Ara Sarafian: Pencere did a shoddy job

Dear Editor,
I was disappointed to read the Weekly’s article on the Pencere Publishing House and its Turkish translation of A Summer Without Dawn (“‘Pencere’ Publishes ‘A Summer Without Dawn’ in Turkish,” Armenian Weekly, Feb. 13, 2010).

In the second half of the article, the Weekly credits Pencere for publishing a Turkish translation of the Gomidas Institute’s critical edition of the 1916 British Parliamentary “Blue Book” The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire… (Gomidas Institute, 2000, 2005).

I do not know how well Pencere has translated Hacikyan’s work, but they did a generally shoddy job of translating our edition of the Blue Book. There were too many translation mistakes, including mistakes that significantly changed critical sentences related to the Armenian Genocide.

While Pencere had our permission to translate our critical edition of the 1916 Blue Book into Turkish, I told them what I thought of their work when it appeared. Gomidas Institute never credited their work in public, and we forbade them to print additional copies. We did not make a public issue out of this whole episode because (a) their print run was small and (b) Sukru Elekdag, an arch-denier of the Armenian Genocide, had opened a court case against them. (Taner Akcam, who had an article inserted into Pencere’s introductory materials, was also one of the defendants).

The only authorized translation of the Blue Book into Turkish was published by the Gomidas Institute last year. I would not like the readers of the Armenian Weekly, or anyone else, to think that the Pencere translation of the Blue Book was simply another edition of that work. It was not. It was a poor translation. That is the reason why the Gomidas Institute proceeded with an authorized publication of its own in 2009.
Ara Sarafian
Gomidas Institute, London
Ara Sarafian is an archival historian and the executive director of the Gomidas Institute. His works include James Bryce and Arnold Toynbee, The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915–1916: Documents Presented to Viscount Grey of Fallodon by Viscount Bryce [Uncensored Edition], (Gomidas Institute, 2000, 2005) compiled, edited and with an introduction by Ara Sarafian; and Osmanli Imparatorlugu’nda Ermenilere Yapilan Muamele, 1915-1916; Vikont Bryce’in Fallodon Vikontu Grey’e Sundugu Belgeler [Sansursuz Basim] (Gomidas Institute 2009), which includes an additional introduction by Lord Avebury.


  1. Whenever these books are mentioned, I am interested in reading them.  I noticed that has an English and Russian translation of the Blue Book.  Why don’t they also have a Turkish version.   I am going to purchase a copy from, although it is available in a free electronic version on the internet from  I also noticed that a website for a small monthly fee grants access to James L. Barton’s book about the Near East Relief org.
    The copy of the book I purchased is better because it includes the many photographs of the victims of genocide which you have to see to understand the magnitude of this tragedy.  I hope that these books with the photographs will be made available to the general public for free, if possible, in all languages including Turkish for the Turkish public to read in a version that is acceptable to Armenians as being truthful to translation.

  2. The Ministry of Truth or Pravda is always putting out its propaganda.  I bought all these books in order to follow the cast of characters and find the truth as written down by eyewitnesses and acceptable authorities in order to understand Turkey’s propaganda and counter it.  It seems they have one story that they stick to in their version of history and which appears in the many posters from Turkey I have followed on Haaretz, JPost and here.  Usually, the procedure is to counter propaganda with truth; is this not the purpose of Radio Free America, etc.?   At least I know the truth and what to answer in response to the propaganda with reference to authorities that I can cite. 
    I am surprised that not that many people feel free to counter the propaganda. 
    The new AGM in Washington, D.C. has that opportunity; to educate the public about the facts of the genocide.   I hope they don’t come under the pressure Yad Vashem has come under to alter  exhibits, etc.; but I am sure they will.    They had trouble telling the story about the Nazi Pope without alienating the Vatican; then they had trouble vilifying the Mufti of Jerusalem who cooperated with Hitler to exterminate the Jews before they could come to Israel and found a Jewish state.  It is a known fact the Mufti was none too happy with the idea for Jews coming to Palestine and he headed SS groups to exterminate Jews.    So I am sure a lot of people will be demanding you alter exhibits .  It is the sad truth; however, I recommend you not give in to them. 
    Thus, I am not surprised the Turkish version of the Blue Book is altered to suit them.  

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