One of the taboos haunting the current authorities of Elazig – especially as they seek UNESCO designation for the city of Kharpert (Harput) as a World Heritage Site – concerns the historical presence of Armenians in that city. Rather than coming clean and dealing with the matter head on, they continue to deny the Armenian heritage of the entire region.

We contacted Turkish authorities in Elazig and offered to work with them to reintegrate the memory of Armenians back into Kharpert. However, we did not receive a response, and they continued to proceed as before.

The Elazig authorities still maintain that

(1) There were no Armenians in Kharpert and the region of any note;

(2) If there were, they had an insignificant presence;

(3) Armenians were deported from Kharpert during World War I; and,

(4) After the departure of Armenians, the local Muslim population moved to the neighboring city of Elazig, and Kharpert fell into disrepair.

Over recent years, the Elazig authorities have “revived” Kharpert (Harput) as they would like others to imagine it, a historical city with no Armenian past. They make no mention of the physical presence of several Armenian quarters, nor of any Armenian contribution to the city’s social, economic, or cultural life over hundreds of years.

We obviously disagree with this official Turkish view of the history of Kharpert. We believe such views are a disservice to the good name of Kharpert, which was once a thriving, multicultural city, where people of different backgrounds lived side by side.

However, a growing number of Turkish civil society organizations, as well as individuals, both in Kharpert and abroad, have welcomed our calls for friendship, openness, and dialogue. These are all bridges that allow us to reclaim history truthfully, in the interest of peace and reconciliation.

Skewed versions of history do the region and its inhabitants — past and present — serious disservice, and the Turkish state could do better than to ask UNESCO to endorse such distortions.

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