By Alin K. Gregorian
BELMONT, Mass. — Prof. Taner Akçam spoke to a packed audience at the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) on the post-World War I trials of Genocide perpetrators in Istanbul and other cities in Ottoman Turkey, part of a promotional tour of his new book, Judgment at Istanbul, a collaboration with Prof. Vahakn Dadrian.
The trials, which were astonishing when they took place, have confirmed what international scholars have known: that the Genocide and the forced marches of the Armenians were ordered by the government and that they were carried out at the orders of a central authority and not haphazardly, as many denialists maintain. However, almost immediately after they took place, the Young Turk government distanced itself from them, suggesting that the British High Command had pressured the sham trials to take place as part of Turkey’s punishment being in the losing side of World War I.
Judgment at Istanbul, published by Berghahn Books and supported by the Zoryan Institute, for the first time presents in English and analyzes the indictments and verdicts of the Turkish Military Tribunals. Two editions of the book are out now, one in Turkish, which runs to some 700 pages, and an English one, which is about half the length. (The reason for the briefer English edition is money, Akçam said, as translation costs are very high.)
“The idea for the book started with the first meeting with Vahakn Dadrian in 1990, my mentor,” Akçam said. During a conversation, he said, they realized that between the two of them, they had the complete set of the Takvim-i Vekâyi, the Ottoman official gazette, which documented the 12 Istanbul trials.
Soon after delving into the topic, he said, they realized that the trials did not take place only in Istanbul, but all over Anatolia.