BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
The Turkish Studies Project of the University of Utah convened its fourth conference on on Wednesday in Tbilisi, Georgia. The conference is entitled “The Caucasus at Imperial Twilight: Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Nation-Building (1870s-1920s).”
The Turkish Studies Project at Utah, directed by Prof. M. Hakan Yavuz of the Department of Political Science, is funded by the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), one of the most active U.S.-based groups promoting denial of the Armenian Genocide (the TCA is also specified as a sponsor of the conference). The Project was established in 2009 through the TCA’s financial support.
The Turkish Coalition of America has gained notoriety since its establishment in 2007 for its aggressive promotion of “the contra-genocide narrative” through funding scholarship that casts doubt on the facts of the Genocide, pursuing aggressive legal measures such as its lawsuit (which was dismissed) against the University of Minnesota and its Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and working against U.S. recognition of the Genocide by the U.S. Congress and Executive Branch.
In light of the TCA’s support of the conference, it is not surprising to find such names as Norman Stone, Justin McCarthy, Michael Gunter, and Kemal Cicek among the participants. Each is well known for writings that attempt to undercut the veracity of the Armenian Genocide.
What is surprising, however, is the presence of a number of Armenian scholars, both from the Republic of Armenia and from the United States, including one member of the organizing committee.
Lately, certain elements in Armenian academia have been advancing the warped notion that by taking part in denialist or denialist-organized conferences they can counter claims by Turkey and its mouthpieces whose careers have hinged on historical revisionism. Yet we have seen no proof of that.
As these Armenian academicians gallivant around the world from one conference to another, the government of Turkey continues to invest millions to infiltrate academic circles in the US and elsewhere.
The participation of some of the Armenian scholars on the roster of the Tbilisi conference is not surprising as they “sold out” a long time ago. What is more disturbing is the participation of a younger generation of academicians who fervently argue that their presence at such conferences bolsters the Armenian position when, in reality, it goes a long way in advancing Turkey’s decades-long denialist policies.
The Armenian scholars’ participation in the conference does not end with presenting papers and includes Armenians who are listed as organizers on the program.
In the absence of efforts by Armenia to produce a new generation of multi-lingual Armenian scholars, coupled with the laissez-faire attitude of those who make it a point to be at the forefront of denialist scholarship, the academic pursuit of the Armenian Cause is taking a step backward.
Therefore, these Armenian scholars who are participating in these conferences should be accountable to the public and through the Armenian press must report on their efforts to “counter” Genocide denial in these forums. After all, the same scholars took great advantage of the arena presented by the Armenian press during their nascent days as burgeoning scholars.