MEMBERS OF U.S. CONGRESS SPEAK OUT AGAINST TURKISH GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN ON ARMENIAN GENOCIDE CONFERENCE

YEREVAN, MAY 31. ARMINFO. "The sad reality, is that when it comes to
facing the judgment of history about the Armenian genocide, Turkey,
rather than acknowledging the truth, has instead chosen to trample on
the rights of its citizens," said U.S. Congress Rep. Pallone. Members
of Congress this week expressed outrage and disappointment at the
Turkish Government's recent decision to quash a planned academic
conference on the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National
Committee of America (ANCA).

The event, organized by scholars from Turkey's Bilgi, Bogazici
and Sabanci Universities, was scheduled to take place May 25-27th
at Bosphorus University. In remarks of the House floor yesterday,
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) commented
that the government's forced cancellation of the conference "further
affirms the speculation that the image that the Turkish Government has
attempted to create for itself is nothing more than a desperate attempt
to create a facade. Contrary to what Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan
and other Turkish officials would have us believe, the Government of
Turkey is not democratic, is not committed to creating a democracy,
is not making an effort to create better relations with Armenia and
is definitely not ready to join the European Union."

Rep. Pallone went on to explain that the U.S. "cannot sit by and
allow any nation that we consider an ally and a nation that is
desperately seeking admission into the European Union to behave in
such a manner. To bring this development into perspective, consider
that according to current law in Turkey, dozens of U.S. Senators and
hundreds of Congressmen would be punished simply for having voted for
Armenian genocide resolutions, spoken about the lessons of this crime
against humanity or commemorated the victims of the atrocity. So,
too, would the American academic establishment, human rights groups,
the mainstream media and just about everyone else aside from the
Turkish Embassy and its paid lobbyists here in Washington, D.C."

Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA), who spearheaded a successful effort
in 1996 to cut foreign aid to Turkey based on their ongoing denial
of the Armenian Genocide, stated: "Turkish government pressure on
historians from Bilgi, Bogazici and Sabanci Universities to cancel the
Armenian Genocide conference is yet another indication of the Turkish
government's repression of freedom of speech and lack of respect
for academic freedom. The action exposes as a hollow gesture Prime
Minister Erdogan's call for a dialogue between Turkish and Armenian
historians. The Turkish government's labeling of Turkish academics
as 'traitors' simply for discussing the Genocide amongst themselves
underscores the need for those of us here, in the United States,
to call on Ankara to end its campaign of genocide denial."

Urging Turkey to end its ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide,
Michigan Republican Thaddeus McCotter argued, "Only honesty can begin
to ease the ache of this evil perpetrated upon the Armenian people,
and to further guard against a recrudescence of genocide anywhere
in our world. Thus, any delay in acknowledging and apologizing for
their nation's abhorrent historical crime only serves to embolden
other proponents of genocide, and to implicate this generation of
Turks in the sins of the past."

The Conference, titled "Ottoman Armenians During the Decline of the
Empire: Issues of Scientific Responsibility and Democracy," was jointly
organized by the Comparative Literature Department of Bilgi University,
the History Department of Bogazici University and the History Program
at Sabanci University. Originally set to take place May 25th-27th at
Bosphorus University, the schedule was to include over 30 papers by
Turkish scholars from Turkey and abroad.

In the days leading up to the conference, Turkish Government officials
spoke stridently against the conference and its organizers. Turkish
Justice Minister Cemil Cicek, in a speech before the Turkish Parliament
on Tuesday, went so far as to accuse the academics of "treason." The
Minister described the conference as a "a stab in the back to the
Turkish nation." Cicek expressed regret that, as Justice Minister,
he could not personally prosecute the organizers and participants.

The government crackdown on the conference is the most recent chapter
in the Turkish government's 90-year campaign of genocide denial. This
effort has intensified in recent years. In 2003, Education Minister
Hikmet Cetin issued a decree making student participation in a
nation-wide essay contest denying the Armenian Genocide compulsory.
The most recent revisions to the Turkish Penal Code criminalize
references to the Armenian Genocide and the removal of troops from
Turkish occupied northern Cyprus.