TORRONTO–The Armenian National Committee of Canada’s (ANCC) Executive Director Aris Babikian challenged Turkish professor Turkkaya Ataov’s attempt to deny the historic reality of the Armenian Genocide during the latter’s lecture at the Ryerson University on Feb. 18. Prof. Ataov’s presentation was titled "How to come to terms with one’s past".
When Babikian tried to correct Prof. Ataov’s erroneous statemen’s regarding the Armenian Genocide, and the Turkish professor’s accusations that the Western world was racist, anti-Islamic and practiced genocidal policies, many of the Turkish nationalists in the audience tried to silence Babikian. When Babikian insisted on being heard, some of the organizers turned off the microphone and threatened Babikian with forceful removal from the podium.
Babikian reminded the audience that they are living in Canada and not in Turkey and that freedom of speech is one of the most cherished rights of Canadians, specially in academic settings.
After Babikian’s condemnation of Turkish nationalists’ anti-democratic behavior, the ANCC executive director was allowed to make his statement, challenging Prof. Ataov’s boiler-plate propaganda. Babikian also condemned Prof. Ataov’s use of the "religion card" to justify his accusations against the West. Earlier in his lecture Ataov had accused Western countries of killing five million Muslims in the Balkan and in the Caucasus. Ataov’s manner was condescending towards the West and his audience.
Babikian asked Atoav how did he reconcile his statement that only two Armenia’s were killed on April 24, 1915 with Talaat Pasha’s, Minister of Interior and the main architect of the Armenian Genocide, diary ("Black Book") which stated that 924,158 Armenia’s had been killed by the Turkish government. Talaat also kept a detailed account of Armenia’s deported from each city, county, and province.
Babikian also questioned the credibility of the historians Ataov cited as experts on the Armenian Genocide, such as Justin McCarthy, Gunther Lewy, Sanford Show, and Andrew Mango. Babikian then read "British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies’" evaluation of McCarthy’s work as “junk food, junk bonds and now junk history”. Babikian reminded Ataov and the audience with the testimony of 126 Holocaust scholars, International Association of Genocide Scholars, the International Centre for Transitional Justice and hundreds of other scholars and historians who have contradicted Ataov’s claims and the Turkish Government’s denial of the Armenian Genocide.
When Babikian tried to question some of Ataov answers, Turkish nationalists once again tried to suppress Babikian from speaking. Embarrassed by his compatriots behavior and as a face-saving measure, Ataov invited Babikian to the stage to stand next to him and to continue the discussion. Babikian and Ataov continued to discuss many relevant issues to the Armenian Genocide.
After the event, Dr. Girair Basmadjian, president of the ANCC, said that he “condemned the behavior of the Turkish nationalists and their attempt to intimidate and silence a Canadian, while trying to deny him one of the most basic human rights to freedom of thought which is enshrined in our constitution."
Dr. Basmadjian added: "The modus operandi of these nationalists is indicative and reminiscent of the Turkish government’s modus operandi in suppressing freedom of speech and silencing anyone who dares to challenge the official Turkish government narrative of the Armenian Genocide under article 301 of the Turkish penal code." The persecution of award-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk and many other righteous Turks, and the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist are eloquent examples of these policies,” said Dr. Basmadjian.
“We also abhor Prof. Ataov’s %u218the West is racist’ statement and his other temper tantrums. Such a statement has no place in our academic and scholarly circles," said Basmadjian. Ataov’s attempt to whip up hysteria and to try to put a wedge among Canadians by using religious fervor should be condemned by everyone, he said. "Therefore, we ask Ryerson University to dissociate itself from this lecture which she jointly organized with the Federation of Canadian Turkish Association, apologize to Canadians, condemn Prof. Ataov, and hold accountable the sociology department professor of Turkish background who deceived the university and put Ryerson in such a compromising situation,” said Basmadjian.
The ANCC is the largest and the most influential Canadian-Armenian grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout Canada and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCC actively advances the concerns of the Canadian-Armenian community on a broad range of issues.