Posted by: Lister | April 21, 2007

Taner Akcam

Taner Akcam is the author of “A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility”, much lauded in America and Europe. He was sentenced to prison by a Turkish court, for insulting Turkishness, and granted asylum in Germany. He was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in 1976. He now works at the University of Minnesota.

Editing of the wiki page for Taner Akcam is currently disabled. You can still read the old version of his wiki bio, where he is accused of membership of a leftist terror organisation.

This ‘creative writing’ has given Akcam some trouble when traveling abroad. Recently he was detained twice while traveling first to Montreal, then back. Robert Fisk, reporting in the Independent:

Akcam was travelling to lecture in Montreal and took the Northwest Airlines flight from Minneapolis on 16 February this year. The Canadian immigration officer, Akcam says, was “courteous” – but promptly detained him at Montreal’s Trudeau airport. Even odder, the Canadian immigration officer asked him why he needed to be detained. Akcam tells me he gave the man a brief history of the genocide and of the campaign of hatred against him in the US by Turkish groups “controlled by … Turkish diplomats” who “spread propaganda stating that I am a member of a terrorist organisation”.

All this went on for four hours while the immigration officer took notes and made phone calls to his bosses. Akcam was given a one-week visa and the Canadian officer showed him – at Akcam’s insistence – a piece of paper which was the obvious reason for his temporary detention.

“I recognised the page at once,” Akcam says. “The photo was a still from a 2005 documentary on the Armenian genocide… The still photo and the text beneath it comprised my biography in the English language edition of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia which anyone in the world can modify at any time. For the last year … my Wikipedia biography has been persistently vandalised by anonymous ‘contributors’ intent on labelling me as a terrorist. The same allegations has been repeatedly scrawled, like gangland graffiti, as ‘customer reviews’ of my books at Amazon.”

Akcam was released, but his reflections on this very disturbing incident are worth recording. “It was unlikely, to say the least, that a Canadian immigration officer found out that I was coming to Montreal, took the sole initiative to research my identity on the internet, discovered the archived version of my Wikipedia biography, printed it out on 16 February, and showed it to me – voilà! – as a result.”

But this was not the end. Prior to his Canadian visit, two Turkish-American websites had been hinting that Akcam’s “terrorist activities” should be of interest to American immigration authorities. And sure enough, Akcam was detained yet again – for another hour – by US Homeland Security officers at Montreal airport before boarding his flight at Montreal for Minnesota two days later.

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Responses

  1. With Turkey upset by the vote in America, Robert Fisk gives some more details of Akcam’s research:

    On 15 September 1915, for example (and a carbon of this document exists), Talaat Pasha, the Turkish Interior minister, cabled an instruction to his prefect in Aleppo about what he should do with the tens of thousands of Armenians in his city. “You have already been informed that the government… has decided to destroy completely all the indicated persons living in Turkey… Their existence must be terminated, however tragic the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either age or sex, or to any scruples of conscience.”

    These words are almost identical to those used by Himmler to his SS killers in 1941.

    Taner Akcam, a prominent – and extremely brave – Turkish scholar who has visited the Yerevan museum, has used original Ottoman Turkish documents to authenticate the act of genocide. Now under fierce attack for doing so from his own government, he discovered in Turkish archives that individual Turkish officers often wrote “doubles” of their mass death-sentence orders, telegrams sent at precisely the same time that asked their subordinates to ensure there was sufficient protection and food for the Armenians during their “resettlement”. This weirdly parallels the bureaucracy of Nazi Germany, where officials were dispatching hundreds of thousands of Jews to the gas chambers while assuring International Red Cross officials in Geneva that they were being well cared for and well fed.


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