By Hambersom Aghbashian

Altun Taner Akçam (born in Ardahan, Turkey, Oct. 23, 1953) is a Turkish historian and sociologist. He is a professor in Armenian genocide studies at Clark University in Massachusetts. Taner Akçam is regarded as one of the first Turkish academics to openly acknowledge and discuss the Armenian Genocide committed by the Turkish Ottoman government and he is recognized as a “leading international authority” on the subject.(1)

Taner Akçam studied economics at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, and graduated in 1976. In 1974 Akçam was arrested for participating in student protests against the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. In 1975 he was arrested for distributing leaflets and on March 9, 1976, he was arrested again for his political involvements. He received a nine-year sentence in early 1977, which resulted in Amnesty International adopting him as a prisoner of conscience. He served for a year before escaping from Ankara Central Prison on March 12, 1977. He received political asylum from Germany in 1978, where he obtained citizenship and resided until obtaining his doctorate degree in 1995. He received his PhD from the University of Hanover with a dissertation titled, “ Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide: On the Background of the Military Tribunals in Istanbul between 1919 and 1922.” Akçam is a former student of fellow genocide scholar, Vahakn Dadrian. In 2008 Akçam’s was appointed as the chairman of Armenian genocide studies at Clark University.

Taner Akçam is the author of” The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire”, “A Shameful Act : The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility”, “From Empire to Republic : Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide”, and many other books in English, German and Turkish(2).

Concerning his book “A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility”, wrote “ in a work of excavation, Turkish historian Taner Akçam has made extensive use of Ottoman and other sources to produce a scrupulous charge sheet against the Turkish authorities. The first scholar of any nationality to have mined the significant evidence in Turkish military and court records, parliamentary minutes, letters, and eyewitness account. Akçam follows the chain of events leading up to the killing and then reconstructs its systematic orchestration by coordinated departments of the Ottoman state, the ruling political parties, and the military. He also probes the crucial question of how Turkey succeeded in evading responsibility, pointing to competing international interests in the region, the priorities of Turkish nationalists, and the international community’s inadequate attempts to bring the perpetrators to justice.(3)

According to CSI (Jun 6, 2012), Dr. Taner Akcam of Clark University, based on his research into WWI-era documents contained in the Ottoman Archives, demonstrated in his book “ The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire”, that the Armenian Genocide, in which well over one million Armenian and Assyrian Christians were massacred, was the result of a specific policy decision by the Ottoman government to pursue “ethno-religious homogenization” in Turkey as early as 1913. Because the empire could not reconcile calls for freedom from its Christian subjects with its Islamic legal system and culture, it opted to eradicate its Christian population. Taner Akcam was the first Turkish historian to recognize the Armenian Genocide (4). quoted many Turkish Intellectuals who have expressed their convictions concerning the Armenian Genocide. Taner Akcam was quoted many times and the following is one of them. “A discussion of the Armenian Genocide could reveal that this Turkish state was not a result of a war fought against the imperial powers, but, on the contrary, a product of the war against the Greek and Armenian minorities. It could show that a significant part of the National Forces consisted either of murderers who directly participated in the Armenian Genocide or of thieves who had become rich by plundering Armenian possessions.”(5).

In his various statements, Taner Akcam calls on Turkey to face the historical reality and recognize the Armenian Genocide. On May 6 , 2014, “Armenpress” held a conversation with him on the improvement of Turkish-Armenian relations, the possible changes in the Turkish denial policy on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and the factors contributing it. Taner Akcam said that he doesn’t expect major changes in Turkey’s policy.(6)

Today Zaman , wrote on April 19, 2013, “As the anniversary of the forced migration of Armenians in 1915 from Anatolia to other parts of the Ottoman Empire approaches, historian Taner Akçam suggests Turkey open its borders with Armenia as a step to normalize relations between the two countries. Akçam, who describes the 1915 events as “genocide,” says that Turkey should stop wasting its time with the argument that 1915 was not genocide by exploiting people’s ignorance about this matter and creating an unnecessary debate.”(7)
To write about Taner Akcam as a leading international authority on the Armenian Genocide subject is a long story which can’t be covered in few pages, that might need an entire book.


4- CSI (Christian Solidarity International).

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