Sassounian: Apology for Vilifying One Man, Yet No Apology for Killing 1.5 Million

In 2008, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an Alabama-based non-profit civil rights organization, published an article titled, “State of Denial: Turkey Spends Millions to Cover up Armenian Genocide.” It was a hard-hitting exposé of the Turkish government’s elaborate and sinister efforts to pressure U.S. politicians and entice academics to deny the facts of the Armenian Genocide.

According to the SPLC article, “Turkey exerts political leverage and spends millions of dollars in the United States to obfuscate the Armenian genocide…. Revisionist historians who conjure doubt about the Armenian genocide…are paid by the Turkish government.”

Going beyond such general statements, SPLC specifically referred to Guenter Lewy as “one of the most active members of a network of American scholars, influence peddlers and website operators, financed by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the government of Turkey, who promote the denial of the Armenian genocide….”

Lewy, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts, had qualified the Armenian Genocide in his lectures and writings as a “bungling misrule” rather than a deliberately planned and executed mass murder. He had made similar claims in his controversial book published by the University of Utah Press in 2005, The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide.

Shortly after publication of SPLC’s article, an $8 million defamation lawsuit was filed against the civil rights group on behalf of Lewy by attorneys David Saltzman and Bruce Fein from the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund (TALDF), which is “generously supported by the Turkish Coalition of America,” according to TALDF’s website.

Before a jury could judge the merits of the charges in court, however, SPLC agreed to settle the case by issuing “a retraction and apology” and promising to pay an undisclosed sum to Lewy. Had SPLC not settled the case, TALDF would have had a difficult task proving in court that Lewy was actually libeled. In order to win the lawsuit, TALDF had to prove that SPLC had made those accusations “with malicious intent” and “reckless disregard for the truth.” Furthermore, TALDF lawyers would have to show that the long-retired 87-year-old professor had suffered actual financial loss, such as getting fired from his job or having a contract canceled as a direct result of the article.

Some SPLC supporters have wondered why it chose to settle the lawsuit when its chances of losing in court were minimal. A knowledgeable source told this writer that SPLC may have settled the case in order to reduce its exposure to mounting attorney fees, combined with the likelihood that Lewy may have agreed to settle for far less than the $8 million he had originally demanded. With the lawsuit behind it, SPLC could once again dedicate itself to its actual mission of defending civil rights.

In its retraction, SPLC stated: “We now realize that we misunderstood Prof. Lewy’s scholarship, were wrong to assert that he was part of a network financed by the Turkish Government, and were wrong to assume that any scholar who challenges the Armenian genocide narrative necessarily has been financially compromised by the Government of Turkey. We hereby retract the assertion that Prof. Lewy was or is on the Government of Turkey’s payroll…. We deeply regret our errors and offer our sincerest apologies to Professor Lewy.”

In response to complaints from SPLC supporters opposing the settlement, however, Penny Weaver, a public affairs spokesman, stated: “Our settlement of this matter does not mean we are endorsing Mr. Lewy’s views or taking his side. But we are acknowledging that we mischaracterized his views and wrongly said that he was taking money from the Turkish government. It was an error, and we apologize for that.” The original article that precipitated the lawsuit is still posted on the SPLC’s website.

Needless to say, no one should be defamed because of his or her views on the Armenian Genocide, no matter how wrong or offensive they are. Unless one possesses evidence to the contrary, one cannot simply assume that those making distorted statements on the Armenian Genocide are motivated by greed or are paid agents of the Turkish government.

It is both commendable and ironic that lawyers for a Turkish interest group are eager to file a multi-million dollar lawsuit in the United States ostensibly to defend the civil rights of a client. In Turkey, however, anyone who dares to talk about the Armenian Genocide risks being charged for telling the truth and thrown into prison for years under the infamous Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code which bans “insulting Turkishness!”

If TALDF were truly interested in protecting civil rights, it would allocate its considerable resources to abolish Article 301, which would considerably lessen financial support from generous donors and bring its operations to an end.

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Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh $917 million of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

29 Comments

  1. Great article Mr. Sassounian!
    In the US, the Turkish special interests defend anyone’s right of expression when it comes to speaking up against the Armenians. No one fights for your freedom of speach in Turkey though.As a matter of fact, if you say anything that might challenge the state you are thrown in prison. Ridiculous!

  2. Now THIS is where we should have had an ARMENIAN American Defence League to step in and offer assistance with defending the SPLC in the law suit against them. Money talks, nobody walks!

  3. People who have suffered in Asia-Minor neighborhood by the coming of the deep-Asian blood thirsty barbarian, should at last join forces and expose them once and for all.  The Turkish boot should not be allowed ever again to squash the necks of Turkish people when they speak the truth about life and suffering in Turkey.  The people in the neighborhood should never again be threatened by Turkey.  Turkey should never be allowed to intervene in the internal affairs of neighborhood countries using faith and relevant family threats against Muslim population.
    I believe is beyond doubt that Turkey gets in its payroll a lot of persons because a lot of crimes need a lot of persons to cover it up.  One wonders why there is such big support for Turkey by English or American MPs and academics.  These persons are supposed to be knowledgeable and truthful about history.  But nowadays if an agent offered them the deeds of a house in a tourist island or money which will cover a lot of their expenses, are they going to say no?  I doubt it very much.
    Think of this: Turkish Generals and USA/UK MPs most probably get money to accommodate various plans against piece loving people.  Where from?  Most likely through military aid funding.  No questions asked since anything about military is classified as top secret.

  4. I have all the articles published every day in the New York Times in 1915-1916.
    Is is not sufficient to make one’s mind about what happened to the Armenians and other Christians ? all over the world the survivers have told their ordeal under the government of “ Young Turks ”. 2/3 of the Armenian People have been exterminated, sent to perish in desert, according to a plan conceived by the leaders. One historian’s word versus millions of testimonies ?

  5. Armenia HAS to IMPOSE, in ALL European and Foreign countries, where “turks” have consular/diplomatic presence, THE SAME RESTRICTIONS ON TURKS AND THEIR CITIZENS – as the turks impose on minority peoples living in – and bordering turkey !!! For every journalist murdered by the turks –
    (Hrant Dink is ONE example) > foreign/western democracies should EXPELL any turk journalists (propagandists) exploiting freedom of speech in foreign democracies > cancel their visas, and deport them back to turkey IMMEDIATELY. That would be giving turk journalists the SAME discrimination that they inflict on minority’s right of free speech – under the motto  –
    YOU GET THE SAME RIGHTS AS YOU GIVE OTHERS !!! 

  6. Sounds like a whole lot of sour grapes to me by all of these posters. What’s the matter, can’t deal with defeat due to the truth? Afraid that your 100 year-old con job is starting to develop more and more cracks in its base and walls of lies? Better start getting used to more of these happening world-wide! As for Mr. Black, I’m not even going to bother with a response to his post. He was obviously high on something when he wrote it!

  7. Who look who peeked his ugly head on these pages again.. notorious ROBERT (again you did not answer my question. is that your real name or you are hiding your name under this westernized name?)…

    Robert… i laugh at your comments… LOUD LAUGHS that is… just so you know.. you are a comedy.. i swear…

    Go back to your hole and come out only when you educate yourself about history and your govt past and present.. ESPECIALLY when it comes to your govt… you are a true product of such a govt.. i feel sorry for you…

    but there is hope for even people like you.. so i am hopeful…..

    Just so you know… the walls are cracking down alright.. it is obvious that Turkey is feeling the affect…because as i see it, your beloved country has been doing very funny things lately such as one day service in an Armenian and Greek churches after 95 years, fake signing infameous protocols, inviting ex cons and c-class actors to Cyprus…just to name few attempts to bring attention and favorable reactions from the world toward Turkey…these tactics are used to buy time and fool people..but people are not fooled.. they know how it is .. they know who the ill man of Europe is, who the blood thristy govt is, and who is threatened right now..everyone knows who tries the hardest but fails every time…TURKEY….so spare me your stupid comments…in addition, hear this notorious Anti-Armenian individual… the time is coming, Turkey is feeling the pressure and she will crack sooner or later… and you will crack too Robert.. i have no doubt about that.. i say move to the side of righteousness and truth as soon as possible..that way your soul will be saved.. well lets just hope so…i really hope so….

  8.  “We now realize that we misunderstood Prof. Lewy’s scholarship, were wrong to assert that he was part of a network financed by the Turkish Government, and were wrong to assume that any scholar who challenges the Armenian genocide narrative necessarily has been financially compromised by the Government of Turkey. We hereby retract the assertion that Prof. Lewy was or is on the Government of Turkey’s payroll…. We deeply regret our errors and offer our sincerest apologies to Professor Lewy.”

    How can this simple truth be so bitter?  Consider this maybe an inocculation, like the flu shot.  Lewy is not even a pro-Turkish scholar, his book hardly shows Turks in a positive light.  That was not good enough for the nationalists of course.

    What this has anything to do with Turkish laws and courts is a mystery. 

    “…however, anyone who dares to talk about the Armenian Genocide risks being charged for telling the truth and thrown into prison for years under the infamous Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code which bans “insulting Turkishness!”

    I would love to see list of people who are in jail due to 301.  I would really like to know the name of a single person who opined this or that way about the AG in Turkey and ended up in jail.

    You know what the real hipocracy is?  It is to be perfectly content with the laws (passed by pressure from Armenian hate lobbies) in numerous countries that actually make it a crime to contradict the Armenian version of history and then go and complain about 301. 

  9. Murat, those governments who pass laws against denying the AG are not restricting freedom of speech.  They are designed to restrict lying.  They recognize the ongoing damage of denial to those who suffer the worst inhumanity to man and in solidarity with the victims and with ultimate respect for the truth, they restrict those who would distort reality.  It is an ethically upright position which unambiguously refuses to allow perpetrators and their cronies to avoid responsibility.  I think it is really courageous.

  10. You really belive that?  For the good of mankind?  Read my post (not many come through) again.  You know who builds up alterane facts here, right?

  11. Murat,
     
    In the civilized world, you don’t have to necessarily see “a list of people actually being in jail” to believe that everything’s fine with the freedom of expression. Article 301 creates a fertile ground for bringing charges against civilians, their prosecution and trial, keeping intellectuals in constant fear for expressing unorthodox opinions for the Turkish establishment. The Articles is a discriminatory, racist piece of legislation. According to Amnesty International, “Article 301 poses a direct threat to freedom of expression, as enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.”
     
    Article 301 has been used to bring charges against writer Orhan Pamuk for stating “thirty thousand Kurds have been killed here, and a million Armenians. And almost nobody dares to mention that. So I do.” The charges were dropped only as a result of international community’s pressure. The Nobel Prize winner(!) was deported from Turkey.
     
    In 2005 five Turkish journalists charged with insulting the judicial institutions of the State under Article 301. Each of the five had criticized a court order to shut down a conference in Istanbul about the mass murders of Armenians in the Ottoman empire during the WWI.
     
    Writer and journalist Perihan Magden was prosecuted for penning an article titled “Conscientious Objection is a Human Right”. The Turkish military filed a complaint against her in response.
     
    The publisher and editors, as well as the translator, of the Turkish translation of the book Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman were brought to trial under the Article 301.
     
    Elif Safak faced charges of “insulting Turkishness” because of her novel The Bastard of Istanbul.
     
    In 2006, the well-known Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was prosecuted under the Article 301 and received a six month suspended sentence. He was subsequently assassinated by Turkish radical nationalists.
     
    Publisher Ragip Zarakolu is on trial under Article 301 gor “insulting the legacy of  Ataturk.”
     
    Arat Dink (Hrant Dink’s son) and Serkis Seropyan were convicted to one-year suspended sentences under Article 301 for printing Dink’s assertions that mass killing of Armenians in 1915 was genocide.
     
    Rahim Er, a columnist of Turkiye daily newspaper was convicted under Article 301 for criticizing the Court of Cassation of Turkey. He was charged with insulting an institution of the Republic of Turkey.
     
    Diyarbakir Mayor Baydemir is prosecuted under Article 301 on the grounds of harshly criticizing operations against the Confederation of Kurdistan. Baydemir faces imprisonment of up to 3 years.

  12. Murat is either acts ignorant or he is simply one… OR he simply lives in his own Murat bubble on the moon..i don’t know..

    Murat are you in Turkey or outside of Turkey?

    Murat.. Paul’s examples should be only few for your to educate yourself about what Article 301 represents… read and learn..

    Paul jan.. apres…

  13. Murat, adding to Paul’s comments above, Article 301 attests to an atmosphere of intolerance that serves to hinder free speech.  It is a weapon that those who disagree with an unpopular opinion can use to stifle those who might utter such an unpopular opinion.  Fear of a criminal charge or a lengthy trial will effectively shut down many who would otherwise express dissenting or controversial opinions.  You must acknowledge this!

  14. Murat,
    Of course if 301 did not go through, Turks have a different ways to execute the job, “killing”!!! is a final chapter of punishment in Turkey..
    – Hakan Karadağ, Hrant Dink’s lawyer??Turkish police found, that he committed suicide!!!!
    -Anndre Santoro On 5 September 2006 he was shot dead from behind while kneeling in prayer in the church..
    -Bishop Luigi Padovese of Anatolia was stabbed to death on Thursday, June 3.2010
    -Two Turkish Christians-Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel found their hands were tied up and their throat slits..April 20,2007
    I hope you are convinced, that your “civilized” nation is a state of terror and murder…

  15. Murat,
    Turkish ordinary people should thanks to Armenians and other European Christians, who really intend to bring Turkey into 21 centuries and way of life in democracy and freedom…we do not hate Turks…it is Turkey’s radicals who hijack ordinary Turkish citizens will power, act on behalf of normal citizens, manipulate for their selfishness, and greediness, in order to achieve for their immediate radical, political goals…nobody insult Turkishness but Turks to themselves!!!

  16. Thanks to Paul for proving that Turkish jails are not overflowing with victims of 301 as so many have claimed right here.

    Of course it is a ridiculous law and unfortunately the ultra nationalists have been exploiting it to harass their victims and targets.  Many of these lawsuits were brought by ordinary citizens, not by state or a DA.  That is how it works in Turkish  justice system.  If not 301, then extremists will find other ways to harass.  Price of democracy some may say.  That is unfortunate, but 301 seems to be less and less effective tool in the hands of people with other agendas as the list above indicates.  I have no doubt and plenty of hope that it will be abolished soon.

    More importantly, there is no law against specifically opining this or that way over the AG in Turkey.  Numerous conferences have been held just on this topic in Turkey, with some attended by the well known AG mythologists and propagandists.  These facts again seem to matter those who are allergic to reality.

    On the other hand, there are laws in numerous “civilized” countries, gift of Armenian pressure and hate groups, that will punish those who contradict their version of alternate reality. 

    Without a hint of irony or comedy, Boyajian attributes this travesty to the attempts to protect the innocents from the evil of “lies”! 

    “Fear of a criminal charge or a lengthy trial will effectively shut down many who would otherwise express dissenting or controversial opinions.  You must acknowledge this!”

    I do!

  17. Gayane,

    Looks like it’s you who needs to get re-educated (this time from a neutral source and not from the propaganda which is spoon-fed to you all as children in the AYF, then followed up with post-graduate indoctrination with ARF). Had the editorial board not resorted to their typical “actions”, you would also have received an answer to your question. But to repeat (assuming that the board won’t be such cowards next time), my name is indeed ROBERT! Have you a problem with that?

  18. I don’t really need thanks from a Turk like you, Murat. May I remind you that it were you who exclaimed: “I would love to see list of people who are in jail due to 301” and not “so many [Armenians who] have claimed it here.” Don’t twist words to your benefit. Is it a typically Turkish tradition? I also don’t think that you should take pride for the fact that there is “no law against opining this or that way over the Armenian Genocide in Turkey”. A very week argument, I must say, because imposition of 301 or a characteristic Turkish way of suppressing the dissent (read: killing) are more than enough. French and Swiss laws were adopted to punish those who deny crimes against humanity. It’s not just “punishment for contradiction of a version of alternate reality” as Turks would love to it to be. There is only ONE reality, Murat, and the civilized world, in contrast to backward Turks, has come to believe based on tons of witness accounts, survivor stories, diplomatic dispatches, primary materials, Turkish court martial verdicts, scholarly literature, and the fact that only 60,000 Armenians now remain in Turkey out of up to 2-2.5 million, that from 1915 until 1923 Turks have methodically and deliberately emptied Turkey from indigenous Armenians in the most barbarous Turkish forms of race annihilation. The civilized world’s laws punish those who deny the fact that many central and regional governments, international organizations, professional associations, advocacy groups, genocide scholars, historians, and lawyers, as well as hundreds of Nobel Prize laureates, including your own Orhan Pamuk tried, by the way, under Article 301 and then deported, recognize as genocide: deliberate extermination of a particular national ethnic, racial, and religious group. If you think Armenians are “mythologists and propagandists” and “allergic to reality,” could all these reputable bodies and individuals be as such, too? Have decency, Murat, and acknowledge the fact that your state has effectively distorted history to avoid responsibility for committing mass murder of all Christian minority groups in the Ottoman empire in order to salvage as much the ancient people’s lands as possible for the Turks. In reality it’s called stealing and these peoples’ annihilation is called genocide. And sooner or later the Turks will have to face this reality. Make no mistake!

  19. Robert.. why am I not suprprised by your comment… everything goes back to Dashnaks or AYF… what is wrong with you? We can’t do anything without you connecting us to these affiliations… on the contrary Robert… your comments show exactly what you represent…we are trying to educate you, trying to show you how ridiculeous your comments are because they are soooooo inaccurate… inaccurate assumptions …but that is the inability to open your eyes, mind and heart to a different side of the matter… or you just simply do not want to…

    We want to bring you into the light Robert.. take the opportunity instead of pushing yourself as far into the darkness as possible.. the pages of our history has been dark  because of your ancestors and now your govt…..but you have a chance to get out of it… the more you resist and spew your venom, the more you are exposing yourself as a heartless Turk who has been under the Turkish govt prisonment of false education and mentality for a long time.. This goes to Murat and the others who support you and your Anti-Armenianness cause.. 

    Interesting about your name…. not even a Turkish name for such a ultra nationalist….

    BUt what I don’t get is how can Robert, Murat and Karekin not see what is going on around them.. is Turkish govt THAT GOOD at covering what is truly lies, ugly and wrong? why is it that the world sees it and these people do not… I don’t get it… unless they have their own agenda by protecting the Turkish govt .. i don’t know..because a regular citizen of the Turkey understands and admits that what is happening in Turkey is wrong.. are we living on the moon or are they?

    Paul jan… shat apres.. sirts hovatsav qo comment kartalov…

    Thank you

  20. boyajian
    you write:
    Murat, those governments who pass laws against denying the AG are not restricting freedom of speech.  They are designed to restrict lying. 
    comment:
    In another discussion I recently said that I was willing to debate with you. But after this mediocre comment from you, I am not sure.

  21. Surprise Surprise Ragnar..

    You picked another line to push your idiotic argument of having a debate or not… i mean who are you seriously?  you act like we owe you something.. you act like you are running the show here..

    i mean seriously… can you just stop acting like all Mighty and Intelligent please? it is nothing but laughable.. you are threatening us????? you are threatening Boyajian with not debating with her because of a line?  how pathetic is that?

    G

  22. Boyajian jan i would suggest not to communicate with this individual anymore.. just like Msheci said..

     because as we can see Ragnar is no one but someone who loves to act like he the moderator on these pages.. deciding with who to debate and for what reason.. and if you say something slightly off his line of thinking, he will theaten you with not debating with you.. i say is this an action of a real debator as he proclaims himself to be? no sireeeeeeeeeeeeee……

    However, if you want to continue with him to knock some sense into his motionless individual, we will support you 100%… even though for some odd reason, i dont’ think anything will help Ragnar to snap out of his dreamland…or should i say Ragnarland….

    You and I both know that the way Ragnar works is this: jump into the conversation, throw some odd and confusing comments from left to right, continue doing that over and over and over and over until he tires and annoys everyone on the forum, then he finds something minute to bail out… that is his tactic… we have seen that in the last forum as well…you can try but we need a miracle to snap him out including his stooge commentators Murat, Robert and even Karekin…agghhh.. so tiring and draining to deal with these people…

  23. Ragnar debate or don’t debate.  It’s your choice.  But don’t bait me with an insult just because you missed me.  

    By the way, are you and Murat BFFs; two sides of the same coin?  This is not the first time you have come to his defense against a comment I made to him. 

  24. Gayane, I appreciate your support.  Dialogue with Ragnar seems to be a game where he sees himself as the game master; changing rules and strategies as he sees fit.  Sometimes polite and inviting, sometimes biting and hostile, other times illogical or confusing or obsequieous and humble.  But that’s just my ‘young’ and ‘mediocre’ opinion. 

    Bottomline:  I am not interested in a debate with anyone, just a discussion.  But discussion with him has not been very fruitful thus far, because he is a different Ragnar all the time. 

  25. Okay Murat-Ragnar, while I understand the sentiment behind the laws which limit denial of the genocide, I am not a big fan of limiting freedom of speech.  However, some speech is abhorrent and hurtful and society struggles with ways of eliminating such speech.  Those who deny the genocide should back up their claims with real evidence and not just trumped up and made-up denial by paid for scholars.  When they are proven wrong they should have the dignity to admit it and be quiet.

    But Murat I thought you admit to massacres and Ragnar, you admit there were “genocidal results.”  What is your point?

  26. Just a disturbing issue I wanted to address is that for the last few Mirror Spectator publications someone by the name A. Kevorkian is taking full page ads to convince Armenians to vote Republican clear across the board. This point of view is highly misguided and it really goes counter to the many Democrats that help Armenians everyday in many areas. Lets not alienate the very people that do stand with us and our cause. VOTE THE PERSON NOT THE PARTY. A. Kevorkian’s ideas are either too extreme or its really being voices by a staunch Republican hiding behind “let’s punish the two faced politicians” even though no Republican, other then the first year term of Ron Reagen has uttered the word genocide. Our real enemy is the State Department, The Turkish lobby, some Jewish organizations and some defense contractors and companies who make profit from helping the Turks deny it’s own act of genocide. Lets be smart and support those that support us and yes go counter to all that fights against our cause. Voting straight Republican is not the answer. Lets be smart!

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