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Taking A Stand Against The Turkish Government's Denial of the Armenian Genocide and Scholarly Corruption in the Academy

Posted: Saturday, May 22, 2004 at 07:06 PM CT


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Between 1915 and 1918 the Young Turk government of Ottoman Turkey carried out a systematic, premeditated genocide against the Armenian people, who were an unarmed, defenseless, minority living under Turkish rule. Over a million Armenians were exterminated during this time through direct killing, starvation, and deportation and about another million were sent into exile, thus wiping out Anatolian Armenia. The Armenians had been the largest Christian nationality living in Turkey until then and most of them were living on their ancient homeland of 3,000 years.

The Armenian Genocide was the most dramatic human rights issue of the first decades of the twentieth century, and was reported regularly with bold headlines in the New York Times. The Armenian Genocide is well-documented by eyewitness accounts, an abundance of document in official state archives of nations around the world, photographic evidence, the reports of diplomats, especially from the United States, England, Germany, and Austria, the testimony of thousands of survivors, and eight decades of historical scholarship. Adolf Hitler said to his military advisors on August 22, 1939, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

Despite these facts the present government of Turkey, like its predecessor governments, has devised increasingly insidious ways of denying the genocide of the Armenians. The signers of this petition affirm the following and attest to the recent disclosures about the Turkish government's attack on and attempted censorship of scholarship about the Armenian Genocide. These are fully documented in an article, "Professional Ethics and the Denial of the Armenian Genocide," by Roger Smith, Eric Markusen, and Robert Jay Lifton, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (Spring, 1995).

  1. As early as 1936, the Turkish government exerted censorship in the US by persuading the US State Department, "in the interest of maintaining friendly relations with Turkey," to prevent MGM from releasing the film The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, based on the novel by Franz Werfel about the Armenian Genocide.
  2. Throughout the Cold War, Turkey blackmailed the US government on the issue of Armenian Genocide recognition, by threatening to close US air bases in Turkey.
  3. In the 1960s, in response to a world-wide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Genocide, the Turkish government tried to influence journalists, teachers, and public officials to tell the "Turkish side of the story."
  4. In the 1970s and 80s, Turkey was successful in excluding any mention of the Genocide from a United Nations report, and coerced the Reagan and Bush administrations to defeat Congressional resolutions that would have designated April 24 as a national day of remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.
  5. In recent decades the Turkish government has attempted to censor US public school curriculums by prevailing on state boards of education to omit the Armenian Genocide from Holocaust and genocide textbooks.
  6. In 1982 the Turkish government tried to force the cancellation of an academic conference in Tel Aviv, where the Armenian Genocide was to be discussed, by making threats to the safety of Jews in Turkey.
  7. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington reported similar threats over plans to include reference to the Armenian Genocide in its exhibits.
  8. The Turkish government is funding Chairs at prestigious American universities in order to cleanse its image and deny its past. Recently, Professor Heath W. Lowry, who holds the Ataturk Chair of Turkish Studies at Princeton University (endowed by $1.5 million by the Republic of Turkey) and formerly executive director of the Institute of Turkish Studies, Inc., in Washington, DC, has been exposed as working closely with the Turkish government to discredit scholarship which mentions the Armenian Genocide. Documentation of his collaboration with the Turkish government, including drafting of letters for the Ambassador's signature in an effort to further Turkey's Denial, is provided in the Spring 1995 issue of Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
  9. Today the Turkish government pays public relations firms in the US millions of dollars each year to wage a war against scholarship and testimony about the Armenian Genocide.
  10. In denying the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government seeks to blame the victims for the Genocide and subvert the moral meaning of the Genocide by creating doubt, controversy, and pseudo-rational debate.
  11. Nowhere is scholarly research and commentary more significant than in connection with genocide. Where scholars deny genocide, their message is: murderers did not really murder; victims were not really killed; mass murder requires no confrontation, but should be ignored. Scholars who deny genocide lend their considerable authority to the acceptance of this ultimate human crime, and contribute to the begetting of new genocides.
  12. We denounce the Turkish government's program of denying the Armenian Genocide as intellectually and morally corrupt.
    1. We denounce Turkey's manipulation of American universities, secondary schools, newspapers, the media, the White House and Congress and other institutions for the purpose of Armenian Genocide Denial, as intellectually and morally corrupt. We urge American institutions and citizens to reject Turkey's blackmail.
    2. We condemn fraudulent scholarship funded by the Turkish government and carried out in American universities.
    3. We urge the US Congress go forward with its ratification process of the Armenian Genocide commemorative bill without fear of intimidation from the Turkish government.
    4. We advocate that US government officials, the media, scholars, and the heads of other institutions refer to the annihilation of the Armenians as Genocide, and not use evasive or euphemistic terminology to appease the Turkish government.
  13. The Denial of Genocide is a form of aggression. It continues the process of genocide. it strives to reshape history in order to rehabilitate the perpetrators and demonize the victims. It prevents healing of the wounds inflicted by genocide. Denying genocide is the final stage of genocide--it murders the dignity of the survivors and destroys the remembrance of the crime. The Turkish government's denial of the Armenian Genocide encourages--by its very nature--the current Neo-Nazi programs that deny the Jewish Holocaust, current Cambodian policies which seek to deny the genocide there in the 1970s, and every other program which seeks to deny genocide; and it threatens the meaning of the genocidal episodes that are currently occurring in Africa and the Balkans. The Turkish government's tactics pave the way for state-sponsored Holocaust and Genocide denial tactics in the future.

SIGNED:

  • Agha Shahid Ali (Poet; Professor of English, University of Massachusetts)

  • Michael Arlen (writer)

  • James Axtell (Professor of History, College of William and Mary)

  • Ben Bagdikian (Former Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, University of California at Berkeley)

  • Houston Baker (Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania)

  • Peter Balakian (Poet; Professor of English, Colgate University)

  • Kevork B. Bardakjian (Director, Armenian Studies Program, and Marie Manoogian Professor of Armenian Language and Literature, University of Michigan)

  • Mary Catherine Bateson (Professor of Anthropology, George Mason University)

  • Yehuda Bauer (Professor of Holocaust Studies, Hebrew University, Jerusalem)

  • Robert N. Bellah (Elliott Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley)

  • Bruce Berlind (Poet; Charles A. Dana Professor of English Emeritus, Colgate University)

  • Norman Birnbaum (University Professor, Georgetown University)

  • Robert Bly (Poet)

  • Peter Brooks (Professor of Comparative Literature, Yale University)

  • Coleman B. Brown (Professor of Religion, Colgate University)

  • Robert McAfee Brown (Professor of Theology and Ethics Emeritus, Pacific School of Religion)

  • Christopher Browning (Professor of History, Pacific Lutheran University)

  • Frederick Busch (Writer; Fairchild Professor of Literature, Colgate University)

  • Cathy Caruth (Professor of Comparative Literature, Emory University)
    Israel W. Charny (Director, Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide, Jerusalem)

  • Rev. William Sloane Coffin (Pastor Emeritus, Riverside Church, NYC)

  • Warren Cohen (Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland)

  • Peter Cowe (Associate Professor of Middle East Languages and Cultures, Columbia University)

  • Vahakn Dadrian (Director, Genocide Study Project, H.F. Guggenheim Foundation)

  • David Brion Davis (Sterling Professor of History, Yale University)

  • James Der Derian (Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts)

  • Diana Der Hovanessian (Poet)

  • Marjorie Housepian Dobkin (Writer)

  • Daniel Ellsberg (Writer)

  • Jean Bethke Elshtain (Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics, University of Chicago Divinity School)

  • Kai Erikson (Professor of Sociology, Yale University)

  • Raphael Ezekiel (Harvard School of Public Health; Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan)

  • Donald Fanger (Professor of Slavic & Comparative Literature and Harry Levin Professor of Literature, Harvard University)

  • Helen Fein (Executive Director, Institute for the Study of Genocide, John Jay College of Criminal Justice)

  • Ellen Fine (Professor of Comparative Literature Emerita, City University of New York)

  • Carolyn Forche (Poet; Professor of English, George Mason University)

  • Lawrence J. Friedman (Professor of History, Indiana University)

  • Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Professor of Afro-American Studies, Harvard University)

  • Carol Gilligen (Professor of Psychology, Harvard University)

  • Langdon Gilkey (Kenney Distinguished Visiting Professor of Theology, Georgetown University)

  • Allen Ginsberg (Poet; Distinguished Professor of English, Brooklyn College)

  • Vigen Guroian (Professor of Theology and Ethics, Loyola College)

  • Leo Hamalian (Professor of English Emeritus, The City College of New York)

  • Linda Hamalian (Professor of English, William Paterson College)

  • Jill Hamilton (Psychotherapist; Consultant in early childhood education)

  • Michael S. Harper (Poet; Boylston Professor of Rhetoric, Harvard University; Nobel Laureate)

  • Geoffrey Hartman (Sterling Professor of Comparative Literature, Yale University)

  • Seamus Heaney (Poet; Boylston Professor of Rhetoric, Harvard University; Nobel Laureate)

  • Judith Herman (Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School)

  • Marcie Hershman (Writer)

  • Raul Hilberg (Professor of Political Science Emeritus, University of Vermont)

  • Herbert Hirsh (Professor of Political Science, Virginia Commonwealth University)

  • Robert R. Holt (Emeritus Professor of Psychology, New York University)

  • Richard G. Hovannisian (Professor of Armenian and Near Eastern History, UCLA)

  • Neil R. Joy (Crashaw Professor of English, Colgate University)

  • Thomas Keenan (Assistant Professor of English, Princeton University)

  • Steven T. Katz (Professor of Jewish History and Thought, Cornell University)

  • Alfred Kazin (Writer)

  • Mark Levene (Instructor in History, Warwick University)

  • Denise Levertov (Poet)

  • Robert Jay Lifton (Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and The Graduate School of the City University of New York)

  • Deborah E. Lipstadt (Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies, Emory University)

  • John Mack (Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School)

  • Norman Mailer (Writer)

  • Eric Markusen (Professor of Sociology, Southwest State University, Minnesota)

  • Armen Marsoobian (Professor of Philosophy, Southern Connecticut University)

  • Askold Melnyczuk (Writer)

  • Robert Melson (Professor of Political Science, Purdue University)

  • Saul Mendlovitz (Dag Hammarskjold Professor, Rutgers Law School)

  • Tanya Miller (Writer)

  • Arthur Miller (Playwright)

  • Henry Morgenthau III (Writer)

  • Joyce Carol Oates (Writer)

  • Grace Paley (Writer)

  • Harold Pinter (Playwright)

  • Jack Nusan Porter (Director, Spenser Institute)

  • Francis B. Randall (Professor of History, Sarah Lawrence College)

  • Nicholas V. Riasanovsky (Sidney Hellman Professor of European History, University of California, Berkeley)

  • Leo P. Ribuffo (Professor of History, George Washington University)

  • David Rief (Writer)

  • David Riesman (Henry Ford II Professor of Social Science, Harvard University)

  • David Rush, M.D. (Professor of Nutrition, Community Health, and Pediatrics, Tufts University)

  • Nathan A. Scott (William R. Kenan Professor of Religous Studies Emeritus, University of Virginia)

  • Susan Sontag (Writer)

  • Bruce Smith (Poet)

  • Roger Smith (Professor of Government, College of William and Mary)

  • Max. L. Stackhouse (Stephen Colwell Professor of Christian Ethics, Princeton Theological Seminary)

  • Charles B. Strozier (Professor of History, John Jay College of Criminal Justice & The Graduate Center, City University of New York)

  • William Styron (Writer)

  • Ronald Suny (Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago)

  • Raymond Tanter (Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan)

  • Hunt Terrell (Professor of Philosophy, Colgate University)

  • Marilyn Thie (Professor of Religion, Colgate University)

  • Christopher Tilghman (Writer)

  • D.M. Thomas (Writer)

  • Khachig Tololyan (Professor of English, Wesleyan University)

  • Nancy Bernkopf Tucker (Professor of History, Georgetown University)

  • John Updike (Writer)

  • Kurt Vonnegut (Writer)

  • Derek Walcott (Poet, Professor of English, Boston University; Nobel Laureate)

  • Noel Walsh (Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, University College, Dublin, Ireland)

  • Wendy Wasserstein (Playwright)

  • Anita Weiner (Lecturer in Child Welfare, School of Social Work, Haifa University, Israel)

  • Eugene Weiner (Professor of Sociology, Haifa University, Israel) Cornel West (Professor of Philosophy & Religion, and African-American Studies, Harvard University)

  • John Wheatcroft (Writer; Professor of English, Bucknell University)

  • Nigel J. Young (Cooley Professor of Peace Studies and Professor of Sociology, Colgate University)

  • Howard Zinn (Professor Emeritus of History, Boston University)

(Institutional affiliations are for purposes of identification only)



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