Yevrobatsi (http://www.yevrobatsi.org/st/item.php?r=0&id=3330) informs in French that a Support Committee for Taner Akçam (Comité de soutien à Taner Akçam) has been set up in Europe.
Archive for July, 2007
Just noticed through blogs.google.com that a new blog, Akcam.info, has been set up to support Turkish historian Taner Akcam who is being targeted by ultranationalists of his kin for his scholarship on the Armenian Genocide – a holocaust that official Turkey says never happened.
The purpose of this website is to inform the public and the U.S. authorities of the dangers to Pr. Akcam’s life. Pr. Akcam is one of the first Turkish academics to acknowledge and discuss openly the genocide of the Armenians by the Turkish government in 1915. He is one of a growing number of Turkish scholars and intellectuals who are challenging Turkey’s insistent declarations that the organized slaughter of Armenians did not occur. Pr. Akcam is the victim of a lynching campaign that has an uncanny resemblance to the campaign against Hrant Dink immediately prior to his assassination on January 19, 2007. Act now before it is too late.
By Fatma Gocek, University of Michigan professor
“Hrant Dink was a man of vision who pointed toward a better world, but, as with the prophets of old, was fated not to enter it.” Roger Smith The sentence above in Roger Smith’s essay for the “Institute for the Study of Genocide” which I quote captured extremely well what had made Hrant Dink’s assassination so tragic for me. Within that group of ours of which Hrant was such an integral part that tried and still try so hard to bring democracy to Turkey, I sincerely believe that it would have felt and meant much more to Hrant than all of us in the group to have seen that vision come true. For I think he among us all had already suffered and paid a much higher price for the lack of it than all of us put together. And we, at least I, knew that. I think it is that knowledge combined with the reality that he among us is the one who will never get to see that vision actualized makes his death so unbearable to us all.
In that group, we the ‘Turks’ (and we were and are almost all Turks, urban mostly middle and some upper class ‘white’ Turks even, as we should have been and are, since we were and are structurally a part of the majority, the power structure and therefore more capable of standing up to and taking on the blows of the ‘other’ powerful establishment Turks) had to fight this fight, but we did not and should not have expected any of the minorities of Turkey to join us, to put them in the front lines given how much they had already suffered, were suffering, had been and still were disadvantaged by the existing structure who did not and still do not give them the chances we inherently all had and still have because of who we were and are rather than what we believed and still believe in. It would not have been fair to expect that of them: that was at least what I knew to be the case sociologically from my own academic work. I personally thought what united us as a group was our vision, a vision where the playing field in our country would be made equal for everyone, where no one would receive blows from the system, especially not the minorities who at present had to receive them, unlike most of us in the group, with their hands tied behind their back. Then, there emerged Hrant from among the minorities who had the strength, the heart and the courage not only to join us, but he did so like a member of our group, as if we had already accomplished that future vision of ours and there he was to show how it was to actually start living it within our group. We/I so appreciated and cherished that.
And I think that is why we all were so devastated when he was murdered: we as a group had failed to protect him. We had all thought we could and would succeed as a group in accomplishing our vision to bring democracy to our society, to guarantee that rights applied to all citizens equally. We also assumed that in that struggle, we would be safe together as a group. I am afraid that we somehow convinced Hrant that he too was safe with us. After all, given what he and his community had already been and was going through, it was only natural that he among us would the one who needed the least amount of convincing… Yet then, he also turned out to be the only one in our group who got murdered. The rest of us were not. We all survived and had to account for his death and our survival; we also had to reconcile with the fact that he was the only one among us who was specifically chosen to be killed: there lied the immensity of the cruelty and evil that went back from the gun held by his assassin back to diffuse into Turkish society and the state.
I will always remember that shock and shame I felt when I received the news of Hrant’s murder from Turkey, when I realized, for the first time in my life, what it means to have something — probably my innocence, naivete, optimism, belief in the inherent goodness of all humans, and faith in my country — get ripped within, with the impact of the shame that I too had thought we as a group could somehow accomplish our vision, that I too had gotten caught up with all the positive changes I had observed around me and had perhaps become too impervious to the degree cruelty within the society, state and the country at large and had therefore underestimated it, and, in so doing, that I too had somehow contributed and encouraged Hrant to feel and become impervious as well, which might have in turn somehow facilitated the road leading to his murder. I think this is the doubt that lies at the root of my shame. Granted, I did talk to him on different occasions at various stages of his unfortunate illegal trial to convince him and/or his family to come to the United States, but ultimately, I think, I failed him as a friend and certainly as a scholar. I think that I, as a sociologist, should have been much more aware of the precariousness of both our and especially his situation in Turkey and should have alerted him much more to the danger surrounding him, for I should have been able to observe much bettr the danger signs in the society, state and country at large as I had been trained to do. I could not.
I think that if Hrant had had the chance to read what I have written above, he would have first addressed and demonstrated his appreciation of both my thoughts and sentiments in that unique way of his which gave direct voice to his heart, thay way which none of us will ever be able to reproduce — and that is exactly what makes him so special and why his loss leaves me so heartbroken — and he would have then made a joke to get me to move on to safer, less dangerous, more practical grounds — as he often did whenever I brought up topics of gloom and doom — and he would have asked me what I was working on, how we scholars were crucial in this process, etcetera etcetera…
Ever since January 2007 when Hrant was murdered, I have been trying to reconcile myself to the reality of Hrant’s assassination. The only way I can reconcile it all at the moment is by by my decision to continue to address, not only now but also in my future activities and academic work, the question of democracy in Turkey and especially the significance of the location of minorities in relation to it. Doing so would enable me to help actualize the vision that has now also become Hrant Dink’s legacy to us as a group, that group which survived his death and now has to forever live, keep living and reconcile, keep reconciling with that tragic reality. I think the decision I have reached is the only way I personally can at this time make my peace not only with Hrant Dink’s murder, but also with the country that so violently murdered him .
By Ahmet Altan, Gazetem.net July 9, 2007 (translated from Turkish)
I met Taner Akcam at an American university city where the winters are long and harsh.
I had heard of him many times.
He was one of the leaders of an old legendary left wing organization.
And, he did not care about any ‘title, name, or class’ of anyone, including his, as he only defined people by their ‘deeds.’
You were a man as much as your deeds.
He was joyful, humorous, and would not complain even under difficult circumstances.
At the university, he was teaching history, I, literature.
During the long winter nights, we would meet sometimes, and he would tell me about his life experiences with a sense of humour exclusive to him.
He had attempted to “democratize” his illegal leftist organization and as a result he had made himself an enemy of his own organization.
He had criticized the anti-democratic stand of the PKK, had been included in the ‘death list’ of the organization, and in an attack, one of his friends had been mistakenly killed.
He would really be moved by sorrow while talking about that.
He was an exceptionally meticulous man.
When he was telling me how he would regularly load up his luggage with detergent bottles before travelling illegally to the Bekaa Valley camp, he would foreground not the difficulties he endured, but the “entertaining contradictions of life.”
He was a leader who carried detergent cleaners, not weapons.
He was researching the deportations of the Armenians executed by the Committee of Union and Progress at that time and he was emphasizing that this amounted to ‘genocide’.
What he claimed so openly and clearly was a difficult thing to do for a Turk at that time.
But he believed in what he spoke, and he spoke what he believed.
Of course he knew that what he was talking about would get him into trouble and he lwas not ooking for trouble, but it was not in his nature to keep quiet in order to avoid trouble, it was not in his nature to shut up about things that he believed.
He would list the actions of the Ittihadists one by one.
He was earning respect with his courage and honesty.
Then I returned home.
He went to another university in the United States.
He wrote new books, he made new enemies.
I received an e-mail from Taner recently.
One line specifically was frightening:
‘First it was Hrant, and I think they put me second in line.’
I remembered Hrant’s last editorial before he died, where he wrote ‘they will kill me’.
We had learned about a murder plot –known almost by the entire state apparatus, documented in intelligence reports numerous times– only after the murder.
No one could help Hrant.
No one had the opportunity or the time to cry that ‘the murder is coming’.
And our ‘lack of awareness’ had cost Hrant his life.
Now Taner was saying, ‘they put me next in line, I guess’.
Hrant’s murder showed us that the State would condone even new murders in order to cover up the sins of the Ittihadists.
That is why alarm bells rang inside me in a more scary fashion when I read Taner’s mail.
It is obvious that ‘that voice, the instict’ which warned Hrant before his murder is now warning Taner.
And he senses the gun being aimed at him.
Are they going to kill Taner for saying ‘Armenians were subjected to genocide’?
Don’t people of our society have the right to say what they believe about our own history?
Does everybody have the obligation to speak in the same way as the state?
Is death the price to pay for not sharing the state views and theses on our history?
Which discussion on history can be punished by death?
Are you going to kill every single person who says ‘Armenians were subjected to genocide’?
If you commit this murder, will the bloodshed prove that ‘there was no genocide’?
It is the very spirit of Ittihadists that is going arounf in this country, they go on killing the Armenian, the Sunni, the Protestant, the Kurd, indiscriminately.
How much longer will this go on?
How much longer will people be killed?
This state and this society could not protect Hrant.
Let us at least protect Taner.
He is a brave and an honest man.
He uttered what was most difficult in this country. He spoke because he believed.
I believe any man who speaks his mind knowing that will put him in trouble deserves respect, regardless of what he believes in.
Death is lingering around his door now.
There are so many newspapers, so many journalists, so many intellectuals in this country; will no one speak up to protect Taner?
Our silence will kill Taner.
If anything happens tomorrow, we will be all complicit.
Protect a person.
Do this so that you can say ‘I am too a human being’.
If you don’t…then you carry your silence like death all your life.
A Statement by Taner Akçam
July 16, 2007
In May 2007, I revealed the identity of Murad “Holdwater” Gümen, the secretive Webmaster of Tall Armenian Tale, an extensive and influential site devoted to “the other side of the falsified Genocide” and the defamation of genocide scholars, myself included. Mr. Gümen has been a leading voice in an ongoing campaign to denounce me as a traitor to Turkey and as a terrorist who ought to be of interest to American authorities.
For the last three years, disinformation about me from Tall Armenian Tale has been disseminated all over the Internet, eventually reaching the open-source encyclopedia, Wikipedia. This campaign, which intensified after the November 2006 publication of my book, A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility, culminated in my detention by Canadian and American border authorities last February, on suspicion of terrorism. As evidence, they showed me my vandalized Wikipedia biography.
Just one month before this incident, the assassination of Istanbul-based journalist Hrant Dink by an ultranationalist gunman had put Turkey’s intellectuals on high alert. We knew that in the months before his death, Mr. Dink had been targeted by an increasingly vicious media campaign intent on portraying him as a traitor. Among other things, Dink was pilloried for revealing the Armenian identity of Sabiha Gökçen, the adopted daughter of Turkey’s founding father, Kemal Ataturk. Leading the pack against Dink was Hürriyet newspaper, one of the most influential publications in Turkey.
In the campaign against me, disinformation from Tall Armenian Tale was copied to YouTube videos describing my “terrorist” activities. I received death threats by email. My lectures and book tour were disrupted, and poison-pen letters were sent to the hosting universities. Following my lecture on November 1, 2006, at City University of New York, I was physically assaulted.
My detention was the last straw. I challenged Mr. Gümen to stand up in public.
The unmasking of an individual who had been running a campaign of slander against me was presented to readers of Hürriyet as a criminal or unethical act. I was said to have endangered Mr. Gümen’s life.
“Murad Gümen, who has been defending Turkey for over 30 years under the assumed name ‘Holdwater,’ had his identity unmasked by Taner Akçam, supporter of the claim of a so-called genocide….Upon publication of his identity, Gümen became a target and has been the subject of a hate campaign.”—“Secret Lobbyist Deciphered,” Hürriyet, June 21, 2007
“Murad Gümen, whose identity was unmasked by Taner Akçam, has been the target of a flood of insults sent by Armenians via the Internet. Gümen, who’s been accused of racism, has had his photograph published on the Web….[Taner Akçam]’s disappeared. It has not been possible to reach Taner Akçam….Murad Gümen is a successful illustrator and film producer who lives in America.”—“Immediate Target,” Hürriyet, June 22, 2007
“Taner Akçam fled Turkey years ago. He lives overseas, in the United States at this point, and gets fed by the Armenian lobby. He vomits hate towards our country in all of his books and his speeches. Recently he unmasked the Web site that was maintained by Murad Gümen, who has been defending the Turkish position on Armenian issues in the United States, and he revealed the latter’s identity which had been kept secret until now. This individual named Taner Akçam who has spent his life living outside of the country, writing articles and giving speeches against Turkey…[T]his individual…escaped overseas, works in opposition to Turkey, betrayed his country, and serves the Armenian lobby by promoting the position that ‘there was an Armenian genocide’ all over the world!”—Emin Çolasan, “Bravo Atilla Koç! This is How You Introduce Turkey!”, Hürriyet, June 23, 2007
Hürriyet’s reportage concerns me deeply, for three reasons.
First, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the lynching mentality that was created against Dink. Having revealed the identity of a secret slanderer, I am now being denounced as a traitor who “vomits hate towards our country.”
My second cause for concern has to do with an anonymous email that I received on June 11, 2007: “Today we have started fighting you and those creatures you call your friends, within the boundaries of the law. But if we don’t get the result we’re looking for, we’ll start trying other alternative ways. It would be better for world peace and truth if sewer germs like you were taken off the planet…tomorrow is going to be much more difficult for you. Pray that the devil takes you away soon because otherwise you’ll be living a hell on earth… you think you’ve discovered who “Holdwater” is …you have gotten it all wrong. Right now the world is full of millions of Holdwaters…One day you and your wild Armenian blood brothers will drown in this sea of Holdwaters…The truth hurts…it really does. One day you are going to feel the pain so badly that when you read these lines, you’ll remember how you were.” The similarity in character between the campaign against me by Hürriyet and the language used in this threatening email is frightening.
The writer of that letter concludes, “Who am I? You’re going to find out, Taner, you’re going to find out.” Was it a coincidence that the Hürriyet campaign began just 10 days later?
Third, Hürriyet cold-bloodedly disregarded the most basic principles of journalism. Their headline on the second day of coverage proclaimed that I had “disappeared.” Readers were given the impression that I had gone into hiding the day after Hürriyet reported my unmasking of Murad “Holdwater” Gümen.
The fact is that my office address, telephone numbers, and email address are all available online. The University of Minnesota, College of Liberal Arts, the Department of History, and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies have full-time staff. There is no record of a call, not one single email, from Hürriyet. They never bothered to contact me. They didn’t check their facts or attempt to interview me. And when I demanded a correction, the editor-in-chief ignored my letter.
Thus, in Dink’s case and also in mine, one of the most influential and widely circulated national newspapers does not hesitate to transform itself into a weapon. Once again, intellectuals and activists who dare to question the government’s “official history” are being put on notice. This shameful campaign not only endangers my life and the lives of my colleagues, my family and friends; ironically enough, the very notion of free expression is being undermined by the very institution that depends on it most: the public press.
And what is the point, after all? I published a scholarly study that deviated from the official position of the Turkish State. One should ask the Turkish authorities whether they truly believe that shooting the messenger will prove that their position on 1915 is the correct one.
Tired of the e-mail contest between the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian National Committee of America informing you about the new number of U.S. Representatives who have co-sponsored House Resolution 106 urging George W. Bush to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide as such? Then DO IT YOURSELF!
Visit www.thomas.loc.gov, type “Armenian Genocide” in the Search Bill Text, click on SEARCH, select H.RES.106.IH (the first item).
You can find out the number and the list of the cosponsors (AND MANY OTHER THINGS such as the text of the bill in full) by clicking on “Bill Summary & Status.”
And if you still can’t do it yourself… the number of the cosponsors is now 220.
A senior editor at Jewcy is calling for the firing of Abraham Foxman, the chief of the Anti-Defamation League who has angered many Jews for denying the Armenian Genocide.
Foxman‘s statement is in every way that matters equivalent to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim that he takes no position on the historicity of the Jewish Holocaust, but only hopes to see the matter resolved by dispassionate study. Throughout the Congressional saga surrounding the resolutions, virtually no one other than Turkish lobbyists had explained their opposition by challenging the nearly undisputed consensus among historians that a genocide did indeed take place.
It is a scandal of unprecedented proportion when one of the most prominent figures in our community, a man who claims to speak on our behalf, publicly challenges the historicity of another community’s genocide. Foxman’s ADL no longer represents the interests of the Jewish community.
The article has already encouraged a call by The New York Times Magazine writer and Huffington Post blogger Mark Oppenheimer to fire Foxman:
There are so many reasons to hate Abraham Foxman, the executive director of the once-proud Anti-Defamation League, but surely the best reason has to be his collusion with the Turkish government to perpetuate denial of its genocide against Armenians nearly 100 years ago. The Israeli government has long been part of this historical fudge, but at least it has the excuse — however meager — of Realpolitik: Bush goes boating with Putin, Israel dallies with genocide-denying Turks, China and Somalia do their petro-dance…and so it goes. But for a non-profit like the ADL, which in fact has done important work to combat not just anti-Semitism but other forms of ethnocentrism and racism, to shill for Holocaust-deniers (yes, the Armenian genocide can fairly be called a Holocaust) is inexcusable. He should be fired.
Renting a car in Armenia may cost you more than buying one. Since I am planning to do lots of traveling within Armenia when I visit her at the end of this month, I have been looking into renting a car so I can drive it all around the place including to Artsakh.
Renting a car for my 17-day stay will cost me more than my expensive airline ticket. I am not kidding. The rates of car rental in Armenia are absolutely ridiculous.
I am not sure what is the reason for the rocket high prices, but it seems the fact that locals don’t rent cars contributes to the problem. But even so, it seems the local rentals want to do nothing than rip off Diasporan Armenians and foreign tourists.
Rates at http://www.kayak.com/?tab=cars&location=Yerevan&gclid=CMH4j7KEnI0CFQqgYgodvw-A6A, for example, are scary. But not as scary when you check out the Hertz prices.
Actually, I first learned about Hertz cars through www.hertz.am, their local website in Armenia. I was happy to find out that they rented Nissan Pathfinder, for example, for $20 a day! Actually my sister (you can tell she is an investigative journalist) happened to visit the location in Armenia yesterday to double check the availability, prices and conditions.
She was told there that hertz.am is out of date and that it is not $20/day at all! For 17 days, she was told it would be a little over $1,800. Can you imagine? Over $100 for a car per day? When I first heard of this I thought they were ripping off. I ended up playing with the main Hertz website – www.hertz.com – and found out that actually the price my sister was quoted was $200 less than what hertz.com had it listed. Yes, over $2,000 for a car for 17 days in Armenia!
This is ridiculous. How do they expect people to want to travel to Armenia?
Anyhow. I am making an offer. If you live in Yerevan and have a normal autmomatic car WITH air conditioner I would like to rent it from you for a total $350, ok maybe even $400 for 17 days.
If you don’t live in Yerevan but will do everything to help me :d send me a check of $1,800 so I can rent a car – or maybe even buy one.
If I had won the lottery (which I don’t play in the first place), I would buy one of these Infiniti SUVs, ship it to Armenia then leav it for my sister there after my visit. Especially that she wants to move to a remote Armenian region to develop the local media there, this would be a great investment toward her efforts. As the Russian saying goes, “Doesn’t hurt to dream.”
It took me several weeks to buy tickets for my upcoming Armenia trip. Before reading on, please be advised that the tickets are REALLY expensive. But there are still ways of getting the least expensive.
I have been on every website you can imagine, and here are the three that you should really look into if you are buying a ticket to Armenia.
Start with checking out www.airfrance.com. This will be far the most affordable deal any other airline website will most likely offer. Especially if your dates are flexible, you will be good to go. A month ago, for example, there was a round trip from Denver to Armenia available for $1,630 only (trust me this is really cheap) leaving on July 24, 2007. I can imagine the prices have gone up, but airfrance.com is worth a try.
Don’t think of checking out www.travel.yahoo.com and the other big websites. They are going to cost you a fortune. The famous LEVON TRAVEL is not the best way to go either, although it still offers tickets for less than Yahoo Travel.
The next website after www.airfrance.com you want to check out is http://aatravelinc.com. This website will let you search flights with limited options but will get for you some of the best tickets out there. In fact, many people traveling to Armenia are buying now from this website.
http://aatravelinc.com/ is still not user friendly and the flights it offers come with very long layovers. Some people like layovers and actually come out of the connecting airport to see the city. So if you like seeing as much places as you can, go for a layover.
If you want to work with an actual person who you can really trust, go to http://simatours.com and get in touch with the lady named Shake’ through her e-mail or the phone number listed on that website. Shake’ is a wonderful travel agent who will answer your every question and get you the cheapest tickets possible. I learned about her from a senior friend in New York City whose son Armen just lost $200 by NOT using Shake’s service. Armen had purchased tickets for $1,600 while his first cousin had purchased the same tickets for the same place for $1,400 from Shake’.
I actually did get my tickets from Sima Tours. It cost me $1,690 but with the shortest layovers possible. One thing I didn’t like about their service was that they posted my payment at least four business days after they received my check. But still, I would recommend working with them.
Now I want to hear from you guys. If you know of better deals PLEASE let all of us know! And if you don’t mind spending a few extra dollars, just go for any travel agency (sometimes the stress is not worth the few bucks you save).