Robert Fisk: 40 Years of Journalism in the Middle East

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BOSTON — In honor of its 85th anniversary, the Armenian Mirror-Spectator will host a symposium titled “Journalism and Fake News: The Armenian Genocide and Karabakh” at Wellesley College on November 2, which is free and open to the public.

This panel discussion will begin with journalist Robert Fisk. Fisk is a British columnist and correspondent for The Independent and an outspoken proponent of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. He has written on this topic often in The Independent and in his book, The Great War for Civilisation (2005). Fisk is a seven-time recipient of the British Press Awards’ International Journalist of the Year and a two-time winner of the British Press Awards’ Reporter of the Year. Based in Beirut, he has lived in the Middle East for more than 40 years.

A cross between a correspondent, writer, and historian, Fisk is able to report on the Middle East with deep historical context. He got his start in journalism at Lancaster University, where he wrote for the student magazine. He later received his PhD in political science from Trinity College in Dublin.

No stranger to covering conflict, Fisk started his career reporting in Northern Ireland in 1972 as a Belfast correspondent for The Times of London. Fisk then moved to the Middle East where he has lived and worked covering many of the wars there, including the Lebanese Civil War, the Gulf War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Arab Spring, etc.

Fisk steps directly into the affected areas and speaks to those on the front lines. This deep connection with local communities has gained him credibility that far exceeds that of the average journalist who stops by for a brief visit to cover an issue.

As a self-proclaimed “Ottoman Correspondent,” Fisk has written often and forcefully about the Turkish government’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. In October 2016, Fisk published a moving article titled “A Beautiful Mosque and the Dark Period of the Armenian Genocide,” bringing to light the construction of a mosque in Gaziantep or Antep on the former site of the 19th-century Armenian Holy Mother of God Cathedral.

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Fisk prefers to call the events that befell the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire and later the Republic of Turkey as “The Armenian Holocaust.” In addition to renaming the Genocide, Fisk suggests that Armenians fight denialism following the Jewish tradition and honor the noble Turks who put their own lives and those of their families by saving countless Armenian neighbors and friends. One of his favorite quotes when speaking about this subject is “Honour the good Turks. Alas, everyone claps. And does nothing.”

He has not escaped unscathed during his many years of being in political hotspots. In December 2001, Fisk was in Pakistan to cover the Afghan border situation. During a long car ride between the Pakistani city of Quetta and the border town of Chaman, Fisk faced a crowd of several hundred Afghani refugees. During this face-off, Fisk was attacked with rocks and brutally kicked. Through the kindness of a local, Fisk escaped more serious harm and was brought to a Red Cross convoy where he was treated. In Fisk’s own words, “I couldn’t see for the blood pouring down my forehead and swamping my eyes. And even then, I understood. I couldn’t blame them for what they were doing. In fact, if I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find.”

For 40 years Fisk has been an important part of international journalism. In addition to addressing journalism and Armenians at the symposium on Thursday, November 2, Fisk will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Armenian Mirror-Spectator at the gala celebrating its 85th anniversary on November 3 at the Boston Marriott Newton.

For more information about the events or to purchase tickets, call Aram Arkun at 617-924-4420.