By Daphne Abeel
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Something unprecedented happened at Harvard University’s Tsai Auditorium on the night of Monday, November 16. A capacity audience of 200 that included, among others, members of the Armenian community, Turkish students and Henry Morgenthau, the grandson of US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire of the same name, heard Hasan Cemal, the grandson of Cemal Pasha, one of the three architects of the Armenian Genocide, acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
The forum, titled “Armenian-Turkish Reconciliation: Routes through Empowerment,” was moderated by Pamela Steiner (great-granddaughter of Ambassador Henry Morgenthau), senior fellow at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and Eileen Babbitt, professor of practice in international conflict management, at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, at Tufts University.
In addition to Cemal, the speakers included Asbed Kotchikian of Bentley University and Yektan Turkyilmaz of Duke University. The event was co-sponsored by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the University Committee on Human Rights Study and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. Taner Akçam, professor of Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University, joined the panel for the question-and-answer period. Jennifer Leaning introduced the program.
Tension and emotion were palpable as the audience, in total silence, heard Cemal, whose grandfather ordered the killing of thousands of Armenians, detail his journey towards recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Detailing his family background, Cemal reviewed his family roots. His grandfather was born on the island of Lesbos and his grandmother came from Greek Macedonia. On his mother’s side, his grandfather was Circassian and his grandmother was from Georgia. His father was born in Salonika, and Cemal himself was born in Istanbul in 1944.
“Cemal Pasha was the story in our family,” said Cemal. “We heard about the First World War and how the Armenians cooperated with the enemy. They had to be deported. The same story was circulated not only in the family, but in the schools.”