April 24 2010
Persecuted Turk Armenian genocide writer visits Valley
By Marc Benjamin, The Fresno Bee, Calif.
Apr. 24–He has been detained as a terror suspect, marked for death,
held in a Turkish prison and forced to leave his native country.
Those are the consequences that Taner Akcam faced as one of the first
Turks to use the word "genocide" to describe his nation’s treatment of
Armenians almost 100 years ago.
In his articles and book, "A Shameful Act, The Armenian Genocide and
the Question of Turkish Responsibility," the sociologist used the term
"genocide" to describe 1.5 million deaths that occurred from
1915-1923. As a result, the Turkish government investigated Akcam for
Akcam will speak tonight about the Turkish-Armenian issue at St. Paul
Armenian Church in Fresno.
Today marks the 95th anniversary of arrests that started the Armenian
genocide in 1915, which is described by Turkey’s government as deaths
In March, Turkey temporarily recalled its ambassador to the United
States after a congressional committee passed a nonbinding resolution
urging President Barack Obama to call the 1915 events a "genocide."
Even though large numbers of Armenians fought for the Ottoman Empire
in the Balkan wars, their Christianity was a reason they were singled
out by the Muslim Turks, said Akcam, chairman of the genocide studies
program at Clark University in Massachusetts.
"The Ottomans lost 75% of their European land holdings," Akcam said.
"It was an empire in decline."
In 1915, Armenians were an ethnic minority with land, so they became
targets of a hostile movement, Akcam said.
"If Armenians had not been Christians, the genocide would not have
happened, but religion wasn’t the sole reason," he said.
Speaking out against his government’s policies is not new for Akcam,
56, whose protesting dates back to 1968 against U.S. involvement in
In 1974, he was arrested at a student protest against Turkey’s
invasion of Cyprus. He was arrested in 1975 for distributing leaflets
and putting up posters without permission. He was arrested and
imprisoned in 1976 for articles he wrote in a student journal about
Turkey’s treatment of its Kurdish minority.
A year later, he escaped and moved to Germany. Amnesty International,
which had taken up his cause while he was in prison, helped him
resettle in Germany in 1978.
After his 2006 book was released, Akcam became a marked man for using
the word "genocide" and describing the Armenian deaths as "a shameful
A year later, Canadian authorities detained him as a terror suspect
while he was going there for a speaking engagement. He says those who
arrested him said his Wikipedia profile led him to be a suspect. But
he believes Turkish extremists hacked into the profile.
That occurred a month after his friend, journalist Hrant Dink, was
assassinated by a Turkish extremist because of his writings using the
word "genocide." Akcam attended his friend’s funeral in Turkey.
Akcam has returned to Turkey once since Dink’s death. He remains
cautious in his home country.
"I can go to Turkey," he said, "but I shouldn’t show myself in public
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress