Blue Book Sent to Turkish Parliamentarians

In 2005, 550 members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) signed  a letter addressed to the  British Parliament  arguing that the 1916 parliamentary “Blue Book,” titled The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-16, was wartime propaganda material—a mere fabrication—and that the parliament today should formally withdraw it.

Sarafian (left) and Lord Averbury   © 2009 Ani Sounds, Ealing, England
Sarafian (left) and Lord Averbury © 2009 Ani Sounds, Ealing, England

Clearly, when the TGNA drew up that letter, they hadn’t seen the book, let alone read one line of it. The book had not yet been translated into Turkish and was not accessible in Turkey.

Four years later, on Fri. June 26, 2009, Lord Avebury, the vice-chairman of the Human Rights Group in the British Parliament, and Ara Sarafian from the Gomidas Institute (London), introduced the authorized Turkish translation of the Blue Book in Ankara at a press conference hosted by the Human Rights Association, Turkey and the Ankara Initiative for Freedom of Expression. It was announced during the meeting that copies of the Blue Book translation were sent to TGNA members, individually packaged and addressed to every single Turkish parliamentarian, “in an effort to enable them to be better informed about their subject matter.” Permission was also obtained for the distribution of the book to bookstores in Turkey.

Anti-terrorist police teams took security measures outside the building and quickly dispersed  a small group attempting to protest the meeting by shouting slogans against the “allegations” of genocide.  It was quite unexpected, yet senior police officers also contacted the organizers and asked if they needed anything, or if they wanted to remove disruptive audience members from the conference room! The police even offered to escort the organizers and guests to the restaurant they were planning on going to after the event.

Addressing an audience visibly eager to hear the speakers, Ara Sarafian, the editor of the uncensored editions of the original Blue Book published by the Gomidas Institute in 2000 and 2005, pointed out that the official criticism of the Blue Book adopted  by the members of the TGNA was based on the denial of the existence of the Toynbee papers in the British archives, which gave “incredible details” on the 1916 publication.

The TGNA position, he said, also denied the existence of the printed confidential key that accompanied the Blue Book, which disclosed the names and places withheld in the original publication.  “Similarly, the fact that the United States was the main source of information for the British, especially official State Department records from the Ottoman Empire, has simply been ignored, even though the original records in question are still available in United States archives today,” said Sarafian.  He thus called the TGNA position a denialist position, as it systematically denied information that was relevant to the issue under discussion, and introduced irrelevant or false information.

Sarafian said the TGNA letter raised some serious questions, such as: “How could members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly pass judgment on a 1916 publication and declare it as a fabrication in such a public manner, when clearly most of them had never seen the work they were criticizing, including the uncensored edition published five years earlier?”

“How and on what basis could they make a judgment that there were no creditable sources related to the Blue Book?”

“How could they rely on official Turkish histories from the 1980’s and 1990’s, without independent and better informed appraisals, for their own assessments?”

“How could their advisers or members of the Turkish press not comment in public debates that there was much more to the issue than what had been discussed?

“How did the TGNA expect the outside world, which has access to the relevant records in Great Britain and the United States, not to criticize or ridicule the official Turkish position?” 

“Those who distort historical facts have no place in democratic societies,” concluded Sarafian. “The best way to counter their negative impact is through open public discussions. The uncensored edition of the Blue Book, which has been translated into Turkish, is such an exercise in an effort to re-engage the Armenian issue within a more democratic and open Turkey. I hope that at least some deputies of the TGNA will reconsider their collective position on the Blue Book and distance themselves from it.”

Taking the floor after Sarafian, Lord Avebury summarized the history of the “Blue Book debate” between the TGNA and the British Parliament. “On Oct. 12, 2005, Lord Archer of Sandwell QC, Lord Biffen, and I organized a meeting in Westminster for British parliamentarians to respond to a petition sent to members of the British Houses of Parliament by the Turkish Grand National Assembly contesting the veracity of the 1916 British Parliamentary Blue Book, The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-16,” he said.

“It was our appraisal that the TGNA was not properly informed about the Blue Book. Consequently, on Jan. 27, 2006, 33 British MPs responded to the TGNA petition with a letter to the speaker of the TGNA, Bulent Arinc, inviting members of the TGNA to a face-to-face meeting with their British colleagues to discuss the Blue Book. Since there was no response to that letter, a second email communication was sent on Sept. 1, 2006 to all individual members of the TGNA, inviting them to a face-to-face meeting. Again there was no response. Our final conclusion was that most TGNA members were not aware of the actual content of the 1916 Blue Book, nor the archival trail associated with it. (For copies of letters and reports related to this issue, see In order to facilitate better understanding and reflection, I suggested that the Gomidas Institute should undertake the Turkish translation of their uncensored edition of the Blue Book, which was replete with discussion and full archival references. I am pleased that they were able to undertake such a major project so that a whole new Turkish readership—not just members of the TGNA—can appraise the Blue Book issue in an informed and balanced manner. The publication of the Turkish edition of the book is a milestone in a historical sense for Turkey and I believe a new era for dialogue will be created after this book.”

Lord Avebury concluded with a quotation from George Santana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” He went on to state that there were dark chapters in the history of all nations and gave two examples. In 1997, the queen of Great Britain personally apologized in Amritsar, India, for the 1919 massacre of Sikhs who were shot in that city by British troops, while in 2008 the British Parliament apologized for the British government’s role in the Irish potato famine.

There were some in the audience who disagreed with Sarafian and Lord Avebury. During the question and answer session, they were allowed by the moderator, Ozturk Turkdogan, the chairman of the Istanbul Human Rights Association, to comment about the “Armenian lies,” to show their denialist books and other printed materials, and to ask Sarafian and Lord Avebury what they would say about the “genocide” of the Azeris by the Armenians. In this way, Turkdogan demonstrated that denialists could express themselves in non-violent ways in place of physically or verbally abusive means, which has often been the case—from the trials of Hrant Dink, Orhan Pamuk, and others, to panel discussions or conferences.

Sarafian told the denialists that they should let the press conference continue, and that he would be happy to discuss what they had to say, sensibly, in another forum, after he saw their literature and had a worthwhile response. 

After the press conference, asked about his overall impression about the event, Sarafian said, “We, as the Gomidas Institute, did what we wanted to do. This is part of a process, not an end in itself. A diasporan Armenian organization translated and published a book in Turkey about the Armenian Genocide, and made a public presentation. We called  on the Turkish parliamentarians through email messages to come, but none of them did. Next week they will receive their books. I hope the significance of this opening will become apparent. We plan to print more books, make more presentations, and have more discussions in Turkey. And we will press on with the Blue Book issue, in good time, when the members of the TGNA have had a chance to look at our publication.”

Ayse Gunaysu

Ayse Gunaysu

Ayse Gunaysu is a professional translator, human rights advocate, and feminist. She has been a member of the Committee Against Racism and Discrimination of the Human Rights Association of Turkey (Istanbul branch) since 1995, and is a columnist for Ozgur Gundem. Since 2008, she writes a column titled "Letters from Istanbul," for the Armenian Weekly.


  1. Reality check:  All 550 members of the Turkish Parliament are going throw the book into the garbage without reading a page.
    (That is what I would do if some Turkish scholar sent me English translation of a Turkish book from 1916 proving that the Genocide did not happen).

  2. Are you going to convince the Nazi party that their beliefs and actions are wrong? As long as countries like the U.S. and England etc. don’t officially recognize and condemn the Armenian Genocide, despite 40,000 pages in our own U.S archives depicting the ‘Systematic Armenian race extermination”,   why would the perpetrating/denying Turks do so?
    Turks are pure opportunists. Once they realize that there is no more opportunity in denial, that’s when it will miraculiously change. They are pretty predictable. An accurate historical document isn’t going to change their beleifs.

  3. I applaud Ara Sarafian for his courage and continual effort to herald the dignity of truth through his publications about the Armenian genocide.  What a gift Sarafian has given the Armenian and Turkish communities in publishing the BLUE BOOK in Turkish. Now Turks can read in their own language the factual history about what transpired in 1915 and not the tempered history being rewritten in Turkey. I’ve read some of that Turkish history in a small museum in Igdir, Turkey, close to the Armenian border. The museum, part of a monument dedicated to the Turks killed by Armenians, contained several books written in English. As I read a statement in the first pamphlet I picked up, I was stunned at the depth of falsehood as the author stated, “Those Armenians who were deported were given homes comparable to the ones they left behind!”  It is inevitable. Truth will prevail. Keep up the good work, Mr. Sarafian!

  4. The author of the Bluek Book himself had called the book a product of mostly propaganda.  Turks and British were at each others throats at the time of its original publication!  War did not end for another two years!  How did Toynbee manage to conduct a serious research on the topic, access material and witnesses and documents in the middle of the Great War?  He did not.  In 1916, many Eastern Vilayets were invaded by Armenianans and Russians, Muslim populations decimated.  Can we have a little reality check here?

  5. I also applaud Sarafian’s efforts. It is the right way to approach the problems Turkey has to be able to go into black spots of its history. However, the Blue Book is not formed as a document which proves very much about the role of the government at the time. It is a collection of documents about what went on on the ground, including people from neutral countries for instance scandinavia. What many of these people wrote at the time in letters home and in diaries was later published after the war. So Murat, even if the book was written for propaganda purposes this does not means that all of it is false. To my mind the Blue Book offers an important collection of sources, but it does not answer all questions in itself.

  6. Brave Ara Sarafian!
    I have not studied , not even a tenth of what he has re the “events” shall we say ,as the Turks do,but I have some knowledge of the mindset of the Turco-azeri mindset.In Armenian, in a very expression,it would go like”even if you shove into the eye of a Turk” they would still deny what their ancestors did to us. A more or less educated Turk would try very masterfully twist it ,such as and I quote”‘The armenians stabbed ous on the back, unting and fighting alongside Russians against us”. Andthe curios thing about us Armenians is THIS>/
    Instead of like self saying out loud YES WE DID TRY TO NOT ONLY TO STABB BUT KILL YOU…
    We had and have the God gvien right to defend ourselves and also TRY TO DRIVE YOU OUT OF OUR ANCESTRAL LANDS!!!! Why NOT!!
    This is where we are weak ,not ponly agasint Turco Azeris but the WORLD!!!!
    gIVE THEM FACTS shove into the world public t–THE BAD GUYS..this!!
    S A P A N was also conquered by force and ruled over by NORTH AFRICAN KHALIPHATES f o r ……600 years and more…BUT THEN A SPANISH PRINCES-LATER CROWNED ,AS queen of Spain, Izabel La Catolica ……united the spanoish Prince-lings and got armed*which we couldn’t properly, we were armless-even a paper cutting knife was prohibited by the Ottomans ,for an Ermeni*Armenian to carry ,according my father ..
    sO DID AND DO have the right to do the same t h i n g eh?
    Now then do get the book -I did froma british Council(library ) in Europe….entitled EXPERIENCES by author Arnold Toynbee(the low person not agentleman ) who was according to Haratch PARIS-years ago …THE tURKS INVITE HIM TO ISTANBULLA, feed him with lokus baklava(so to say) and also give him a Turkish woman …then all of a sudden he starts wirint CONTRA ARMENIANS…prior to that he has sstated facts about Armenian being slaughtered by Turks…
    So are the Evil amongst us.Plus indeed the GREED FACTOR AND EXPERTISE BY TURCO AZERIS TO BRIBE AND pamper weak ones!!!!
    At present the scenario has changed,becasue of the <IMPEDING ARMENIAN TSUNAMI THAT WILL OCCRU AROUND 2015,the Hundredth Anniversary of the Genocide perpetrated upon us byu the infamous ttoman and Kemalist Turkey..If they have gutts and a bit of Humanity and are reallhy CLEVER,the will stop the denialism and come FWD and do as Willy Brandt did!!!!
    Otherwise we shall carry more than ¨´Zmelis¨paper cutting knives in our pockets. Just witness NK Fighting forces!!!! and we from Diasporas are to get ready too. First re organzie then form into Rank and file PCA´s Prof. Colleagues assoc. some 100,000 or more of us there and ESTABLISH A MANY BILLIONS DOLALRS WORTH NATIONAL INVESTMENT TRUST FUND!tIME TO START THROWING OUR WEIGHT AROUND AT THE iNT´L PRESS, CARESS THEM PAMPER THEM .WAKE UP ARMENIAN!!!!!

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