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Lecture by Akcam and Zurcher

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  • Lecture by Akcam and Zurcher

    Abovian Armenian Cultural Association
    Address: Weesperstraat 91
    2574 VS The Hague, The Netherlands
    Telephone: +31704490209
    Email: [email protected]

    Press Release
    For immediate release
    21 December 2006
    Contact: M. Hakhverdian

    Impressive lecture by Akcam in Amsterdam

    By I. Drost

    Well documented and eloquent, Turkish professor of History Taner Akcam, held
    a lecture at University of Amsterdam on 18 December 2006. The meeting was
    organised by CREA Studium Generale in cooperation with Humanist Broadcasting
    Foundation (HUMAN) and Dutch Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
    Taner Akcam was invited to give a lecture in Amsterdam because of the
    current debate in the Dutch media and politics on the Armenian Genocide.
    HUMAN wanted to contribute in a positive way to this debate by improving the
    knowledge on this matter. The event coincided with the publication of
    Akcam's new book "A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of
    Turkish Responsibility", which will be published in Dutch in May 2007.

    Prior to the lecture the participants to this event, among whom many members
    of Turkish and Armenian communities of the Netherlands, watched the Dutch
    documentary "A wall of silence" by Dorothee Forma, a HUMAN production in
    1997. This documentary film parallels the personal and professional lives of
    Armenian scholar Vahakn Dadrian and Turkish researcher Taner Akcam and their
    call for recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

    Introducing Taner Akcam professor Erik-Jan Zurcher, professor of Turkish
    language and culture at the University of Leiden, mentioned that Akcam is
    one of the scholars, who presents "the state of the art" in his field of
    research. He combines in his research Armenian scientific publications,
    documents from Ottoman archives and Turkish Military Tribunal of 1919 as
    well as documents found in the German archives.

    After Akcam's speech many Turks stood up to protest rather than ask
    questions, but Akcam peacefully and effectively managed to give clear
    response and at the same time tried to pacify the Turks by repeating the
    statement: "we have to learn to talk".

    Akcam focussed in his lecture on his findings in Ottoman archives,
    especially the material available in the Prime Ministerial Archives
    (Ba┼~_bakanl─▒k Osmanl─▒ Ar┼~_ivi) in Istanbul. According to him a number of
    documents can also be found online. At the same time he mentioned that lots
    of documents have been removed from the archives. For the cleaning itself
    there are more than enough evidences; lots of documents concerning Armenian
    deportations and massacres have been destroyed during the crime.

    He explained also how total cleaning of archives is impossible, even when
    the government demanded to burn documents directly after reading. Orders and
    documents were always copied for different departments and it is impossible
    to retrace and destroy all of them.

    Akcam said that the first deportations and forced migration already began in
    1913 with the deportation of Greeks from the Aegean area. This forced
    migration expanded to the other minorities: Assyrians and Muslims from
    Bulgaria etc. whose lives were affected in different ways, depending on the
    intention of the government. While the goal with respect to the non-Turkish
    Muslims was the Turkification, in the case of the Armenians the intention to
    annihilate the whole population is evident from many documents. Regarding to
    the deportation this intention was present as the authorities were aware of
    the effect of these deportations, but still continued to handle in the same
    way. Other evident examples are the decrees issued by the government on the
    Armenian properties, which gives strong indications that the intention of
    the Young Turk rulers was the annihilation of Armenians. Akcam also
    explained why UN Genocide Convention (1948) is applicable to Armenian case.
    For example forcible transfer of Armenian children to Muslims constitutes
    one of elements of the UN definition of genocide. Also young Armenian girls
    were forced to marry Muslims. This is well documented.

    Answering a question about the Turkish proposal to Armenia to form a joint
    commission of Turkish and Armenian historians, professor Zurcher said that a
    dialogue is necessary, but that the proposal is not as innocent as it seems,
    because of the conditions put forward by Turkey. Turkey wants the historians
    to be appointed by the governments and also all political discussion on
    historical subjects to be suspended during the work of the commission. It
    should not come as a surprise that Armenia cannot accept the proposal under
    such conditions.

    Akcam elaborated on this issue by putting the rhetoric question how such a
    commission could function when there is no normal relation between the two
    countries. Even a letter from Ankara first has to go to Tbilisi in Georgia
    before reaching Armenia. Akcam agrees therefore with Armenian government
    that a commission is necessary to deal with all issues. He would also
    suggest the EU to compose a roadmap that includes a step-by-step approach
    for solving all problems.

    When Turks who brought up a Turkish translation of a book (1923) by the
    first Armenian Prime Minister (1918) H. Katchaznouni, in which the author
    would have admitted the role of Armenian voluntary troops in the Russian
    army, Taner Akcam said, that even if this is corrrect, would it mean that
    the genocide had not taken place? And what was the culpability of Armenians
    living peacefully far from the Russian borders, who had nothing to do with
    the events in Eastern Turkey? Comparing with World War II, would the fact
    that one million Germans were killed after the war in several countries mean
    that the Holocaust did not occur?

    Referring to the alleged 100 thousand Turks killed by Armenians, Akcam
    recalled that the figure given by Turkish Military in 1917 in this respect,
    is in total approximately 5000 deaths, for all the places involved. But we
    regret every victim, he added.

    Akcam made a great impression by the way he dealt with sometimes-aggressive
    way of acting by Turkish audience. He asked to remain calm and show more
    respect towards each other, but also repeating and reassuring that Turks and
    Armenians are not the only two peoples in the world that have problems with
    each other and that there are ways to solve these problems, like it is done
    in South Africa, and that this process needs time and effort.
    General Antranik (1865-1927): ôI am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.ö

  • #2
    Letter Defending Taner Akcam

    Twin Cities Campus
    Department of History
    614 Social Sciences Building
    267- 19th Avenue South
    College of Liberal Arts
    Minneapolis MN 55455
    Office: 612-624-2800
    Fax: 612-624-7096

    January 12, 2007
    Statement in support of Taner Akšam

    Dr. Taner Akšam, a visiting professor of history at the University of Minnesota since 2002, is subject to criminal investigation in Turkey for asserting that the Armenian deportations of 1915-17 constituted a genocide. Charges are pending under Turkey’s notorious Articles 301.1 (“insulting Turkishness”), 214 (“instigation to commit a crime”), 215 (“praise of a crime and a criminal”), and 216 (“instigating public animosity and hatred”). We are gravely concerned about this threat to freedom of expression and academic freedom. Professor Akšam was invited to the University of Minnesota by the Department of History and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, with support from colleagues in the Law School and the College of Liberal Arts. There was and is great interest in his work on late Ottoman history and the Armenian Genocide, the legal aspects of the Genocide, and the relation of these events to issues of democratization in Turkey and the region. Akšam's scholarship has been lauded by scholars and intellectuals across the globe, including in Turkey despite the longstanding official policy to deny the Armenian Genocide. The University of Minnesota's Department of History and Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies consider Akšam to be one of the foremost historians of the late Ottoman Empire and the Armenian Genocide. Professor Akšam, in addition to researching the subject, seeks reconciliation between Armenians and Turks so that both peoples can develop a normal and productive relationship in the 21st century. Professor Akšam, the first Turkish intellectual to recognize the Armenian Genocide as such, is the latest to be investigated for “insulting Turkishness.” Other high-profile targets include, in recent months, Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, novelist and professor Elif Shafak of the University of Arizona, and Istanbul Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. We support Taner Akšam's right to academic freedom and freedom of expression. We utterly reject the efforts by official Turkish sources to stifle his speech and publications.


    Dr. Eric D. Weitz Dr. Stephen Feinstein Professor and Chair of History Director, Center for Holocaust Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Chair and Genocide Studies in the College of Liberal Arts
    General Antranik (1865-1927): ôI am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.ö