WORCESTER, Mass. — Even as the eyewitnesses of the Armenian Genocide are almost all gone in the century since its formal launch, the paper trail is still yielding new information. One historian, Prof. Taner Akçam at Clark University, is doggedly pursuing tangible evidence by sifting through archives.
His latest finding, a “smoking gun,” as it has been dubbed by many, is a telegram sent on July 4, 1915 by Behaeddin Shakir, one of the leading members of the Committee for Union and Program (CUP) and the chief of the Teshkilat –i-Mahsusa of Erzurum province. It asks “Are the Armenians who were deported from there being liquidated? Are the troublesome individuals whom you have reported as having been exiled and expelled been eliminated or merely sent off and deported? Please report honestly.”
What was new, Akçam said, was that the document was written on official Ottoman letterhead.
Akçam found this telegram in the archives of the late Very Rev. Krikor Guerguerian, preserved by his nephew.
Many historians, Akçam explained, including eminent Genocide scholar Prof. Vahakn Dadrian, had long known about the existence of such orders and written extensively about them. Genocide deniers, however, suggested they were fake as the originals were not found.
“It is a very well-known telegram,” Akçam said from his office at Clark on Thursday. “We had known the existence of the telegram. It had been repeated in various sources, including in the indictment of 1919, when it had been submitted by the prosecutor’s office as evidence.”