Taner Akcam: A writer whose view of the past has put his life at risk

Historians in the News

IT’S 9.30AM IN MINNEAPOLIS. The bridge over the Mississippi that used to take Taner Akçam to work won’t be rebuilt for a year, but that’s not what’s vexing him. His problem is the Turkish Secret Service.

Professor Akçam is a Turk and an historian. In 1999, 84 years after the event, he completed a harrowing doorstop of a book on the Armenian genocide – densely factual and unsparing of the Turkish culprits – now published in English. As a result, he is being hounded from Istanbul to his Midwestern academic exile by ultranationalists from his home-land . . . and by spooks.

That’s his theory, anyway. How else to explain what happened in Montreal in February when he was detained by airport police who said that they had grounds to suspect he was a terrorist. Those grounds turned out to be hostile postings on amazon. com and his own Wikipedia page, doctored by people who had also, apparently, not only alerted precisely the airport personnel who would be handling Akçam’s flight, but also had information on the historian’s past, including a 1974 arrest for protesting at Turkey’s invasion of northern Cyprus, that had never had been in the media.

So who gave the tip-off? Akçam laughs wearily. He doesn’t know. “But my arrival was known of by the Turkish consul. He was even invited to my lecture.”

There might be something comical about this Wiki-assisted harassment – except that two weeks earlier, Akçam’s friend and fellow intellectual, the Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink, was murdered in broad daylight on an Istanbul street. His crime, like Akçam, was to have used the “G-word” to refer to the state-sponsored murder of between 300,000 and 1.3 million Anatolian Armenians in 1915 with the term reserved by the 1948 UN convention on genocide....
Read entire article at Times (UK)

comments powered by Disqus