EVANSTON, IL (The Daily Northwestern) — In remembrance of 100 years since the Armenian Genocide, professors from four different universities spoke out against denial of the genocide as part of “Denial and Memory,” a conference held at Northwestern on Friday.
Held by the Buffett Institute of Global Studies’ Keyman Modern Turkish Studies, history Prof. Ipek Yosmaoglu introduced the event to an audience of about 30 people.
“Denial of violence is even more serious,” said Yosmaoglu. “The most terrible thing is not about the suffering, but the erasure of its memory.”
Mustafa Aksakal, who teaches about Turkish history at Georgetown University, was the first speaker. He began by telling the story of five young Armenian boys who struck an undetonated shell that fell during World War I, killing two and injuring three. Aksakal used this as an example of the destruction war brought to Armenian communities.
“In short, the first World War devastated the Middle East,” he said. “Violence begets violence, but more violence begets violent identities.”
Rachel Goshgarian, a professor at Lafayette College, spoke about Armenian historical monuments and how since the 20th century, hundreds have either been destroyed or are vanishing.
“Does this destruction, this continued use of destruction, act as a byproduct of the Armenian Genocide?” she asked the crowd.
Some of these buildings had been used for demonstrations of explosive power, or target practice for the military, Goshgarian said. Other times these places lose parts of their structures for people to repurpose them for homebuilding.
“These have been the fate of these structures” she said. “Even when the ministry recognizes these buildings have some sort of historical importance, some buildings get turned into a children’s playground.”
Kerem Ӧktem, a professor at the University of Graz in Austria, discussed memory versus recognition of the genocide and ideas like the Turkish government’s denial of the genocide. He also talked about the connection between societal power groups and recognition of the genocide.
“With very little reach out in society, it is important to see how many sides can exist in society,” he said. “Denialists are losing ground.”
Barbara Lyons, an Evanston resident who was at the event, said she is interested in the topic of the Middle East and the Armenian Genocide.
“Everything they told me were things I didn’t know,” she said. “I read about the West carving out the East arbitrarily, forming countries, and that is how this whole thing got started.”
She also commented on the shock factor of the lecture.
“The destruction of Armenian culture is what surprised me,” she said. “They didn’t just get rid of the Armenians, they wanted to get rid of remembering they were there.”