Clark professor’s latest book provides more evidence of Armenian genocide

by OCP on September 7, 2012

in Featured News, News

Internationally renowned historian Taner Akçam will discuss his book, “The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity,” Sept. 13. (T&G Staff/RICK CINCLAIR)


WORCESTER — Taner Akçam — through his painstaking research — has spent his academic life gathering historical evidence in the hope of conclusively proving that the World War I era deaths of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks fit the definition of a “genocide.”

The detailed information that the Clark University professor has collected over the decades has convinced the leaders of at least 20 nations, but the material, along with mounting global pressure, hasn’t prodded the rulers of Turkey to take responsibility for the killings.

Now, Mr. Akçam, who holds an endowed chair at Clark’s Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, has written another book that provides additional evidence that Turkish leaders at the time pursued a policy of “Turkification” and “demographic engineering” to cleanse their nation of Armenian Christians.

Mr. Akçam, however, isn’t betting that the new book, “The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire,” is going to change the position of the Turkish regime, even though it culls information from 600 Ottoman documents that have been, until recently, restrictively archived in Istanbul.

“A logical human being can view the genocide for what it was,” said Mr. Akçam. “The leaders of Turkey can’t. They aren’t able to move on.”

Turkey, the successor nation to the Ottoman Empire,” has strongly rejected the characterization of the Armenian deaths as a genocide.

The government has admitted that hundreds of thousands died but it strenuously denies there was a program in place to obliterate the Armenian population.

The decimation of the Armenian population in Turkey began in April of 1915 when the empire’s rulers began rounding up Armenian leaders, writers, intellectuals, and professionals. Thousands of other Armenians were subsequently abducted, tortured, deported, or executed.

The government even tore away young children from their Armenian parents, in the hopes of assimilating them into Turkish society.

“The Turks basically established a republic by massacring or expelling its Christian population,” said Mr. Akçam. “The rulers were believers in social Darwinism and they thought they could socially engineer a new nation.”

He said the Turks have to take responsibility for their actions, like other nations have.

For example, Mr. Akçam has said the Germans have acknowledged the Jewish Holocaust and the United States doesn’t try to bury away the slavery era.

Yet, Mr. Akçam acknowledged it would be difficult for Turkey to recognize what had happened to its Armenian population.
Firstly, he said, Turks have been “indoctrinated” over the years by Turkish authorities.

Also, if the government were to admit that the decimation of the Armenians was a genocide, it would be admitting that present-day Turkey’s founding fathers were murderers.

Mr. Akçam said economics also play a role. An admission of a genocide by Turkish officials would lead to a slew of lawsuits filed across the world for the lands and other possessions taken from the Armenians.

He said the Turkish position might begin to change, if the United States were to join the 20 or other so nations who recognize the killings and expulsions as a genocide.

Mr. Akçam said American officials, like British and Israeli leaders, view Turkey in strategic terms and choose not to push the issue.
He added that the Armenian diaspora in America isn’t strong enough to lobby the cause.

However, Mr. Akçam is hopeful that there will be a change in the Turkish government’s thinking.

For example, an influential Turkish columnist with strong ties to the ruling class has written and managed to get published a book that views the Armenian plight as a genocide, he said.

“There’s hope, maybe, that Turkish society is opening up some,” Mr. Akçam said.

Akçam talk, book signing

WORCESTER — The Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University will host a symposium next week on Taner Akçam’s latest book on the Armenian genocide, “The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire.”

The program will be held at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at the school’s Higgins University Center.
The symposium will feature Eric Weitz and Dirk Moses, two renowned genocide scholars.

Mr. Weitz is the dean of Humanities and the Arts at the City University of New York while Mr. Moses is the chair in Global and Colonial History at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.

Copies of Mr. Akçam’s book will be available for purchase, and there will be a book signing.
There’s no charge to attend the event. For more information, call (508) 793-8897.


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