DADRIAN AND TANER AKCAM COME TO HARVARD TO DISCUSS
FUTURE OF TURKEY-ARMENIA RELATIONS
By Nina Kouyoumdjian
April 19, 2006

HARVARD UNIVERSITY- On April 17, 2006, over 200 students and members of the Armenian community gathered to commemorate the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and to look beyond the atrocity and to ask the question: What is next? Sponsored by the generous support of AGBU and Dr. and Mrs. Levon Nazarian, the Harvard Armenian Society invited renowned scholars Professors Vahakn Dadrian and Taner Akcam to share their expertise in the subject.

Both lectures were captivating, as each speaker presented his research through a unique perspective. Akcam argued that we must be weary of only pursuing the goal of genocide recognition. “What we need is to ensure that Turkey, today, stops violating human rights and though this starts with recognition of the genocide, it does not stop there,” Akcam argued. He went on to explain the implications the Armenian genocide has had in the deliberation of admitting Turkey into the European Union. Akcam skillfully tied together his research of the past with present day issues which concern not only Armenians, but the international world.

Dadrian picked up where Akcam left off, by analyzing the legal aspects of the genocide. He quoted numerous times when Turkish officials and military leaders had questioned the treatment of the Armenians. Such comments were recorded and documented by the Turks, Dadrian explained, but vanished two decades after the genocide, only to be recently discovered. He also raised the issue of amending Turkish and Armenian relations, and said, “It is very difficult for a group of people who have adamantly believed for the past 91 years that the Armenian massacres were not genocide, to one day change their minds.” However, Dadrian illuminated the different legal ways in which Turkey may be held responsible for their actions.

Professor Dadrian is currently the director of the Genocide Research, at Zoryan Institute. He is an authority in the history of the Armenian genocide and is also one of the most prolific researchers in his field. Dadrian's research is considered to be the most comprehensive, due to his mastery of many languages, including German, English, French, Turkish, Ottoman Turkish, and Armenian.

Professor Akcam, one of Dadrian’s former students, is one of the first Turkish academics to acknowledge and discuss openly the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Turkish Government. He has published a variety of books and articles on the Armenian Genocide, and is considered one of the most versed researchers in the subject.

In honor of the speakers and all their accomplishments, Dr. Alan S. Counter, Director of the Harvard Foundation, presented both speakers with a plaque on behalf of the President and Deans of Harvard College.

In recognizing and discussing the Armenian Genocide, it is important to not only acknowledge the past, but look to the future as well. Through education and research, Armenians as a whole can become better prepared to implement the changes necessary for better Armenian-Turkish relations.

Officers of the Harvard Armenian Society include Arie Zakaryan (co-President), Nina Kouyoumdjian (co-President), Christine Megerdichian (vice-President), Armen Yerevanian (Social Activities Chair), and Shant Hagopian (treasurer). For more information, please email Nina Kouyoumdjian at kouyoumd@fas.harvard.edu.