AYF Responds to Dubious BBC Claims in “The Ottomans”

It is not the first time that the Armenian Genocide of 1915 has been portrayed in pro-Turkey light. It is also unfortunate that British media corporations follow the same stance. AYF London Khanasor thought it necessary to respond to the nature of the content of the BBC series entitled ‘The Ottomans’, which at times was littered with factual errors and undoubtedly was written in the aforementioned light and to preserve Britain’s relationship with Turkey.

Dear Director-General,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Armenian Youth Federation to express our organisation’s dissatisfaction with the BBC over its broadcast of the recent documentary on the Ottoman Empire (The Ottomans: Europe’s Muslim Emperors.) We were deeply concerned with the multitude of factual errors that this production contained, both in its general portrayal of the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire and, in particular, over its misleading representation of the Armenian Genocide.

Setting aside the programme’s dubious choice of title (as a statement of uncontested fact,) it completely neglected to discuss the contribution that the Armenian population, then a sizeable constituent of the Ottoman Empire, made to the success of the latter. No reference was made, at any time throughout all three episodes, to the elite position that the Armenians occupied within Istanbul or to their successful economic and social contribution. In addition, the second episode, which discussed in depth the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, omitted to make any reference to the death of Armenians that took place under his reign.

Our greatest concern, however, arose from the manner in which the Armenian Genocide was misleadingly presented. The numerous factual errors that were evident throughout reinforced the impression that there was a lack of serious research on this subject: as an example, the programme suggested that the Armenians themselves had provoked an attack on the city of Van, yet countless unambiguous historical evidence has shown this view to be incorrect. With an insufficient portion of the programme afforded to this key episode in the final years of the Ottoman Empire, it was difficult to conclude that any serious and in depth analysis had been contemplated in respect of this subject.  Despite the overwhelming legal opinion of eminent jurists to the contrary, the programme’s open ended conclusion on the genocide served once again to remind us of the lax academic scholarship that seemed to have prevailed throughout.

We do not object, in principle, to the BBC commissioning any production that seeks to inform the viewing population on this, or indeed any other, period of history; nor do we claim any right to fetter the BBC in deciding what programmes it should produce. However, where the BBC chooses to produce programmes that deal with key historical events, we strongly maintain that it has an incumbent duty, as the country’s public service broadcaster, to ensure that its productions are accurate and that they do not mislead and misinform the general public. On this occasion, we regrettably believe that the BBC failed in this regard.

We would hope that, in the future, this foremost consideration is taken into account when new programmes are commissioned.

Yours sincerely,
Hagop Krikorian
Armenian Youth Federation (London)

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