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AHI Applauds Alabama Governor And Alabama Greek Americans For Retraction Of Historically Revisionist Proclamation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: CHRYSOULA ECONOMOPOULOS
October 24, 2001 No. 49/01 (202) 785-8430

AHI Applauds Alabama Governor And Alabama Greek Americans For Retraction Of Historically Revisionist Proclamations

On October 23, 2001, the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) received a signed letter from Alabama's Governor, Don Siegelman, confirming his retraction and apologizing for historically revisionist proclamations issued last August regarding Turkish Independence Day. The AHI congratulates and thanks Governor Siegelman for his symbolic and precedent-setting actions, and congratulates Alabama Greek Americans for their crucial efforts.

The Governor's retractions help to combat the spread of historical inaccuracies surrounding the violence and genocide perpetrated against the Greek, Armenian, Assyrian and other minority populations in Asia Minor at the hands of the Turkish government during the early part of the twentieth century.

According to Governor Siegelman's letter,"Upon review of both documents by historians of Balkan history, it has been determined that both documents were historically incorrect. As a result, they were retracted."

Governor Siegelman's letter continued by emphasizing that:

"Our original intention was to honor Turkish Alabamians for their contribution to our state showing the respect and honor for all Americans of ethnic descent who have made positive contributions to our great country. We regret any pain that may have been caused to Hellenes, Armenians and Assyrians worldwide due to historical inaccuracies in the proclamations of August 8 and August 28 and the misinformation reported by the Turkish media."

The Governor's office retracted both proclamations in a statement released on October 3, 2001 following a meeting of Alabama Greek Americans with governor Siegelman on Monday, September 10, 2001. Attending the meeting were Despina Vodantis, John Bekrakis, Ike Gulas and others.

The precise wording for this retraction was attained through direct consultation between Governor Siegelman's policy director and AHI's Birmingham, AL representative, Despina Vodantis. In close cooperation with AHI headquarters, Ms. Vodantis consistently worked to achieve the most accurate and appropriate wording for the retraction. The AHI believes that this wording reflects the concerns and interests of the Hellenic community in Alabama and beyond in a historically accurate manner.

The Governor's initial proclamation, issued on August 8, 2001 and titled "Day of Remembrance of the Turkish Tragedy for Liberation to Sovereignty and Independence," was found to be historically inaccurate upon consultation with individuals considered to be knowledgeable on the issues it addressed. In an attempt to correct the inaccuracies of the first proclamation, a second revised proclamation was issued on August 28, 2001 under the title "Day of Remembrance of the Tragedies of Citizens of Asia Minor and the Independence Day of the Republic of Turkey." However, the text of this revised document was also found to contain historical inaccuracies.

A massive public awareness campaign was waged by Greek Americans in Alabama and worldwide, a number of Hellenic organizations, including AHI, AHEPA and the Hellenic Electronic Center, as well as the Armenian community in the U.S. as represented by the Armenian National Committee of American (ANCA).

Gene Rossides, AHI founder, considers Governor Siegelman's retraction to be a significant success. It sets an important precedent for government officials nationwide should they be confronted with similar revisionist documents. This situation also has raised awareness about the dangers of denying history. According to Gene Rossides:

"The atrocities committed against Greek, Armenian and Assyrian minorities by Turkey during the early part of the twentieth century have been well-documented by historians and American officials, including Ambassador Henry Morgenthau and American missionaries. Recognition of the Turkish atrocities is crucial in helping to prevent their repetition in that region and elsewhere. The retraction of the proclamations made by Governor Siegelman takes a firm stand against the dangerous policy of denial and historical revisionism, and favors the prevention of similar atrocities in the future."

The full text of Governor Siegelman's letter of October 23rd to AHI confirming his retraction, and the October 3rd statement from the Governor's Office are included below, as well as an attached scanned image of the Governor's signed letter to Gene Rossides.

Please visit our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org/press2001.html for full documentation of AHI's campaign for retraction of the Alabama proclamations -- including press releases, letters and an action alert.

For additional information, please contact Chrysoula Economopoulos at (202) 785-8430 or[email protected], and visit our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.



[STATEMENT BELOW APPEARS ON STATE OF ALABAMA LETTERHEAD, FROM THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR, DON SIEGELMAN]

October 3, 2001

STATEMENT BY THE OFFICE OF GOVERNOR DON SIEGELMAN REGARDING TURKISH PROCLAMATIONS ISSUED IN AUGUST

As has been recently stated, the proclamation issued from the Office of the Governor on August 8th, 2001, entitled 'Day of Remembrance of the Turkish Tragedy for Liberation to Sovereignty and Independence,' and the amended proclamation issued August 28th, 2001, entitled 'Day of Remembrance of the Tragedies of Citizens of Asia Minor and the Independence Day of the Republic of Turkey', were retracted due to historical inaccuracies.

In an attempt to correct the historical inaccuracies of the first proclamation, the Policy Director of the Office of the Governor sought advice from some individuals considered knowledgeable on these issues. Upon final review of both documents by historians of Balkan history of the time period referenced in the proclamations, it has been determined by the Policy Director of the Office of the Governor that both documents are historically incorrect, and therefore were retracted.

The original intention was to honor Turkish Alabamians for their contribution to our state showing the respect and honor for all Americans of ethnic descent that have made positive contributions to our great country.

The Governor's Office regrets any pain that may have been caused to Hellenes, Armenians, and Assyrians world-wide due to historical inaccuracies in the proclamations of August 8th and August 28th, and due to the misinformation reported by the Turkish media. The Governor's Office considers its involvement in this matter to be over.