By Hambersom Aghbashian
Oktay Ozel is a Turkish historian and assistant professor in the Department of History at Bilkent University (Ankara, Turkey). A graduate of Hacettepe University, Dept. of History (BA -1983, and MA -1986). He completed his post graduate studies at Manchester University, Department of Middle Eastern Studies and earned his PhD in 1993. He has taught several courses on Ottoman socio-economic history; demographic changes; and methods and problems in historical writings. He recently began working on the late-19th century history of mass migrations, immigrants, and inter-communal relations in the central Black Sea region. He has also published several articles in journals and newspapers publicly criticizing the popular and political pressure on Turkish scholars in discussing the Armenian Genocide. He is currently a visiting scholar at Harvard University.(1)(2)
Dr. Oktay Ozel participated in the conference entitled “The Armenians during the Collapse of the Ottoman Empire” that was held at Istanbul’s Bogazici University in September 2005, and he said that “days between the War of 93 and 1923 was a period of tension and clashes. At the end of this period, the Black Sea region was purified from non-Muslim population,” (3).
Propaganda Press Monitor, wrote on Feb. 7, 2009, “Friends of Hrant Dink, a new Cambridge-based nonprofit group, organized an event at MIT dedicated to the cause of human rights. Rakel Dink , Dink’s widow, Oktay Ozel, a professor of Ottoman history; Peter Balakian, author of a best-selling book about the Armenian genocide; and Andrew Tarsy” where on the list of speakers(4).
About the same conference Levon Kuyumcuyan wrote in “ TURKISH ARMENIAN FRIENDSHIP “ the following, “ Invited by newly formed nonprofit and human rights advocate organization “Friends of Hrant Dink, Inc.” Mrs. Rakel Dink, the widow of assassinated journalist Hrant Dink was in Boston to participate in the panel discussion at MIT. Oktay Ozel, a history professor at Ankara’s Bilkent University working as a visiting scholar at Harvard, said Dink’s writing inspired him to encourage other scholars to look more closely at the Armenian Genocide, a plea, which he said, may gain traction in the wake of Dink’s death.”For us historians, along with this sense of guilt, I think the bitter legacy of Hrant’s death is that historians should do better,” said Ozel . They will feel much better when they do (their job) with a little decency. Then they won’t need to do anything extraordinary `just do their job properly. That’s the job in front of historians in Turkey.”(5)
In his research “1915: Righteous Muslims during the Genocide of 1915”, Nov. 2010, Sydney, Australia, Dr. Racho Donef mentioned that “Most sources on the genocide readily identify Turks, Kurds, Lazes and Circassians as participants to the massacres. To this the Persians who attacked Armenians and Assyrians in Salmas and Ourmiah should be added. But even this list is not definitive.” An Armenian survivor he interviewed, Mr Manuel Kerkesharian, told him that ”his convoy was attacked by Chechens on the way to Aleppo…”. Dr. Racho Donef added “To this ever-growing list of Muslim nations participating in the massacres, the Georgian Muslims can also be added. In 2008, Turkish researcher Oktay Özel in a conference in Tbilisi said that the leader of Georgian Muslims, Ali-Pasha Tavgerizade, was involved in forming armed groupings and that Georgian muslims were also privy to mass killing of Armenians and Greeks in Ottoman Empire. It’s hard to say when Georgians were fulfilling the orders of the Ottoman government and when they were driven by their bellicose spirit but they were killing along with Cherkess [Circassians] and other muhajirs.* Most likely, they wanted to demonstrate their loyalty to the Sultan”.(6)
* Muslim immigrants from the Balkans and elsewhere