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Hundreds Attend Akcam Lectures in Beirut

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BEIRUT, Lebanon (A.W.)—On Jan. 8, Taner Akcam, a Turkish historian and outspoken critic of Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide, gave a lecture titled “The Armenian Genocide as Part of a Demographic Policy” in the Aztag Daily newspaper’s “Punik” auditorium.

Akcam speaking at Aztag's 'Punik' auditorium

The event was attended by deputies of the Lebanese Parliament Nebil Nikola, Edgar Maalouf, Alen Aoun, Gassan Mukhayber, Nedim Jemayel, Farid, Khazen, and Hagop Pakraduni, Lebanon’s ARF Central Committee member Hovig Mkhitarian, as well as academics, professors, community leaders, students, and the general public.

The opening remarks were made by Vera Yakoubian, the ANC Middle East’s executive director, who noted that within the past few years, in the public, academic, and diplomatic spheres, Armenian-Turkish dialogue has become a central topic—not only for Armenians and Turks, but also for regional and international actors. Yakoubian added that despite the numerous documents signed between Armenia and Turkey, serious agreements cannot be reached as long as Turkey refuses to face its history, and does not take steps to neutralize the effects of the genocide.

Yakoubian introduced Akcam, noting that he is the author of 11 books and hundreds of articles that deal with the Ottoman Empire’s crimes, Turkey’s nationalistic politics, and the Armenian Genocide.

A scene from the audience

Turkey’s demographic policy was not solely directed at its Armenian population, began Akcam, since alongside the Armenians were other Christian peoples, non-Turkic Muslims, and Kurds, stalling Turkish plans. He noted that the demographic policy’s main goal was to create a homogeneous Turkish society, prompting the ruling party to apply various policies, examples of which are the displacements and deportations. Within one week, the homes of the deportees were repopulated by Muslims, while Armenian-owned lands and properties were either nationalized or sold (to create a wealthy class), and the financial resources were used to sponsor the war effort. These policies were not reactions to the war. They were carefully drafted plans, clearly mapped out, and with a pan-Islamic focus. The rulers of the Ottoman Empire were careful not to directly involve themselves in these policies; that way, masking the truth or blaming others would be an easier task. Their archives tell a different story, however.

Akcam concluded by expressing the need for Armenian-Turkish dialogue, and added that the case would not be solved through financial reparations alone. If reparations were given, he said, and Turkey continued to ignore the rights of its minorities, then essentially nothing will have changed. He spoke of the importance of justice and equality, maintaining that the murder of Hrant Dink was a failure for those he planned it, because his death marked the beginning of change, a struggle for minority rights and justice.

Lecture at the Catholicosate

Earlier that week, on Jan. 4 at the Catholicosate in Antelias, Akcam delivered his first lecture to the Lebanese Armenian community. Among those present were the Catholicos of Cilicia Aram I, religious and community leaders, parliamentarians, deputies, Lebanese and Armenian intellectuals, and activists.

Catholicos Aram I and Akcam

Akcam’s lecture, titled “The Turkish Recognition of the Armenian Genocide and Turkish National Security,” covered four main points. First, he explained that for Turkey, the issue of genocide recognition is in fact a matter of national security. Second, he recalled the words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, who referred to the events of 1915 as “this shameful act.” (Akcam interpreted those words as Kemal’s “confession,” which had been an opportunity for the Turkish government to take a step towards recognizing the genocide. Unfortunately, the Turkish government has so far been incapable of taking such a step; instead, they have taken steps backward.) Third, he pointed out that there are two ruling powers in Turkey, the army and the ruling elite. (For the Armenian Genocide to be properly recognized, the democratic elements in Turkey must be supported, he said.) Finally, Akcam noted that Turkey joining the European Union would in effect benefit the issue of genocide recognition, since members of the EU may pressure Turkey to accept its past. In conclusion, he restated that Turkey must recognize the Armenian Genocide and that any denial efforts hurt Turkey.

The closing remarks were made by Catholicos Aram I, who began by asking whether it was fathomable that there would come a day when the Armenian Catholicos, bearing the burden of the legacy of 1.5 million martyrs, would utter the closing remarks of a lecture by a Turkish intellectual, in that same holy Catholicosate where the bones of innocent victims lie in the world’s first memorial-chapel. The Catholicos, in this strange turn of events, saw a man (Taner Akcam) who was able to reject his government’s official stance, and through his writings, stand by the truth.

13 Comments on Hundreds Attend Akcam Lectures in Beirut

  1. I don’t think having an honest Turkish scholar talk about the Armenian Genocide
    to a largely Armenian audience is such a big deal anymore. It was a bid deal 10
    years ago but certainly not today. I think the next step which will be equally
    as challenging and beneficial for Armenians and Turks is to see honest Turkish
    scholars like Taner Akcam speak to largely Turkish audiences around the world.
    Basically promoting honest dialogue between Turkish scholars and the Turkish
    diaspora about ottoman history.

    Armenians in general have a better understanding of what happened in 1915 than
    the majority of Turks. I think more emphasis should be put on lectures geared
    towards Turks by Turks.

  2. avatar Shantagizoum // January 24, 2010 at 2:16 pm // Reply

    CORRECT!!!!

  3. avatar C.K. Garabed // January 24, 2010 at 3:06 pm // Reply

    “Akcam concluded by expressing the need for Armenian-Turkish dialogue, and added that the case would not be solved through financial reparations alone. If reparations were given, he said, and Turkey continued to ignore the rights of its minorities, then essentially nothing will have changed.”

    Previously, Akcam had ruled out financial reparations, recommending only moral reparations.
    It sounds from above that he has decided to admit of financial reparations. If so, he may have allayed suspicions as to his motives, and given his words more credibility.

  4. Garabed:
    Although I respect Dr. Akcam and his work, what he says about our rights to reparations never really influenced my understanding of my rights to our land. Irrespective of what is said, I understand my legal rights concerning Western Armenia and Dr. Ackam’s opinion on this matter never mattered to me. Who ever granted Dr. Ackam the permission to speak on behalf of my rights to my land?
    Obviously “financial reparations alone” will not solve all problems between Turks and Armenians. Financial reparations alone has never solved any other dispute between two parties in conflict and the Turkish-Armenian case in no different.
    Financial AND territorial reparations will and should be followed by a process of genuine reconciliation between both peoples. Thus reconciliation will not happen before justice is rendered. Anyone and any group that tries to skip the justice stage will fail.

  5. It is good that some Turks are acknowledging the Genocide.
    My concern, however, is that they are getting more popular, being listened to for their views, being invited to more venues, and having their views published, than are many Armenians who are dedicated to Hye Tahd.
    If the Armenians with something to say – and I don’t mean bought-off academicians and those getting their funding from organizations that are essentially hostile to Armenians (ICG, Soros, US, EU etc.) – are not being heard and the Turks are being heard, then something is very wrong.  We all know what is happening, I think:  Turks, the US State Department, and the pro-reconciliation Armenian crowd are essentially trying to downgrade Hye Tahd into being about genocide acknowledgment and ONLY genocide acknowledgment.
    We seem to be on a slippery slope that we cannot get off.  That slippery slope leads straight to a re-Ottomanization of Armenia, and in the Diaspora it leads to de-politicized future generations whose main interest is choreg recipes.

  6. The turks that acknowledge the Genocide are few. There is Orhan Pamuk, Dr Akcam, some journalists the likes of Ayse Gunaysu, Eren Keskin, Amberin Zaman etc etc. These turks are all my heroes, because they talk and walk the truth. I call them “Righteous Turks,” and highly respect them. Pamuk for one, the poor guy was crucified for mentioning the Armenian Genocide and the mistreatment of my Kurdish people.
    How about the 59,999,994 million remaining turks?
    They all are in the “denialists” camp.
    Ferhat

  7. It seems Akcam, like any other good peddler of goods, adjusts his messege to maximize the customer base.  It is easy to listen to an echo chamber, the challenge is to listen to other views.  He seems to have excelled at letting Armenian crowds hear what is music to their ears.

    The fact is Akcam’s messege was heard by a large number of Turks and it was not convincing for one good reason above all: it was not true.  It was at best a point of view, not a fact.  It is a common fantasy on these pages that majority of  Turks are kept in the dark about facts related to this topic and that is why there is a disgreement, supposedly becasue they are ill informed.  From my observations so far, I can safely say it is Armenians who are in general deprived of unpleasant facts about their recent history and deeds. 

    Of course there are episodes and policies in the history of the Turkish Republic that are objectionable and unacceptable and Turks will be better off accepting responsibilty and took steps, even if symbolic, to rectify them.  Mythical genocides a century old is not one of them.

  8. Well, guess what, Murat…I’ve been to Turkey, I’ve talked w/ literally hundreds of people, at all levels of society, in many parts of the country, not as an Armenian, but as an American….and, when I asked, virtually every one of them told me that ‘everyone in Turkey knows what happened to the Armenians; that the government was responsible’. Now, you may want to perpetuate the lies and the racist fantasies of those who carried out and masterminded the genocide, but you should at least acknowledge that you are supporting a band of convicted criminals who were sentenced for their crimes. The members of the CUP who acted against the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire, were not unlike those in Israel today, who are conducting ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians, or those in the Turkish military who have destroyed 3000 Kurdish villages across Anatolia during the last 30 years or the Nazis who destroyed yet another minority group they decided – after hundreds and hundreds of years – they did not like and whose land they decided to steal once they were gone.    The  sad, underlying fiction is that Turkey itself is a fiction…a stage-set, built on a foundation of stolen cultures and erased peoples, and replaced with a hollow shell, a facade, with very little reality behind it.

  9. You really think “tehcir” took place because Ottomans did not “like” Armenians?  And you attempt to set others straight?  It does not matter how many times you go there and speak to people, if you do not remove your blinders, nothing changes.  Hate and bitterness are permenant blinders.  You listen to an echo chamber and look into a mirror hall and then pretend to have a grasp of reality. Why don’t you actually go and find out what Armenians did to Ottomans and to their country and state, I mean for real.  It happened because Ottoman developed a dislike of Armenians!?  What a joke.  How pathetic, really. 

  10. Look Murat, why don’t you tell me what Armenians ‘did to Ottomans’, and why don’t you ever talk about what the Ottomans did to the Armenians?  The idea that a minority group with no real power could actually do something to the imperial power of the Ottomans is a bit ridiculous.  You also completely refuse to acknowledge that Armenians were an essential part of the history of Anatolia, from the beginning, and that it was their land, their country. The Ottomans, from the beginning, were the invaders, just as the US is the invader in Iraq and Afghanistan: they will never be fully welcomed there by the natives. As the ultimate rulers, the Ottomans had full responsibility to take care of those they ruled, and they actually did it quite well for a very long time, but towards the end, a group of Ottoman nutcases (yes, the policy and decision-makers) decided that pursuing endless wars (thus bankrupting the empire) made more sense than anything else, and when it went badly, felt threatened by their own citizens and sought to blame them for all the ills created by the ruling party’s actions. You also ignore that Armenians had no government, they had no army, they had almost no legal rights at all for hundreds of years. The Armenians did not allow the Ottomans to lose huge chunks of the empire, those acts were all attributable to other factors, yet Armenians seem to get blamed for every ill that hit the Ottoman Empire. There is no hate, but there is a recognition of supreme stupidity. The Turks of the Ottoman Empire allowed themselves to be taken over by a group of criminals and then by another quasi-Turkish fascist, known as Ataturk.  I feel sorry for real Turks, as they’ve been used and abused quite a bit, most recently by their own racist, facsist military, which is something else you can’t blame on Armenians.  Anyone who abuses their own fellow citizens the way the Turkish military has during the 20th C. is as hateful and criminal as those who carried out the genocide of the Armenians. Just because they’ve had billions of dollars in support from the US doesn’t make them nice people, to the contrary, they are criminals, and hopefully, the Turkish people will rise up against their own persecutors, who have lied to the people and committed crimes for many, many years. Who are these people?  Instead of being angry about Armenians who need and want the Turkish govt to stop lying about history, you should be much more angry about an evil force within Turkey that has worked very hard to undermine freedom and justice for the Turkish people. Forget the Armenians, you have your hands full with your own countrymen.  

     

  11. Hye, Murat, too is a prime example of Turkish citizens who have been mislead, lied to and are unable to comprehend that their Turkish leaders, in addition to their lies, denying the Turkish Genocide of the Armenian nation, brazenly – before the civilized world, have been lying to their own citizens via their educational system….  Murat has been educated from Turkish history books which have omissions to suit the lies their own leaderships hides from their own Turkish citizens!  Actually, pity Murat.  Or, he just wants to hear what he believes is the truths – sadly.  Civilized nations, Archives of many nations reflect the words recorded by citizens who were witnesses to the horrors and vile treatments of humans by the inhuman Turk; also, the International Genocide organizations, and in the USA, 43 of the 50 states have voted to recognize the Genocide of the Armenians (but sadly our president is politically detoured by the Turkish leaders – and can’t see the issue of Genocide as a moral issue.  So, Murat, you can rave and rant, but the truths of the Turkish Genocide of the Armenian nation is historically recorded – truths.  Yet, there are many in Turkey who are speaking out, bravely, who know of the Turkish Genocide of the Armenian nation… perhaps you shall seek them and if you are able,  learn these historical events… the Ottoman Turks perpetrated the Armenian Genocide and all the subsequent Turkish leaderships have lied all these years – to themselves, to the world and  you! To seek these truths will take courage, and more… only, if you are able.   Manooshag

  12. As Mr. Erdoğan recalled last week: “Seeing one’s own citizens as a threat, categorizing them into different camps and devising plots in that direction are things from another century. This is not worthy of a modern country or an advanced understanding of democracy.”   If nothing else, this is good news from Turkey.

  13. Karekin,

    I have not ignored your previous request but I had written about this numerous times.  What did Armenians do?  Anything in the archives or I would or a neutral historian would say means nothing to the brain-washed, so I will quote here verbatim what two very prominent Armenian historical personalities said.  These were men who were in the middle of it all and did not yet anticipate the genocide myth industry to blossom in due time, so there is a pleasant honesty in their statements.  You will not find much reference to these in your tradition propganda material.  So listen up!

    Hovannes Katchznouni was the first prime minister of Republic of Armenia.  He was a prominent Dashnak leader.  His manifesto he presented in the Dashnak congress in 1923 is an excellent summary of the state of the affairs of Armenians and also a good insiders view of Armenian efforts going back decades to undermine and participate in the destruction of the Ottoman Empire, homeland of so many Armenians.  Full text is below:

    http://louisville.edu/a-s/history/turks/Katchaznouni.pdf

    Here are the parts I would like you to really absorb:

    “It would be useless to argue today whether our bands of volunteers should have entered the field
    or not. Historical events have their irrefutable logic. In the Fall of 1914 Armenian volunteer bands
    organized themselves and fought against the Turks because they could not refrain themselves from
    organizing and refrain themselves from fighting. This was in an inevitable result of a psychology on which
    the Armenian people had nourished itself during an entire generation: that mentality should have found its
    expression, and did so.
    And it was not the A.R.F. that would stop the movement even if it wished to do so. It was able to
    utilize the existing conditions, give effect and issue to the accumulated desires, hopes and frenzy, organize
    the ready forces – it had that much ability and authority. But to go against the current and push forward its
    own plan – it was unfit, especially unfit for one particular reason:
    instinct but weak in comprehension.”
    Also:

    “The Winter of 1914 and the Spring of 1915 were the periods of greatest enthusiasm and hope for
    all the Armenians in the Caucasus, including, of course, the Dashnagtzoutiun. We had no doubt that the
    war would end with the complete victory of the Allies; Turkey would be defeated and dismembered, and
    its Armenian population would at last be liberated.
    We had embraced Russia whole-heartedly without any compunction. Without any positive basis
    of fact we believed that the Tzarist government would grant us a more-or-less broad self-government in the
    Caucasus and in the Armenian vilayets liberated from Turkey as a reward for our loyalty, our efforts and
    assistance.
    We had created a dense atmosphere of illusion in our minds. We had implanted our own desires

    into the minds of others;

     

    we had lost our sense of reality and were carried away with our dreams.”
     

     

    Also here is the letter of one of the prominent leaders of the Armenians, Bogos Nubar Pasa, an Ottoman citizen, sent to the Allies and newspapers in the West, to make a case for inclusion in the Lausanne Conference, on the opposite side of the Ottoman delegates, among the Western powers trying to exctract thast few concessions from the new Turkish Republic:
     
    The name of Armenia is not on the list of the nations admitted to the Peace Conference. Our sorrow and our disappointment are deep beyond expression. Armenians naturally expected their demand for admission to the Conference to be conceded, after all they had done for the common cause.   The unspeakable sufferings and the dreadful losses that have befallen the Armenians by reason of their faithfulness to the allies are now fully known.  But I must emphasize the fact, unhappily known to few, that ever since  the beginning of the war the Armenians fought by the side of the Allies on all fronts. Adding our losses in the field to the greater losses through massacres and deportations, we find that over a million out of a total Armenian population of four million and a half have lost their lives in and through the war.  Armenia’s tribute to death is thus undoubtedly heavier in proportion than that of any other belligerent nation. For the Armenians have been belligerents de facto, since they indignantly refused to side with Turkey. Our volunteers fought in the French ‘Legion Etrangere’ and covered themselves with glory. In the Legion d’Orient they numbered over 5,000, and made up more than half the French contingent in Syria and Palestine, which took part in the decisive victory of General Allenby.
    In the Caucasus, without mentioning  the 150,000 Armenians in the Russian armies, about 50,000 Armenian volunteers under Andranik, Nazarbekoff, and others not only fought for four years for the cause of the Entente, but after the breakdown of Russia they were the only forces in the Caucasus to resist the advance of the Turks, whom they held in check until the armistice was signed 
    The name of Armenia is not on the list of the nations admitted to the Peace Conference. Our sorrow and our disappointment are deep beyond expression. Armenians naturally expected their demand for admission to the Conference to be conceded, after all they had done for the common cause.   The unspeakable sufferings and the dreadful losses that have befallen the Armenians by reason of their faithfulness to the allies are now fully known.  But I must emphasize the fact, unhappily known to few, that ever since  the beginning of the war the Armenians fought by the side of the Allies on all fronts. Adding our losses in the field to the greater losses through massacres and deportations, we find that over a million out of a total Armenian population of four million and a half have lost their lives in and through the war.  Armenia’s tribute to death is thus undoubtedly heavier in proportion than that of any other belligerent nation. For the Armenians have been belligerents de facto, since they indignantly refused to side with Turkey. Our volunteers fought in the French ‘Legion Etrangere’ and covered themselves with glory. In the Legion d’Orient they numbered over 5,000, and made up more than half the French contingent in Syria and Palestine, which took part in the decisive victory of General Allenby.
    In the Caucasus, without mentioning  the 150,000 Armenians in the Russian armies, about 50,000 Armenian volunteers under Andranik, Nazarbekoff, and others not only fought for four years for the cause of the Entente, but after the breakdown of Russia they were the only forces in the Caucasus to resist the advance of the Turks, whom they held in check until the armistice was signed”

    Is there anything to add to the above?  Most of these people were born and raised Ottoman citizens, they held high posts in the Ottoman government and state!  Given the massive and mortal threat Armenians presented, it is even commendable and remarkable how tolerant and accomodating the Ottoman policies were.  I am sure very little of this will penetrate.  Facts are no match to the power of myths.

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