Board Members Quit Turkey-Funded U.S. Institute in Flap Over Armenian Genocide

The Washington Post is reporting that four board members of the Institute for Turkish Studies (ITS) have resigned in protest over the apparent forced resignation of former ITS board of governors chairman Donald Quataert, who says he was ousted under pressure from Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy after Quataert reversed his position on whether the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 fits the definition of genocide.

“State of Denial,” a story in the current issue of the Intelligence Report, details the key role that ITS plays in promoting denial of the Armenian genocide. Founded in 1982 with a $3 million grant from Turkey, ITS is housed at Georgetown University, which offers the nonprofit institution space on campus in exchange for its executive director teaching an International Affairs course at the university.

Quataert told the Post that a few years ago, he and other board members were surprised to learn that what they had been led to believe was a blind trust in fact “turned out to be a gift that could be revoked by the Turkish government.” Then, in late 2006, Quataert published a scholarly book review in which he declared, “What happened to the Armenians readily satisfies the U.N. definition of genocide.”

As a result, according to Quataert, he was pressured to quit his ITS post by Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy, who told him that political leaders in Ankara were angered by his book review and were threatening to revoke the institute’s funding unless he either resigned or retracted his statement.

As a June 6 Hatewatch item reported, the troubling circumstances of Quataert’s departure from ITS did not come to light until almost a year later, when he spoke at a conference of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). MESA’s president this May 27 sent an open letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanding that Quataert be reinstated and that ITS funding be placed in an irrevocable trust to avoid political influence.

Since that letter was made public, the Post reported, four members of the ITS board of governors — Marcie Patton, Resat Kasaba, Kemal Silay and Fatma Muge Gocek — have resigned in protest of Turkey’s alleged political meddling.

This week Ambassador Sensoy issued a written statement in which he denied playing any role in Quataert’s resignation: “Neither the Turkish Government nor I have ever placed any pressure upon ITS, for such interference would have violated the principle of the academic freedom, which we uphold the most.”