On March 22 in Watertown, the National Association of Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) screened J. Michael Hagopian’s newest Armenian Genocide eyewitness documentary, “The River Ran Red,” before about 300 attendees.
A panel discussion afterward featured Hagopian, Clark University professor Taner Akcam, and MIT lecturer Bedross Der Matossian.
Akcam made several troubling statements which, though they may have seemed innocuous to the audience, implied the following, in my opinion: that Turkey and its regimes past and present bear no responsibility for the consequences of the genocide; that many more documents and archives must be opened and researched before the most important conclusions about the genocide can be reached; that genuine Turkish-Armenian rapprochement can occur before—or even in place of—sincere genocide acknowledgment and restitution; that so-called “reconciliation,” which he left undefined, is somehow a solution to past injustices; and that academicians should possess fluency in the Turkish language to participate in dialogue because Turkish is the leading language in genocide research.
These implications could not be directly challenged since audience members were not able to verbally ask questions. After written questions were collected, the moderator combined and sanitized them before orally presenting them to the panelists, who were then given the choice of whether or not to respond.
It is well known that Akcam does not believe in reparations for Armenians. Der Bedrossian did make a passing reference to reparations, but that was only because of written questions from audience members.
In holding this event, NAASR recognized that the Armenian Genocide is an important topic. But to what end? Aside from the obvious fact that Turkey does not acknowledge the genocide, is NAASR unaware that there are other aspects of the genocide that are relevant to present-day Armenia and Armenians?
There is nothing wrong with genocide study and research. But will incessant calls for further research be used to marginalize and delay for another 94 years the articulation and fulfillment of Armenian political demands emanating from the genocide?
If this event needed a panel, and I’m not sure that it did, and even if the audience had been allowed to ask direct questions, the panel should have been balanced with at least one person who could discuss the present-day implications of the genocide as well as legitimate Armenian demands.
I wonder if it has occurred to the directors of NAASR that Akcam, on behalf of the Turkish government, may be putting out feelers to test the climate for acceptance by the Armenian community of a limited acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide?
It is troubling to learn that Taner Akcam mentions that Armenians should not ask for reparations and land returns back to the Armenian Nation. Turkey not only committed Genocide of 2 million Armenians but emptied their historical homeland of 3 thousand years, not counting the millions she forcibly made Moslems. My father from the Provence of Shabin Kara Hissar from the Village of Sis, lost his wife, 3 Children, his father, mother, and many relative. My mother from the Provence of Erzerum lost her husband, 2 children, father & mother and all her relatives and was the only survivor from her Village of Goteh. Armenians must wake up and call their Senators & Congressman, as well as the President on his promises on recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
While the current Turkish government technically is not responsible for the genocide but it is responsible for the consequence of genocide, as the current German government is not responsible for Nazi era killings the current and past German governments shouldered the responsibility to meet its international obligations without denial. That is way, today when we discuss Holocaust and Germany, historians are carful to distinguish between the current and the past. I am surprised at Mr. Taner Akcam being a historian missed this point, or did he!
Kudos for your letter to the editor, “NAASR Panel Lacked Balance.” It seems that many times we are so eager to gain acceptance in connection with the Genocide, especially by Turks, that we drop our guard (if we had one, to begin with, and fall victim to ploys that we could have foreseen had we been more circumspect and cautious.
One rather simple question to those who dislike Akcam for not advocating land reparations (which would be equivalent to signing his own deaths entence): How many Genocide scholars of any nationality–who live comfortably in the US–do you know that believe in land reparations to Armenians (giving away the entire Anatolia)and have openly spoken out about it? Here’s another one: How many ARMENIAN scholars living in the comfort of their homes in the west have openly spoken about reclaiming Anatolia?
Just say it plainly, you hate Akcam because he is a Turk. And he causes problems by challenging your steryotypes of how a Turk should behave.
“Historic Commission” welcomed by Akcam