Letter: It Is Delusional to Think One Can Convince a Denier

Dear Editor,

I wish to thank Ara Khachatourian for his timely article exposing an alarming trend in academia. While there are many layers to the question of when and how to engage genocide deniers, it appears those who participated in this case have oversimplified the issue in order to avoid the difficult questions. It is delusional to think that one can “convince” scholars who are deniers of genocide, as if they are somehow lacking access to information that is convincing. The Armenian Genocide is so well documented that any denier, in this day and age, has an agenda that diverges widely from academic integrity. Those that have shifted their position from denial to acceptance have done so because to do otherwise undermines their scholarly credibility. Participating in these conferences, in this way, only removes that stigma and thus allows for the denial to continue. It seems some amnesia has set in and these academics should reacquaint themselves with the available scholarly research on genocide denial.

The views expressed in the recent interview with Jirair Libaridian on the Groong Armenian News Network would appear to be indicative of those scholars (note that I do not limit this simply to ethnic Armenian scholars; ethnicity is irrelevant to this discussion) that choose to participate in such conferences. Libaridian, in part, states that he has something important to say on the subject of the conference. Apparently he feels this particular conference is not simply the best outlet for his scholarship, but the only outlet. Implicitly, he feels his work will gain the greatest credibility by inclusion with papers presented at a conference organized by Hakun Yavuz.

Those who have dealt with genocide denial over the past 25-plus years are well aware of the pitfalls. Much has changed over that period. What is disturbing to me is the concept that change for the sake of change is necessary for progress to be achieved, as if no progress has been made over the past 50 years in regards to acceptance of the Armenian Genocide as historical fact. Sometimes, tried and true methods that have been successful over a long period of time require no adjustment or dramatic shift.

George Aghjayan
Needham, Mass.

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.


  1. @Dr. Sarukhanyan. Why don´t you say clearly that you also were invited by Prof. Yavuz? We had the same scandal with Hilmar Kaiser and the community did well to disqualify him as serious scholar. We all know these facts and now we are shocked to see that the Turks made their homework. We should wake up.

    • Your comment about Hilmar Kaiser was disappointing to me. I’d never heard of it before. In the 1990s Ara Sarafian and Hilmar Kaiser were buddies. I would like to know what Ara would say about Hilmar now. Around that time Hilmar stopped by San Francisco quite a few times for lectures. Once he recounted that the Turkish authorities did not like his constant requests for looking at the archives of the genocide period and tried to intimidate him by sending him loud kisses in the air –at the time he was wearing very long hair!

  2. @ Vartan, I read the Armenian text and I know the difference between “to be invited” and “to go”. Why don´t you ask Dr. Sarukhanyan why he sent his paper to Prof. Yavuz? He new perfectly well who Prof. Yavuz is. Why don´t you ask Dr. Sarukhanyan about his relationship to Dr. Moumdjian? Dr. Sarukhanyan was introduced to Yavuz by his friend! You can even read about that in the Internet. I think he isn´t really honest to the community.

  3. I agree with George Aghjayan. Turkey organizes these conferences, seminars to show to the world that Turks and Armenians are talking about finding a solution to their disagreement and that there’s a civilized process going on. This is to deflate the impact of the 100 centenary of the Genocide of Armenians and justify inaction by the West. The West knows the game Turkey is playing, and likes it. The West, as often before, is being ingenous to help out Turkey as the latter plays its game.
    By the way, “Prof.” Hakan Yavus has long-time links with Turkish military intelligence. It’s no big secret.

  4. The Turk strategy is good cop, bad cop, confusing cop. Bad cop Turk Nazis “pray” Moslem style at Ani, shake hands with Diaspora Turk Nazis at ATAA, and dance ifo Turk Embassies on Martyrs Day. Good cop Nazi Turks visit Yerevan, seek to open borders, throw a bone occasionally to the Istanbul Armenians, aka Our Hostages, and the confusing Turks hold conferences where Genocide is made to seem as difficult as Quantum Mechanics.
    All of them in 2015 will invite us to sob brotherly tears with them for “fair memory” and “our mutual losses.” One or two will suggest we get T citizenship.
    I would rather be a slave in America, or a condemned man in Armenia, than a billionaire in T.

    • “I would rather be a slave in America, or a condemned man in Armenia, than a billionaire in T.”


      It seems the 100.000 illegal ermeni worker in Turkey do not agree with you.

    • The hatemongering denialist progeny of savage nomadic Turkic invaders keeps repeating the hallucinations of his savage denialist Islamist Führer Erdogan.
      The same savage denialist Islamist Führer that unleashed his savage brown shirts on peaceful Turkish protesters.
      (I could post the link of the injuries, but it is too graphic: one unfortunate man had his right eye shot out by a tear gas canister)
      (women savagely beaten by ‘tough’ Turkish goons).
      The savage progeny of savage invaders turning on their own now. If it weren’t so tragic and traumatic for the innocent Turkish victims, it would be deliciously ironic.
      The savage progeny of savage invaders hosing the face of a peaceful, elegant Turkish woman in red dress from a backpack canister of teargas. Savage beast.
      Now Turks can see a tiny fraction of what indigenous Christians have been experiencing at the hands of savage nomadic Turkic invaders for centuries.
      The savage Islamist Führer Erdogan came up with the lie of 100,000 supposed Armenians from RoA working in Turkey.
      The actual number is less than 13,000: per a detailed survey conducted by TodaysZaman in 2009.
      And of course there no 5 million Muslim Turks living off of the largess of Christian Europeans, living in prosperous Christian Europe.
      And of course supposedly proud Turks are not begging on their knees for 25 years to be allowed into the Christian club EU.
      So more of them can go on welfare and live off of the hard work of their Christian hosts.
      Of course not.

    • Malcontent, Necati. If Turkey had never committed genocide against the Armenians of the Ottoman empire, but left their prosperous communities alone to thrive, it would be Turks coming to Armenians for jobs! Allowing 100,000 Armenians to earn a living in Turkey is the very least that Turkey owes blockaded and regionally isolated Armenia.

  5. What is delusional is to expect a myth to come true if you repeat it over and over.

    If I may, I recommend that the best way to deal with “deniers” is to avoid them at all costs. They are likely to confront you with unpleasant and undeniable facts and likely to cause severe discomfort and frustration. After all, a belief system is just that, why confuse and shake your cherished myths with facts, evidence and arguments.

    • what is delusional is for the Denialist state of Turkey and Denialist Turks to spend $ millions attempting to ‘prove’ the Earth is flat.
      The Earth is round. It revolves around the Sun.
      Nomadic Turkic tribes from East and Central Asia – the ancestral of homeland of Turks, Uyguristan – invaded Asia Minor and proceeded to massacre the indigenous Christian populations of Asia Minor, including Armenians of the Armenian Highlands.
      The centuries long massacres culminated in the genocide of Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontic Greeks during WW1.
      Turks committed Genocide: you can deny it over and over.
      It will not change the historical fact of AG.
      Facts will remain facts (…where have you heard that before, Denialoglu Murat ?).

    • Yet, apparently, if you repeat a lie over and over again it becomes the truth. Turkish logic at its best.

  6. does anyone have the link to the interview with Jirair Libaridian? I somehow missed it in Groong.

  7. Asbed; thanks for posting this. Has anyone seen on-line the actual speech that was presented?
    Avery; this may be one of those conferences where they discuss how to read a tape measure that proves the heads of skeletons are Turks and not Armenians. Or it might be a real high level conference, with heads of state in attendance, where they present Expert Turkish Scientific Evidence regarding the “kurans [sic] found scattered around among the bodies.” Did you ever get a response from the “expert scientists” about the incredible longevity of their “kurans?”

  8. Having read Prof. Libaridian’s interview, I conclude that his position is reasonable and honorable. He wants to confront the enemy, not lend it credibility. However, I think Prof. Hovanissian’s position is more sound. I think this is an instance where reasonable people can differ.

  9. Yes, these scholars are “reasonable and honorable” men, as Jda points out, and I have no doubt that they have good intentions. However, as we all know, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. When you agree to debate with deniers, you are in essence confirming that there is something to debate. When was the last time you heard of a Jew being willing to debate the Holocaust with a neo-nazi? Should we be willing to debate with Genocide deniers simply because, unlike Germany, Turkey continues to deny their history of Genocide? Scholars, whose hands are not in Turk pockets, long ago reached consensus that denial by the perpetrator is the last stage of genocide. This is Turkey’s untenable position right now. They continue to inflict emotional, intellectual, physical, and economic harm on the descendants of genocide survivors while they eat the crops from our fields and profit from our fathers’ extremely hard earned fortunes. And now, they want to entice us into their lair of Genocide denial, with their manufactured facade of scholarly debate. Our fathers were right when they told us that, “You are known by the company you keep.” Turks want to be seen at the same table with us in order to gain credibility and respect. We need to be more than “reasonable and honorable.” We need to always remain aware that, beneath their plastic smiles and outstretched hands, we are dealing with people who want to be absolved, free of charge, from their long history of the worst crime known to humankind – genocide.

  10. Perouz,

    I agree that shunning these events is the better course. I am concerned about our people calling each other “traitor.”

  11. We can’t solve the problem without talking/meeting the other side. However, when many among our Turkish antagonists are interested only in the process rather than in a solution, we have to walk away otherwise become patsies. The challenge is how to link up with righteous Turks who have no anti-Armenian agenda.

    • And what is the test to determine who is motivated by righteousness?
      This is a tough issue. Debating with deniers who want to create a debate over facts they simply don’t want to accept—facts that were long ago acknowledged worldwide—facts that inspired Hitler—facts that Lemkin used as an example of genocide—largely gives legitimacy to false scholarship. How do you do this without putting the Armenia Cause in jeopardy and how do you ignore such ‘academic conferences’ at the risk of allowing false scholarship to go unanswered? It’s like walking a tightrope. You don’t want to go to far in either direction.

  12. Jirair; I don’t think there is much point in any of us attempting to change Turkish foreign policy with “talking/meeting.” This can only be done by international courts or at the government level. What purpose can possibly be achieved by attempting to change the position of deniers by speaking at their conferences? Would Turkey change its position? Of course not. It just means that the converts would get a speedy ride on The Midnight Express.
    I agree with you that there are righteous Turks who are supportive of the Armenian Cause. You will find many of them in the Turkish jail for taking that position. But things are changing in Turkey. Sometimes, history changes very quickly for the most innocuous reasons. I think the easy access to world opinion and information that electronics has given to the Turkish people is unstoppable by their government. This is the second week of an unexpected uprising. Almost all have electronic access to information about the freedoms and privileges of the democratic world.
    Electronics allows Turks to read and hear about the Armenian Genocide from acknowledged historians and journalists throughout the world. The BS students are being fed about us in their education system will not work for much longer. Many know that they have Armenian grandmothers, and they know why. Those Turks protesting in the streets know that their country has more journalists in jail than any other country in the world, including China.
    A conference in Tiblisi does nothing for us. It also does nothing against us if we don’t participate. It’s just a bunch of denialists dancing with each other to the tune of their same old, same old, BS. George has summed it up neatly – you cannot change their song and dance. But they have definitely scored a major victory in having an intellectual like Libaridian, who has deep political roots, as a key-note speaker. It will lend an importance and credibility to their conference that they otherwise would never have. If anyone sees Libaridian’s speech on line, please keep us informed.

  13. @Massis. I understand your disappointment but Hilmar Kaiser was one of the first to give credit for the center of denial at Utah University. (March 9, 2006. Hilmar Kaiser, German Scholar and Researcher, will speak at the forum titled, The 1915 Decision of the Ottoman Government: The Case of Deportation./http://www.hinckley.utah.edu/hip-in-the-community/). He also wrote a denialist article about Jamal Pasha. Wellknown genocide scholars disqualified him for that. Look for example to the article of Wolfgang Gust (http://utpjournals.metapress.com/content/h116775010205727/?p=3ea549c60d7a4ab28704ec82537c081e&pi=6)Hilmar Kaiser, one of the first German historians to work on the Armenian Genocide and one who has often written about it as a historical fact, is now trying to dilute that history. In his latest article, which consciously avoids use of the term genocide, Kaiser seeks to portray Mehmed Djemal Pasha, a member of the Young Turk triumvirate ruling the Ottoman Empire during World War I, as an individual resisting the genocidal policies of his co-conspirators within the Committee of Union and Progress. Kaiser claims to employ Ottoman documents to demonstrate that the initial intention of the Turkish government was to relocate the Ottoman Armenians for military reasons, although he admits that they posed no imminent danger to the state. Kaiser indicates that the first “relocations” of Armenians took place in areas controlled by Djemal and were initiated by him, then goes on to claim that even though the infamous death camp of Deir-es-Zor was located within his sphere of power, he, in reality, protected the Armenians. However, facts showing the extent of the genocide have been overlooked. This article will use archival documents from the Foreign Office of the German Empire, the Ottoman Empire’s wartime ally, to demonstrate the shortcomings of Kaiser’s evidence and arguments.

  14. @ Massis. Also don´t forget that Ara Sarafian and Garabet Moumdjian participated at a big denialist conference in Utah three years ago. You can watch their “contributions” online… http://poli-sci.utah.edu/turkish-studies/berlin-1878.php It´s really a big shame. Moumdjian also went so far to publish a book with a denialist called Inanc Atilgan.http://www.wieser-verlag.com/buch/archival-documents-viennese-armenian-turkish-platform/ I only say this because a lot of honest people in the community support them with all they have – not knowing what is really going on. I hope that higher ups will say a clear word. Enough is enough.

  15. Armenians need to get Aghet before the world’s people, on television, Youtube, etc, it is excellent and will counter all the pro-Turkish comments posted…

  16. Enjoy this article in Zaman, saying:
    “The participation of intellectuals like Garabet K. Moumdjian and Ara Papian—both open to compromise—helped make this meeting ideal.”
    “This technique to block peace by setting Armenians against one another was used a century ago, with disastrous effects for all Armenians. In any case, this time around many prudent Armenians decided to ignore the propaganda and reacted negatively to attempts to stop people from expressing themselves at conferences. It now looks like Yerevan will have to leave behind these despotic stances as well as its critical approach to Turkey, and instead behave more reasonably.”
    Good job Ara Papian and Garabed Momjian!

  17. Avery: This is in response to your post above re Turkish economy. The following two excerpts are from June 24, 2013 National Post – a reputable, major newspaper with wide circulation.

    “Dependence on foreign credit. To sustain consumer spending, Turkish banks have borrowed heavily abroad, and especially from supportive Sunni Muslim sources. The resulting current account deficit creates so great a need for credit that the private sector alone needs to borrow $221-billion in 2013, or nearly 30% of the country’s $775-billion GDP. Should the money stop flowing into Turkey, the party (pun intended) is over, possibly leading the stock market to collapse, the currency to plunge, and the economic miracle to come to a screeching halt.”

    “Payroll employment is down by 5%. Real consumer spending in first quarter 2013 fell by 2% over 2012. Since the demonstrations started, the Istanbul stock market is down 10% and interest rates are up about 50%. To assess the future of Islamism in Turkey, watch these and other economic indicators.”

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