Taner Akçam

Altuğ Taner Akçam (born 1953) is a Turkish-German historian[1] and sociologist. During the 1990s, he was the first Turkish scholar to acknowledge the Armenian genocide,[2][3] and has written several books on the genocide, such as A Shameful Act (1999), From Empire to Republic: Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide (2004), The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity (2012), and Killing Orders (2018). He is recognized as a "leading international authority" on the subject.[4] Akçam's frequent participation in public debates on the legacy of the genocide have been compared to Theodor Adorno's role in postwar Germany.[5]

Taner Akçam
Taner Akçam.PNG
Akçam in Toronto, 2013
Born1953 (1953) (age 68)
NationalityGerman
Alma materMiddle East Technical University
OccupationHistorian
Known forDiscussion of Armenian genocide, 1977 imprisonment

Akçam argues for an attempt to reconcile the differing Armenian and Turkish narratives of the genocide, and to move away from the behaviour which uses those narratives to support national stereotypes. "We have to re-think the problem and place both societies in the centre of our analysis. This change of paradigm should focus on creating a new cultural space that includes both societies, a space in which both sides have the chance to learn from each other."[6][7]

Early life

Akçam was born in Ölçek village near Ardahan, Turkey to Dursun and Perihan Akçam.[8] His family are of Turkish Meskhetian origin.[9][10] Akçam has stated that he was raised in "a very secular family," with his father being an atheist.[11] He studied economics at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, and graduated in 1976. In 1974, Akçam was arrested for participating in student protests against the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.[12] In 1975 he was arrested for distributing leaflets and placing posters around the city. (Akçam notes that "one had to obtain permission from what is now called the Security General Directorate's Special Inspection Branch Directorate for the Associations, and that even with a special permit in hand, one could be arbitrarily arrested and apprehended at police headquarters for 3–5 days."[13])

On March 9, 1976, soon after graduating from university, while a graduate student at the same department, he was arrested for his involvement in producing a student journal that focused on the treatment of Kurds in Turkey.[14][15] Devrimci Gençlik (Revolutionary Youth)[16][17][18][19][20] was the journal of a radical leftist organization,[21][22][23] Devrimci Yol ("Revolutionary Path").[24] Akçam explained that he accepted the editorship position, aged 22, as none of his peers would, knowing that it could land him in jail.[25] His fears materialized when he received a nine-year sentence in early 1977, which resulted in Amnesty International naming him as a prisoner of conscience.[15] He served for a year before escaping from Ankara Central Prison on March 12, 1977,[14][17][25] using the leg of an iron stove to dig a hole.[26] He received political asylum from West Germany in 1978, where he obtained citizenship and resided until obtaining his doctorate degree in 1995.[14][15][27][28]

Academic career

In August 1988, Akçam began work as a research scientist at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research following an invitation from Iranian scholar Hadi Ressesade.[29][30][31] Ressesade, who was studying torture in Iran, proposed that Akçam could do a study on torture in Turkey.[29] Akçam decided to study Armenians after meeting a German librarian of Lebanese-Armenian origin, who urged him to do so.[32] In 1991, he organized a workshop on the Ottoman Military Tribunal that judged the crimes of the Armenian genocide.[2] He later recalled, "As I progressed in my readings of Abdul Hamid’s massacres, I thought to myself: I know the history of the French Revolution, of Russia in 1917, of Chinese Communism, but I do not know Turkish history."[33] Akçam was initially reluctant to use the word "genocide" for anti-Armenian violence, because "by qualifying it a genocide you become a member of a collective associated to a crime, not any crime but to the ultimate crime".[34] He received his PhD from Leibniz University Hannover with a dissertation titled, Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide: On the Background of the Military Tribunals in Istanbul between 1919 and 1922.[35][34]

Akçam is a former student of fellow genocide scholar, Vahakn Dadrian.[36] In 1997, a Dutch documentary titled "Een Muur van Stilte" (A Wall of Silence), written and directed by Dorothée Forma of the Humanist Broadcasting Foundation (Dutch: Humanistische Omroep Stichting),[37][38] was made about their academic relationship.[39]

Akçam was Visiting Associate Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, United States before joining Clark University's Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.[1]

After the assassination of Hrant Dink in 2007, Akçam attended Dink's funeral in Istanbul. According to the Intelligence Report, the journal of the Southern Poverty Law Center,

Dink's friend and ideological ally Taner Akçam, a distinguished Turkish historian and sociologist on the faculty of the University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, attended Dink's funeral in Turkey, despite the considerable risk to his own life. Akçam, a leading international authority on the Armenian genocide, was marked for death by Turkish ultranationalists following the November 2006 publication of his book A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and The Question of Turkish Responsibility. The book is a definitive history based in large part on official documents from Turkish government archives.[4]

In 2008, when Akçam's appointment as the chairman of Armenian genocide studies at Clark University was questioned by local Turks as biased, Deborah Dwork, director of the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark, said that "ethnic or religious identity is not crucial to any appointment," and that "they hire the best scholars in the pool".[40]

On 29 January 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron awarded Akçam the medal for courage for "denouncing denial" of the Armenian genocide.[41]

Legal disputes

In January 2007, the Turkish government officially launched an investigation against Akçam regarding an October 6, 2006, newspaper column in the Turkish-Armenian journal Agos.[42] In it Akçam criticized the prosecution of Agos managing editor Hrant Dink for using the term "genocide", regarding the Armenian genocide. The use of the term was construed by the prosecutor's office as the criminal offense of "insulting Turkishness" under Article 301 of Turkey's penal code.[43] Highlighting the term "genocide", Akçam declared himself an accessory to the charges against Hrant Dink, and urged readers to join in Dink's support. Later in January 2007 an Istanbul court decided not to pursue the charges against Akçam.[44]

Akçam faced harassment after discovering the identity of the creator of the Web site Tall Armenian Tale,[13][45][46] which had called Akçam a "turncoat" and posted his personal information.[47] Fearing reprisals after the assassination of Hrant Dink, Akçam entreated the Coordination Council of Armenian Organisations in France and president Sarkozy to pressure Ankara to protect him.[48]

On February 16, 2007 Akçam was detained in Canada at the airport in Montreal for nearly four hours after arriving on a flight from the United States.[49] He was due to give a lecture at the invitation of the McGill University Faculty of Law and Concordia University. In explaining his detention, Taner Akçam says that Canadian authorities referred to an inaccurate version of his biography on Wikipedia from around December 24, 2006, which called him a terrorist.[49][50]

On February 18, 2007 he was also detained at the US border and has been so far unable to find out the reason for his being detained there.[49] While on a lecture tour in 2007 he faced further harassment by persons turning up and disrupting his speaking engagements.[46] The Wikipedia biography was altered as part of an internet campaign against him by the website "Tall Armenian Tale".[51]

In October 2011, Akçam won a judgment in the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that the Turkish laws against "denigrating Turkishness" were a violation of freedom of expression.[52][53]

Bibliography

  • Killing Orders: Talat Pasha’s Telegrams and the Armenian Genocide (2018)
  • Taner Akçam (2012) The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire, Princeton University Press ISBN 978-069-11-5333-9
  • Akçam, Taner (January 2008). Ermeni Meselesi Hallolunmuştur (in Turkish). İletişim. ISBN 978-975-05-0562-1. (The Armenian Issue is Resolved)[54][55]
  • Taner Akçam (May 16, 2006) A Shameful Act : The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility, Metropolitan Books ISBN 0-8050-7932-7 (received the 2007 Minnesota Book Award for General Nonfiction.[56])
  • Taner Akçam (Sep. 4, 2004) From Empire to Republic : Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide, Zed Books ISBN 1-84277-527-8
  • Dialogue across an international divide: Essays towards a Turkish-Armenian dialogue, Zoryan Institute, 2001, ISBN 1-895485-03-7; - About the book and foreword
  • (in Turkish) İnsan hakları ve Ermeni sorunu: İttihat ve Terakki'den Kurtuluş Savaşı'na, İmge Kitabevi, 1. edition, 1999, ISBN 975-533-246-4
  • Rethinking Modernity and National Identity in Turkey, Publications on the Near East, University of Washington, Sibel Bozdogan (Editor), University of Washington Press, July, 1997, ISBN 0-295-97597-0
  • (in German) Armenien und der Völkermord: Die Istanbuler Prozesse und die türkische Nationalbewegung, Hamburger Edition, 1. edition, 1996, ISBN 3-930908-26-3
  • (in Turkish) Siyasi kültürümüzde zulüm ve işkence (Araştırma-inceleme dizisi), İletişim Yayıncılık, 1. edition, 1992, ISBN 975-470-249-7

References

  1. ^ a b "Taner Akçam - scholar, author, ex-political prisoner, and courageous champion of civil liberties - joins the Strassler Center" (Press release). Office of University Communications, Clark University. 2008-06-17. Archived from the original on 2008-06-26. Retrieved 2008-07-02. Clark University has appointed prominent historian Taner Akçam to occupy the Robert Aram and Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marion Mugar Professorship in Armenian Genocide Studies
  2. ^ a b Cheterian 2015, pp. 140–141.
  3. ^ de Waal, Thomas (2015). Great Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide. Oxford University Press. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-19-935069-8.
     • Suny, Ronald Grigor (2009). "Truth in Telling: Reconciling Realities in the Genocide of the Ottoman Armenians". The American Historical Review. 114 (4): 938. doi:10.1086/ahr.114.4.930.
  4. ^ a b David Holthouse, Southern Poverty Law Center, State of Denial: Turkey Spends Millions to Cover Up Armenian Genocide Archived 2010-01-20 at the Wayback Machine Intelligence Report, Summer 2008
  5. ^ Erbal, Ayda (2015). "The Armenian Genocide, AKA the Elephant in the Room". International Journal of Middle East Studies. 47 (4): 783–790. doi:10.1017/S0020743815000987. Taner Akc¸am, for example, is a regular press contributor on a number of issues including but not limited to facing history. Although it is very difficult to assess their reach, we can safely say that, unfortunately, their popular writings are more widely read on a day-to-day basis than their academic work. In a way, this is reminiscent of Adorno’s radio programs on dealing with the Past and his written contributions to [German newspapers]...
  6. ^ Akcam, 2004, p. 262.
  7. ^ "Gariwo: the gardens of the Righteous > Taner Akcam - 1953 [biography]". gariwo.net.
  8. ^ Şişli State Head Prosecutor, Suspect’s Statement Form. Investigation № 2006/49047.
  9. ^ Hofmann, Tessa (2016). "Open Wounds: Armenians, Turks, and a Century of Genocide by Vicken Cheterian". Histoire sociale/Social history. 49 (100): 662–664. doi:10.1353/his.2016.0046. Regrettably, Cheterian does not fully reveal what made Zarakolu and Akςam exceptional challengers of taboos and groundbreakers against all ideological and generational odds. Maybe the reason why is that there is a familial tradition of rescuing victims, as in the case of Zarakolu? Or, perhaps belonging to an ethnic minority that experienced state persecution before, as in the case of Akςam whose background was Meskhetian?
  10. ^ Taner Akçam'la "soykırım" üzerine, Bizim Anadolu, 2010, retrieved 21 December 2020, (Gülerek) Herkes etnik kökenine bakıyor. Vallahi ben çok safkan bir Türküm. Ahıska Türkleri derler bize Kars'ta. Ve, bizim sülalemizden birilerinin Ermeni çeteleri tarafından öldürülmüş olabileceği ihtimali de oldukça kuvvetli. Ama bu tür şeyler benim için hiç önemli değil. Ben sonuçta bir akademisyenim ve bilim adamı olarak konuyu araştırıyorum.
  11. ^ Is It Still Genocide if Your Allies Did It?, lawandpolitics.com.
  12. ^ Whittell, Giles (2007-08-18). "Non-fiction book reviews: History that dares to speak its name". Times Online. Retrieved 2008-08-18. ...a 1974 arrest for protesting at Turkey's invasion of northern Cyprus...
  13. ^ a b Akçam, Taner. Nazım Dikbaş (ed.). "Holdwater: 'Murad Gümen: The Mysterious American Who Drives the Armenians Mad'" (DOC). Originally published in Agos as "Holdwater: The Mysterious American who Drives Armenians Mad," May 18, 2007, and "Holdwater: The Golden Rule," May 25, 2007, by Ali Murat Güven.
  14. ^ a b c Schilling, Peter (January 2008). "Is It Still Genocide if Your Allies Did It?". Law & Politics. 167. Retrieved 2008-05-16.
  15. ^ a b c Christoff, Stefan (2007-02-22). "No shame in slaughter". Montreal Mirror. 22 (34). Archived from the original on 2007-10-04. Retrieved 2008-05-16.
  16. ^ "Taner Akçam'a Özgurluk". Devrimci Gençlik (in Turkish). September 1976. Dergimiz Sorumlu Yazı İşleri müdürü Taner Akçam... (English: Our magazine's managing editor Taner Akçam...)
  17. ^ a b "Taner Akçam: Biography". İletişim Yayınları (in Turkish). Retrieved 2008-05-20.
  18. ^ "ST Center for International Studies Presents Taner Akcam, author of "A Shameful Act"" (PDF). University of St. Thomas. 2007-02-19. Retrieved 2008-08-18. In the mid-1970s, Akçam became a leading member of the militant group Dev Yol (Devrimci Yol-Revolutionary Path) and the editor of its periodical Devrimci Genclik Dergisi (Revolutionary Youth Magazine).
  19. ^ "A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility". Armenian Studies Program. California State University, Fresno. 2007-01-21. Archived from the original on 2008-12-26. Retrieved 2008-08-18. As the editor in chief of a student political journal
  20. ^ "The Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Sources" (PDF). Mershon Center. Ohio State University Knowledge Bank. 2006-01-11. Retrieved 2008-08-18.
  21. ^ Burgess, Mark (2002-05-21). "Terrorism — PKK (a.k.a. KADEK): Kurdish Worker's Party (a.k.a. Kurdish Freedom and Democracy Congress)". Terrorism Project. Center for Defense Information. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
  22. ^ Munro, David; Day, Alan John (1990). A World Record of Major Conflict Areas. St. James Press. p. 143. ISBN 1-55862-066-4.
  23. ^ Özcan, Ali Kemal (2006). Turkey's Kurds: A Theoretical Analysis of the PKK and Abdullah Öcalan. Routledge. p. 200. ISBN 0-415-36687-9.
  24. ^ Karpat, Kemal H. (1975). "Turkish and Arab-Israeli Relations". Turkey's Foreign Policy in Transition: 1950–1974. Brill Archive. p. 131. ISBN 90-04-04323-3.
  25. ^ a b Dundar, Can (2002-01-08). "Bir rüya gördü hapisten kaçtı". Milliyet (in Turkish). Retrieved 2008-08-26. Çıkaracağımız Devrimci Gençlik dergisinin sorumlu yazı işleri müdürünün kim olacağını tartışıyorduk. Herkes birbirinin gözünün içine bakıyordu. Bu görevi üstlenecek olan, geleceğini tehlikeye atmayı, en azından hapse düşmeyi kabul etmiş olacaktı. Beklemekten nefret ederim. Dayanamadım, 'Ben olurum' dedim.
  26. ^ Kolbert, Elizabeth (2006-11-06). "Dead Reckoning". New Yorker. Retrieved 2008-09-02. Using a stove leg to dig a tunnel...
  27. ^ Mozingo, Joe (1999-04-26). "Turkish Writer Breaks Ranks on Genocide". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-09-09. Akcam, once a student dissident who tunneled out of a Turkish prison with the leg of an iron stove...had his own run-ins with the Turkish government in the 1970s. He was jailed for printing Marxist articles and eventually escaped from a primitive prison converted from an old stable, he said. Turkish authorities confirmed his arrest and escape, and said he was linked to a pro-Soviet revolutionary group.
  28. ^ Macmillan, Jonathan Q (2007-03-15). "Author Argues That Armenian Genocide Happened". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2008-05-15.
  29. ^ a b Cheterian 2015, pp. 139–140.
  30. ^ Taner Akçam, Dr. phil., Hamburg Institute for Social Research (in German)
  31. ^ Akçam, Taner (March 2000). "The process of state formation in Turkey". Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Research and Culture. Retrieved 2008-07-10.
  32. ^ Cheterian 2015, p. 140.
  33. ^ Cheterian 2015, p. 141.
  34. ^ a b Cheterian 2015, p. 142.
  35. ^ "Faculty: Taner Akcam, Ph.D." Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Clark University. Retrieved 2008-05-16.
  36. ^ Kouyoumdjian, Nina (2006-04-30). "Dadrian and Taner Akcam come to Harvard to Discuss Future of Turkey-Armenia Relations". Harvard Armenian Society. Retrieved 2008-08-19. Professor Akcam, one of Dadrian's former students...
  37. ^ Ghazarian, Salpi Haroutinian (March 1999). "A Dutch Filmmaker". Armenian International Magazine. Archived from the original on 2007-07-01. Retrieved 2008-08-19.
  38. ^ Dorothée Forma at IMDb
  39. ^ "Bir Ziyaretin Dusundurdukleri" (in Turkish). 2000-04-11. Archived from the original on 2007-07-08. Retrieved 2008-08-19. [Filmin] konusu, doktora tezimin yazimi sirasinda ... Amerika'da yasayan Ermeni asilli Prof. Dadrian ile kurdugum 'akademik iliski' idi.
  40. ^ Abel, David (2008-05-29). "Turkish historian to study genocide". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
  41. ^ "Macron félicite un historien turc auteur d'un livre sur le génocide arménien". lapresse.ca (in French). 29 January 2020.
  42. ^ Akçam, Taner (2006-10-06). "Hrant Dink, 301 ve bir suç duyurusu". Agos. (Hrant Dink, 301, and a criminal complaint)
  43. ^ Labi, Aisha (2008-05-16). "Turkish Scholar Sues to Overturn Law on 'Denigrating Turkishness'". Chronicle of Higher Education. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-16.
  44. ^ "Turkish historian cleared of charges for declaring 'genocide'". New Anatolian. 2007-04-02. Archived from the original on 2007-05-03.
  45. ^ Ozcan, Emine (2007-09-04). "Akçam: I Have Never Been So Scared". bianet. Archived from the original on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
  46. ^ a b Cole, Juan (2007-04-14). "Detained in Two Worlds: The Taner Akçam Story". Informed Comment. Retrieved 2008-05-16. Contains Akçam's essay, "The Circle Closes In: A shameful campaign", dated March 17, 2007.
  47. ^ "Turkish Scholars". Tall Armenian Tale. Retrieved 2008-09-03. It makes sense, then, to understand why Turncoat Turks like Taner Akcam...
  48. ^ "'Akçam, Hrant Dink olmasın' kampanyası". Sabah (in Turkish). 2007-07-27. Retrieved 2008-09-03.
  49. ^ a b c Fisk, Robert (2007-04-21). "Caught in the deadly web of the Internet". The Independent. Archived from the original on May 14, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-16.
  50. ^ Jay, Paul (2007-06-22). "A question of authority". CBC News. In Depth: Technology. Retrieved 2020-04-10.
  51. ^ Cheterian 2015, p. 156. "He was also subject to an internet campaign launched by ‘Holdwater’, the webmaster of a website—‘Tall Armenian Tale’— that sought to deny the crimes of the Ottoman authorities, and which launched vitriolic attacks against scholars and public figures who dared to challenge the official Turkish narrative on the extermination of the Armenians. This campaign continued for three years, with Akçam being called a ‘terrorist’ on YouTube and Wikipedia. In February 2007, while travelling to Canada, Akçam was detained on the basis of the false allegations Holdwater had levelled against him. When Akçam ultimately revealed Holdwater’s true identity, he instead became subject to a more conventional smear campaign in the Turkish media."
  52. ^ ECtHR judgment of 25/10/2011 on application No. 27520/07 Para. 92, 93, 95
  53. ^ Freedom to Publish Trial Opens in Turkey. IPA Observers Call for Call for Acquittal of Publisher Ragıp Zarakolu (PDF). International Publishers Association. 2012.
  54. ^ Atmaca, Efnan (2008-01-25). "Amaç Ermenileri yok etmekti". Radikal (in Turkish). Retrieved 2008-07-12.
  55. ^ "The objective was to get rid of all Armenians (English translation)" (PDF). The Armenian Reporter. February 16, 2008. p. A3. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 5, 2009. Retrieved July 12, 2008.
  56. ^ "Minnesota Book Awards". Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. Archived from the original on 2008-05-01. Retrieved 2008-05-16.

External links