UCLA Professor Responds in Daily Bruin

UCLA student Fatma Asli Velieceoglu wrote a letter to the Daily Bruin on February 10–2005 responding to Raffi Kassabian’s submission–"Nations Must Take Action to End Cycle of Genocide," to the same publication on February 1. Velieceoglu–an exchange student from Ankara–wrote–"Kassabian misconstrues the ?Armenian Genocide,’ an event that Bernard Lewis–a premier Middle Eastern scholar and professor emeritus at Princeton–and Stanford Shaw–a former UCLA professor–said never occurred." She claims–"This hatred is really shocking–unbelievable and saddening when I know the Turks and Armenia’s are now living in harmony in Turkey and Armenia. I can see no hatred in Turkey–no hatred in Armenia–so why is there hatred in the United States?" According to Velieceoglu–Kassabian "obviously ignores the rights given to the minorities living in Turkey–mostly the Kurds. Right now–minorities can teach in their language and own their own television programs." Velieceoglu concludes–"I could have criticized the Armenia’s about many things in this article–too. But instead–I only reply to what they have said because I know that hatred will only promote more conflict."

Daily Bruin – View Point

Tuesday–February 22–2005

Remembering Armenian Genocide Admirable–Not Hateful

Students working to spread awareness provide opportunities for valuable dialogue

By Paul Von Blum

Like many others in the UCLA community–I was distressed to read Fatma Asli Velieceoglu’s submission to the Daily Bruin misleadingly titled "Armenian propaganda against Turkey untrue–divisive" (Feb. 10). Her allegation that Armenia’s have engaged in a campaign of hatred against Turkey utterly contradicts my experience as a teacher at UCLA for the past 25 years.

During that time–I have had the pleasure of having hundreds of students of Armenian heritage here. My contact with these intellectually and morally engaged young men and women has been a highlight of my academic career.

One major reason is that all of them have been passionately concerned about Turkey’s shameful denial of the Armenian genocide almost 90 years ago. Their focus has properly been on educating their fellow students about one of the most horrific eras of 20th-century history.

In all of my conversations with Armenian American students and others–with no exceptions whatever–I have heard no expression of hatred toward Turks or anyone else. Their sole focus has been on demanding that Turkey acknowledge its historical accountability for the mass murders of Armenia’s.

I join my Armenian brothers and sisters in working against genocide denial. As the son of a Holocaust survivor–I feel an enduring solidarity with all people whose lives have been shattered by both genocide and its progeny–the cynical refusal to acknowledge historical responsibility.

We live in an era where countless thousands of human beings were slaughtered in Cambodia and Rwanda and presently in Sudan. Velieceoglu should take advantage of her educational opportunity at UCLA to learn about the sorry historical legacy of the 20th and early 21st centuries–including her own government’s continuing refusal to acknowledge its past.

Genocide deniers might begin by engaging in thoughtful dialogue with many of the students Velieceoglu foolishly maligned in her Daily Bruin submission.

Von Blum is a professor of African American studies and communication studies.


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