In April, the University of South Florida (USF) Libraries Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center welcomed historian Ronald Grigor Suny for its second Armenian Studies event in six months. Turnout was exceptional, with a standing-room-only crowd in attendance.
Suny explored a variety of historic justifications for and ramifications of the Armenian Genocide (1915-1923) as well as killing and deportations of Greeks, Arabs, Assyrians, and others, under the Ottoman Empire. He spoke of first-hand research conducted during numerous visits to Turkey over a 20-year period. During visits to Kurdistan, he spoke with Kurds regarding their historic memory of and, sometimes, participation in the Genocide, having been bribed and coerced by its orchestrators. Most importantly, Suny described a relationship between the marginalization of the Kurdish population in present-day Turkey and the denial of the Armenian Genocide, suggesting that if the Turkish government were to acknowledge the Genocide, removing the ‘national security’ implications it uses as justification now, it would remove a tenet of their justification for failing to grant Kurdistan autonomy.
The talk also related what Dr. Suny sees as hopeful steps, from large, unimpeded demonstrations taking place in Turkey, and his own Workshop for Armenian/Turkish Scholarship (WATS) collaborations, where Turkish and Armenian scholars come together to explore the essential truths of the Armenian Genocide.
“Dr. Suny explained in a highly convincing manner how the reluctance of the current Turkish government to admit to the Armenian genocide was linked to the current Turkish-Kurdish conflict in Eastern Anatolia,” said USF History Professor Kees Boterbloem. “He pointed out, encouragingly, that this denial, a standard adhered to by all of Turkey’s governments since the 1920s, may have had its day.”
The audience discussion that followed the talk raised interesting questions about France and Turkey and admission to the European Union, and an understanding of the difference between the official Turkish government line and the feelings of the Turkish populace.
The USF Libraries Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center wishes to express gratitude to the USF History Department and Golfo Alexopoulos for their sponsorship of this important event.
The Armenian Studies collection at the USF Tampa Library continues to grow, with the acquisition of materials in a wide range of languages. Please contact Merrell Dickey to learn how you can support this initiative: (813) 974-1654 or firstname.lastname@example.org.