On June 5, Asbarez published an article by its editor, Ara Khachatourian, entitled “Armenian Scholars at the Center of Genocide Denial,” in which he questioned the participation of Armenian scholars at a conference in Tbilisi organized by the Turkish Studies Project of the University of Utah, which is funded by the notorious Genocide denial-machine known as the Turkish Coalition of America.
Arguing that the participation of Armenian scholars in such conferences feeds into the decades-long Turkish denialist efforts, Khachatourian challenged the Armenian scholars who went to Tbilisi to “be accountable to the public” and through the Armenian press “report on their efforts to ‘counter’ Genocide denial in these forums.”
Asbarez subsequently published a letter to the editor on the matter and republished a piece from its sister publication, The Armenian Weekly, entitled “The Case Against Legitimizing Genocide Deniers: Scholars Speak Up,” in which several prominent scholars expressed their views on the Tbilisi conference.
Soon after the publication of the aforementioned articles, Asbarez was contacted by Professor Jirair Libaridian, who was scheduled to deliver a keynote at the Tbilisi conference, asking for an opportunity to respond to the articles. Libaridian was the former adviser to President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
We received his response, in which he terms the Asbarez article “libelous,” and are publishing it simultaneously with our response. While Libaridian claims he is answering the challenge put forth by Khachatourian in his initial article, the response is a lengthy rationalization of Armenian scholars’ participation in conferences organized by Turkish denialists as well as misplaced attacks on Asbarez and The Armenian Weekly. Judge for yourself.
It is also worth noting that the Turkish press and the TCA went to great lengths to admonish Asbarez and The Armenian Weekly, accusing the publications of “doing everything they can to block the way forward, even putting heavy pressure on Armenians who want to participate in these programs. In this way, many intellectuals are prevented from joining in the general process of compromise and solution-finding [Today’s Zaman 6/19/2012].” The same publication dubbed the Armenians who participated in the conference as scholars who are “open to compromise.”
Similarly, the TCA, in an electronic newsletter sent to its supporters condemned Asbarez and The Armenian Weekly for “humiliating” and “threatening” the scholars who took part in the Tbilisi conference.
The TCA went on to deny the Genocide further by saying: “The fact remains that the full narrative of the contested historical period is still a matter of controversy among historians and other scholars. The continued study of this period in Ottoman-Armenian relations is essential. But such study should not require a genocide-or-not-genocide litmus test as an entry point.”
A US Federal Appeals Court in May 2012 designated TCA as an organization engaging in Genocide denial when it sued an academic institution for advancing Genocide awareness. In his response, Libaridian neglects to discuss the TCA’s denialist track record and the impact the organization had on the Tbilisi conference and on Genocide denial generally.
Libaridian’s assertion that Asbarez, Khachatourian or The Armenian Weekly should have contacted him prior to publishing the articles, which he calls an “assault,” is unwarranted since Khachatourian and the subsequent articles substantiated the premise and, in Khachatourian’s case, challenged the Armenian scholars in attendance to present to the public the thesis they presented, not merely as justification for participation but to enlighten the Armenian public at large about the ways in which they are countering denialist efforts, even if they are attending conferences organized by rabid deniers. Incidentally, none of the participants have answered Khachatourian’s call as of the date of this publication.
“We believe that denialist-funded and denialist-organized conferences are best left to denialists,” wrote The Armenian Weekly in its response to the same article by Libaridian.
It seems Libaridian is outraged that Asbarez and The Armenian Weekly informed their readers about the existence of such a conference. If we had not shed light on the Tbilisi conference, Libaridian and the academicians who participated in the conference would have gone about their business of scholarship without being called to task or accountability.
In its response, the Weekly also argued that “Had Holocaust scholars not had the wisdom to marginalize Holocaust deniers decades ago, they would still be arguing with fringe elements because denialists will never be satisfied with any amount of evidence presented.”
We remain steadfast in our opposition to any effort to deny the Armenian Genocide or dispute its veracity. Hence our publication’s strong stance against the dangerous Armenia-Turkey Protocols and its predecessor—enabler—the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission, which had an agenda to discuss the “historical fact” of the Armenian Genocide and emboldened the notion argued by Turks that the veracity of the Genocide can be questioned within political and academic circles. At the same time, we reiterate the challenge posed by Khachatourian in his initial article to the Armenian scholars who attended the Tbilisi conference.