Statement Regarding The Allegations Raised In The Press Release Of The Zoryan Institute, Toronto

Ottava Büyükelçiliği 18.02.2015

The Embassy of the Republic of Turkey rejects the views expressed in the press release by the Zoryan Institute dated February 11, 2015.

The press release aims to diminish the value of Turkey’s historical stance on Holocaust, its historical friendship with the Jewish community and its efforts to save Jewish people who escaped persecution in the 15th century as well as during WWII from Europe to Turkey.

In the interest of clarity we need to note the following points:

- The “sharp criticism’s against the speech of the Turkish Ambassador referred to in the press release have never been delivered to the Turkish Embassy. Either the owners of these messages were hiding or the press release is incorrect. The only feedback we received was messages of thanks from most of the attendees of the Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony, on site or afterwards.

- We do not consider the content of the press release as a disrespect to the Turkish Embassy, but to the Holocaust survivors and most importantly, memories of the victims.

- 1915 events constitute a legitimate subject of debate. They are historically and legally distinct from the Holocaust. Holocaust is unprecedented and unique in many sense. It was a result of an unparalleled vision that denied a common humanity. Any attempt to question its uniqueness only aims at downgrading its place in the darkest page of history.

- Turkey has always been proud of the courageous dedication of its diplomats to save the lives of more Jewish people in those shameful days of human history. Those diplomats who did or were ready to sacrifice their lives for others’ lives were also of the same Foreign Ministry who were assassinated by heinous attacks throughout 1970s and 1980s by terrorists who claimed taking the revenge of a hatred motivated history including the first terrorist attacks against foreign diplomats in Ottawa.

- Even though the views were posed true, and as alleged even if a single Turkish diplomat saved only the life of one Jew during the Holocaust, it is worth honouring it. As it is stated in “Talmud” and “Qur’an”, “Whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.”

- Regarding the controversy between Turkey and Armenia, Turkey has always been one step forward in its efforts to build confidence with Armenia. Statement of the Turkish Prime Minister of the time on 23 April 2014 and the recent statement of the Turkish Prime Minister on 20 January 2015 are ample proof of this approach. Turkey remained committed to the spirit of Zurich where two Protocols were signed with Armenia in 2009. These Protocols were not only important for bilateral relations, but also for a comprehensive and sustainable peace in the Caucasus. However, the decision of Armenia on February 16, 2015, to withdraw the Protocols from the Armenian Parliament is unfortunately inconsistent and insincere.

In the interest of public record, the text of speech delivered by Turkish Ambassador Selçuk Ünal on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, 2015 in Ottawa City Hall is attached to this press release.

Remarks By He. Ambassador Selçuk Ünal On International Holocaust
Remembrance Day (27 January 2015, Ottawa City Hall)

The Honourable Holocaust Survivors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, we mourn millions of Jews and other minorities, who were murdered during the Nazi regime. The Holocaust is the most incomparable, unique crime perpetrated against humanity. 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz–Birkenau which represented unparalleled vision that denied a common humanity and global intent to all non-members of the “master-race”, we remember those men, women and children who were sent to death just for being Jewish.

Turkish Government is represented today by H.E. Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in the commemoration in Auschwitz. The commemoration of the Turkish Jewish community in Turkey is being held in the presence of H.E. Speaker of the Turkish Grand National Assembly Mr. Cemil Çiçek in a university in Ankara. Speaker of the Turkish Parliament also attended the Holocaust commemoration activities held by the Czech Parliament in cooperation with the European Parliament yesterday in Prague.

During the Second War, many Turkish citizens in Europe, most of whom of Jewish origin, also lost their lives in concentration camps. Some Turks in the Balkans were mixed with them in their march to death. Today, we also remember the memory of the Turkish diplomats who served in many European countries during that dark period. While many countries were dispatching hundreds of thousands to extermination camps or simply refusing them entry, Turkish diplomats risked their lives, and of their families, to save not only our citizens of Jewish origin, but also many other Jews in Europe from the Holocaust. Taking their respectable place in Yad Vashem, we remember them with honour.

But this was not extraordinary for us. Because Turkish territories have traditionally been a land that offered a safe haven to many people irrespective of religion, ethnicity and language throughout history. This tradition having its roots in the 15th century with the Sephardic Jews fled from Europe to Turkey, continues today with millions of Syrians. And of course, Jews including German and Austrian scientists escaping from Nazism to Turkey were no exception.

With this commemoration, we also condemn all kinds of practices of intolerance and violence against individuals or communities based on their religious beliefs and ethnicity, no matter where they are perpetrated. This commemoration should raise consciousness particularly among the young generations about the Holocaust and crimes against humanity. We see all the necessity to remember the Holocaust to face the challenges of today: intolerance, discrimination, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

Contributions of Turkey in “International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)” as the only Muslim country represented and as an active observer since 2008 will further continue. We carry out a number of activities aimed at raising awareness about the Holocaust and we reinforce our efforts in this direction with a variety of educational activities. Therefore, I would also like to underline the importance of continuing to work together to leave a better and peaceful world to the next generations.

Turkey will resolutely pursue its principled stance on the prevention of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the future as it has done until now. I once again respectfully commemorate all victims of the Holocaust. Thank you.

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