WASHINGTON, DC – Institute of Turkish Studies (ITS) Treasurer Edward Erickson responded angrily today to Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) questions about his position on the Armenian Genocide and his organization’s ties to the Turkish government, threatening to have ANCA Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian removed from a lecture he gave this afternoon at Georgetown University.
“Can we get her out of here?” was Dr. Erickson’s response to Nahapetian’s inquiry about whether he believed the murder of 1.5 million Armenians constituted genocide. “This is not Turkey,” retorted Nahapetian, noting that those holding positions not shared by the lecturer cannot simply be silenced in the U.S.
The ITS had arranged for Dr. Erickson to lecture at the Georgetown University Center for Contemporary Arab Studies Boardroom on his latest book.
Referencing Dr. Erickson’s opening assertion that history has an agenda, that “resources drive policy” and “resources determine policy,” ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian asked Dr. Erickson to clarify the Institute of Turkish Studies ties to the Turkish government and its policy of genocide denial. Dr. Erickson acknowledged that the ITS was founded by a grant by the Turkish government but claimed that “the ITS has no strings attached, is not a puppet or an organ of the Turkish Government. It operates as a separate entity. It makes its own decisions and its agenda has nothing to do with anything Armenian or the denial of the genocide.”
Nahapetian challenged that assertion, reminding Dr. Erickson and attendees that former ITS Chairman Donald Quataert felt compelled to relinquish his position with the organization following a meeting with then Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. Nabi Sensoy, precipitated by an article Quataert had written acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. In a 2008 “Inside Higher Ed” article, Quataert told reporter Scott Jaschik that the Ambassador “made it clear that if I did not separate myself as chairman of the board that funding for the institute would be withdrawn by the Turkish government and the institute would be destroyed.” Read Jaschik’s complete article on the topic, titled “Is Turkey Muzzling U.S. Scholars?” here.
ITS ties with the Turkish government were explored extensively in the Spring, 1995, Holocaust and Genocide Studies article “Professional Ethics and the Denial of Armenian Genocide” by Dr. Roger W. Smith, Dr. Eric Markusen and Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, the full text of which is available here.
Voice of America reporter Arsen Kharatyan and other attendees including Lee Jundanian and Dikran Dourian asked questions, expressed their concerns about Dr. Erickson’s flawed scholarship and his ties to Turkey’s international campaign of genocide denial. In what was perhaps the most puzzling moment of the talk, when questioned a second time on his position regarding the Armenian Genocide, this time by Kharatyan, Dr. Erickson replied, “There are days I wake up and I think ‘It’s probably genocide.’ There are days I wake up and I think ‘probably not’.”
Following the lecture, Hamparian commented, “We saw today yet another angry attempt by an Ankara-funded organization, this time the Institute of Turkish Studies, to enforce – right here in America – Turkey’s shameful gag-rule on the Armenian Genocide.”