Akcam: Lying About 1915: Free. Calling the Liar out: Punishable by Law.

I’ve got steam coming out of my ears. I’m so angry, but what am I supposed to do? Even if what I’m going to relate to you here doesn’t seem believable, it’s all the truth… Here’s an example of what the legal system is like in Turkey, what the law is like there and how it operates. This is the kind of rubbish that makes you want to shout out, “There is no rule of law in this country.” In truth, there are worse examples of injustice than what has happened to me, but I’m going to tell you my story anyway.

Here’s the deal: Şϋkrϋ Elekdağ was the former Ambassador in Washington. Since 2002, he’s been a member of the Turkish Parliament, representing Istanbul from the Republican People’s Party (CHP). He went to court in 2006 and sued me on the basis that I had insulted him, and he did this not once, but in three separate lawsuits. Starting in 2009, those lawsuits concluded one after the other, all in his favor. So on the finding that I had insulted Şϋkrϋ Elekdağ, I was ordered to pay him 10,000, 7,500, and 6,000 YTL (New Turkish Lira; 1 = 0.67USD) in damages, respectively. Court costs and interest will be added to these. In the end, my attorney says that just the damages award of 6,000 YTL will end up costing me around 11,000 YTL.

The essence of the case is that on the subject of what happened in 1915, Elekdağ made misleading statements to the public and flat out lied. I came out and stated, “Şϋkrϋ Elekdağ is lying” and wrote an article explaining why. I was ordered to pay damages three times over for one single article.

The short version of what happened is this: In March 2005, with Elekdağ taking the lead, the CHP started a huge campaign that coincided with the 90th anniversary of the genocide of the Armenians. The goal of the campaign was to invite the United Kingdom to apologize to Turkey, and the basis for that apology was a claim that in 1915-16 the British government had published the “Blue Book” against Turkey and Germany, claiming that both governments had engaged in massacres against the civilian population. The claim further stated that in 1925, Great Britain had acknowledged that the “Blue Book” published against Germany had been a work of propaganda and had extended an official apology.

 As proof of Elekdağ’s conviction on the subject, he offered a speech that British Foreign Minister A. Chamberlain had made to the British Parliament in Dec. 2, 1925. Elekdağ claimed that parliament had debated the Blue Book during a hearing that day, and that the foreign minister had acknowledged in a speech that the Blue Book was entirely a work of propaganda, that it was completely fabricated, and he had apologized to Germany.[1]

Starting March 1, 2005, Elekdağ’s conviction that “England must apologize” was turned into a campaign, and the campaign was introduced under the heading “Attack on Genocide.”[2] You couldn’t open a paper without reading headlines like “Revenge After 90 Years,” “International Attack on the Blue Book,” “Challenge to Genocide!”[3] It seemed like there wasn’t a columnist alive who wasn’t declaring that the British foreign minister had apologized to the Germans on Dec. 2, 1925, as if it was the biggest historical truth ever uncovered and they were all shouting out in one voice that England needed to apologize to Turkey.[4]

To buttress this propaganda, “scholars” from the West, like Justin McCarthy and Andrew Mango, were invited to comment, and they repeated that England had apologized to Germany. As for why the British had never apologized to the Turks, it was explained away by taking advantage of the inferiority complex Turks have regarding the West: “No one cared about an injustice suffered by the Turks,” it was said, because “They’re just Turks.”[5]

Elekdağ submitted a bill to the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA). On April 13, the TGNA had a general meeting on the subject of “Turkish-Armenian Relations in History—Bringing Out the Truth on the Claims of an Armenian Genocide” and by a majority vote it was decided that an official letter should be sent to the British Parliament. In this letter, a request was made that whatever Great Britain had done to Germany should be done to Turkey as well. As in the example with Germany, Great Britain needed to acknowledge that the Blue Book was entirely false and issue an apology to Turkey.

The letter was presented first to Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan for signature, then to the opposition leader Baykal, and then signed by members of the TGNA before being mailed out to the British Parliament.

What had just occurred was a scandal of huge proportions. Elekdağ had managed to drag the TGNA and Turkish government into an act of utter outrageousness because there never had been a hearing in parliament, as Elekdağ had claimed, nor had the British foreign minister ever apologized for anything. Yes, Great Britain had never said that the information presented in the Blue Book about Germany was false nor had it apologized to Germany. Moreover, in December 1925, there is no record, as Elekdağ claims, that the British Parliament held any meetings regarding this subject. Elekdağ was telling a bald faced lie.

Meanwhile, I wrote an article titled “A Scandal: The Letter from the Turkish Grand National Assembly or Where is Şϋkrϋ Elekdağ and Justin McCarthy dragging this country?” In the article, I explained point by point how the claims that had been made were false. Quoting the hearings that took place in parliament on Dec. 2, 1925, I showed that nothing about the Blue Book had been discussed that day and that nothing that could resemble an apology had been made.

My article was printed in serial form in the Agos newspaper and published in Birikim magazine. Pencere Publications published the Blue Book in Turkish and used my article as the preface. Elekdağ initiated three lawsuits, claiming I had insulted him three times, once for each of these publications. The first case was filed in the 13th Civil Court of Ankara against both me and Agos. The court awarded the plaintiff 10,000 YTL and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal approved the award. The second case was filed in the 17th Civil Court of Ankara. That one ended with a damages award of 6,000 YTL against me and Birikim. The third, meanwhile, was filed in the 6th Civil Court of Ankara against me and Pencere Publications. It concluded with an award of damages totaling 7,500 YTL. In the end, I was punished three times for one article and this was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

I had sent transcripts of the 1925 session in question to the court and argued that Elekdağ’s claim—that “England had apologized to Germany over the Blue Book”—and the information he had related about discussions within the British Parliament were wrong. I said that he had misled the public, the Turkish Grand National Assembly, and the Turkish government.

And because I had said that Elekdağ was lying, the court ordered me to pay monetary damages, finding that I had insulted him—on three different occasions no less. Now I am being ordered to pay out.

The absurdity is so knee-deep that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, fully aware of what was going on in this lawsuit, wrote this in its opinion affirming the decision regarding me and Birikim magazine:

“The magazine and the article are the same. Nevertheless, the lower court, mistakenly interpreting them as two separate writings and two separate publications, has ordered two separate awards for damages which do not comply with procedure or the law and would normally require a reversal. However, since eliminating the error in question does not require that the matter be tried again, in compliance with the 438rd and last article of the HUMK [Rules of Court and Civil Procedure] the amount of damages is appropriate for even one instance of this offense so the decision was ratified as amended….”

The conclusion? Elekdağ lies and because I called him out on those lies, I was ordered to pay him damages.

Is there anything left to say?

You are free to tell all the lies you want in this country about what happened in 1915. If you tell the truth about what happened, they’ll make you pay damages. And that pretty much sums it up.

So Turkey is supposed to be joining with Armenia to form a commission to discuss history, is that right? You don’t think they’re going to turn around and tell Turkey to clean up its own act first?

 The Turkish version of this article appeared in Taraf (www.taraf.com.tr/haber/41610.htm).

[1] In actuality, Elekdağ had been making this claim since 2003. See Turkish Daily News, April 27, 2003.

[2] Murat Yektin, “An Attack on Genocide,” Radikal, March 1, 2005.

[3] One by one, Yeni Şafak; March 7, 2005, Hϋrriyet, March 9, 2005; Yeni Şafak, March 9, 2005.

[4] For a sampling of what was published, see Oktay Ekşi, Hϋrriyet, March 10, 2005; Yilmaz Oztuna, Tϋrkiye Gazetesi, March23, 2005; Tufan Tϋrenç, Hϋrriyet, March 25, 2005.

[5] Justin McCarthy has been making these arguments since 2001. See Justin McCarthy, “British Propaganda and the Turks,” Presentation made at the School of Oriental and African Studies on Jan. 19, 2001, www.ermenisorunu.gen.tr/english/articles/article1.html.

Taner Akcam

Taner Akcam

Taner Akcam is the Robert Aram, Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marion Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University.


  1. A great man, a man of courage and honesty. If  Turkey is really honest and sincere in looking its past, it would accept to invite Dr. Akcam in this subcommittee which is supposed to be established, IF this dansgerous protocol is ever going to be signed.

    Thank you Dr. Akcam.

  2. Excuse me while I wipe my tears.  Poor Taner was not able to get away with publically calling a very senior nationalist politician liar.  What a tragedy.  Lost in his long tirade is the fact that Blue Book was a work of propaganda, published in the middle of a war UK was waging against the sick man of Europe, in 1916. Its author has prettty mush admitted to this.  Of course, Taner in this long article makes not a single mention of this relevant fact. 

  3. Murat, before you wipe your tears, why not show us YOUR proof that it was a lie.  The author “pretty mush (sic) admitted to this”….show me where he pretty “mush” admitted this.

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