Turkey’s Koç University terminated a contract to publish a book on Ottoman history due to the authors use of the term ‘genocide’ to refer to the events of 1915, according to one of the book’s editors Onur İnal.
The university requested the removal or rephrasing of the expression, and terminated the contract when İnal and his co-editor Yavuz Köse refused, according to the historian.
Koç University Press requested the revision “on the grounds that it might result in legal problems”, the editors said in a statement. They continued:
“We responded to the publisher, telling them that we would not accept their request to remove or rephrase the sentence, because using the expression itself was not ‘banned’. Additionally, we informed the publisher that the sentence containing the expression was a quote from another work, and a translation that failed to remain true to the original text would amount to censorship.”
The cancellation of their contract is “inconsistent with academic freedom and publishing ethics”, the scholars said.
The book, entitled “Seeds of Power: Explorations in Ottoman Environmental History”, is a collection of essays on environmental perspectives in the Ottoman Empire originally published by the White Horse Press in 2019. Editors İnal and Köse are both part of the University of Vienna’s Near Eastern Studies Department faculty.
The disputed phrase is part of a quote from Dutch Turkologist Erik-Jan Zürcher, who wrote that the homogenisation of the population of Anatolia “started in 1914, with the expulsion of over 150,000 Greek Orthodox from the Aegean seaboard in retaliation for the expulsion of thousands of Muslims from the Balkans and culminated in the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1916”.
Turkey’s official stance on the events of 1915 is that wartime conditions necessitated the relocation of Ottoman Armenians, and that the deaths that occurred had not been deliberate or in high numbers.
The vast majority of scholars on the subject agree that around one million Armenians lost their lives in the death marches towards the Syrian desert, ordered by the Committee of Union and Progress (“İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti” in Turkish) that was in power between 1913 and 1918.
The events that are commonly referred to as the Armenian Genocide started with the arrest of 250 prominent figures in the Armenian community in Istanbul on April 24, and was made official with a deportation order the following May, leading to the eradication of the entire Armenian society within the empire except for a small community in Istanbul..