Home News Faculty Teaching
March 28, 2010
A Turkish Scholar Talks About the Armenian Genocide
By Andrea Fuller
Taner Akçam made history in the 1990s as the first Turkishacademic to publicly acknowledge that an Armenian genocide took place, an assertion long disputed by the Turkish government. An estimated 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire died beginning in 1915 and culminating in the years following World WarI. The Armenian National Institute, in Washington, says those lives were lost through mass slaughter, starvation, and disease as Armenians were displaced by the Ottoman government.This month Mr. Akçam, an associate professor of history at Clark University, will again break new ground when he leads one of thefirst international conferences of Armenian-genocide scholars, April9 to 10, sponsored by the Strassler Center for Holocaust andGenocide Studies at Clark.Mr. Akçam grew up in Turkey, where he was arrested in the 1970sfor leading a revolutionary student journal that criticized thegovernment. He spent a year in prison before escaping andimmigrating to Germany, where he earned his Ph.D. The scholar hasreceived numerous death threats from Turkish ultranationalists, who have also vandalized his Wikipedia page and called him aterrorist, he says.Mr. Akçam is working on a book about political trials of theperpetrators of the Armenian genocide, based on daily newspapercoverage from that time. He is also collecting oral histories from thelast survivors of a massacre in the Dersim region in the 1930s.
Q. In your youth, you were arrested for your protestactivities in Turkey. Why did you put your mind to becoming a scholar and not simply an activist? A.
When I was a student at the university, my dream was to be ascholar. The Turkish justice system and the Turkish political systemput a hold on my dream.
Q. What is your opinion of the controversial resolutionrecently approved by the House Foreign Affairs
1 of 23/28/10 12:43 AM