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What happened to Turkey’s Islamized Armenians?

A conference on Armenians, Islamized during the genocide years, is an encouraging sign that Turks are facing up to a painful chapter of their history.
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Back in 2005, a bid to hold Turkey’s first ever “Armenian conference” had sparked nationwide tensions. Then-Justice Minister Cemil Cicek accused the organizers of “stabbing Turkey in the back,” while Sukru Elekdag, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, branded the organizers as “traitors” in a speech in parliament. Yielding to heavy pressure, Istanbul’s Bogazici University backed down from hosting the conference, and the event had to move to the private Bilgi University. The detractors, however, did not stop there. Furious demonstrators bullied the participants as the conference opened, and the event could barely be completed.

Since then, the atmosphere in Turkey has changed significantly. Commemorations are now being held on April 24 to remember the 1915 Armenian genocide. Scores of books are being published on the issue, which has become also a frequent topic in newspapers and TV programs. Even though the government maintains the official Turkish thesis on the 1915 events, the subject is no longer a taboo in the country.

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