Turkish Coalition sues over website

The University of Minnesota is currently facing a lawsuit from the Turkish Coalition of America. According to the Minnesota Daily, the University is facing seven charges related to freedom of speech, due process, or defamation.

The University of Minnesota faces a federal lawsuit after displaying on one of its websites a list of sources deemed “unreliable.”

Until Nov. 18, the list of sources, designated “unreliable” because of their views on the Armenian Genocide, could be found on the University’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies Web page. The Turkish Coalition of America was the first site on the list.

The real crux of this problem is how it might shape academic discourse. Even putting aside the troubling ramifications for the Armenian genocide, scholarly debate should be proven through convincing argument of facts rather than lawsuits.

A similar case was brought against the Massachusetts Board of Education for not including Armenian genocide denial sites on its list of recommended websites. The suit was eventually dismissed, finding that the Board of Education had the right to judge what was appropriate for the State’s curriculum.

Denial is endemic

While Holocaust denial gets the lion’s share of press when it comes to the subject of “genocide revisionism,” it’s certainly not the only case. In fact, in recent years, as the United States has contemplated recognizing the Armenian genocide, the voices of angered Turks has been added to the cacophony of those who strive to paint history in a different light.

In fact, Gregory Stanton (the president of Genocide Watch) included Denial as the eighth, and final, stage of genocide in the briefing paper he presented to the U.S. State Department in 1996:

Denial is the eighth stage that always follows a genocide. It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses. They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims. They block investigations of the crimes, and continue to govern until driven from power by force, when they flee into exile. There they remain with impunity, like Pol Pot or Idi Amin, unless they are captured and a tribunal is established to try them.

The best response to denial is punishment by an international tribunal or national courts. There the evidence can be heard, and the perpetrators punished. Tribunals like the Yugoslav, Rwanda, or Sierra Leone Tribunals, an international tribunal to try the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and ultimately the International Criminal Court must be created. They may not deter the worst genocidal killers. But with the political will to arrest and prosecute them, some mass murderers may be brought to justice.

While Stanton was primarily speaking about “active” cover-ups immediately preceding a genocide, its fascinating (and depressing) that such acts quickly move from action into mainstream discourse. Even when trials have taken place, evidence has been presented, and testimony has been gathered, the crime is still an on-going source of controversy years after the fact.

David Irving is no doubt one of the better known Holocaust deniers, but he’s only one example of the plethora of those who seek to diminish the crime through the guise of scholarly debate. As academics and researchers alike begin to dig deeper into the origins and events of other modern genocides (Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Darfur, et al.), a stream of fresh deniers are following along with their own versions of what happened in each of these cases.

For example, it was recently announced that one such group of deniers (called negationists by allAfrica) are heading to a conference later this month — The Media and Rwanda: The Difficult Search for the Truth. The event is being sponsored by Les Editions les Intouchables, who published a book by Canadian Politician Robin Philpot entitled Ça ne s’est pas passé comme ça à Kigali (“It did not happen like that in Kigali”). Based on the reported speakers, the sphere of discourse is going to be largely limited to those who are attempting to revise as they revisit what took place in Rwanda.

Even though Stanton did an excellent job of outlining the various stages of genocide, it seems like the eighth needs to be expanded beyond the immediate vicinity of the crime. As denial is constantly expanding with the pace of scholarship, and it often grows rather than diminishes over time, it seems apt to address the problem, particularly considering the rate at which the information age has accelerated the course of such specialized revisionism.

Non-binding resolution ire

Charlie Coon (of Stars and Stripes) reports that military officials are worried about the backlash that may result if Congress passes a new non-binding resolution stating that the Armenian Genocide was in fact genocide.

Post-empire Turkey, a moderate, Muslim-majority nation and NATO member since 1952, hosts Incirlik Air Base, home to 1,500 U.S. troops and an important cargo and refueling hub. A resolution could sour Turkish public sentiment toward the U.S., possibly leading to restrictions regarding Incirlik and Turkish air space.

“I’m worried about the potential impact to our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Maj. Gen. Robertus Remkes, director of strategy, policy and assessments at the U.S. European Command.

House Resolution 106, introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and backed by House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., among others, could come to a vote in April.

As usual, the debate that’s taking place is largely political and has little to do with the actual event. While the various governments involved have no problem disinheriting families from acknowledging the past, history, and even the powers involved, had no problems recognizing genocide when it happened.

On May 24, 1915, the United States, Britain, France, Italy, and Russia issued a statement saying:

In view of these new crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization, the Allied Governments announce publicly to the Sublime Porte [court of the Ottoman Empire] that they will hold personally responsible for these crimes all members of the Ottoman Government, as well as those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres.

This example was later used to codify the act of Crimes Against Humanity during the drafting of the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal. It stands as the first modern example of a Crime Against Humanity, and leaves little doubt that our past leaders recognized what had taken place in the former Ottoman Empire.

Turkish novelist awaits trial

Elif Shafak, a Turkish author and professor at the University of Arizona, is currently awaiting trial in Istanbul after her recent novel – The Bastard of Istanbul – was questioned for its Turkishness. The main sticking point in Shafak’s book is how she describes the persecution and slaughter of the Armenian people in 1915.

At present, the Turkish law (Article 301) states that “a person who publicly denigrates Turkishness, the Republic or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and three years.” Even though the International Association of Genocide Scholars has defined the nearly 1.5 million Armenian deaths as genocide, the Turkish government has long held that it wasn’t.