Statement by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA)
We Must Look A Gift Horse in the Mouth With Regard to Turkey's Funding of Chair at UCLA
Friday, November 7, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to focus on a generous gift to my alma mater, but looking at the history of Troy, I have learned that sometimes one must look a gift horse in the mouth.
The Government of Turkey has offered over $1 million to fund a chair at my alma mater, UCLA, in the study of Ottoman and Turkish history. While the generosity of such an offer should be noted, I note the concern in the academic community and concern among those of us concerned with international relations for the academic integrity and historical accuracy of the academic work that will be done by the occupant of this chair.
Our concern for history is based on history. The Turkish Government has endowed other chairs at other American universities, and the occupants of those chairs have sought not to report and analyze history, but to rewrite it and cover it up.
Mr. Speaker, as a Jewish American, I am very concerned with those who would want to cover up the history of genocide, or claim that the Holocaust against the Jewish people did not occur or did not occur on a massive scale. But as an American and as a citizen of the world, I am equally concerned about attempts to cover up and deny other genocides.
I am certainly concerned that the occupant of this chair at UCLA may feel or may be pushed toward trying to deny the great massacres at Smyrna, or the genocide of the Armenian people that occurred in the first two or three decades of this century.
Those of us concerned with history must remember that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, and those of us concerned with avoiding genocide must remember, never forget and never again.
Indeed, the history of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey are due subjects of academic study. But that study should be unbiased and uninfluenced.
I would suggest that UCLA look at a number of academics who have studied the history of Anatolia, the history of the Caucasus, who have established their academic freedom and their academic independence. For example, Marjorie Housepian Dolkin or Speros Vrionis would make excellent occupants of this new chair in Turkish and Ottoman history, and their academic independence would be beyond question. Whoever occupies any chair looking at the modern history of Turkey should look not only at the promise of this nation, but also some of its misdeeds as well.
Last week, I had a chance to talk to Kathryn Cameron Porter and to talk also with several others who, along with her, are fasting to protest the Turkish Government's imprisonment of Leyla Zana, a duly elected member of the Turkish Parliament who has been arrested for addressing a committee of this House of Representatives.
As an American, I am offended that someone would be imprisoned for giving us their views. And as a graduate of UCLA, I want to make sure that any review of modern Turkish history is complete and full and focuses on some of the human rights abuses, including the imprisonment of Ms. Zana.
I look forward to UCLA expanding upon its reputation as one of America's and one of the world's great universities and look forward to UCLA doing so by looking at all aspects of Turkish history and the history of the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey Pushes to Endow UCLA History Chair