Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Professor criticized for genocide views

Daily 49er, CA
Rosaura Figueroa and Erin McKenzie

Professor Ali Igmen was the focus of defamatory remarks, sent possibly to him by a CSULB faculty member, for his insistence on the existence of an Armenian genocide.

The Scholars in Conversation on the Armenian Genocide forum on Tuesday proved to be controversial on the most personal of terms for Ali Igmen, director of the oral history program at the Cal State Long Beach History Department. Igmen was targeted during the forum's discussion and debate on allegations of propagandizing his views on the hotly debated existence of an Armenian genocide.

According to Igmen, the allegations came from a tenured professor from another college at CSULB who attacked Igmen's credibility for supporting definition of the events as genocide.

The tensions surrounding the controversial subject may have led to an increased police and security presence at the presentation. Protesters were told to stand in the back room before the disputed Armenian genocide forum took center stage.

The panel discussion included experts Richard Hovannisian from UCLA and Taner Akcam from the University of Minnesota, who discussed their investigative findings with a full audience of students, professors and guests.

Both Hovannisian and Akcam emphasized the Turkish rejection of any such genocide taking place between 1915 and 1918. The Turkish government claims the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians was a result of a civil war and the targeting of Turks by Armenian rebels, rather than genocide.

"It is important for a society to face its own history," Akcam said. Few Turkish scholars are willing to discuss the topic openly and are apprehensive about using the word genocide, according to Akcam. He also said that avoiding the term allows for the liberty of denial.

The panel did not include any scholars who supported the Turkish's government stance on the issue.

"Some students approached me and said that both sides were not represented," said Igmen after the forum. "But they were civil and polite, and I was not upset by them."

About a dozen supporters clapped as an open question-and-comment session highlighted the absence of any opposing viewpoint.

"[It's] not possible to consider a denialist point of view," said Akcam.

Hovannisian added that to invite a scholar who supported the Turkish government's official stance was equivalent to inviting a Holocaust denier to a forum on the genocide of the Jewish population and others during the times of Nazi Germany.

According to Akcam, the Turkish government has done a cleansing of national archives in order to destroy proof pertaining to an Armenian genocide. He referred to the absence of any such incident in Turkish textbooks as a case of social amnesia and denial.

However, Akcam said that not all proof could be destroyed because the Armenian genocide was a massive state effort that left trails.

Hovannisian said the 800 accounts he has gathered from survivors of the genocide were proof that could not be ignored. He also compared the Armenian genocide to background music - it's there all the time, but we never listen to it.

Akcam called for a need of more Turkish scholars who are willing to recognize and discuss the Armenian genocide as a crime.

"Turkey must change their language," said Akcam.

Currently, the word genocide is considered a national threat to the Turkish government, according to Akcam.

Hovannisian pointed to fear of financial repercussions as one reason for the Turkish government's unwillingness to acknowledge an Armenian genocide, which he described as unique because it fulfills all five aspects of the United Nations' definition of genocide.

Andy Franks also contributed to this report.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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