This appeared in the "Western Mail" the National Newspaper of Wales
Row over plan for a Welsh memorial to Armenian dead Genocide claim is unproven, say Turks
Martin Shipton 2007-10-17
AN INTERNATIONAL row has erupted over a decision to erect a memorial in Wales to an estimated one and a half million Armenians murdered by Ottoman Turks in 1915. .
A pillar made of pink stone and Welsh slate will be unveiled in the garden of the Temple of Peace in Cardiff on November 3.
But more than 200 messages protesting against the monument’s erection have been sent by members of the Turkish community in Wales, elsewhere in Britain and from Turkey itself.
Stephen Thomas, director of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs, which is responsible for the memorial garden, this week met a delegation of Turks opposed to the monument.
In both Armenia and Turkey, the massacres of 1915 have been hugely emotive ever since they took place. At that time, Turkey was at war with the Allies and claimed that the Armenian population was supporting Turkey’s Christian enemies. Soldiers and policemen carried out their government’s orders to kill as many of the Armenians as they could.
Today Turkey denies that the killings amounted to genocide. But many international historians now refer to the atrocities as the first holocaust. Since Britain launched a Holocaust Day in 2001, representatives from Armenia have been allowed to attend commemorative ceremonies.
The huge controversy surrounding the killings is seen as a possible impediment to Turkey’s application to join the EU. Last week the American House of Representatives passed a motion recognising the killings as genocide, prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador from Washington.
Members of the Armenian community in Wales have established links with the Welsh Centre for International Affairs in recent years, and a proposal to erect a monument in the centre’s existing peace garden was accepted.
The monument, designed and crafted by stonemason Ieuan Rees of Betws, near Ammanford, carries an inscription inscription, in English, Welsh and Armenian, which reads, "In memory of the victims of the Armenian genocide".
A spokesman for the Armenian community in Wales said, "There is a huge amount of evidence that the genocide took place, and we think it is extremely unfortunate that Turkey still wants to deny what happened. Our memorial has now become a big issue in the press in Turkey, where people are getting very upset. We have nothing against Turkey today, and hope that one day they will come to terms with this aspect of their and our history."
But Hal Savas, a member of the five-man delegation from the Committee for the Protection of Turkish Rights which visited Mr Thomas yesterday, said, "The allegation of genocide is entirely unproven. The Turkish community will be very upset if the monument is put up."
Mr Thomas said he was happy to meet the delegation and hear their views, some of which he fully understood.
But he said his organisation would not be able to support the suggestion to erect a similar memorial to Turks killed by Armenians. "What happened to the Armenians was of a scale that was different to what happened to anyone else."
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