Blue Book Film Screening

On a late November evening, the SOAS and UCL Armenian societies hosted a film screening of the documentary ‘The Blue Book: Political Truth or Historical Fact’. Alongside a screening of the film, both the protagonist Ara Sarafian and the director and filmmaker Gagik Karagheuzian were invited to facilitate a discussion on the meaning of the film and its context in the wider debate of genocide denial. The documentary itself was an insightful look into the very act of genocide denial in its different forms, and the work of Sarafian in countering such denial. The documentary showed Sarafian travelling to Turkey to a conference on Turkish-Armenian relations where he showcased the many books, memoirs and sources the Gomidas institute has published.

The main reason for Sarafian’s visit was to defend ‘The Blue Book’; a report on the Armenian genocide commissioned by the British Parliament in 1916. The Turkish government presented a petition to the British government asking for an apology for the publishing of such a book, based on the claim that the report was ahistorical and factually incorrect. Having republished the critical edition in 2000 in various languages, Sarafian travelled to Turkey thereafter to defend its historical integrity and fundamental utility as evidence for the Armenian Genocide. What followed was a mix between observations of Sarafian dealing with outright denial and his efforts to show the authenticity of the documents, delving into various archives, visiting locations of mentioned massacres, and talking to local people and historians. One of the most touching scenes, personally, was one where the audience is shown a picture of Harput prior to the genocide, then shows Sarafian and Karagheuzian both in a similar position looking at a virtually empty hill, with no signs of a prior civilization upon the very same soil.

The documentary also shows Sarafian’s approach with the media and denials of historians such as Justin McCarthy and Kemal Çiçek. Going live on CNN Türk with Çiçek to address the issue, Sarafian thus disproved the Turkish propagandistic claims that the ‘Armenian side’ does not engage in debates with the ‘Turkish side’. In fact, in a somewhat comedic manner, the documentary recorded the many interactions of Sarafian with academics endorsing Genocide denial – leading to the limitations of their arguments being unearthed. One notable example was Çiçek, who later stated that Sarafian’s evidence proves the genocide thesis. Similarly, the ending scenes showed a debate between the same individuals, and a cut to the commercials revealing Çiçek’s true beliefs.

The ensuing question and answer session was an engaging discussion. Questions ranged from wanting to know about the choice of the soundtrack in particular scenes, to approaches to the idea of land demands, to the academic nature of genocide studies and counter denial.

The attendance of Kurdish and Turkish students was extremely welcomed, as they provided questions and gave their opinions on the role of Hrant Dink, current Turkish nationalism, and the role of intercultural dialogue for reconciliation and preservation of the Armenian history in Anatolia. These students and thinkers should be given a voice by the Armenian community, which would allow transparent discussion and engage in fruitful debate regarding the Armenian Genocide. In fact, only by working with such open-minded can progress be made where it matters, in Turkey.

For an exclusive interview with Gagik Karagheuzian regarding the event, please click here.

— Raph Gregorian

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