Armenian Assembly of America
1140 19th Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-393-3434
Fax: 202-638-4904
Email: [email protected]

June 1, 2005
CONTACT: Christine Kojoian
Email: [email protected]

RE: Turkish Scholars Protest Postponement of Armenian Genocide Conference

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with President
Bush on June 8 in Washington to again brand his country as a mature
and democratic nation ready for EU membership. In the last week,
however, Turkey has again shown that its actions run contrary to
the rosy image it tries to portray. The forced postponement of an
unprecedented Armenian Genocide conference at Bosphrous University
had led hundreds of Turkish academics to protest the government's
latest assault on free speech.

Below are the latest news release by the International Association of
Genocide Scholars and a letter from a representative of the Middle
East Studies Association to Prime Minister Erdogan condemning the
Turkish government's interference with academic freedom.

The Armenian Assembly will continue to monitor this official assault on
academic freedom and will report any developments as they happen. On
the eve of Prime Minister Erdogan's official visit to the U.S.,
we urge ongoing coverage and commentary.

The Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based
nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness
of Armenian issues. It is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt membership

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Affiliated with the Institute for the Study of Genocide
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
899 Tenth Avenue, Room 325
New York, NY 10019

Contact: Robert Melson, President
[email protected]
Tel: (765) 494-4187

MAY 29, 2005


We who serve as the Executive Committee of the International
Association of Genocide Scholars protest and condemn the cancellation
of the historians conference on the Armenian question in Turkey by
the Turkish government as a major violation of basic standards of
academic freedom in the free world.

At long last, Turkish academics and intellectuals, sponsored by
three honorable universities, were scheduled to conduct a conference
in which the historical reality of the Armenian genocide was to be
examined by many of the participating lecturers.

The government of Turkey is understandably struggling to win its
possible acceptance as a member of the European Union, and it is in
this climate that many Turkish intellectuals have moved courageously
to address the Armenian genocide, a truth which is still punishable
by Turkish law.

For the Turkish government to cancel the conference is a shameful
step and a setback to Turkey joining the free world in its growing
standards of historical truth and responsibility.

The Executive Committee of the International Association of Genocide
Scholars calls on the Republic of Turkey to allow full and free debate
and academic scholarship on the fate of the Armenian people in Ottoman
Turkey in 1915-1923.

ROBERT MELSON, President, International Association of Genocide
Scholars, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University

ISRAEL W. CHARNY, Vice-President, International Association of Genocide
Scholars, Professor of Psychology and Family Therapy, Hebrew University
of Jerusalem

STEVEN L. JACOBS, Secretary-Treasurer, International Association
of Genocide Scholars, Associate Professor of Religious Studies,
University of Alabama


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May 27, 2005

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister
06573 Ankara, Turkey

Via facsimile +90 312 417 0476

Dear Prime Minister Erdogan:

I write to you on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association
of North America, and its Committee on Academic Freedom, in order
to express our grave concern over actions taken by members of
your government which precipitated the decision of the rector of
Bosphorus University to cancel an academic conference entitled,
"Ottoman Armenians in the Period of the Empire's Collapse." These
actions violate the academic freedom and human rights of Turkish
scholars, a number of whom are members of our association.

The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) comprises
2600 academics worldwide who teach and conduct research on the Middle
East and North Africa. It is the preeminent professional association
in the field and publishes the International Journal of Middle East
Studies. MESA is committed to ensuring respect for the principles
of academic freedom and freedom of expression in the region and in
connection with the study of the Middle East and North Africa. The
organization also counts among its membership many of the world's
leading experts on the history of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic
of Turkey.

The conference was to have been held May 25-27, 2005 at Bosphorus
University in Istanbul. Organized by members of the history, sociology
and comparative literature faculties of both Bosphorus and Sabanci
universities, the conference sought to address in a scholarly, open and
critical manner issues surrounding the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Aided
by an international advisory committee of academics from Turkey and
abroad, the conference's organizers adhered in their preparations to
all Turkish laws regarding public assemblies and academic gatherings.

However, according to published press reports, following
intense criticism by Turkish government officials and
parliamentarians-including Minister of Justice, Cemil Cicek, who
accused those organizing the conference of being guilty of "treason
and insult"-the university officials cancelled the meetings just hours
before they were to begin. Citing "prejudicial statements [which]
have been advanced [by government officials] regarding the contents
of a conference that is yet to be held," the university officials
noted that these statements give "cause for concern that [they]
will result in undermining the academic freedom of state universities."

As a member state of the Council of Europe and a signatory of
the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms, Turkey is required to protect freedom of
thought, expression and assembly. These rights are also enshrined in
the Turkish Constitution of 1982.

Therefore we urge your government to take all necessary steps to
ensure that this conference may be held as planned and as soon as
possible. Just as important, and particularly given Justice Minister
Cicek's use of the word "treason," a charge that conjures up memories
of some of worst forms of persecution of scholars and intellectuals
through history, we ask that you assure conference participants
and organizers that they will face no official criminal charges or
other sanctions following the presentation of their research in this
gathering. We ask that you ensure there will be no attempts to censor
their work prior to its presentation and further, that all measures
required will be taken to secure the personal safety of conference
participants and allow open and free academic exchange. Finally, we
encourage you to preclude the implementation of any of the provisions
of Article 305 of the new Turkish Penal Code, which could be used to
arrest academics who express unpopular ideas or revisionist views of
the past.

I would appreciate the honor of discussing the work of the Middle
East Studies Association with you during your visit to Washington,
DC in June if your schedule permits.


Ali Banuazizi
President, Middle East Studies Association
Professor, Boston College

CC: H.E. Dr. Osman Faruk Logoglu,
Turkish Ambassador to the United States