Opinion: Dr. Akçam's April 24 Speech Brings New Perspective
Dr. Taner Akçam
Photo: Armenian Studies Archive
Barlow Der Mugrdechian
These are only a few of the adjectives to describe the unique address given by Dr. Taner Akçam at the Armenian Genocide Commemoration attended by the San Joaquin Valley Armenian community on Saturday, April 24.
This was not the first time an academic has spoken to a Genocide Commemoration audience, but it was the first time in Fresno that the speaker has been Turkish. For many, Dr. Akçam represented the first Turkish person they had ever seen or heard. That a Turkish person would speak to an Armenian group about the Genocide was an amazing moment in the history of the Armenian pursuit of justice.
Dr. Akçam’s words penetrated to the heart of Armenian Genocide denial by the Turkish government. “As a citizen of Turkey, I believe that a complete and honest reckoning with the crimes in my country’s history, including of course the Armenian Genocide, is the only way to create true democracy in Turkey and peace and stability in the region,” stated Akçam.
Dr. Akçam teaches Genocide at Clark University in Massachusetts and is the author of A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility. He has conducted extensive archival research in documenting the Armenian Genocide.
Turkish state policy is denial of the Genocide, but the reality today is that there are scores of Turks are who defying their own government, to speak openly and truthfully about the Genocide. This can only be a healthy development, and though it may not mean the Turkish state will immediately change its position, it does give hope for change in its position. “…We, the new generation in Turkey, have a moral and political responsibility towards our history and ourselves,” said Akçam. “…What you are witnessing now is the rebellion against that suppressed silence, and the expression of the narrative that was never openly discussed.”
The battle for Armenian Genocide recognition will be fought in the next few years in Turkish civil society. The political push for Genocide recognition will also continue, and one day when that has been achieved true reconciliation can begin.
“The Genocide was a tremendous loss, not only for Armenians but also for all humanity. And therefore, not only as Turks or as Armenians, but as human beings, we must struggle together so that such a crime against humanity is never repeated.”
Dr. Akçam’s words will resonate with a larger audience, leading to a brighter future, in which denial has been defeated and truth will win the day.
The Genocide commemoration was organized by the Armenian Inter-Communal Committee for the Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.