Türkkaya Ataöv - Genocide denial?

Türkkaya Ataöv - Genocide denial?

McGill University in Montreal has apparently allowed an Armenian Genocide denier a platform from which to speak. No debate was organized, and Türkkaya Ataöv was not challenged on his views of history, including—according to witness accounts below—his take on the Nazis not getting a “fair trial.” When Armenian students asked questions in the face of Mr Ataöv’s revisionist telling of Turkey’s 1915 genocide of 1.5 million Armenians, they were shouted down by Turkish audience members, according to witnesses. This event raises important questions about academic freedom and freedom of speech – should the campus and academia be a place where someone is given platform to rewrite history in the face of international opposition, especially when that rewriting is denying the loss of so many lives? If this is part of academic freedom, should we as students, teachers and academics, demand a platform that instills debate over one-sided speech? Food for thought…

From the Armen Karo Student Association

397 Boul. des Prairies
Laval, Quebec
H7N 2W6
Tel: 450-505-1032
E-mail: armen.karo@gmail.com
Contact: Kevork Kazanjian

There is No Room in Canada for Genocide Deniers

Feb 26, 2009

Montreal – On Friday the 20th of  February 2009, McGill University decided that its campus was an appropriate stage, from which the known Turkish denialist Türkkaya Ataöv could spread the fabrications, omissions and factoids of official Ankara, that aim to question the veracity of the  Armenian Genocide of 1915, during which 1.5 million Armenians were massacred by the premeditated measures of the Turkish Ittihadist Government. Thus was set the precedent of any other history revisionist and Genocide denialist to find a podium in academia, in the name of “freedom of speech”. Apparently, this principle outweighed the lost lives of millions of innocent victims and their unspeakable suffering in the minds of the decision-makers of McGill.

Despite formal letters of protest, and meetings with the University Administration, initiated by the Armenian Students’ Association of McGill and Armen Karo Student Association, and supported by many associations  (International Association of Genocide Scholars, Amnesty International, Hillel Montreal, SHOUT, STAND UP, the Armenian Students’ Associations of Quebec and Ontario) the event still took place in a one-sided format, where the lecturer was free to be the mouthpiece of denial and distortion, without being challenged by an authoritative voice on this subject from the same podium.

From the start of this event, it became clear that this was an organized attempt to silence any voice of dissent and protest. The Turkish Society of McGill had ‘invitees’ from Ontario, the Azerbaijani community and functionaries from the Turkish Embassy in Canada. During the lecture, Mr. Ataov, after having labeled the West as racist in a recent Ryerson University lecture, went further and declared that the Nazi perpetrators of the Jewish Holocaust  ‘did not get a fair trial’ at Nuremberg. And at the end, to give the semblance of fairness to McGill administration, a short question period was allocated. But whenever an Armenian participant took the floor to ask a question, Turkish participants tried to prevent him from talking by either insulting him or interrupting and shouting in unison.

Despite the fact that the Armenian genocide is officially recognized by the Senate, Parliament and Government of Canada , this conference was another attempt by the Turkish government to spread the tentacles of its  denialist propaganda, taking advantage of  the valued principles of freedom of a democratic country, while in Turkey, the infamous article 301 of its penal code forbids people to express any view about this crime that contradicts the official line. It is worthy to mention that despite this article and persecutions in its name, in December 2008,  200 Turkish intellectuals defied their government, issuing a letter of empathy for the Armenian tragedies of 1915.  This was followed recently by an online petition to apologize to the Armenian nation that garnered the support of nearly 30 000 Turkish citizens.

The president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), Dr. Gregory Stanton defines denial as the last stage of genocide. This is where the perpetrators and their successors actively fabricate and misrepresent information and deny any occurrence of the crime. They vilify the victims and deny them the right to mourn their losses. What happened in McGill was exactly a replica of this pattern, when the descendants of the survivors of the Genocide had to confront denialists such as Mr. Ataov, who manipulate and abuse North American university grounds to camouflage revisionism as pseudo-lectures. Hence, the argument of “freedom of expression” by McGill University, put forth to justify this conference is completely irresponsible, forcefully condemnable and casts a long shadow on its reputation.

“The falsification of History, denial of the Holocaust or of any Crime against Humanity recognized as genocide by the international academic community cannot be protected by a false label of “freedom of speech” said Kevork Kazandjian, President of the Armen Karo Student Association. “As Canadian-Armenian university students we felt outraged and deeply insulted. Aiding a genocide denier to find a credible platform in Canada is an affront to all of the people who have suffered from this crime. On behalf of the Armen Karo Student Association I request that a proper and formal apology be presented to the Armenian community of Montreal and that such an episode will never occur on any Canadian University campus again.” Mr. Kazandjian concluded.