Friday, October 3rd, 2014

A scene from the discussion between Chomsky and Barsamian (Photo by
Aaron Spagnolo)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Armenian Weekly)--A distinguished line-up of speakers
from Armenia, Turkey, Europe, and the United States examined Turkey,
the media, Turkish-Armenian relations, and genocide reparations at
the Armenians and Progressive Politics (APP) conference held at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Sept. 26-27.

In the opening plenary on Sept. 26 in MIT's Kresge Auditorium, APP
organizing committee member Khatchig Mouradian delivered welcoming
remarks and invited internationally renowned scholar, activist,
and public intellectual Noam Chomsky and Alternative Radio's David
Barsamian to the podium. Chomsky and Barsamian discussed imperialism,
social movements such as the Gezi Park protests in Turkey, its
treatment of the Kurds, ISIS, the implications of the recent Scottish
referendum, "worthy" versus "unworthy" victims, and Turkish politics.

Panels on the media, Turkish-Armenian relations, reparations for the
Armenian Genocide, and a closing discussion took place the following
day, also at MIT.

How and why the mainstream media has created its narrative on Armenian
and Turkish issues was explored by Levon Chorbajian of UMass Lowell,
filmmaker Carla Garapedian, and journalist Aris Nalci from Istanbul,
and moderated by writer/activist Laura Boghosian. They looked at how
corporate and foreign policy considerations influence reporting on
Armenia and Turkey, particularly on the Armenian Genocide, which is
often framed as a controversy rather than a fact.

Examining Ben Bagdikian's monumental work The Media Monopoly and
the book co-authored by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky titled
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,
Chorbajian explored the ways in which the media operates in the U.S.

and how that impacts their reporting on a number of foreign policy
issues, including the Armenian Genocide.

Garapedian argued that the formula "more media coverage leads to
justice," does not hold. She highlighted cases over the past two
decades when the mainstream media covered the Armenian Genocide, and
then the news cycles moved on, and the coverage did not result in U.S.

recognition and justice.

The audience following the discussion (Photo by Aaron Spagnolo)

Nalci discussed the situation of the mainstream media in Turkey,
providing insight into the way the media operates through analysis and
several examples from recent years. Talking about the Turkish media's
coverage of the Armenian Genocide, he argued that more coverage does
not necessarily mean better coverage, and predicted more of the same
as the centennial of the Genocide approached.

Prof. Bilgin Ayata traveled from Berlin, Germany, to join Peter
Balakian of Colgate University, Marc Mamigonian of the National
Association of Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), and the
University of Chicago's Ronald Suny. The panel--moderated by
Mouradian-- considered several aspects of Turkish-Armenian relations.

Ayata discussed Kurdish-Armenian relations in light of recent
developments. As power asymmetries and serious problems in discourse
marred Turkish-Kurdish and Turkish-Armenian relations, Ayata called
for a robust Kurdish-Armenian dialogue that confronts the past and
examines avenues of cooperation on the foundation of justice.

Mamigonian discussed how Armenian Genocide denial in recent years
has focused on "manufacturing doubt" rather than blatantly denying
the veracity of the genocide, as the latter approach has become

Suny discussed the Workshop on Armenian and Turkish Scholarship (WATS)
conference series, a project that brings together Turkish, Armenian,
and other scholars to examine various aspects of the Armenian Genocide
and Turkish-Armenian relations.

Balakian spoke about the paranoid style in Turkish politics and
how that is reflected in the destruction and neglect of Armenian
cultural heritage and the obfuscation of the contributions of Armenian
architects over the centuries.

The second panel (Photo by Nanore Barsoumian)

Umit Kurt from the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide
Studies at Clark University, attorney Edvin Minassian of the
Armenian Bar Association, and Thomas Samuelian, dean at the American
University of Armenia (AUA) in Yerevan, discussed the confiscation of
Armenian property during the Genocide and demands for reparations and
restitution for this crime against humanity. The panel was moderated
by Henry Theriault, professor and chair of the philosophy department
at Worcester State University.

Kurt presented an overview of the meticulous process through which
the Ottoman and then the Turkish state coded into law the complete
dispossession of the Ottoman-Armenian citizenry, making every effort
to seal every legal avenue within the Turkish justice system for
Armenians to reclaim what had been termed "abandoned properties." Kurt
classified these legal maneuvers by the Kemalist government as phase
two of the genocide.

Samuelian and Minassian discussed legal channels and strategies
that might be pursued for reparations and restitution in Turkish and
international courts.

Samuelian stressed that Armenians must also pursue reparations claims
against all countries and entities that benefitted from the genocide
and continue to benefit today. He also argued that reparations should
not be tied to or come after genocide recognition--as they are two
separate processes that can run parallel. He also discussed the
significance of the church claims, as the Armenian church was the
biggest landowner.

Minassian focused on specific legal cases, such as the California
insurance case, and the complications resulting from the court
declaring that that the case could not proceed because the U.S.

government has not officially recognized the genocide.

To close the conference, Ayata, Samuelian, Garapedian, and ARF Eastern
Region central Committee co-chair Dr. Antranig Kasbarian discussed
the question, "Where do we go from here?" The discussion was moderated
by historian Dikran Kaligian, managing editor of the Armenian Review.

After brief presentations by panelists, Kaligian invited the audience
to share their proposals and ideas concerning the topics discussed
during the conference. The result was a lively discussion on a number
of subjects.

The conference was successful not simply for the ideas presented, but
for the wide range of active participation from scholars, journalists,
filmmakers, lawyers, and activists in the audience.

A video recording of the entire conference will be made available
online soon.

The conference was organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation
(ARF) Eastern Region USA, and co-sponsored by Alternative Radio,
and the MIT Armenian Society. For additional details, visit