WASHINGTON — On Friday, April 26. Professor Taner Akçam, the Robert Aram, Marianne Kalousdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University presented his latest book, The Killing Order of Talat Pasha and the Denial of the Armenian Genocide, as part of a Armenian Genocide Commemoration organized by the Jerair Nishanian Foundation (JNF) at St. Mary Armenian Church Hall.
While the guests were arriving, the Hrant Dink Contemporary Oratorio, Istanbul, played on a large screen.
Master of the ceremonies and the coordinator of the program, Diramayr Yetetzgin Anahid Kalayjian, JNF Board member, started the event and invited Pastor of St. Mary's Church Rev. Hovsep Karapetyan for the opening remarks and prayer.
Tagvor Nishanian, PhD, vice-president of JNF's Board of Directors and son of the founder, welcomed the packed audience and presented the work of the foundation since its inception 25 years ago. The foundation was established as a private nonprofit charitable corporation. He established his foundation because of a strong sense duty to his homeland Armenia, instilled upon him by his parents' past. Both were survivors of the Armenian Genocide, but his father died when he was a child, and his mother raised him and his five older siblings by herself. Not only was she successful in raising her family, they thrived, and he was able to move to the US to attend college.
The overall mission of the foundation is very simple: to facilitate an opportunity for underprivileged, talented young Armenian students to attain higher education in various disciplines and achieve their inherent potentials, and in term, contribute to the welfare of their motherland and future generations.
Through a collaboration with Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR), the foundation focused on one of the needy regions of Armenia, Gavar, providing scholarships for students attending Gavar State University. More recently, they have expanded the program to include graduate students at the National University of Architecture and Construction of Armenia in Yerevan. To qualify for the scholarships, applicants must show a financial need and strong academics.
In addition, the foundation has renovated portions of Gavar State University and supports Greater Washington DC Armenian churches, among other projects.
The foundation is committed to supporting the translating and publication of literary projects towards the advancement of Armenian education and cultural issues, including those written about the Armenian Genocide by Akçam.
Odette Zakarian emotionally recited a moving one of many Siamanato's famous poems, "The Dance," in Armenian. Odetts's intonation conveyed the horrific scenes from that dreadful tragedy. As if the audience hadn't been moved enough with their emotions, Zaven Kalayjian, JNF Board Member, delivered The Dance in English to ensure that everyone in the room lived those atrocities once more time.
Victoria Petrosyan, spouse of Armenian ambassador, sang Dele Yaman and with her piercing voice moved the audience. Many in the audience got misty eyed. She continued her repertoire with Komitas' famed Groong. Her powerful voice conveyed the message of the song loud and clear.
Vazrik Nishanian, Board Member of JNF introduced the guest speaker, Akçam.
Akçam received his doctorate in 1995 from the University of Hanover, with a dissertation on The Turkish National Movement and the Armenian Genocide Against the Background of the Military Tribunals in Istanbul Between 1919 and 1922. Akçam was born in the province of Ardahan, Turkey, in 1953. He became interested in Turkish politics at an early age. As the editor-in-chief of a student political journal, he was arrested in 1976 and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. Amnesty International adopted him as a prisoner of conscience. A year later, he escaped to Germany, where he received political asylum. In 1988 he started working as Research Scientist in Sociology at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research. His first research topic was the history of political violence and torture in the late Ottoman Empire and early Republic of Turkey. Between 2000 and 2002 Akçam was Visiting Professor of History at University of Michigan. He worked also as Visiting Associate Professor at the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at University of Minnesota.
Akçam has published numerous books and articles in English, French, German and Turkish, including The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012, Judgment at Istanbul: The Armenian Genocide Trials, with Vahakn Dadrian and A Shameful Act: Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility. New York: Metropolitan Books, November 2006.
Akçam acknowledged the efforts of many influential Armenian individuals who had been a tremendous resource for him, especially Kevork Marashlian, Commander of Knights of Vartan, Mr. Stepan Ohanian because of his assistance with translating his articles to Armenian, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, The Jerair Nishanian Foundation who invited him tonight and sponsored the translation and publication of this book released 2 days ago in Yerevan, Armenia, the access he had to the priceless archives of Reverend Father Krikor Guerguerian, the AGBU Boghos Nubar Labrary in Paris, NAASR, Hrant Gulian of New Jersey, Gulbenkian Foundation and Knights of Vartan Grand Council and many other organizations.
Akçam added that the book is part of a larger project. He treated the audience to an tremendously informative and meticulous presentation sharing the many obstacles he had faced to obtain copies of the telegrams, deciphering the codes and recreating the documents that proved the killing orders of Talat Pasha to annihilate the Armenians. Prof. Akçam was elated when he coincidentally stumbled upon the documents in the National Archives of Turkey, which clearly incriminated the denials of the Armenian genocide.
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Honorary Member of JNF, offered concluding remarks and Benediction. His analogy between the phrase from the song Groong bringing good news then and referring to Akçam bringing good news today to all Armenians lifted everyone's spirits. He introduced also Dicle Akar, life partner of Akçam, who being Kurdish, has written a book about the Armenian Orphans in the Middle East and is teaches English in The International School in Munich, Germany.
Akçam concluded the presentation with a book signing session and everyone partook of a light reception.