Last Thursday, Turkish historian and soci-ologist Taner Ak?cam was brought to Colgate to lecture on the Armenian Genocide of 1915. This event was co-sponsored by Core Distinc-tion Global Engagements, the Dean of the Faculty, the Division of the Arts and Humani-ties, the Division of Social Sciences and the Peace and Conflict Studies department.
Ak?cam is a leading historian on the Arme-nian Genocide because of his groundbreaking use of the Turkish Archives in his research. He is considered a radical historian in Turkey because the Turkish government does not officially rec-ognize the killing of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 as genocide. During the lecture, Ak?cam gave brief information about his life and how he was imprisoned for writing that Kurdish people exist in Turkey. He was able to escape from prison by digging an underground tunnel, and eventually ended up in Germany.
Ak?cam’s work with the archives is ground-breaking because the government has fought to keep the information about the killings out of the public’s hand. Other countries have also been engaged in propaganda about the events of the Armenian Genocide, which makes it difficult to use their information to supplement Turkish files. The information from others, such as Italy and the United States, can only be used as a back-up.
Ak?cam talked about the genocide and what was done with regards to gender and age groups of the victims. Many people were forced to convert to Islam. Those 200,000 to 250,000 people who converted ultimately survived. There was a time peri-od that people were allowed to convert, but after the end of October 1915, they were not allowed to anymore and were separated out from the Muslim population. Many Armenian Christian girls were forced to marry Muslim men. Colgate students asked why the Turks did not separate and kill the children. Ak?cam explained that they need-ed the children for labor in the war effort and for farming the fields. They also went to government schools and were given to Turkish families. They separated the Arme-nians into camps instead of sending them to Russia, because they were afraid that they would join the Russian army.
The audience asked about how Taner Ak?cam is received in Turkey.
“They might not like my ideas, but I think I am well known enough that they have to take me seriously,” said Ak?cam.
Contact Morgan Giordano at [email protected]