Joined: 25 Oct 2003
| Posted: Sat Nov 15, 2003 5:51 pm Post subject: [E] Turkish teachers risk jail for protest
|ANKARA | July 1 2003 | Agence France Presse
Turkish teachers risk jail for protest at Armenian massacres conference
A Turkish court Tuesday began hearing a case against seven teachers who face jail for questioning the country's official line on the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire and for disrupting a conference on the issue, the Anatolia news agency reported.
The incident occurred last month in the southern city of Kilis during a conference given by a scholar, who argued that the Armenians -- forced out of eastern Anatolia after revolting against their Ottoman rulers during World War I -- were not massacred on orders of the state.
The scholar said the Armenians had instead died while being transferred to the deserts of Syria because of bad weather or because of raids by local Kurdish tribes.
But Hulya Akpinar, a teacher attending the gathering, contested the figure of 250,000 Armenian victims given the scholar, and said 800,000 were killed in massacres orchestrated by the state.
She also asked what Turkey might do if more countries decided to term the massacres a genocide.
The scholar chided the woman, who -- joined by six colleagues -- walked out in protest.
Prosecutors contend the seven defendants, who face up to three years in jail if convicted, "committed a collective crime by disrupting the order of a meeting," Anatolia said.
The massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire is a highly controversial issue in Turkey and which can arouse strong nationalist sentiments.
Turkey categorically rejects claims of genocide, saying that 300,000 Armenians and thousands of Turks were killed in what was a civil strife during World War I when Armenians joined forces with Russian invaders against the Ottomans.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen were massacred in
orchestrated killings and have for years sought to have the killings acknowledged as genocide.
In 2001, France triggered a storm in its relations with Turkey when its parliament passed a resolution describing the massacres as genocide.