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Turkey Educators Spark Controversy in Covering Armenian Genocide

Recent practices by some educators who discuss the Armenian issue in their lectures have caused controversy since some of their explanations pass certain judgments and carry elements of hate speech, reports Istanbul-based daily Today’s Zaman.

One recent example occurred at Dicle University in Diyarbakır, where the lecturer, Assistant Professor Yılmaz Polat, had a mid-term question in May for about 380 students, as he told Today’s Zaman.

The question in the multiple-choice exam, which had “correct” and “wrong” choices, asked:

“The Ottoman state did not commit Armenian genocide. Some of the disloyal Armenians, who cooperated with Russians and backstabbed the Ottoman Army, died because of starvation, illness and cold during the forced emigration [tehcir], which was suggested by Germans, and some went away with Russians because of their disloyalty, and that’s why the Armenian population in Turkey has been reduced.”

News about this question first appeared in the Dicle News Agency (DİHA) and was reprinted in some Internet news portals and newspapers on Monday.

Contacted by Today’s Zaman, the professor said that he is not passing or forcing any judgments on the students and none of them complained of such a thing. He referred to the writings of former head of the Turkish Historical Society (TTK) Yusuf Halaçoğlu who had been removed from office by a Cabinet decision in 2008, following media attention surrounding his controversial remarks. Halaçoğlu has been a strong denier of allegations that Armenians were the victims of genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War I, and in conferences and panel discussions organized by his organization, he said that claims of genocide were completely false and that the TTK has 100,000 pages of archived documents that serve as proof of this and refute the allegations that Armenians faced genocide in 1915.

Polat said he exerts efforts in the classroom to prevent animosity against Armenians because of historical facts but also would like to convey “all the facts” to the students to prevent the “unjust treatment of Turkey in the international area because of the genocide claims.”

In another event, which occurred at İstanbul’s Burhan Felek High School, national security teacher Col. Sinan Öz showed photographs of dead bodies described as being the “Turkish children who were massacred by Armenians” during World War I.

According to the Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, some students wanted to leave the lecture which was given in the week of April 24, the commemoration day of Armenian killings of 1915 in Ottoman lands. The weekly reported that the lecturer also claimed, “Only Turks and Muslims live in Turkey.”