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Institute of Turkish Studies Chair Forced Out For Rebuking Genocide Deniers

By David Holthouse on June 6, 2008 - 1:52 pm, Posted in Academic Racism

The new issue of the Intelligence Report exposes a network of U.S. scholars, many of them paid by the Turkish government, who promote denial of the Armenian genocide.

One of the damning pieces of evidence examined in the Report is a letter denying the Armenian genocide that was signed in 1985 by 69 American scholars and published in full-page advertisements in major newspapers paid for by the Turkish government. All 69 of the signers, including Donald Quataert, then an associate professor of history at the University of Houston, had received funding that year from the government of Turkey, mostly from the Institute of Turkish Studies (ITS), a nonprofit organization housed at Georgetown University that was founded in 1982 with a $3 million grant from Turkey to promote a pro-Turkey agenda, including denial of the Armenian genocide.

Quataert later served as chairman of the ITS board of governors from 2001 until Dec. 13, 2006. Although the circumstances of his leaving that post were unclear at the time, last week it was revealed that he was forced to resign by Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy after he refused to retract a scholarly book review in which Quataert said “what happened to the Armenians readily satisfies the U.N. definition of genocide.”

In his review of Donald Bloxham’s book, The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians, which was published in the Fall 2006 issue of the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Quataert further wrote that “[a]lthough it may provoke anger among some of my Ottomanist colleagues,” avoiding the term genocide “runs the risk of suggesting denial of the massive and systematic atrocities that the Ottoman state and some of its military and general populace committed against the Armenians.”

As Harut Sassounian described it June 3 on The Huffington Post, “Prof. Quataert boldly criticized Turkish scholars’ work on the Armenian Genocide by stating that ‘they were not writing critical history but polemics. … Many of their works were directly sponsored and published by the Turkish government.’”

Quataert’s forced resignation finally came to light last week in a scathing open letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan from Mervat Hatem, president of the Middle East Studies Association, the preeminent organization promoting scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa.

“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,” Hatem wrote in the letter dated May 27.

Hatem further pointed out to Prime Minister Erdogan that the circumstances of Quataert’s forced resignation “sharply contrasts with your government’s recent call to leave the debate regarding the events of 1915 to the independent judgment and study of scholars.”

  • uha1


    ” The ambassador of the Republic of Turkey, H.E. Nabi Sensoy, denied that he had any role in Quataert’s resignation. In a written statement, he said that claims that he urged Quataert to leave are unfounded and misleading. “

  • Skyblue

    Washington Post, July 5, 2008

    Board Members Resign to Protest Chair’s Ousting

  • Skyblue

    Chronicle of Higher Education, July 6, 2008

    Dispute Over Academic Freedom Roils Turkish-Studies Institute

  • Shant

    What a great article with substantial supportive comments old and new. It frustrates me to no end, as an Armenian whose grandparents were orphaned, to see my government and my lawmakers obscenely and openly manipulated by a foreign government with such a terrible human rights record such as Turkey. One wouldn’t expect anything less from the Turkish government but to deny the Armenian Genocide, but for a democratic superpower such as the USA to put blinders on and to cave in to open threats is very troubling and honestly truly sad. Over the past 93 we Armenians have heard every excuse you can think of. In October my congressman John Tanner told me that we needed Turkey in the fight for terror, the same Turkey that jeopordized the mission to Iraq and probably lead to unnecessary US military deaths by disallowing the use of its border during the invasion in 2003. He couldn’t see why something that occured 93 years ago should be pertinent today. So the message I got was first that my family’s loss was a figment of my imagination; and that if anyone out there has a sadistic vision of wiping a people off the face of the earth, all they have to do is to plan well in advance to blame the victims in the end, and to bribe their way into innocence by paying off governments and educational institutions. As an Armenian I continue to be enraged. As an American I am absolutely ashamed.

  • Skyblue

    Inside Higher Ed, July 1, 2008

    Is Turkey Muzzling U.S. Scholars?

    Scholars of the Armenian genocide have long accused Turkey of using its financial support to promote the idea that a genocide didn’t take place or that the jury is still out — views that have little credibility among historians of genocide.

    An incident in 2006, only recently being talked about publicly, has some scholars concerned that Turkey and its supporters may be interfering in American scholarship. The chair of the board of the Institute of Turkish Studies, which is based at Georgetown University, resigned at the end of 2006, and he says he was given a choice by Turkish officials of either quitting or seeing the funding for the institute go away.

    At least one scholarly group that has investigated the matter recently issued a report backing the ousted chair, and at least one other board member has resigned while another has called for more discussion of the accusations. The executive director of the institute, while flatly saying that the ousted chair is wrong, confirmed that he was asked by Turkish Embassy officials to have the scholar talk with the Turkish ambassador to the United States about an article where he used the word “genocide” in reference to what happened to the Armenians. It was after that talk that the chair — Donald Quataert — quit.

    Full story:

  • Armenian Genocide

    Nicely done. The further shows the official Turkish campaign of denial.

  • Kathy

    Thank you for revealing once again how the Turkish government-sponsored campaign of genocide denial has infiltrated U.S. academic institutions. The massacres of the Armenian Genocide officially ended in 1923, but the last stage of genocide, state-sponsored genocide denial, which some have called a “double killing,” is still ongoing.

    One must wonder how the Institute for Turkish Studies can maintain its 501(c)(3) tax status, if a foreign government can determine its chair.

  • Melan

    Well, we need to step back, clear our minds, consider the case one more time first! Hatewatch is not a place for irrelevant allegations! We have recenlty held a very hot debate on Armenian Issue. Massaceres of Armenenians was a very upsettinf issue of past but certainly NOT a genocide.
    As Hatewatch followers we will always stand behind truth not sided stories. I read several other stories on racisim by the writer, David Holthouse . He writes his stories in very frustrated way that you think he really knows that issue but not this time Holthouse!~!

  • Patricia

    See document, ” Taking A Stand Against The Turkish Government’s Denial of the Armenian Genocide and Scholarly Corruption in the Academy.”

  • Slavyanski

    Looks like a lot of the evidence for the Armenian genocide is pretty solid; but I have to wonder about something. Considering Turkey, among many other Balkan countries, is a major destination for trafficked sex slaves, and considering the government’s treatment of Kurds and its workers, WHY is the only international movement in regards to Turkey one which focuses on getting them to admit the guilt of another administration for an atrocity that happened in 1915?

  • Skyblue

    The story broke May 31 in the Armenian Reporter:

  • Armenian Genocide

    We must not forget the many victims of 1915, black or white, Christian or Muslim. Thank you for this article. Hate is horrible and needs to be stopped at all costs.

  • Patricia

    June 13, 2005 Letter from the International Association of Genocide Scholars

    “Dear Prime Minister Erdogan: We are writing you this open letter in response to your call for an “impartial study by historians” concerning the fate of the Armenian people in the Ottoman Empire during World War I……”

    Read full letter here: