KIGALI, Rwanda — A groundbreaking conference titled “Genocide and Denial: The Armenian, Jewish and Tutsi Genocide” was hosted by and held at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in con- junction with the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG), on July 17 and 18.
The center houses a museum that includes exhibits on the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, as well as genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia and Darfur. The two-day con- ference featured papers by scholars from the US, Europe and Rwanda. Its primary focus was the analysis of denial in the aftermath of genocide.
The Rwandan media covered the conference and the Rwandan New Times ran a feature article on the program.
The master of ceremonies and conference co-organizer, playwright Bianca Bagatourian, called the conference to order on July 17, noting that many things, including “the legacies of denial perpetrated by the Turkish state, anti- Semitic groups and Hutu nationalists, connect the three unambiguous cases of genocide in the 20th century.” Because denial is always an issue following geno- cide, Jean-Pierre Karegeye, Tom Ndahiro, Jose Kagabo and Hadley Rose, all discussed various dimensions of denial in Rwanda today. Rose discussed the problems that arise in drafting geno- cide ideology laws.
Noted Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt emphasized at the conference that: “Denial of genocide, whether that of the Turks against the Armenians, or the Nazis against the Jews, or the Hutu against the Tutsi, is not an act of histor- ical reinterpretation. Rather, the deniers sow confusion by appearing to be engaged in a genuine scholarly effort. The abundance of documents and testi- monies that confirm the genocide are dismissed as contrived, coerced, or forgeries and falsehoods… Denial of genocide strives to reshape history in order to demonize the victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators.” Conference co-organizer Peter Balakian later stated that “denialism is the final stage of genocide, as it attempts to falsify history and create a counterfeit universe for the survivors and their legacies, and it must be studied and analyzed in order to be exposed for the ethical problems it creates.”
The conference included a combination of lectures and presentations that dealt with facets of genocide and dimensions of denial. Among the speakers and their lectures were Balakian, of Colgate University, who spoke about “The Armenian Genocide and Modernity” and “A Fetishized Foreign Policy: Turkish State Denial of the Armenian Genocide;” Dr. José Kagabo, of Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, “On Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda: Different Forms of Denial,” Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, of Emory University, on “To Debate or Not To Debate: Strategies for Addressing Genocide Denial — Like Trying To Nail a Blob of Jelly to the Wall;” Dr. Donald Miller of the University of Southern California on “The Role of Survivor Testimony in Countering Genocide Denial: Comparing Oral History Testimony of Armenian and Tutsi Genocide Survivors;” and Dr. Gregory Stanton of George Mason University on “Tactics of