocation of 1915 to be sent to the Syrian lands within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. For the security of civilians and the defence of the homeland, Armenians living in certain regions were deported under wartime conditions. Unfortunately, as such a security measure was being implemented, undesirable incidents happened under the conditions of an ongoing and violent war; both Turks and Armenians suffered losses, and tragedies occurred. These experiences have also formed the basis of the debates that have been ongoing today."
Altun said, "As the Republic of Türkiye, we deeply and heartfeltly feel the pain of the incidents experienced in the implementation process of the Relocation Law adopted in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire. We consider it as a prerequisite of our conscientious and moral stance to share the pain suffered by our Armenian citizens in the last century. As indicated by our President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, we believe that 'being united as Türkiye' is possible to be united in good times and bad times."
"We do not distinguish between the sufferings of these lands"
Fahrettin Altun added, "Today, however, we are facing a narrative that seeks to create animosity from history by distorting the common past of the Turkish and Armenian peoples who have cohabited peacefully for centuries. We oppose such narratives because we do not distinguish between the sufferings experienced in every corner of these lands. We are well aware that people of all backgrounds, religions, ethnic origins and sects have coexisted peacefully in these lands for centuries."
"Some are trying to utilise the issue for imperialistic purposes"
Director of Communications Fahrettin Altun emphasised that the persistence of the controversy over what happened in 1915 after more than a century was due to the events of 1915 being viewed solely as a political and ideological issue.
Pointing out that some were trying to utilise the issue for imperialistic purposes by bringing it to the political agenda, Altun said, "It is evident that the ever-changing current political approaches cannot treat the 100-year-old historical issues properly. When politicised, such historical issues inevitably become a tool for daily vicious debates. Therefore, the decisions taken by different parliaments on controversial historical matters do not make them democrats but patronising and tyrannical. The grief experienced in the past also become an element of interest for today's politicians. And it is the greatest disrespect that can be done against the victims and their suffering."
"Our President's call to the truth is an indicator of our sincerity"
Stressing that the fundamental aim of the Republic of Türkiye was truth and justice in all areas, Altun stated, "This fundamental perspective requires not only to oppose the injustices experienced today but also to approach events in history fairly. That is why our struggle for truth is for pure truth. Our desire to reach the truth is not for political gain but for the truth itself. Our President's call for a scientific approach and disclosure of the archives for the events of 1915 is also aimed at this. This is a call for the truth. Therefore, calling for the truth without hesitation is an indicator of our sincerity on this issue."
"History should be examined through a fair memory perspective"
Stating that the best way to show respect to the victims was to examine history through a fair memory perspective, Fahrettin Altun said, "The way to achieve this is to reveal what happened exactly in these lands over the last century in a transparent, honest and scientific manner."
Pointing out that the most comprehensive and sincere steps towards this goal were taken under the leadership of President Erdoğan, Altun stated that the condolences for the Armenians who lost their lives since 2005 were conveyed at the highest level.
Altun also reminded the words of President Erdoğan expressed in a letter sent to the Armenian Patriarch of Türkiye, Maşalyan, last year, "We are all aware of the circles working to create hostility out of the past by ignoring our unity that emerged from the bosom of Anatolia. While we desire and work for a future full of unity, prosperity and tranquillity, it is our most important wish that the circles that aim for the opposite are not allowed."
"In our opinion, it makes no difference which parliament makes what decision"
Stating that the so-called Armenian genocide allegation was the premise of the phenomenon known as "post-truth" today, Altun said, "This is a slander that has no connection with the facts and is only fuelled by political calculations. It is an emotional, irrational and illegitimate accusation."
Noting that they were well aware of the fact that the concern of those attacking Türkiye through a convenient lie was not the Ottoman Armenians or historical victimisations, Altun continued as follows:
"Hrant Dink, the brave son of these lands, explained this best as follows: 'Who is our friend, who will cure the past? The French Senate's decision? The American Senate's decision? Are these our friends?'. These words of Hrant summarise how suffering has been turned into a convenient tool for imperialist impulses. He was aware of this. We are also aware of this.
In our opinion, it makes no difference which parliament makes what decision or which foreign head of state issues what sentence. What matters most to us is to have a rightful place in the hearts of the children of this land from past to present. That is why we will not tire of searching for the truth even for a moment."
"Looting of history should be precluded"
Director of Communications Altun expressed that they believed this conference would play a significant role in precluding the looting of history, recapturing the historical background of 1915 and preventing the attempts to bring Türkiye to its knees through the so-called "Armenian genocide" slander.
Stating that they wish the history to be understood efficiently by scientifically analysing the events of 1915 and accurately reflecting it to national and international public opinion, Altun said that within this scope, as the Directorate of Communications and all institutions, they would do their best.
Thanking the Presidency's Directorate of State Archives, the Turkish Historical Society, universities, and all other institutions that have contributed important works in this process so far, Altun said, "I hope that the truth and conscience will heal our wounds and contribute to peace and stability all over the world, especially in our region."
In his opening speech delivered at the conference, President of the Turkish Historical Society Prof. Birol Çetin said that retelling of the events of 1915 and revealing the facts was extremely valuable.
Pointing that today facts were not of much value and perceptions were always more at the forefront, Birol Çetin stated the following;
"You must continue to express your rightfulness aloud, no matter how right you are. Many studies have been conducted until today. Surely, we will continue to advocate our rightful cause and strongly communicate it to future generations. We are right, and we need to move forward. These theses were more frequently brought forward in the 1940s and 1950s. Our academy, science community, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomats gave definite answers to them. We told them, 'Let's leave these discussions to historians, let these matters be on the agenda on scientific grounds. Unfortunately, they avoided these grounds and reverted to terrorism. As you know, many of our diplomats were martyred. I would like to take this occasion to wish Allah's mercy upon our martyrs. May they rest in peace. We will continue their fight."
Underlining that, "Claiming to be subjected to injustice and then resorting to terrorism is a grave dilemma," Çetin said that today, this process continued to be pursued in cooperation with other terrorist groups.
Çetin emphasised that attempts were made to silence Türkiye, but they refused to surrender.
"They are trying to convince their parliaments"
Noting that in recent years, Türkiye has made great strides in diplomacy and established a significant position as a result of its geographical and strategic location, knowledge, and status as a major country, Çetin stated the following:
"They were compelled to return to politics because our voice was loud and clear in the international arena through the African Initiative, our strengthened Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomacy, opening representative offices in many countries, and our many institutions representing Türkiye abroad, such as Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), Yunus Emre Institute, Turkish Maarif Foundation, and they are trying to convince their parliaments of the legitimacy of the Armenian thesis. We are fighting against these.
In this context, we have attempted to convey the message 'Let's leave these to historians. Let us jointly open up our archives and let the historians discuss it. Let us leave this matter out of politics,' to these circles. There is also a future aspect to this. What will happen in the future? We are aware of the current situation of Armenia. Unfortunately, this situation is detrimental to both the nation and its people. Our calls have always gone unanswered. Indeed, they have not responded to our call, but we ceaselessly continued our efforts."
Çetin stated that approximately 117 books on Armenian Events were present in the inventory of the Turkish Historical Society, and the studies of Presidency of State Archives, Military History and Strategic Studies Directorate of Turkish General Staff (ATASE) and universities were kept in the libraries.
Çetin thanked former presidents of Turkish Historical Society, Prof. Yusuf Halaçoğlu and Prof. Hikmet Özdemir, who participated in these studies which had been quite difficult because they were based on archival documents.
Noting the significant studies of the University of Ankara, University of Atatürk and Atatürk Research Centre on the Armenian Issue, Birol Çetin said that according to the numbers taken from the Council of Higher Education, 118 PhD and 443 postgraduate theses had been written on the Armenian issue until today.
Emphasising that if a historical matter was to be discussed, every sentence should include a reference, should be based on a footnote and a source, and expressed that many had worked overtime on this issue so far, Çetin thanked everyone who contributed to this issue and added;
"As we try to bring forward this issue in the field of history, it becomes more entangled in politics. Surely, we know perfectly well what they want to do in the political arena. We know perfectly well who is in the background. So far, they have not been able to confront us directly. In fact, we invite them; if they wish to settle this in the political arena, we have valuable diplomats, extremely experienced politicians. We can continue our fight there as well; however, we ask them to face us without relying on anyone. Because this has harmed and continues to harm oppressed people."
" There are no more details that haven't been discussed or investigated"
Stating that history recorded the events that occurred in the geographies from which the Ottoman Empire had withdrawn, and these events had cost millions of lives, Çetin said, "Still no peace has been established there, the void has not been filled yet. Look at the Caucasus, the Middle East; they are faced with constant problems. We say, 'Let historians discuss these matters and let's talk about it in connection with the future.' We are constantly living in the past. There are no more details that haven't been discussed or investigated, and no documents remain to be reviewed."
Extending his gratitude to the Director of Communications, Fahrettin Altun, and to the academics who contributed, Prof. Birol Çetin said, " When you stand on the side of truth, even if the entire world comes together, the truth will triumph."
Following the opening speeches, the conference continues with the sessions titled "The Events of 1915 in the Historical Context and the Armenian Issue", "The Events of 1915 in the Light of International Law", and "Current Reflections of the Events of 1915 and the Future Perspective".