While Turkey says it wants to discuss “the events of 1915” with Armenia, its Ambassador to the United States has fired one of its own payroll scholars for doing the unimaginable – referring to the Armenian genocide as such.

Recounting the fiasco, The Armenian Reporter writes in its May 31, 2008 issue that a in a letter to Turkey’s government “the Middle East Studies Association [MESA] on May 27 condemned the forced resignation of Donald Quataert from the chair of the Institute of Turkish Studies after Prof. Quataert affirmed in a book review that ‘what happened to the Armenians readily satisfies the U.N. definition of genocide.'”

Expecting retaliation  from at least other scholars on Turkish payroll (but apparently not from the Ambassador himself), Prof. Quataert urged pro-Turkish historians “to take their rightful responsibility to perform the proper research” on the Armenian annihilation of 1915.

The above words, mentioned in a scholarly book review by Dr. Quataert, angered Turkish Ambassador Nebi Şensoy – honorary chairman of the Institute of Turkish Studies – who requested the scholar to retract them.

“We are enormously concerned that unnamed high officials in Ankara felt it was inappropriate for Professor Quataert to continue as chairman of the board of governors and threatened to revoke the funding for the ITS if he did not publicly retract statements made in his review or separate himself from the Chairmanship of the ITS,” wrote MESA president Mervat Hatem in the letter of protest to Turkey’s Prime Minister.

The Armenian Reporter states that:


A professor of history at the State University of New York at Binghamton, Mr. Quataert chaired the ITS board of governors from 2001 until December 13, 2006. In 1985, as an associate professor at the University of Houston, he was among the 69 Ottoman, Turkish, and Middle Eastern area scholars who petitioned against a House Joint Resolution that memorialized “the one and one half million people of Armenian ancestry who were victims of genocide perpetrated in Turkey between 1915 and 1923.”

As he recalled the emerging Ottoman and Turkish area scholarship of the 1980s from a vantage point twenty years later, Prof. Quataert wrote in his book review, “the authors were not writing critical history but polemics” and “many of their works were directly sponsored and published by the Turkish government.” To date, said MESA, most of the scholarship in this area still fails to adhere to the highest professional standards “and as such serves neither the field of Ottoman-Turkish studies nor the interests of the Republic of Turkey and its citizens.”

Nevertheless, both Prof. Quataert in his review and MESA with its 2005 Academic Freedom Award lauded the new wave of critical thinking in this field – specifically mentioning a conference held at Istanbul’s Bilgi University “despite official intimidation and public harassment,” as Prof. Quataert recalled.


While it is sadenning to see an academic being de facto fired by a politician, it is encouraging that a scholar on Turkish payroll has finally realized and admitted the truth of the Armenian Genocide.  

In his weekly column, California Courier publisher Harout Sassounian writes that “Prof. Quataert’s transformation from a denialist to a believer in the Armenian Genocide is based on the growing body of scholarship in recent years both within and outside Turkey. A comparison of the 2000 and 2005 editions of his book, ‘The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922,’ illustrates the gradual evolution of his position on the Armenian Genocide. In a sharp departure from the cautious language used in his first  edition, Dr. Quataert… comes to the conclusion in his 2006 book review that what had happened to the Armenians in 1915 was indeed a Genocide.”

Reminding that this is not the first controversy including the Turkish-sponsored organization, College of William and Mary professor emeritus Roger Smith wrote in a discussion forum on Armenian-Turkish relations that as a de facto lobbying organization ITS shouldn’t be tax-free.


But given this latest event, in which the Turkish ambassador and the Turkish government have forced the resignation of the chair of the Institute because he refused to deny the reality of the Armenian Genocide, there are strong grounds for the IRS to revoke the tax status of the Institute.  There are other grounds, of long standing: Robert Lifton, Eric Markusen, and I exposed the then executive director of ITS, Heath Lowry, for his collaboration with the Turkish ambassador to the U.S. to intimidate academics in the U.S. from writing about the Armenian Genocide as historical reality.  Lowry wrote the memos and draft letters for the ambassador: for examples of this see, “Professional Responsibility and the Denial of the Armenian Genocide,” HOLOCAUST AND GENOCIDE STUDIES, Spring 1995; the actual documents are presented with analysis by Smith, Markusen, Lifton. The IRS status of the Institute should have been challenged then.
But now we have the Turkish ambassador being directly involved in forcing the resignation of the ITS chair for failure to follow the State’s position on the genocide, which, is political, not as it pretends, historical. This suggests that the Institute, or some of those closely associated with it, are undeclared, unregistered, lobbyists for a foreign government.  This is a violation of Federal criminal law.  Such persons could be prosecuted, but it is also further evidence that the tax status of ITS should be revoked.
Whatever the case, the lesson is that not every scholar on Turkish payroll is discrediting the Armenian genocide for money. Some of them have the ability to finally see the truth. That is – if they truly seek the truth in the first place.