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Former IAGS President Writes Letter to Tate Gallery on Genocide Denial

Below is a letter the former president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) sent to the director and curator of the Tate Gallery, noting that “is beneath the dignity of the Tate Gallery to succumb to the pressure of genocide deniers for any reason.”

***

Sir Nicholas Serota, Director, The Tate Gallery
Mr. Matthew Gale, Curator, The Tate Gallery

Dear Sir Nicholas Serota and Mr. Gale,

It has come to my attention that the Tate Gallery has responded to massive pressure from the Turkish denialist lobby and has posted a disclaimer about the use of the term “genocide” in the materials accompanying the Tate’s excellent Arshile Gorky exhibit.

As the immediate past president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (the major body of genocide scholars in the world), founding President of Genocide Watch, and Professor of Genocide Studies and Prevention at George Mason University, I must request that the disclaimer be immediately removed from the exhibit.  It contains statements that are untrue.  It is beneath the dignity of the Tate Gallery to succumb to the pressure of genocide deniers for any reason.

The term genocide is not only “emotive,” as you have noted, but more importantly, it is a scholarly and legal term and it applies fully to the Turkish mass killing of the Armenians. Britain’s own internationally respected Queen’s Council, Sir Geoffrey Robinson, stated in a report of October 2009 that from an international legal perspective, “the treatment of the Armenians in 1915 answers to the description of genocide.”

Contrary to the statement in your disclaimer, the British government has never stated that it has “found no pre-meditation and that, therefore, the wartime events of 1915 do not constitute a ‘genocide’ in the legal definition.”  In fact the House of Lords in 1915, using evidence from a report written by Lord Bryce and the great historian Arnold Toynbee, accused the Ottoman Empire of “making government by massacre part of their political system,” and of “systematically exterminating a whole race out of their domain.”

British Foreign Ministers Arthur Balfour and Lord Curzon, and Prime Minister David Lloyd George were instrumental in creating the tribunals that convicted the Young Turk triumvirate—Talat, Enver, and Jemal—of “massacres of hundreds of thousands of their own subjects” which reduced the Armenian population “by well over a million.”

The trials of these “crimes against humanity,” as the British government called them, proved the key charge of “pre-meditated mass murder.”  The triumvirate was convicted and sentenced to death.  Their crimes precisely fit the modern definition of genocide.

So the statement in your disclaimer that “the British Government has found no pre-meditation and that, therefore, the wartime events of 1915 do not constitute a ‘genocide’ in the legal definition” IS FALSE.  The disclaimer must be removed from the exhibit.

What strikes genocide scholars as most important to note is that the Polish legal scholar Raphael Lemkin coined the term genocide in large part on the basis of the Turkish mass killing of the Armenians in 1915.  Lemkin’s determination to get the United Nations to adopt the Genocide Convention was first shaped by the Armenian Genocide, as he notes in his own memoir, and then was realized after the Holocaust.  Lemkin, who invented the term “genocide,” was the first legal scholar to use the term “Armenian Genocide.” Every scholarly book on genocide has a section on the Armenian Genocide. The International Association of Genocide Scholars has repeatedly and unanimously passed resolutions affirming that the massacres of Armenians constituted “genocide.”

I realize that the Tate Gallery has been put under pressure by the Turkish government to post its disclaimer, and I respect the difficulties this pressure presents for the Gallery. Nevertheless I suggest that if you must post a statement by the gallery, that you revise your statement so it is in accord with the facts.  Language such as the following might accomplish your purpose:

“While the British government for various reasons has never officially used the term genocide in its description of the mass killings of Armenians in 1915, it is important to note that Raphael Lemkin, the legal scholar who coined the term genocide did so in large part on the basis of the Ottoman government’s extermination of the Armenians in 1915. The International Association of Genocide Scholars, the largest body of genocide scholars in the world, has repeatedly affirmed that the scholarly record and the legal and archival evidence prove that genocide is the accurate and necessary term to describe the mass killings of the Armenians. It is for these reasons that we have described the massacres as ‘widely held to be genocide.’”

Thank you for your time and consideration.  I hope to hear from you.  I would be happy to discuss this issue with you.  My phone number is 1-703-448-0222, and my e-mail address is genocidewatch@aol.com.

Sincerely,
Professor Gregory Stanton
Immediate Past President, International Association of Genocide Scholars
Founding President, Genocide Watch
Professor of Genocide Studies and Prevention, George Mason University, USA

16 Comments on Former IAGS President Writes Letter to Tate Gallery on Genocide Denial

  1. Ever notice how non-Armenians like Stanton have more guts and principle than most Armenians?

  2. I agree with you Dave.. and hence that is the sad part…

    Gayane

  3. Balakian and Atom Egoyna have been very active behind the scenes trying to change the wording back to the original without the ludicrous disclaimer.

  4. yikes, meant to write “Egoyan”.

  5. It is not that Armenian’s have no guts to speak out, it is because what ever they say sounds byes and not credible, because of the fact that they are Armenians.
    My own grand mother was a little girl who lost all her family and had to flea to Iran, in order to escape persecution by Turkish government, not for any crime but only for being an Armenian.
    It is because of all the Armenian’s and their hard work that people are becoming familiar With the word genocide as well as Armenian’s. Any effort however little is better than none at all.
    I know as an Armenian stock in England I can not even find Armenian’s to talk to let alone being able to speak up for genocide. Therefore I value all the efforts (however little) that the others make.
    Seda Vartanian
     

  6. Whenever I talk to other Armenians, we always mourn the fact that the biggest obstacle to achieving our future goals is not Turkey, the US, Moscow, or Israel.   It’s Armenia itself, or rather, I should say, its “leaders”.    Corrupt, inarticulate, deaf, dumb, blind, back-stabbing, and in so many ways de-nationalized.

  7. Dave,
     
    I have to agree with you. That’s an argument that I myself often use. On the other hand, what can you possibly expect from ‘leaders’ who broke from a totalitarian, undemocratic regime just 18 years ago and from a nation whose most recent statehood ended in the 14th century? Hardly any new state formation acted differently that new Armenia. Of course, there’s an element of national characteristics and mentality to this, but that, too, comes from the lack of state mentality, oppression by foreign powers, constrained geographical location, and tragedies that left an indelible mark on our psyche. This is not a justification to the behavior of the present leadership, but just an attempt to widen the picture.
     
    I think the Diasporan Armenians need to start exploring ways to engage more actively in Armenia and thus influence the domestic politics, utilizing their political and economic capital, as well as democratic way of life that they experienced in the West. Otherwise, it’ll take a long time for truly national leaders, public-spirited and honorable individuals to become leaders in Armenia. Note also that foreign power centers are essentially not interested to see such leaders in smaller states: they need spineless, de-nationalized thugs susceptible to political influence and control.

  8. Dave and Armen.. You both are absolutely correct.

    Dave you are correct to say that we are our own enemy.. Until we walk, talk, think, act and win as one unitied body, many matters will not get accomplished to our satisfaction..

    Armen you are correct in saying that Diaspora needs to find ways to be more involved and have more influence in ARmenia.. This is an absolute necessity.  I wish that we had the power to vote for our officials in Armenia..

    Gayane

  9. I agree with the sentiments here.
    Gayane – good point about voting.
    Seda – Are you in London?  What about an Armenian church or something where you can attend?
     

  10. I sent a letter to the Tate, and received a reply from a Ms. Charlotte Ashworth.

    Both are below my email and her reply.    I replied to her after this exchange, but I am not including that here.

    From: Charlotte.Ashworth@tate.org.uk

    Dear David, 

    Thank you for taking the time to email us your comments regarding the insert included with the exhibition guide for Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective. I am very sorry to hear that the content upset you. 
    The statement does not deny the Armenian genocide, but clarifies the terms used in the wall texts. No offence is intended in stating the findings of either the British Government and the European Parliament.   
    I am very sorry once again if the statement caused you any upset, we treat your views very seriously and, in touching upon these very difficult issues, there was no intention to cause offence.
    Yours sincerely
    Charlotte Ashworth
    Charlotte Ashworth
    Information Manager | Tate Modern
    0207 401 5179, 07816 138 908

    Dear Tate gallery director and public relations director:
     
    Your Gorky writeup calls into question the factuality of the Armenian genocide of 1915 to 1923 that was committed by Turkey.
     
    This is wrong of you.
     
    By doing so, you are actually insulting the memory of the brave British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in WW 1 fighting the Turks and who tried to stop the war and thus put an end to the Armenian genocide. 
     
    You are also desecrating the memory of those British statemen, including Winston Churchill, who condemned the genocide of the Armenians. 
     
    You truly are spitting on the graves of all these fine people.  
     
    Those of the British public who know these things surely do not appreciate your stance.
     
    I would like to hear your response by email.
     
    Sincerely,
    David …

  11. WOW Dave..

    Is that what you go back? Really??? Is that all she could say???

    I am going to send an e-mail to her as well.. This is pure disgrace and disrespect..

    Makes me soooooooooooooooooooo pissed ….

    Thank you for sharing.. this truly shows how much one can dismiss the truth.. truly a tragedy…

    Gayane

  12. avatar Nevdon Pasha // May 1, 2010 at 2:21 pm // Reply

    Dear Sir Nicholas Serota, Director, and Mr. Gale, Curator, Tate Gallery of London:
    The decision of the Tate Gallery to submit to pressures by the Turkish denialist lobby to disclaim and/or retract the word “Genocide” in materials connected with the Arshile Gorky exhibit is not only irresponsible, it is morally reprehensible. It contradicts the very purpose of museums and art galleries, which is to preserve, revere, and promulgate the historic truth that forms the basis — indeed the essence — of the works they display. Arshile Gorky was a survivor of the Ottoman-perpetrated genocide against the Armenian people, and its effects on his psyche became manifested in the melancholy, somber, and even tragic character of his work. Therefore your decision to drop any reference to the genocide dishonors the memory of this incredible artist whose very works you are exhibiting. Moreover, it shamelessly collaborates with ongoing Turkish efforts to erase the memory of the Armenian people, indeed to eradicate their history and culture, a ‘fine deed’ for people who purport to be custodians of the arts.
    Nevdon Pasha
    Response to my letter to the London Tate Gallery by Charlotte Ashworth, Information Officer at the Tate:
    Dear (Nevdon)
    Thank you for taking the time to record your comments regarding the insert included with the exhibition guide for Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective. I am very sorry to hear that the content upset you.
    The statement does not deny the Armenian genocide, but clarifies the terms used in the wall texts. No offence is intended in stating the findings of either the British Government and the European Parliament.
    I am very sorry once again if the statement caused you any upset, we treat your views very seriously and, in touching upon these very difficult issues, there was no intention to cause offence.
    Yours sincerely
    Charlotte Ashworth

  13. Nevdon.. I just read your e-mail and the response..

    It seems this woman is using cookie cutter approach to this matter.. Every single e-mail that goes out to her, she responds the same way..

    I am going to wait for my response… and see if she uses the same thing..

    SHAME ON YOU CHARLOTTE and LONDON”S TATE GALLERY…

    Armenian Weekly.. please do us a favor and send all  of our responses to the gallery and make sure they read every single one..

    I can’t express how disgusted am I with them right now.. It is embarrassing and shameful.. SHAME ON  LONDON”S TATE GALLERY…

    Gayane

  14. I sent a letter to Tate with cc: to Greg Stanton. I never received a response from Tate. Below are my letter and a short note from Greg:
    — Dear Sir Nicholas Serota and Mr Gale,
    I have learnt with profound sadness that Tate Gallery’s webpage on Arshile Gorky’s exhibit contains an outrageous disclaimer about the use of the term ‘genocide.’
    As a historian specializing in the actions of the British government during its presence in Transcaucasus in early 20th century, I consider it undignified for Tate to succumb to the pressure of Armenian genocide deniers whereas British own archives and libraries, such as the British Library, British Foreign Office Records, House of Lords Record Office, and National Archives of the United Kingdom, as well as hundreds of relevant personal archives and papers, such as Oliver Wardrop Papers and Wardrop Collection at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, attest unequivocally that the treatment of Christian Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 was race extermination and massacres en masse.
    Great Britain’s own House of Lords in 1915, using evidence from a report submitted by Lord Bryce and Arnold Toynbee, accused the Ottoman Empire of “systematically exterminating a whole race out of their domain.” Remarks by British Foreign Secretaries Arthur Balfour and Lord Curzon, and Prime Ministers David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill have been documented as to acknowledge and criticize the genocidal practices of the Turks. Polish Jew Raphael Lemkin has coined the term genocide on the basis of the Turkish annihilation of the Armenians in 1915-1921.
    It is deplorable for the Tate Gallery to submit to the pressure by Turkish lobbying groups to post the disclaimer considering the fact that some 28 countries of the world, the European Parliament, the International Association of Genocide Scholars, 44 state legislatures in the United States of America, as well as scores of human rights organizations, advocacy groups, individual historians, genocide scholars, and international lawyers have accepted the fact that mass extermination of the Armenians constituted genocide, in fact, the first genocide of the 20th century.
    I request that the disclaimer be removed from the exhibit or its language changed to more appropriately reflect on the term genocide in connection to the Turkish atrocity.
    Respectfully,
    Timothy Martin —
     
    —Dear Tim,
    Thank you for sending your letter.  The more the better. Best wishes,
    Greg—

  15. Hello Timothy,

    Thank you for sharing..

    I alse sent an e-mail to charlotte.. i am still waiting… My letter was with a bit of anger.. if you did not get a response, I bet she will never respond to me…

    I will also forward my e-mail to Mr. Stanton.

    Thank you
    Gayane

  16. I did not get any response to my last e-mail to them.. below is the e-mail chain between myself and the museum…

    From: Gayane
    To: Charlotte Ashworth <Charlotte.Ashworth@tate.org.uk>
    Cc: tmwe@tate.org.uk
    Sent: Tue, May 4, 2010 10:15:59 AM
    Subject: Re: EX (1) RE: Arshile Gorky- Dislaimer-Not very Promising

    Good Morning Charlotte,   Thank you for the e-mail.   However our concern is not how well the text is written.  Our concern is why would a museum have an insert about the word Genocide when the world knows there was a Genocide..The world is aware of the events that took place in 1915-1923..    This was proven to be valid by many historians throughout the world.  The stories of the eye-witnesses, the thousands of orphans who were scattered throughout the world, the letters and telegrams of US officials stationed in Turkey screaming for some attention to these matters because Armenians were being slaughtered by the Turks  Is not this enough to say that the word Genocide is and must be included in these exhibitions as a true and valid reference/?? Why would thre be a reason to have a disclaimer? Raphael Limkin, a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent discovered the word Genocide.  The reason he became interested in genocide was because it happened to the Armenians.  He saw the unfortunate and rough deal that the Armenians got at the Versailles Conference because their criminals walked without a punishment.  Raphael Lemkin explained that he was influenced by the tragic events that befell the Armenians in 1915 hence why the word Genocide was coined in 1943.   The  below sovereign states all recognized the Ottoman Turks Genocide of the Western and Eastern Armenians as Genocide.

     Argentina (2 laws,[30][31] 3 Resolutions[32][33][34])
     Armenia[35]
     Australia Australian State Parliaments of New South Wales and South Australia recognized the Armenian Genocide.
     Belgium [36]
     Brazil Brazilian State Parliaments of Ceará and São Paulo recognized the Armenian Genocide.
     Canada (1996,[37] 2002,[38] 2004[39])
     Chile [40]
     Cyprus [41]
     France (2001 Act of Parliament[42][43][44][45][46][47])
     Germany [48]
     Greece [49]
     Iran [50]
     Lithuania [51]
     Lebanon [52]
     Netherlands [53]
     Poland [54]
     Russia [55]
     Slovakia [56]
     Spain Basque and Catalonian Parliaments recognized the Armenian Genocide.
     Sweden [57]
     Switzerland [58]
     Ukraine The Supreme Council of Crimea recognized the Armenian Genocide.[59]
     United Kingdom The regional assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland recognized the Armenian Genocide.
     United States 44 of 50 states of the USA that recognize the Armenian Genocide[60]
     Uruguay (1965,[61] 2004[62])
     Vatican City [63]
     Venezuela [64]

      After all the evidence and history backing it, why would there be a need to have an insert for this word unless someone is dictating you to do so.  I understand you have a duty to the museums officials; however the duty to treat history as is should be above everything and everyone.   Thank you and looking forward to your response.   Gayane

    From: Charlotte Ashworth <Charlotte.Ashworth@tate.org.uk>
    To: Gayane 
    Cc: tmwe@tate.org.uk
    Sent: Tue, May 4, 2010 8:30:53 AM
    Subject: EX (1) RE: Arshile Gorky- Dislaimer-Not very Promising

    Dear Gayane,
    Thank you for taking the time to email us your comments regarding the insert included with the exhibition guide for Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective. I am very sorry to hear that the content upset you.  I am equally sorry that you do not feel that the response that we have been sending addresses all your points.
    The statement does not deny the Armenian genocide, but clarifies the terms used in the wall texts. No offence is intended in stating the findings of either the British Government and the European Parliament.   
    I am very sorry once again if the statement caused you any upset, we treat your views very seriously and, in touching upon these very difficult issues, there was no intention to cause offence.
    Yours sincerely
    Charlotte Ashworth
    Charlotte Ashworth
    Information Manager | Tate Modern
    0207 401 5179, 07816 138 908
     

    From: Gayane 
    Sent: 02 May 2010 07:26
    To: Charlotte Ashworth
    Subject: Arshile Gorky- Dislaimer-Not very Promising

    Good Evening Tate Gallery officials/Charlotte Ashworth,   I am writing you with great dissapointment in regards to the Arshile Gorky’s write up; which brings into question the factuality of the Ottoman Turks Genocide of the Western and Eastern Armenians between 1915-1923.   Professor Gregory Stanton (Immediate Past President of the International Associations of Genocide Scholars) wrote in his letter dated 4.22.10……and I quote  
    “It has come to my attention that the Tate Gallery has responded to massive pressure from the Turkish denialist lobby and has posted a disclaimer about the use of the term “genocide” in the materials accompanying the Tate’s excellent Arshile Gorky exhibit.
    As the immediate past president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (the major body of genocide scholars in the world), founding President of Genocide Watch, and Professor of Genocide Studies and Prevention at George Mason University, I must request that the disclaimer be immediately removed from the exhibit.  It contains statements that are untrue.  It is beneath the dignity of the Tate Gallery to succumb to the pressure of genocide deniers for any reason.”
     
    I, along with many of my fellow Americans and Armenians join Professor Stanton and demand that this disclaimer is removed.
     
    You are not only disrespecting the artist’s memory but also the memories of 1.5 million lost souls.  Your actions are no less barbaric and heartless than those Ottoman Turks who murdered and killed without mercy, and without consicous. With that disclaimer, you are putting a BIG RED X not only on our dead but on all those who survived and still living…
     
    Please free yourselves from the Turkey’s claws.. Do not fall in the trap of injustice, denial and lies that Turkey so masterfully executes over everyone who speaks and displays the truth… You are a respectful, and legitimate institution.. Do not taint your name by this….Please remove this disclaimer and remove it as soon as possible.
     
    I would like a response and a legitimate one please..Not the cookie cutter response that Mrs Charlotte has been sending out to those who expressed their frustration and dissapointment about this. Looking forward to your e-mail….
     
    Sincerely,
     
    Gayane V.
     

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