LOS ANGELES, CA – The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) learned on March 22nd that a planned conference at the University of Southern California (USC) featuring leading deniers of the Armenian Genocide was canceled.
The USC Center on Public Diplomacy originally sponsored the conference, entitled “Turkish-Armenian Relations: The Turkish Perspective”, which was scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 26th. Former Turkish Ambassadors Gündüz Aktan and Ömer Engin Lütem were invited to speak about the Armenian Genocide and Turkish-Armenian relations. Aktam and Lütem are notorious deniers of the Armenian Genocide, and the event announcement made no attempt to hide that their discussion would not only distort history but attempt to justify Ottoman Turkey’s extermination of its Armenian population.
“The USC event, which was to have featured Turkish members of the State Department’s discredited TARC initiative, is part of an orchestrated national campaign to breath new life into the failed effort,” said Zanku Armenian, a member of the ANCA-WR Board of Directors. “The ANCA-WR, working with USC Armenian student groups, Alumni and school supporters, was able to demonstrate to USC officials the misguided and sinister nature of this panel which led to its cancellation. The cancellation, along with the March 22nd Los Angeles Times editorial reaffirming the Armenian Genocide, sends a strong message to those who deny the Armenian Genocide: ‘You are not welcome in California.’ We applaud USC administrators for taking prompt action to rectify this situation and thus protecting USC’s fine reputation from being used in Turkey’s propaganda war.”
Outraged student groups called on USC administrators to ask why this conference was organized. In a letter to the director of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, ANCA-WR Chairman Steven Dadaian called on the organizers to drop the conference. The quick action to draw attention to this issue by many groups and individuals resulted in the ultimate cancellation once USC officials were made aware of the real intent of the event.
The text of the ANCA-WR letter is provided below.
The ANCA is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.
March 22, 2006
USC Center on Public Diplomacy
Joshua S. Fouts
3502 Watt Way, ASC Suite 103
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0281
Dear Mr. Fouts:
It has recently come to our attention that the USC Center on Public Diplomacy is hosting a program called “Armenian ‘Genocide’, International Law and the Psychology of Destroying the Other” featuring two speakers who are notorious deniers of the Armenian Genocide, Gündüz S. Aktan and Ömer Engin Lütem.
According to the description of the program issued by the Center, Messrs. Aktan and Lütem have the extraordinary task of turning the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century into the perpetrators. Based on the program, it appears that Messrs. Aktan and Lütem plan to argue the Turkish government’s official position that (i) there were no massacres of Armenians, (ii) even if there were massacres, the Armenians deserved them, (iii) the Armenians killed more Turks than vice versa and (iv) the deaths were as a result of ‘relocation’ and were not Genocide.
As today’s Los Angeles Times editorial clearly states, the facts surrounding the Armenian Genocide are not in dispute. The Armenian Genocide has been recognized by the United Nations, the United States government and even the Ottoman courts who convicted the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide in absentia. The fact that USC is going to provide a forum for Turkish foreign agents to deny historical facts by making outright false statements is disturbing and a violation of your own Code of Ethics. Genocide Denial is a form of hatred and bigotry and it is outside the purview of accepted standards of civil discourse within the academic community. It is a deliberate misrepresentation of fact and a scientific fraud which must not be tolerated by the University. What’s more, this panel is a threat to the University’s academic environment because it frames the genocide as a historical controversy.
All this is heightened by the fact that USC has an Armenian-American student body of over a thousand students whose families are the direct descendants of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by Turks and now officially denied by the Turkish government. This panel will undoubtedly be considered an extremely offensive event which disrespects the rights and dignity of not only your students but to all the hundreds of thousands who are the victims and surviving children of the Armenian Genocide.
We wonder what the reaction would be if USC were to host a “discussion” for neo-Nazis to argue that no Jews were killed, going so far as to assert that while some Jews may have been killed during the Holocaust, they deserved it. Would USC allow their name to be associated with such a hypothetical event much less be sponsoring it?
Our organization is prepared to work with USC to minimize the damage caused to the university’s image within the Armenian-American community as a result of this program being scheduled if immediate action is taken to cancel it. However, if USC chooses to proceed with this program, our organization will be forced to take further action to protest the University’s complicity in providing a forum for genocide deniers.
We are requesting a meeting this week to discuss this urgent matter. Please feel free to contact me at (818) 500-1918.
Steven J. Dadaian
Chairman, Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region
cc: Steven B. Sample
C.L. Max Nikias