Armenian Activists Protest Screening of ‘Documentary’ in Turkey

ISTANBUL (AFP) — Armenian and other rights groups called for action Saturday over Turkish school screenings of a documentary on the Ottoman mass killings of Armenians, charging that the film incited racism and enmity.

The call follows an outcry in the Armenian community following reports earlier this week that the Education Ministry had asked school teachers to show the documentary to students and file reports on the result of the screenings.

The documentary, called “Blonde Bride: The True Face of the Armenian Question,” has come under fire for taking Turkey’s official line that Armenians were not the victims of genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915-1917.

The film has also been criticized for violent images of Armenian gangs attacking Turks and piles of what the movie calls Turkish corpses, claiming they were the bodies of Turks killed by Armenians.

“This documentary is a propaganda film … It is not only biased and hostile but also provocative and openly racist,” said a declaration signed by seven rights organizations, among them Armenian foundations and the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly. The film “has been made to poison people’s souls and to turn Turks and Armenians into enemies,” it said.

It called on the education ministry to launch an internal investigation and “expose and punish” those behind the order for school screenings.

Earlier this week, the ministry said it had sent copies of the film to schools to be viewed by teachers as additional material and not by students. It added that it had halted the distribution in July 2008 after discovering “uses outside its original purpose.”

The six-part “documentary”, produced by the General Staff of the Turkish Army, was sent to all primary schools through the province authorities of the Ministry of Education. The DVDs are to be shown to children “at a convenient time” and schools are to report back on the effects of the film by March 2, according to a letter sent to schools by the Ministry in January.

The film is named after a well-loved folk song, Sarı Gelin (Blonde Bride), a song whose melody is known in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia, yet, so the vehement critics, the film has nothing to do with promoting intercultural