By Hambersom Aghbashian
Ümit Kurt (born 1984, Gaziantep- Turkey) is a Turkish scholar and a Ph.D. candidate in Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University and a lecturer at Sabanci University (summer courses). His Ph.D. research topic is “The Emergence of a New Wealthy Class between 1915- 1921: The Seizure of Armenian Property by the Local Elites in Aintab” (supervisor Prof. Taner Akcam). His MA degree is from Sabancý University’s department of European studies (2007), topic “Turkey-EU Relations from the Security Perspective: Two Level Analysis” and his B.Sc. degree is in political science and public administration from Middle East Technical University (2006). He was also a “Research Fellow and Erasmus Student” at University of Keele- UK (2005-2006). Umit Kurt is a young scholar with diverse interest in many fields, Political Science, History, European Studies, Turkey-EU relations, Media and Society and others. Turkish is his mother tongue, he is also fluent in English, advanced in Ottoman Turkish version and Armenian, and has a basic German. He is a member of editorial boards of “Turkish Review”, “European Journal of Economic and Political Studies”, “ Turkish Journal of Politics”, also member of “Sarajevo International and Comparative Law Review”, and “Türk Egitim Gönüllüleri Vakfý”. He held many teaching positions, researcher and assistant researcher positions. (1)
Ümit Kurt is the author of several books, including “Türk’ün Büyük Biçare Irk’ý”, “The lost of Turkey’s Great Race.” and Kanunlarýn Ruhu: Emval-i Metruke Kanunlarýnda Soykýrýmýn Ýzlerini Aramak (The Spirit of Laws: Seeking the Traces of Armenian Genocide in the Laws of Abandoned Property, 2012) with Taner Akçam. His main area of interest is the confiscation of Armenian properties and the role of local elites/notables in Aintab during the genocide. In an interview with Varak Ketsemanian “The Armenian Weekly-Sept. 23, 2013”, Umit Kurt tackled how the physical annihilation of the Armenians paralleled the confiscation and appropriation of their properties in 1915. “By citing the various laws and decrees that orchestrated the confiscation process, Kurt places our understanding of the genocide within a legal context.”According to Umit Kurt “ A series of laws and decrees, known as the Abandoned Properties Laws (Emval-i Metruke Kanunlarý), were issued in the Ottoman and Turkish Republican periods concerning the administration of the belongings left behind by the Ottoman Armenians who were deported in 1915. Most of the Armenians properties were distributed to Muslim refugees from the Balkans and Caucasia at that time. Central and local politicians and bureaucrats of the Union and Progress Party also made use of Armenian properties. (2)
The Armenian Studies Program at California State University – Fresno, organized a lecture by Umit Kurt titled “ The emergence of the new wealthy class between 1915-1922: The seizure of the Armenian property by local elites in Aintab,” which revealed the fact that process of genocide and deportation directed at Aintab Armenians was in fact put into practice by local notables and provincial elites. The lecture took place on Sept.17, 2013 and was organized by the Armenian Student Organization.(3)
The “Society for the Armenian Studies “ (SAS), celebrated its 40th Anniversary by organizing a conference titled “ Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th-20th Centuries”. The conference took place on Nov. 21-22, 2014 at Marriott Wardman Park Hotel- Washington, DC. Ümit Kurt (Clark University- MS) was one of the participants. He presented “The Emergence of the New Wealthy Class between 1915-1921: The Seizure of Armenian Property by the Local Elites in Aintab.”(4)
Glendale News-Press, April 25, 2013, mentioned that “For the first time, Umit Kurt, a Turkish scholar at Clark University, addressed a crowd of more than 1,400 people at the city’s annual event to commemorate the genocide of about 1.5 million people in 1915 by Ottoman Turks, a tragedy still denied by modern-day Turkey 98 years later.” As he discussed how the Ottoman Empire deported Armenians before the genocide began and sold their property, Umit Kurt said “The principle was not to give the Armenians even a single inch,”. Councilman Ara Najarian said this year a Turkish scholar was invited “to showcase a trend towards enlightenment by Turkish academics.”(5)
In his lecture at Ararat Eskijian Museum on Sept.15,2013, Umit Kurt “focused on the importance of acquiring Armenian wealth and material possessions to the local Kurds and Turks in Aintab before and during the Armenian Genocide of 1915.” Kurt described a “link between the role of stolen Armenian assets in the integration and stabilization of Turkification, which makes confiscation of Armenian properties a social process”. “The fate of the Armenians was not only linked to the Committee of Union and Progress party (CUP) orders, but behavior of the local elites.” According to Asbarez.com, in the last minutes, Umit Kurt spoke words that made everyone smile. He said, “I don’t work for Armenian people; I work for my own people to reckon their own historical wrongdoings.” (6)
Umit Kurt visited Armenia and was interviewed by Civilnet on May 28,2014. During the TV interview he mentioned that the Armenian National Archives are open for researchers and he could reach to the documents easily, while in Turkey it is not so easy and lot of Armenian confiscated properties archives are disappeared. He mentioned also that an Antab Armenian living in CA-USA has documents of his grandmother’s lost properties which are worth of $50 million today, confiscated and are transferred to Turks. And about making a shift in opinions, he mentioned that the deportation process execution in Marash, in Adana in Dikranagert, in Vaspouragan should be explained ,so that the people become aware of it, although they already know it, and that will make a shift in their position. (7)
Umit Kurt has many new books which will be published, Also he translated two Armenian books into Turkish, and he is currently translating Kevork Sarafian’s “Badmutyun Aintabi Hayots”, Vol. 1. He has numerous articles in English and Turkish, and participated in many conferences.(1). His research focuses on Aintab Armenians and the confiscation and appropriation of Armenian properties during 1915-1921, and we hope this will be continued with researches on Armenians all over other cities in Turkey and we will have a trustful complete study about Armenian’s lost properties in Turkey.
1- Comm. with Umit Kurd. Copy of CV received from him on Nov. 29, 2014, upon request.(H.A.)
6- (Asparez.com-Sept. 20, 2013).