Saturday, August 30, 2008

Turkey Decries Toronto School Board Genocide Course

EuropeNews, Denmark Aug 27 2008
The killings of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 is being taught alongside
the Holocaust & 1994 Rwandan genocide

In a letter to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and the province's
Ministry of Education, the Turkish Embassy has voiced strong objections
to a Toronto District School Board decision to teach students that
the killing of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 was genocide.

The lessons will come in a new course entitled "Genocide: Historical
and Contemporary Implications" that will be launched with the start
of the new school year in September. The course's three case studies
include the Ottoman's killing of Armenians in 1915, the Holocaust
and the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Although the Canadian Parliament approved a motion in 2004 recognizing
the killings as genocide, the Turkish government has long disputed
the description.

The idea of teaching a course on genocide was first raised three years
ago by a Toronto board trustee, but has since been met with controversy
on all sides. Aside from Turkish objections, the Ukrainian Canadian
Congress advocated that the Holodomor should be included in the course,
and the Muslim Canadian Congress accused the board of religious bias.

As the controversy escalated over what was and wasn't included in
course material, the school board decided earlier this year to strike
a review committee. After a few public meetings, the panel concluded
that the course reading list would need to be approved by a panel of
historical experts.

It's unclear how the Armenian killings were included in the Toronto
school board course proposal, but the inclusion of one book in
particular, Extraordinary Evil: A Brief History of Genocide by Barbara
Coloroso, sparked outrage.

At one point the review committee had agreed to remove Ms. Coloroso's
book from its reading list, which in turn prompted outcry from the
literary community and a letter from Penguin Canada president David
Davidar to the school board defending Ms. Coloroso's credentials as
an educator.

This past June, after months of debate, committee and public review,
the school board decided to include Ms. Coloroso's book as a text
examining the psychology of genocide, and on June 2 gave final approval
for the course to go ahead in 11 Toronto high schools, reaching about
300 Grade 11 students.

Turkish Outrage

That has prompted a backlash from the Turkish Embassy as well as
members of the Turkish community.

"This is a pedagogical thing and goes against traditional Canadian
principles of objectivity, and this is a matter of history...which
should really be immune to political pressures," said Yonet Tezel,
first counsellor at the Turkish Embassy. "That's something for
Canadian educational institutions to consider themselves, we don't
need to remind them of that.

"The school board's decision to go ahead anyway and teach it as
genocide, it's very objectionable, that's why Turkish parents are
concerned, and I sympathize with them."

Mr. Tezel said the Turkish Embassy has communicated its concern to
colleagues at the Department of Foreign Affairs and to provincial
officials that as the school year commences, Turkish Ambassador
Rafet Akgunay will continue to raise his concerns through diplomatic

The Council of Turkish Canadians has also expressed its disapproval,
especially of the inclusion of Extraordinary Evil.

Lale Eskicioglu, executive director of the Council of Turkish
Canadians, launched a formal complaint against the Toronto District
School Board in November. Ms. Eskicioglu also started a petition,
which she said has collected 12,000 signatures.

"It cannot be taught as genocide," she said. "You can teach it as a
dispute or under Ottoman history maybe, but you cannot teach it in
the same category with Holocaust and Rwanda. This is a very serious
crime. You cannot accuse a nation or its people of that which amounts
to slander and hate propaganda because it's not correct."

For Ms. Eskicioglu, this is a personal plight, and a situation in
which she feels she and her fellow Turks have been wronged.

"Why should my daughter, alongside with her Armenian friends, sit in
the same classroom and hear one-sided inaccurate versions of history,
which is categorized with the worst crime in the world?" Ms. Eskicioglu

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