Sarinay’s Silence… The Story of a Turkish Denialist

Sarinay’s Silence… The Story of a Turkish Denialist –

By Ara Sarafian

I have an interesting dilemma. A Turkish TV company based in Ankara has approached me for an interview concerning “the events of 1915.” The programme editor let me know that Yusuf Sarinay – the former head of the Prime Ministry Ottoman State Archives – is his adviser. How should I respond?

I believe Yusuf Sarinay is a denier of the Armenian Genocide.

A few years ago I examined an article he wrote, “What Happened on April 24, 1915?”  In that article he claimed that the Armenian intellectuals who were arrested in Constantinople on 24 April 1915 had posed a threat to the security of the Ottoman Empire and were imprisoned accordingly. These prisoners were sent to Chankiri and Ayash near modern-day Ankara.

Sarinay took Ayash prisoners as his focus and argued that, apart from a handful of prisoners who were moved elsewhere, the remaining prisoners stayed in Ayash for the duration of the war and were released in 1918. Sarinay’s argument was entirely based on Ottoman records in Turkey.

I examined Sarinay’s work, including the archival materials he claims to have seen, and found his presentation lacking. There were significant discrepancies in his work. The Armenian political prisoners who were sent to Ayash in 1915, even according to the Ottoman records, disappeared while in state custody. There are no letters and petitions sent to the authorities, nor other references attesting to their presence in Ayash, after the summer of 1915. Yet Sarinay argues that these men remained in Ayash prison until the end of WWI.

I published my critique of Sarinay’s work in the Turkish-Armenian newspaper, Agos. The article was printed in Turkish to facilitate a response from him. Sarinay never responded and proceeded to reprint his article in a book.

I believe Sarinay chose not to respond because he was caught out and there was a lot at stake – both personally and institutionally. After all, he represented the Turkish establishment in the denial of the Armenian Genocide, and the issues at hand were not trivial. By all accounts, the Armenian prisoners who were sent to Ayash in 1915 disappeared while in state custody – and Yusuf Sarinay presents a false picture when he argues otherwise.

Sarinay has remained silent in face of criticism while others – such as the Turkish Foreign Ministry – have continued to circulate his work in their own denial of the Armenian Genocide.

I can only wonder in what capacity Sarinay serves the Turkish TV company making a documentary “on the  events of 1915.”


Historian Ara Sarafian is the founding director of the Gomidas Institute in London, which sponsors and carries out research and publishes books. Among the institute’s publications are English translations of Armenian texts related to the Armenian Genocide. He edited a “Critical Edition” of the The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-1916, commonly known as the Blue Book (originally published in 1916 by British historians Lord James Bryce and Arnold Toynbee), as well as a Turkish edition of the book.  


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