Turkish academics and newspaper columnists initiate a petition for Apology

ISTANBUL (Combined Sources)--Some 2424 Turks Monday signed a petition apologizing to the Armenian people for what they call the “the great catastrophe” of 1915 on the first day of its launch.

"My conscience does not accept that [we] remain insensitive toward and deny the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected in 1915," read the apology. "I reject this injustice, share in the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers, and apologize to them."

The petition--the first of its kind--was initiated by some 200 prominent Turkish academics and newspaper columnists.

They say they want to challenge the official denial and provoke discussion in Turkish society about what happened.

The petition is entitled "I apologize", and a short statement at the top rejects what it calls the ignorance and denial in Turkey of what the Ottoman Armenians suffered in 1915.

It is a bold and original step in a country where writer Hrant Dink was killed just last year for openly saying that the events of 1915 were genocide.

Nationalist politicians have condemned the move as an insult to the Turkish nation, and the organizers have received abusive emails.

The petition does not call on the state to apologize for what happened and it deliberately avoids the use of the word “genocide” to describe the events.

But the Turkish academic who dreamed up the idea says he hopes it will spark a proper discussion of what happened and promote empathy for what the Armenians suffered.

Cengiz Aktar called it the responsibility of all Turks to think and talk openly about how, and why, the Armenian people disappeared from a land they inhabited for 4,000 years.

The petition's authors say they have received many encouraging comments.

Istanbul-based Marmara newspaper reported that prominent writer Ferhat Kentil told the Vatan newspaper that an apology to Armenians should come from the government, before any academician or writer.

Turkish nationalists were in a frenzy ever since the plan for the online petition was announced last week.

Former Turkish diplomats, headed by former Turkish Ambassador to the US Sukru Elekdag spearheaded a statement denouncing the move, characterizing it as an insult to Turkey's history.