President of Turkey Erdogan (photo Mikhail Palinchak, Wikimedia Commons, 2019)

Turkish Government Creates New Body to Deal with Armenian Genocide, Taner Akçam Comments


WORCESTER – The following is a statement by Armenian Genocide scholar Taner Akçam, holder of the Robert Aram, Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University, in connection with the recent step of the Turkish government to create a special body to deal with the Armenian Genocide issue. It is followed by the translation into English of an article on this step.

Akçam told the Mirror: “My statement is not about how to analyze the Turkish government’s initiative. My statement is only an effort to use Turkey’s attempt to underline a basic problem related to Armenian Genocide research here in the USA. Why Turkey is doing this is another very serious question.”

Statement of Taner Akçam on the Recent Decision of Turkish Government

According to a report in the June 23, 2020 edition of the Turkish Hürriyet daily, Turkey has taken the decision to establish “a new autonomous and civil institution” in order “to respond to the accusations of genocide and to develop a strategy [to counter them].” The decision was taken at the 5-hour meeting of the President’s High Advisory Board on June 16, 2020.

At the meeting it was determined that Turkey’s principal failing in this regard was that it did not possess a single institution to deal directly with the Armenian claims and develop a [counter-argument] and strategy” and that it “had not developed a comprehensive strategy.” Therefore, it was decided to form a new institution to address this shortcoming.

The “sole task” of this new organization would be to “view the various dimensions of the topic—such culture, history, propaganda, and law, not merely politics—as a whole.” Additionally, as part of the decision it was also stated that “the institution would be an autonomous and civil [society] initiative without direct connection to the government or state.”

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Ultimately, this news must be greeted with the acknowledgment of another, bitter truth: Today, in all of North America there does not exist a single research center or academic program at a university that deals solely or directly with the Armenian genocide or that has been created for this purpose.

There are approximately 250 programs at American universities devoted to studying the Holocaust. Some of these are simply research institutes. Against this background, the complete absence of such programs—research or otherwise—that deal directly and exclusively with the Armenian genocide is all the more marked and a bitter pill to swallow.

Let us again stress: apart from the devoted and priceless efforts of various independent and civil society Armenian institutions and individual scholars that make valuable contributions to Armenian Studies, including the study of the Armenian Genocide, there is no institutionalization within American academia of this field, and a relative paucity of research and studies. The biggest challenge for the further advancement of this field is the absence of institutional structures within American universities.

In the last years, at all events to which I have been invited, at all opportunities I have had to speak publicly I have dwelled at length on the need to “institutionalize” Armenian genocide research. I have highlighted the impossibility of responding effectively to the Turkey’s extensive and well-funded “denialist industry” without the existence of competing organizations or institutions. It would be foolish to assume that merely because we have the truth of historical facts on our side that this is the only factor determining who will prevail in the long run.

I wish I could say that my pleas have thus far fallen on fertile ground, but it has not been the case. Perhaps this latest initiative by the Turkish government will finally set off an alarm bell, one that allows others to see the critical importance of this matter.

Let’s hope that Ankara’s action will somehow drive home the urgency of the matter and rouse those concerned from their complacency. One of the most important ways to counter Turkish denialism and Turkey’s new initiative is precisely this: the institutionalization of Armenian genocide research within an academic setting.

Breaking News: President Erdogan Gave Instructions! Turkey Will Now Explain Itself Better

By Nuray Babacan

Translated from Turkish by Nurhan Becidyan

ANKARA (Hürriyet)– In order to respond to one of Turkey’s main foreign policy issues, i.e. allegations of genocide against Armenians, it was suggested to develop and form “a new autonomous and civilian structure.” This was the agenda of the High Advisory Board meeting, chaired by President Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan gave instructions for the necessary work after the briefing.

On the Beştepe Agenda

According to the information obtained, the proposal to develop a new strategy regarding the Armenian Genocide claims came up in the agenda three months ago when new lawsuits were filed in US courts by Armenians. However, the meeting was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak; it was held only in the past few weeks.

It Will Determine the New Strategy

The Presidential High Advisory Board was briefed by the creator of the proposal, Cemil Çicek, and Seyit Sertçelik, one of the presidential advisors. At the meeting, it was expressed that there is not a single institution that deals directly with the claims and develops strategy Turkey’s Armenian claims and arguments. It was also stated that depending on the topic, relevant ministries were engaged, but a holistic policy had not been developed.

It Can No Longer Be Brought to the Court of Justice

In the briefing, it was emphasized that the Armenian lobby had not brought the genocide allegations to the International Court of Justice due to the possibility of rejection, but recently had changed their strategy. It was stated that the lobbying efforts were being made to make it a crime against humanity instead of genocide. The report prepared with the participation of 5 universities was also discussed at the meeting. President Tayyip Erdoğan, while also participating in the proposals, ordered the completion of the work as soon as possible.

An Independent Institution Will Be Created

At the meeting, it was stated that this issue, which used to be followed by the NSC, was taken away from that institution after the amendment of law in 2015, and it was given to the Prime Ministry Recent History Research Center, and after the Prime Ministry was abolished this institution also remained functionless. It was stated that there is a need for an institution whose only job would be to look at the issue from all angles and not only politically, but also include cultural, history, propaganda and legal aspects. It has been decided that this institution will be an autonomous, independent civil structure that is not directly related to the government and the state.



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