Conference on 'Forgotten Genocides' to Be Held At Rutgers
Posted GMT 3-18-2011 2:57:33
On Tues., March 29, an academic conference titled "Forgotten Genocides: Memory, Silence, Denial" will be held at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J. Organized by Rutgers' Center for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution, and Human Rights (CGCHR), and Bergen Community College's Center for Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation (CPJR), the conference will be comprised of seven panels.
Following welcoming remarks by Steven Diner, chancellor at Rutgers University, the first panel, "Forgetting and Remembering"--scheduled for 8:35 a.m.--will feature five presenters: Erica Lehrer, history/anthropology, Concordia University (Canada); Daniel Feirstein, sociology, UNTREF (Argentina), whose presentation is titled "Thinking Beyond the Binary Model: National Security Doctrine in Latin America as a Way of Rethinking Genocide as a Social Practice;" Doug Irvin, CGCHR; Alexander Hinton, CGCHR/anthropology; Thomas LaPointe, CPJR/English, Bergen Community College. The latter three will present "Hidden Genocides: Power, Knowledge, Memory."
The second panel, "Power, Knowledge, and Memory," chaired by CGCHR's Aldo Civico, will begin at 10 a.m. and will feature two panelists: Carol Kidron, anthropology, University of Haifa (Israel), on "Cambodian-Canadian Inspirational Tales of Survival: Treading the Margins of Remembering and Forgetting Genocide Suffering;" and Hannibal Travis, law, Florida International University, on "Constructing 'The Armenian Genocide': How Genocide Scholars Unremember the Assyrian and Greek Massacres and Deportations of 1914-23."
The third panel, on "Power, Resistance, and Indigenous Peoples," will begin at 11:30 a.m. with three panelists: Frank Chalk, history, Concordia University (Canada), on "Indian Residential Schools in Canada: The Issue of Genocide and Public Policy;" Chris Mato Nunpa, indigenous studies, Southwest Minnesota State University, on "Nits Make Lice: Genocide and the Destruction of Indigenous Peoples of the United States;" and Donna-Lee Frieze, philosophy, Deakin University (Australia), on "Remembering Benevolence, Forgetting Genocide: The Stolen Generations in Australia."
Panel four, "Identity and Difference," chaired by Isaias Rojas-Perez, CGCHR/anthropology, will begin at 2:30 p.m. Dirk Moses, history, Eastern European University (Italy), will present "Has the Holocaust Helped Us Remember or Forget Genocides?" Krista Heghburg, anthropology, United States Memorial Holocaust Museum, will discuss, "What the Law Does Not Recall: Repair, 'Historical Reality', and the Legal Order in the Czech Republic."
The fifth panel, "Memory, Silence, Denial," scheduled for 4 p.m., will have two presenters: Adam Jones, political science, University of British Columbia Okanagan (Canada), on "The Great Lakes Genocides: Forgotten Histories, Forgotten Precedents;" and Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, history, University of Pannsylvania, on "Forgetting Genocide Before it Happens: Genocidal Categories and German Political Culture Before World War I."
"Museum Exhibition," the sixth panel, will begin at 5:15 p.m. and will be chaired by Nela Navarro, CGCHR/modern languages at Rutgers. Igor Kotler, the director of the Museum of Human Rights, Freedom, and Tolerance, will present "From a 'Crime Without a Name' to 'Genocide': The Simele Massacre of Assyrians, Iraq, August 1933."
The seventh and final panel, "Hidden Genocides," will be chaired by Alex Hinton, CGCHR/anthropology, Rutgers, and will begin at 7 p.m. The two panelists are Walter Richmond, languages, Occidental College, on "Circassia: A Small Nation Lost to the Great Game;" and Greg Stanton, conflict resolution, George Mason University, on "The Ukrainian Genocide: Why Marxist Genocide Scholars and Journalists Ignore and then Deny Genocides Committed by Marxist-Leninist Regimes."
Taner Akcam, history, Clark University, is the keynote speaker of the conference. His lecture, titled "Why the Armenian Genocvide Was Forgotten: Turkish conceptions of National Security and History," will be held on March 28 at 7 p.m.
On behalf of Seyfo Center, Joseph Haweil sat down with Greek historian and researcher Stavros T. Stavridis to talk about the Assyrian Genocide and the worldwide movement for its recognition by the Republic of Turkey. Born to Greek parents in Cairo Egypt in 1949, Mr. Stavridis migrated to Australia with his parents in 1952. He took his BA from Deakin University having majored in political science and economic history. Between 1993-1998, Mr. Stavridis undertook a Masters program at Melbourne’s RMIT University.His dissertation entitled The Greek-Turkish War 1919-23: An Australian Press Perspective was published by Gorgias Press in 2009. He has taught at both TAFE and University levels both in Australia and the United States, teaching a variety of subjects including economics, sociology, urban and business studies and Greek history. Mr. Stavridis’ latest publication is entitled The Assyrians in Australian Archives: Documents from the National Archives of Australia and the Australian War Memorial, 1914-1947 (co-authored with David Chibo) and is available through Gorgias Press.
When did you initially learn of the Assyrian Genocide and what sparked your interest in writing about it?I learned about the Assyrians through passing references in British Foreign Office documents when I was writing my Honours and Masters Dissertations without giving it too much thought. What sparked my interest? In September 1999, I presented a paper at a genocide conference in Sydney about the Greeks of Asia Minor and it was here where I learned about the existence of an Assyrian Genocide. A Greek friend of mine in Sydney invited me in early 2000 to present a paper at an Assyrian conference that was staged at the University of Sydney in July of that year. I told him that I knew nothing about the Assyrians other than the introduction I had in September 1999.
I presented my paper and the rest is history. Wilfred Bet-Alkhas' e-magazine Zinda proved a wonderful vehicle to publish my works on the Assyrians.
Do you consider the genocides of the Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks to be one genocide? If yes, how best can these three communities work together towards recognition?
Each community regards its own genocide as a unique event. The genocides of the Assyrians, Greeks and Armenians should be considered as a single event as each group suffered at the hands of the Ottoman Turks and Turkish nationalists led by Mustapha Kemal during the years 1914-1918 and 1919-23 respectively. The Young Turks and Kemalists were determined to drive all the Christians out of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and establish a state only for the Turks. I believe it is important that the 3 groups set aside their differences and work together as a united group in pushing for genocide recognition. How can this be achieved? This is an interesting question where I will offer three suggestions. Firstly, academic conferences should be arranged inviting top Assyrian, Greek and Armenian genocide scholars to present conference papers with the conference proceedings published either online or in book form. There is also a need to increase the rate of scholarly publications on the Greek and Assyrian Genocides which is seriously lacking. Armenian scholars receive generous funding through their community organizations or from wealthy Armenians to produce serious academic works regarding their Genocide. The Armenians have established research centres in North America to continue research into their Genocide and also host academic conferences. This is something that both the Greeks and Assyrians can adopt from our Armenian friends. Secondly, the Diaspora communities can form combined committees to lobby politicians and use the media to publicize the three Genocides to the non-Assyrian, Greek and Armenian audiences in their adopted homelands. Finally, we could learn from the Jewish community in our adopted homelands of how to establish our own combined genocide museums e.g. in New York or Sydney.
In the face of intense ongoing Turkish denial, what approach should the Assyrian Diaspora take in working towards recognition?
The Assyrian Diaspora should operate on two levels towards genocide recognition. Assyrian organizations should work on a national and international level to publicize the genocide through media campaigns, letter writing campaigns to major newspapers, insertion of single page advertisement of Assyrian Martyrs Day in major newspapers and lobbying important politicians in adopted homelands. At an international level, Assyrian organizations should use the fora of the United Nations and its relevant agencies as well as the European Union to publicize its Genocide. It is also important to engage a public relations firm to help "promote" the Assyrian Genocide to the international community.
The issue of reparations remains a contentious one. Do you think a demand for reparations by the victims should be part of the genocide recognition dialogue?
Reparations could form part of the genocide recognition dialogue with Turkey. However this will depend on whether any Assyrians had purchased insurance policies or held bank accounts and title deeds to family property during the last years of the Ottoman Empire.
The Armenians have filed law suits against New York Life Insurance, Axa Insurance and Deutsche Bank trying to recover monies of their dead ancestors. So far New York Life and Axa have compensated Armenian descendants.
Assyrian activists, like their Armenian counterparts, have sought to pressure Turkey by gaining recognition of the genocide by countries around the world. Do you think this approach is beneficial?
I find this a very good approach in gaining recognition by countries. It is a step-by-step approach which will yield results in time as more countries come to understand and recognize the Assyrian Genocide. As they say "Rome was not built in a day." As I said, a step-by-step approach will win out in the long run.
In light of ongoing persecution of Assyrians in the Middle East, what some have deemed modern-day genocide, some argue that focusing on Assyrian Genocide recognition redirects valuable time and resources away from addressing the current persecution. What is your response to this view?
Assyrians can focus on the current Middle East situation without taking an eye off the past. I hope that the Assyrians can use their present persecution to tell the international community that their suffering has continued almost non-stop from the early 20th century. It is important that the victims of the First World War are not forgotten and their memories are preserved for future generations.
What is the likelihood of genocide recognition by the Republic of Turkey in the next decade?
The possibility of genocide recognition by Turkey within the next decade is difficult to predict. However I see some "hopeful" signs with the Armenian Genocide being openly discussed in Turkey which was a taboo subject not that many years ago. There are some brave Turkish scholars and journalists who have had the courage to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. I believe that the Assyrians, Greeks and Armenians have to engage with Turks who acknowledge our Genocides both inside and outside Turkey.
By Joseph Haweil
Lawsuit against U.S. Federal Reserve seeks Armenian gold looted by Turkey
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
The Glendale-based nonprofit Center for Armenian Remembrance (CAR) sued the U.S. Federal Reserve on March 4, seeking information on its acquisition of a large amount of Armenian gold looted by the Ottoman government in 1915.
CAR filed the lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. The gold, originally valued at five million Turkish Gold Liras ($22 million dollars), is now estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently claimed that they have no records of any Armenian gold in their possession.
It was not easy to trace the circumstances under which the Armenian-owned gold was transferred from Istanbul to the United States almost a century ago. The results of our research on the convoluted series of transactions are summarized below:
The Ottoman government had seized the gold and other valuables belonging to Armenians deported and killed in the 1915 genocide, expropriating their bank accounts and safe deposit boxes. The Ottoman Liquidation Commission used a complex set of bank transfers to hide the trail of this “blood money.” The Turkish Treasury placed the looted Armenian gold initially in the German Deutschebank in Istanbul. In 1916, the gold was transferred to the Bleichroeder Bank in Vienna, and from there moved to the Reichsbank (German Central Bank) in Berlin, and deposited in the account of Ottoman Public Debt.
At the end of World War I, when the Allied Powers demanded reparations from Germany and its Ottoman Turkish ally, German officials had no choice but to comply with that request, agreeing to turn over to the Allies the Armenian gold held by the Reichsbank. Accordingly, the expropriated Armenian gold was transferred to France and Great Britain in 1921.
A subsequent British document confirms the true ownership of this gold. On September 26 1924, leaders of the two main opposition parties in Great Britain, Liberal Party leader and former Prime Minister H.H. Asquith and Conservative Party leader and future Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald pleading for British assistance to Armenians in view of their support for the Allied cause and the great suffering they endured during World War I. The two British leaders argued that “the sum of 5 million pounds (Turkish gold) deposited by the Turkish Government in Berlin in 1916, and taken over by the Allies after the Armistice, was in large part (perhaps wholly) Armenian money. After the enforced deportation of the Armenians in 1915, their bank accounts, both current and deposit, were transferred by order to the State Treasury at Constantinople. This fact enabled the Turks to send five million sterling to the Reichsb! ank, Berlin, in exchange for a new issue of notes.”
Subsequently, instead of returning the Armenian gold to its original owners, Britain and France sold it to the United States Government through J.P. Morgan Bank in Paris, by exchanging it for U.S. Treasury Certificates.
On January 29, 1925, Senator William H. King submitted resolution 319 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee demanding that the looted gold be “set aside in trust” for Armenians. The resolution stated: “The Turkish Government had arbitrarily seized and transferred to the Turkish treasury all bank accounts, both current and deposit, belonging to Armenians, by which Armenian gold in the sum of 5 million Turkish pounds, amounting to $22,450,000, was transferred to the Turkish treasury, which gold was afterwards deposited by the Turkish Government in the Reichsbank at Berlin…. Said deposit of Armenian gold in the Reichsbank at Berlin was by article 259 of the Treaty of Versailles transferred and surrendered to the principal allied and associated powers, including the United States…. Said deposit in equity and right belongs to the Armenians from whom the same was seized, or to their legal representatives…. Said deposit s! hould be set aside in trust to be hereafter paid over to the persons from whom said gold was seized, or to their lawful representatives….”
This gold is just a small portion of the billions of dollars of Armenian assets stolen by Turkey and various other countries during and after the Armenian Genocide. The restitution of all looted Armenian assets, wherever they may be, should be one of the highest priorities for those pursuing justice for the horrendous crimes committed against the Armenian nation.