By Hambersom Aghbashian

Dr. Engin Akarli, is a professor of modern Middle East studies at Brown University, Rhode Island, USA. He is one of the Turkish scholars who publicly acknowledge the Turkish extermination campaign against the Armenians. Especially in light of recent events, he cautions against interpreting genocide itself in racist terms. Professor Akarli studied economics at Robert College, Turkey, (BA degree in 68), Southeast European history at University of Wisconsin (MA degree in 72), and Middle East history at Princeton (MA degree in 73, and Ph.D degree 76). He taught at Bosphorus University in Istanbul (1976-83), Yarmouk University in Jordan (1983-89), and Washington University in St. Louis (1989-96) before joining Brown University. He held research fellowships at Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (1985-86), and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2003-04), then at the Islamic Legal Studies Program of Harvard Law School (2005-06). He taught courses in economic history of the world and the Middle East and wrote on Ottoman demographic, fiscal and political history earlier in his career. His later works explore the history of geographical Syria under Ottoman rule. His book on Ottoman Lebanon in 1860-1920 won the Best History Book Prize of the Missouri Historical Society. Currently, he works on themes related to the legal history of the region. (1)(2)

A PBS program hosted Dr. Engin Akarli. He was asked about the Armenian Genocide and his answer was: “We have to put things in their appropriate historical context; yes, these things happened…,“ and as an answer to (off- screen filmmaker’s question): What are these things? He said: “Genocide, okay? The genocide, in the sense, that attacks against a distinctive, specific part of the population. In this sense, that’s what I understood of genocide. It happened. We need to face it, to understand why it happened, under what circumstances it happened, and what are its moral implications, what does this event tell us about the times, what does this event tell us about great power politics, problems of nationalism in this part of the world, there are many issues that this particular sheds light on.” (3)

“” wrote the following under the title “Recognition of the Armenian Genocide”: “The fact of the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman government has been documented, recognized, and affirmed in the form of media and eyewitness reports, laws, resolutions, and statements by many historians, states and international organizations.” It listed the names of the Turkish historians who have recognized the Armenian Genocide. Halil Berktay, Taner Akçam, Murat Belge, Ahmet Insel, Ercin Kursat Ahler, Ali Ertem, Engin Akarli, Koray Caliskan, Dilek Kurban, Yunus Tuncel, Ugur Ümit Üngör and many others are mentioned in the list. (4)

In response to Michael Gunter’s review of “The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide“ book by Guenter Lewy, Joseph Kechichian wrote: “the book and the reviewer pose serious problems.” Among those points he mentioned that “Guenter Lewy has placed himself in the forefront of a parallel campaign to promote directly and indirectly and with remarkable zeal, the ‘official’ Turkish line of denial of the Armenian Genocide. This is more significant when one consider that a host of Turkish historians, free from the shackles of the official line, are not only refusing to deny the Genocide, but in one way or another are also recognizing the occurrence.” Then he mentions Fatima Muge Gocek, Hilal Berktay, Engin Akarli, Selim Deringil and Taner Akcam as examples with quotations. As for Engin Akarli he mentioned that Akarli concludes that the relevant facts “invite the term Genocide”. (5)


*PBS : The Public Broadcasting Service is an American public broadcaster and television program distributor. Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, PBS is an independently operated non-profit organization and is the most prominent provider of television programs to public television stations in US, distributing series such as NOVA, Sesame Street, PBS NewsHour, Masterpiece, Nature, American Masters, Frontline, and Antiques Roadshow.


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