Students protest Atatürk Scholar to Leave CSUN Campus

By Robert Spallone

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. (The Sundial)—Scholar George Gawrych got through no more than five sentences during his presentation on his book about Turkish army officer Mustafa Kemal Atatürk before students raised their voices in protest on Nov. 10 at the California State University Northridge (CSUN) Aronstam Library.

Students gathered outside of the Aronstam library to continue to protest in front of CSUN professor Owen Doonan. (Photo: Elizabeth Vazquez)
Students gathered outside of the Aronstam library to continue to protest in front of CSUN professor Owen Doonan. (Photo: Elizabeth Vazquez)

Over 20 protesters stood up from their seats, turned their backs on Gawrych and repeatedly chanted “Turkey guilty of genocide” and “genocide denialist.”

Gawrych waited briefly as other attendees voiced their opinions to let him speak, until he began walking up and down the aisle trying to get the protestors to face him.

Two police officers who guarded the entrance escorted Gawrych, a Baylor University Boal Ewing chair of military history, out of the library to sounds of chanting protesters.

“Our initial message was to stop the denial of genocide that cost the lives of millions,” said Eric Badivian, an Armenian protestor.

Many Armenians feel that Gawrych’s book The Young Atatürk: From Ottoman Soldier to Statesman of Turkey praises a leader who played a role in the Armenian Genocide.

“This man coming here and claiming these claims that genocide didn’t happen is completely absurd and people know,” Badivian said. “There’s factual evidence to this happening all around.”

Gawrych was unable to speak about his book or comment on the protest once police had him leave the library.

The book received the Distinguished Book Award in 2014 from the Society for Military History, according to Gawrych’s Baylor University biography page.

John S. Harrel, who holds a master’s degree in history from CSUN and authored The Nisibis War said he expected this protest to happen.

“They are only interested in keeping you and I as being non-Turkish and non-Armenian from finding out both sides,” Harrel said.

Harrel added that Armenians have a legitimate grievance.

He also suggested that a lot of information about the Holocaust was discovered after scholars looked back at history to study the Third Reich.

Art history professor Owen Doonan, who invited Gawrych to speak for the Middle Eastern Islamic Studies program declined to comment to The Sundial about the protest, but did address protestors outside the library.

The Armenian Student Association, Alpha Epsilon Omega, and Alpha Gamma Alpha sent a protest-letter to William Watkins, dean of students, expressing their concern and disappointment in having the guest lecturer at CSUN.

“It is quite bizarre that an event revolving around the ignorance and injustices against humanity is being allowed to take place on campus,” as stated in the letter to Watkins.

Watkins later replied in an email sent to the organizations, addressing their concerns.

“The university shares your commitment to the pursuit of truth about all aspects of Armenian history and to never forgetting those who have suffered from the tolerance and actions of others,” Watkins wrote in the email.


A video from the protest can be found on the Armenian Youth Federation Western United States Facebook page:

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Guest Contributor

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


  1. Good on you. Shame on the university to allow this sort of thing to take place in the first place and then to palmed off by Watkins with a statement in form of an email. These people know exactly what they are doing but they will still invite these so called scholars to make a speech. Honestly, have the americans still not woken up from their very comfortable sleep to understand that the GENOCIDE was factual. Wake up america.

  2. Good for the student protestors! More students need to have this type of courage to address a historic wrong.

  3. Universities are a platform of free speech and respect to freedom of thought. Silence the voices of those you don’t agree and you will live in eternal blindness of autocracy…

    • I highly doubt you would make that same argument if someone organized a lecture to glorify the accomplishments of Adolf Hitler. After all, after he was elected, and before he launched his genocidal wars of aggression, he accomplished quite a lot for Germany and German people.
      In fact if such an event was attempted at CSUN, or any other public venue in these United States, it would be national news. There would be national condemnation. The president of CSUN would be forced to issue a public apology.

      But when it comes to the Genocide of Armenians, Armenian-Americans are supposed to sit down and keep quiet – to respect a _selective_ “freedom of thought”, of course.

      Mustafa Kemal continued Turks’ genocidal policies against Armenia and the Armenian people living on their own ancestral lands.
      Here is the order that Kemal issues to General Karabekir on Nov 8, 1920:

      “…destroy Armenia not only ‘politically’ but also ‘physically’ (siyaseten ve maddeten)….”

      About that ” platform of free speech and respect to freedom of thought.”: try to organize a “freedom of speech and thought lecture” at CSUN to discuss any of the following and see how far you get:

      – “The myth of slavery of Blacks in America”
      – “The myth of Holocaust”.
      – “The myth of Trails of Tears”.

  4. This matter is now being covered extensively in the media.

    First, by UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh on his Washington Post blog: “Student group at Cal State Northridge boasts of ‘shutting down’ speech by award-winning scholar”

    Next, by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE): “Historian Shouted Down at Cal State Northridge”

    Next, by the College Fix blog: “CSU-Northridge declines to criticize students who shut down ‘denialist’ scholar’s lecture (VIDEO)”:


  5. “Mustafa Kemal continued Turks’ genocidal policies against Armenia and the Armenian people living on their own ancestral lands.”

    Yes, that’s certainly true. Not only did Mustafa Kemal Ataturk attempt to finish off any Armenians that were still remaining in Western Armenia, but on top of that, he also attempted to wipe out the Armenians of Eastern Armenia.

    Well, what about the Turkophile “president” of Armenia? Although, he’s certainly not committing an actual genocide against the citizens of Armenia, he is most certainly driving them away from their homeland, which ends up producing the same result as an actual genocide. Within the past 25 years of Armenia’s independence, two million people have emigrated out of Armenia, which is almost equivalent to the number of people who remain there today; and half of these people emigrated out of Armenia during the “presidency” of Serzh Sargsyan. In regard to referring to Serzh as a “Turkophile”, he is indeed doing what the Turks desperately wish for; and that’s an Armenia with very few Armenians on its soil.

    Why is it that every time a disaster takes place in Turkey, Serzh immediately takes it upon himself to send love letters to Turkey’s Islamic terrorist “president” (Erdogan), and express to him his deepest sympathies as well as his commitment of improving their relationship? As for Hyena Aliyev, it was indeed bizarre how Serzh behaved in such an extremely warm manner towards him in those meetings earlier this year. How can somebody who calls himself the “president” of Armenia possibly act so sweet towards the “president” of Turkbaijan, when this particular Turk happens to be waging a brutal campaign of terrorism against the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh? Well, all of this again shows that Serzh Sargsyan is indeed a Turkophile.

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