In February 2015, a Turkish historian Mehmet Polatel gave a lecture entitled “Expropriation of the property of Armenians during and after the Genocide” at the American University of Armenia in Yerevan.
We will present you with some excerpts from this lecture.
“After the slaughter and resettlement of Armenians, the Turkish authorities created 33 commissions supposed to register, estimate, and assign abandoned real estate. The property of Armenians was appropriated by state and civil officials, the military, and was also stolen during the massacre.
One of the reasons for the denial of the Genocide is the question of the return of property taken away from the Armenians. This is inherent not only in government’s thinking: even ordinary people who became owners of Armenian property think that if the state recognizes the Genocide, Armenians will come and reclaim their property. That’s why the Turkish society also opposes the recognition of the Genocide.
Many people consider the assassination of Hrant Dink (an Istanbul-based Armenian journalist and the editor-in-chief of the Agos newspaper, who was killed in 2007 by a Turkish nationalist – editor’s note) to be linked to the Armenian issue.
The Armenian journalist had the courage to speak about the Genocide, and the Turkish government allowed his murder (the investigation revealed that the Turkish police knew about the upcoming attempt, but did not prevent it. These facts were also established in the proceedings in the European Court of Human Rights, which convicted the Turkish government and obligated them to compensate for his relatives’ loss – editor’s note).
This raises questions among the students. Many of them travel outside Turkey in order to conduct research, read alternative literature, and change their views on the issue. On the other hand, social networks allow finding answers to any questions.
In 2001, an Armenian from Aleppo attempted to return the property of his parents in Adana through court. (Adana is a city in Turkey where by the beginning of the 20th century more than 200 thousand Armenians lived.
During the Genocide, the whole Armenian population of the city was killed or expelled – editor’s note). The court recognized the property rights of that person’s parents, but media made a fuss and found some compromising evidence about the judge. The judge was forced to leave the city, and the case was suspended. I only know about this unsuccessful attempt.”
In an interview with Armenpress, Polatel said that the policy of the Armenian Genocide denial, which the Turkish authorities adhere to, “is unacceptable for him and other representatives of the Turkish intelligentsia.”
Mehmet Polatel was born in Kars. Currently, he lives in Istanbul and writes his thesis at the local University of Boğaziçi. One of the areas of research of the young historian is the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire.