Since 1915, the Turkish government has denied that the forced relocation and slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians constitutes a genocide. Georgetown University has been part of the silence allowing the Armenian genocide to go largely unacknowledged.

Moreover, the Turkish government has exported this denial abroad through lobbyists, bribes and geopolitical coercion to keep governments, such as that of the United States, from recognizing the Armenian genocide. For example, in 2008, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed H.R. 106, but the bill never made it to the House floor after multiple letters from high-profile officials, including then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, expressed their belief that the measure would “severely harm our relationships with Turkey.”

Although U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide would not in any way reconcile its horrors, this acknowledgement would build the accountability of all countries to their peoples. Denial is the last step of a committed genocide and the first reason for other countries to perpetrate new ones.

Unlike governments, universities are free from gag rules and political games. They are independent entities with the goal of pursuing objective, unbiased research and scholarship. Yet Georgetown, an institution that claims to pursue justice and academic excellence, is complicit in Turkish denial efforts.

Georgetown is home to the Institute of Turkish Studies, which, until 2015, was funded directly by the government of Turkey to propagate a version of history in accordance with Turkish national interests, according to HuffPost. By virtue of its work, the ITS was tasked with a very special obligation: to actively deny the Armenian genocide within academic scholarship in the United States and to ensure that the first genocide of the 20th century was erased from collective memory.

Two distinct events stand out as clear-cut examples of how Georgetown nurtured genocide denial.

The ITS first opened its doors at Georgetown in 1982, after receiving a $3 million grant from the Turkish government. Within three years, in what French historian Yves Ternon calls the “Lewis Affair,” the ITS paid off 69 U.S. scholars to sign a letter demanding that Congress not recognize the Armenian genocide. The letter was sent and published in the May 19, 1985 editions of The Washington Post and The New York Times. Georgetown kept quiet.

The second incident involved Binghamton University professor Donald Quataert, one of the scholars paid to lobby on behalf of the Turkish government. Quataert was head of the ITS from 2001 to 2006 and was considered a staunch proponent of the ITS’ denial campaign. However, in 2006, Quataert published a review of a Donald Bloxham’s book titled “The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians” in which he conceded that “what happened to the Armenians readily satisfies the U.N. definition of genocide.”

As one may imagine, this assertion did not sit well with those in Ankara, Turkey. Soon after Quataert professed his change of heart, he was forced to resign from the ITS by Turkey’s ambassador to the United States at the time, Nabi Şensoy. Again, Georgetown kept quiet.

As a result of this scandal, Quataert’s colleague, Mervat Hatem of Howard University, wrote a letter to University President John J. DeGioia, Şensoy and the ITS board questioning “the reputation and integrity of the ITS,” emphasizing that this scandal constituted “government interference in and blatant disregard for the principle of academic freedom.” Yet DeGioia decided it would be best to allow the ITS to continue pursuing its politically biased and morally bereft agenda here at Georgetown.

Twelve years later, the ITS has remained operational under the auspices of the university. Georgetown has not only failed to hold the ITS accountable for its complete disrespect of academic freedom, but it has also failed to speak out against the ITS’ denial of the Armenian genocide. Georgetown’s neglect puts into question the moral foundation of its Jesuit values.

On April 24, Armenians all around the world commemorate the Armenian genocide. However, the day is not exclusively for Armenians, but rather a time in which we should all unite under the name of justice to voice our demands as the human race, call out prejudice and hatred and build an empowering springboard from which we will be able to make a positive difference in this world.

Georgetown gave the Armenian genocidedenying ITS a home and a platform. The university is long overdue to correct this wrong. I call on the president’s office and the ITS to release a joint statement joining Pope Francis, 29 countries — including Canada, Greece and Italy — 48 U.S. states, the International Association of Genocide Scholars and many other institutions in recognizing the atrocities of 1915 as genocide.

Nareg Kuyumjian is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service.

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2 Comments

  1. Stephen Verges says:

    DeGioia has no reputation, he is a meretricious prostitute for anything to do with payola.

  2. raffi guiragossian says:

    Bravo Nareg

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