Joined: 25 Oct 2003
| Posted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 9:19 am Post subject: Taner Akcam Open letter / Lettre ouverte
English: scroll down!
|Taner Akçam : une cible à abattre ?
Publié le : 16-03-2007
Info Collectif VAN - www.collectifvan.org - Le Collectif VAN vous propose la traduction d'une lettre en anglais envoyée par mail, du démocrate turc Taner Akçam, Professeur à l’Université du Minnesota - Centre pour l’Etude de l’Holocauste et du Génocide (Minneapolis/USA). Le chercheur est dans la ligne de mire des autorités d’Ankara et de ses relais zélés aux USA : il lance ici un appel.
L’éminent historien turc, spécialiste du génocide arménien, est victime d’une campagne d’intimidation, orchestrée par le gouvernement turc et relayée aux USA par les associations turco-américaines et les diplomates en poste de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique.
Moins d’un mois après l’assassinat du journaliste arménien, Hrant Dink, abattu à Istanbul le 19 janvier 2007 par un jeune nationaliste turc, Taner Akçam a été victime le 16 février dernier, d’attaques et de menaces téléguidées par les autorités turques.
Comme nous l’avions rapporté dans nos Infos Collectif VAN, alors qu’il se rendait au Canada pour y donner une Conférence sur son dernier ouvrage consacré au génocide arménien « A Shameful Act », Taner Akçam a été arrêté et retenu durant quatre heures à la douane de l’Aéroport de Montréal.
La cause ? Une biographie falsifiée de l’universitaire se trouve en ligne sur le site Wikipedia (encyclopédie en ligne modifiable par tout un chacun) : cette biographie, postée par les nationalistes turcs, le désigne clairement comme « terroriste ». Parvenue de manière fort opportune aux mains des douanes canadiennes, cette biographie a semé le trouble et le doute chez les fonctionnaires québecquois…
Taner Akçam a pu se sortir de ce guêpier, mais il a de nouveau été confronté au même problème avant d’embarquer pour son vol retour vers les Etats-Unis.
Les douanes américaines lui ont aimablement conseillé de prendre un avocat et de ne plus voyager à l’extérieur du pays en attendant que cette histoire fâcheuse soit réglée. Taner Akçam a donc dû annuler sa tournée à l’étranger tandis que ses conférences dans les Universités américaines sont l’objet d’attaques régulières d’ultra-nationalistes turcs. Le savant turc doit donc désormais animer ses conférences aux Etats-Unis sous protection policière.
Ce qui est inquiétant, au-delà de l’attitude fascisante d’Ankara qui se cache (à peine) derrière les pressions que subit Akçam aux Etats-Unis, c’est le silence de la communauté universitaire.
Curieusement, alors que Taner Akçam est membre de la liste de diffusion réunissant des centaines de chercheurs concernés par la thématique du génocide arménien et initiée par la turco-américaine Fatma Muge Gocek, on ne note aucun mouvement de soutien de la part de ses collègues.
Pire, lorsqu’une inititiative en ce sens a été lancée sur cette liste par une universitaire arménienne de Turquie, celle-ci s’est vue vertement remettre en place par la grande prêtresse du jeu (Fatma Muge Gocek). Visiblement, chez les « démocrates » turcs, il ne fait pas bon soutenir les quelques démocrates réellement sincères qui reconnaissent sans langue de bois, le génocide arménien.
Les intellectuels turcs vont-ils attendre que Taner Akçam devienne à son tour une cible, pour verser des larmes de crocodile ?
© Collectif VAN
Ci-dessous la Lettre de Taner Akçam accompagnant son texte
"A Shameful Campaign" (voir plus bas).
Mail de Taner Akçam en date du Jeudi 08 Mars, 2007 - 10:28 PM
Traduit avec l'accord de l'auteur. Un appel clair à le soutenir.
Vous trouverez ci-joint mon compte rendu de ce qui s'est passé pendant le mois écoulé. Ce texte sera aussi mis sur le site du Centre d'études sur l'Holocauste et les Génocides de l'Université du Minnesota.
J'ajoute un tract qui a été distribué lors de ma conférence à la City University of New York en novembre dernier. Le contenu est très proche d'un texte d'"opinion" d'un certain "Mustafa Artun," publié par l’Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) en 2001, qui a ensuite été diffusé auprès des 19 000 membres du Turkish Forum et qui se trouve désormais sur le site (ultra-négationniste NdT) Tall Armenian Tale qui sert de source à des diffusions plus larges encore. Voyez, par exemple, comment ma biographie est en permanence vandalisée sur Wikipedia et à la rubrique "opinions des lecteurs" de mes livres sur Amazon.com.
Avec une égale persistance et malveillance, des membres du Turkish Forum et divers individus envoient des messages diffamatoires me concernant à des personnalités ou à des organisateurs de conférences etc. au sein des universités où il est prévu que j'intervienne.
Quel que soit l'expéditeur, il y a assez de ressemblance dans la langue et le style pour indiquer qu'il s'agit d'une campagne organisée. Par exemple le nom de Ergun Kirlikovali est appparu dans le cadre de ces actions et le contenu de son message est, là encore, très proche des envois ci-dessus et du tract de New York.
Par contraste avec ce que j'ai vécu à CUNY, l'absence notable d'interruption quand j'ai participé à une conférence à la Yeshiva University's Cardozo Law School last December en dit vraiment long.
A mon avis cela montre encore mieux la coordination entre les diplomates turcs, l'ATAA et le Turkish Forum. Bien que je ne sois pas en mesure de prouver une chaîne de commandement directe, je suis tout à fait convaincu que certains diplomates turcs ont pour mission officielle de coordonner les activités des militants de base aux USA.
En outre, les relations étroites entre les diplomates turcs et l'ATAA ne sont un secret pour personne. Certains d'entre eux ont été membres de commissions de l'ATAA par exemple.
Bref, il est clair pour moi que nous n'avons pas affaire ici à une foule de brutes fascistes en provenance de Turquie, mais à une campagne menée dans le cadre d'une guerre psychologique dirigée par les autorités turques. Pendant ce temps, je continue mes tournées de signatures et de conférences sous haute sécurité. Bien que cela soit stressant et très triste de faire des conférences sous protection policière, je n'ai aucune intention d'annuler le moindre de ces événements. Qu'un universitaire se laisse convaincre, par des pressions, de ne pas s'exprimer dans une université serait scandaleux. C'est exactement ce que les autorités veulent obtenir : nous réduire au silence.
A cause de cette campagne, qui est, je crois, organisée par l'ATAA et le Turkish Forum et contrôlée par des diplomates turcs, la liberté d'expression, au moins pour certains d'entre nous, est devenue un motif de lutte, non seulement en Turquie, mais également aux USA.
Je nous invite tous instamment à prendre la situation très au sérieux. Tant que nous garderons le silence ils pourront continuer à insulter et attaquer des universitaires partout dans le monde. Ce qui m'arrive aujourd'hui peut arriver à n'importe lequel d'entre nous dans l'avenir si les autorités ont l'impression d'avoir gain de cause.
Nous tous qui vivons aux USA devrions faire savoir clairement à nos représentants élus démocratiquement que ce pays n'est pas la République de Turquie.
Les autorités turques, que ce soit directement ou par l'intermédiaire de leurs agents dans la population, n'ont aucun droit de harceler des savants qui exercent leur liberté d'expression au sein d'universités américaines. En tant qu'ancien prisonnier d'opinion j'ai appris d'une manière qui ne peut s'oublier le prix de cette liberté, et j'entends en faire usage en toute occasion.
© Traduction Collectif VAN (2007)
Mail accompagné de la lettre suivante :
A Shameful Campaign
by Taner Akçam
For many who challenge their government’s official version of events, slander, emailed threats, and other forms of harassment are all too familiar. As a former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience in Turkey, I should not have been surprised. But my recent detention at the Montreal airport—apparently on the basis of anonymous insertions in my Wikipedia biography—signals a disturbing new phase in a Turkish campaign of intimidation that has intensified since the November 2006 publication of my book, A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility.
At the invitation of the McGill University Faculty of Law and Concordia University, I flew from Minneapolis to Montreal on Friday, February 16, to lecture on A Shameful Act. As the Northwest Airlines jet touched down at Trudeau International Airport about 11:00 a.m., I assumed I had plenty of time to get to campus for the 5:00 p.m. event. Nearly four hours later, I was still at the airport, detained without any explanation.
“Where are you going? Where are you staying? How many days are you staying here?” asked the courteous officer from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. “Do you have a return ticket? Do you have enough money with you?”
As the border control authorities were surely aware, I travel frequently to Canada: three or four trips a year since 2000, most recently with my daughter in October 2006, just before the publication of A Shameful Act. Not once in all that time had I been singled out for interrogation.
“I’m not sure myself why you need to be detained,” the officer finally admitted. “After making some phone calls, I’ll let you know.”
While he was gone, my cell phone rang. The friend who had arranged to pick me up at the airport had gotten worried when I failed to emerge from Customs. I explained the situation as well as I could, asking him to inform my hosts, the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism at McGill and the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia, that I might be late for the lecture. The Zoryan Institute and the Armenian Students’ Associations of Montreal, co-presenters of the event, would also need to be updated.
The immigration officer returned with a strange request: could I help him figure out why I was being detained? You’re the one detaining me, I was tempted to say. If you don’t know the reason, how do you expect me to know? You tell me. However, I knew better than to challenge him, giving the impression that I had something to hide.
“Let me guess,” I answered. “Do you know who Hrant Dink was? Did you hear about the Armenian journalist who was killed in Istanbul?” He hadn’t.
“I’m a historian,” I explained. “I work on the subject of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. There’s a very heavy campaign being waged by extreme nationalist and fascist forces in Turkey against those individuals who are critical of the events that occurred in 1915. Hrant Dink was killed because of it. The lives of people like me are in danger because of it. Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s Nobel Laureate, couldn’t tolerate the attacks against him and had to leave the country. Many intellectuals in Turkey are now living under police protection.” The officer took notes.
“In connection with these attacks there has been a serious campaign against me in the US,” I went on. “I know that the groups running this campaign are given directives and are controlled by the Turkish diplomats. They spread propaganda stating that I am a member of a terrorist organization. Some rumors to that effect must have reached you.” The officer continued to write.
“For your information, in 1976, while I was a master’s degree student and teaching assistant at Middle East Technical University, I was arrested for articles I had written in a journal and sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in prison. I later escaped to Germany, where I became a citizen. The Turkish criminal statute that was the basis for my prosecution, together with similar laws, was repealed in 1991. I travel to Turkey freely now and went there most recently for Hrant Dink’s funeral.”
The officer finished his notes. “I’m sorry, but I have to make some more phone calls,” he said, and left.
My cell phone rang again. It was McGill legal scholar Payam Akhavan, an authority on human rights and genocide, who was to have introduced my lecture. Apologizing for my situation, Prof. Akhavan let me know that he’d contacted the offices of Canadian Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day and Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity Jason Kenney. Bishop Bagrat Galstanian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Canada, also called to confirm that he too had been in touch with Secretary Kenney’s office. I was going to be released.
About 3:30 p.m. the officer returned with a special one-week visa. Upon my insistence that I had a right to know exactly why I had been detained, he showed me a sheet of paper with my photograph on top and a short block of text, in English, below.
I recognized the page at once. The photo was a still from the 2005 documentary Armenian Genocide: 90 Years Later, a co-production of the University of Minnesota Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and Twin Cities Public Television. A series of outtakes from the film, originally posted on the CHGS Web site, could be found on the popular Internet video site, YouTube, and elsewhere in cyberspace.
The still photo and the text beneath it comprised my biography in the English-language edition of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia which anyone in the world can modify at any time. For the last year—most recently on Christmas Eve, 2006—my Wikipedia biography had been persistently vandalized by anonymous “contributors” intent on labeling me as a terrorist. The same allegations had been repeatedly scrawled, like gangland graffiti, as “customer reviews” of A Shameful Act and my other books at Amazon.com.
It was unlikely, to say the least, that a Canadian immigration officer found out that I was coming to Montreal, took the sole initiative to research my identity on the Internet, discovered the archived Christmas Eve version of my Wikipedia biography, printed it out seven weeks later on February 16, and showed it to me as a result.
The fact was that my upcoming lecture had been publicized well in advance in the Canadian print and broadcast media. An announcement had even been inserted in Wikipedia five days before my arrival. Moreover, two Turkish-American Web sites hostile to my work—the 500-page Tall Armenian Tale and the 19,000-member Turkish Forum listserv —had been hinting for months that my “terrorist” activities ought to be of interest to American immigration authorities. It seemed far more likely that one or more individuals had seized the opportunity to denounce me to the Canadians.
Although I was forced to cancel two radio interviews, I made it to the McGill campus in time to lecture on A Shameful Act.
On Sunday, February 18, before boarding my return flight to Minneapolis, I was detained for another hour. It was obvious that the American customs and border authorities knew what had happened at the adjacent offices on the Canadian side. “Mr. Akçam,” I was gently advised, “if you don’t retain an attorney and correct this issue, every entry and exit from the country is going to be problematic. We recommend that you do not travel in the meantime and that you try to get this information removed from your customs dossier.”
The well meaning American customs official could hardly have known the extent of the problem. Wikipedia and Amazon are but two examples. Allegations against me, posted mainly by the Assembly of American Turkish Associations (ATAA), Turkish Forum, and Tall Armenian Tale, have been copy-pasted and recycled throughout innumerable Web sites and e-groups ever since I arrived in America. By now, for example, my name in close proximity to the English word “terrorist” turns up in well over ten thousand Web pages.
The first salvo in this campaign came in response to the English translation of my essay, “The Genocide of the Armenians and the Silence of the Turks.” In a sensational March 19, 2001, commentary from the ATAA Turkish Times (“From Terrorism to Armenian Propagandist: The Taner Akçam Story”), I was introduced to Turkish-Americans as a mastermind of terrorist violence, including the assassinations of American and NATO military personnel.
Posted at the ATAA Web site in April 2001 and circulated via Turkish Forum in December 2001 and June 2003—my protests notwithstanding—“The Taner Akçam Story” ended up by March 2004 at Tall Armenian Tale next to a photo of a PKK member, which was captioned as “a younger Taner Akçam, from PKK.org.” Three years later, the photo has been updated, but Artun’s commentary remains, a frequently cited resource for copy-pasters.
As further evidence of my “terrorist” past, Tall Armenian Tale posted a detailed chronology related to incidents of arrest, on dates that even I can’t remember, for leafletting and postering in my student movement days. Whoever provided this information failed to note, however, that people were frequently arrested for such activities even after official permission had been obtained. An entire 9-page section of Tall Armenian Tale is now dedicated to vilifying me and my work, and well over 200 pages of that site mention my name.
Next came an announcement from Turkish Forum: “For the attention of friends in Minnesota….Taner Akçam has started working in America…It is expected that the conferences about so called Genocide will increase in and around Minnesota. Please follow the Armenian (Taner Akçam’s) activities very closely.” My contact information at home and at work was conveniently provided “in case people would like to send their ‘greetings’ to this traitor.” Soon enough, harassing emails were sent anonymously to my employer, the University of Minnesota, and to me personally. A profile of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and its director, my colleague Stephen Feinstein, was added to Tall Armenian Tale.
With the publication of A Shameful Act, the circle began to close in.
On Nov. 1, 2006, the City University of New York Center for the Humanities organized a gathering at the CUNY Graduate Center to introduce my book. Before I rose to speak, unauthorized leaflets bearing an assault rifle, skull, and the communist hammer and sickle were distributed in the hall. In rhetoric obviously inspired by Mustafa Artun’s commentary, I was labeled as a “former terrorist leader” and a fanatic enemy of America who had organized “attacks against the United States” and was “responsible for the death of American citizens.”
As soon as I finished my lecture, a pack of some 15 to 20 individuals, who had strategically positioned themselves in small groups throughout the hall, tried to break up the meeting. Brandishing pictures of corpses (probably Muslims killed by revenge-seeking Armenians in 1919), they loudly demanded to know why I had not lectured on the deaths of “a million Muslims.”
Shouting and swearing in Turkish and English, they completely disrupted the discussion in the lecture hall and the book-signing session nearby. I was verbally assaulted as a “terrorist-communist” and lashed with the vilest Turkish profanities. Two individuals dogged my footsteps from the podium to the elevator doors, howling, “We are the soldiers of Alparslan Türke?!” (A Turkish politician who was arrested in 1944 for spreading Nazi propaganda, Türke? later founded the Nationalist Movement Party.) The security guards surrounding me had to intervene when I was physically attacked.
A month later, on December 4, I was scheduled to speak at another New York event, a symposium at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law on “Denying Genocide: Law, Identity and Historical Memory in the Face of Mass Atrocity.” As if to illustrate this very theme, a 4,400-word letter signed by Turkish Forum’s Ibrahim Kurtulus “on behalf of Dr. Ata Erim the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Federation of Turkish American Association, FTAA and Dr. Kaya Buyukataman the President of Turkish Forum” was sent to the law school dean and faculty three weeks in advance, urging the cancellation of the symposium and labeling me as “a propagandistic tool of the Armenians.”
Two days later, on November 19, Turkish Forum published an 800-word letter to the dean from Turkish-American activist Ergun Kirlikovali, with the title, “Turkish Forum’s Letter to the University”. Kirlikovali characterized me in this official Turkish Forum’s letter as “a convicted terrorist in Turkey… one of the leaders of an armed and clandestine group advocating a Marxist-Leninist takeover of Turkish Republic caught red-handed in a bombing plot in late 1970s… part of a group which bombed the limousine of the American ambassador Comer in Ankara in 1969… He is in America probably illegally.”
Gusan Yedic of Turkish Forum posted further “terrorist” allegations about me on November 24, with this sarcastic admonition: “The friends who are going to attend the concert of Taner Akcam and his orchestra at Yeshiva University are earnestly requested to behave in a gentlemanly manner. Attendees are obliged to follow black-tie party rules.” On November 30, Turkish Forum mobilized an email campaign against the “Taner Akcam conference.” Members were also urged to attend the symposium and a “pre-meeting for Turks,” coordinated by Ibrahim Kurtulus.
I forwarded this information to the event organizers with a request that appropriate precautions be taken. I let them know that if they were going to allow intruders from Turkish Forum to leaflet my presentation and disrupt the symposium, I wasn’t going to participate. Yeshiva was concerned. An organizer who had attended the CUNY gathering on Nov. 1 assured me that security would be increased.
As a pre-emptive step, the event committee informed the Turkish Consulate that the law school symposium was intended to be general in scope, comparative and scholarly in approach, and not focused on either Taner Akçam or Turkey.
They made it clear that any disruption similar to the CUNY incident would not put Turkey in a favorable light. A Turkish consular official disavowed any government involvement in the disruption at CUNY, which he attributed to “the actions of civilians” in grassroots organizations. There was nothing the Consulate could do about them, he said. The organizers stressed that they intended to take extra security precautions and that the Consulate ought to think hard about what would happen if the symposium was invaded and its participants attacked.
Just one day before the symposium there was another phone conversation between the Turkish consular official and the organizers. He assured them that no disruption would take place and only two or three Turkish representatives would attend.
The government kept its word. The symposium was peaceful and no leaflets were distributed. The Turkish consular official attended with ATAA President-elect Gunay Evinch, both of whom were scrupulously polite. It was as though three intense weeks of mobilization had never happened.
For many Turkish intellectuals, freedom of speech has become a struggle in North America as well as in our native country. What is happening to me now could happen to any scholar who dissents from the official state version of history.
Since my return from Montreal, the Canadian immigration authorities have refused to say exactly why I was detained. As a result, I am unable to face my accusers or examine whatever “evidence” may be filed against me.
Although I have formally requested access both to my Canadian and American dossiers—a process that could take months— I have had to cancel all international appearances. Meanwhile, my Wikipedia biography and Amazon book pages remain open to malicious insertions at any time.
Nevertheless, my American book tour continues under tightened security. Although it is stressful and very sad to have to lecture under police protection, I have no intention of cancelling any of my domestic appearances.
After all, the United States is not the Republic of Turkey. The Turkish authorities whether directly or through their grassroots agents have no right to harass scholars exercising their academic freedom of speech at American universities. Throughout my life I have learned in unforgettable ways the worth of such freedom, and I intend to use it at every opportunity