Students Walk Out of Conference in Protest over Genocide Denial
OTTAWA, Ontario—On Sat. March 5, members of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) of Canada, in collaboration with the Armen Karo Student Association and the Armenian Students’ Association at Carleton University, organized a walk-out during a two-day conference on Turkish-Canadian relations sponsored by Carleton, the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NSPIA), and the Canadian Turkish Council (CTC), an organization known to promote events denying the Armenian Genocide and to present Turkish-Armenian issues in a divisive manner.
The CTC organized the conference under the title, “Turkey-Canada Relations in Troubled Times.” One panel discussion, however, that included Prof. Christopher Gunn of Coastal Carolina University and Lale Eskicioglu of Carleton University, had a clear anti-Armenian bent and focused on the actions of a small minority of Armenians outside of Canada. Gunn spoke about the “secret Armenian armies” in the 1970’s and 1980’s—a topic that clearly diverged from the event’s supposed intent and contributed nothing to the discussion of Turkey-Canada relations.
The Armenian attendees who took part in the conference said they gave the speakers the benefit of the doubt by listening to their presentations; unfortunately, many pieces of inaccurate information were delivered, they confirmed. Many of the ideas and opinions voiced during the panel served to create a false narrative about the Armenians during the 20th century. The group was especially disappointed to hear the lecturers and attendees use the phrase “events of 1915” to refer to the Armenian Genocide—a common euphemism and tactic employed by genocide deniers.
Representatives from the group politely questioned the validity of some of the remarks and statements made during the panel discussion. Gunn later admitted that certain points of his presentation were mere conjectures, with no tangible evidence to support his claims.
“Carleton University, being one of the most prestigious universities in a country that strongly upholds human rights, justice, and democratic values, should not so willingly allow for such groups to stage events on its campus. In general, a university should be devoid of any affiliation to politically motivated agendas,” said AYF Canada chair Harout Kassabian.
Sevag Belian, a member of AYF Canada, questioned Gunn about the title of his latest publication, Getting Away with Murder: Soghomon Tehlirian, ASALA, and the Justice Commandos, 1921-1984. “What is your opinion of the Turkish government getting away with the murder of 1.5 million Armenians during the Armenian Genocide?” asked Belian. “Do you think there should be justice for that?”
After Gunn stated that he is not an expert in the field and believes in having an impartial approach towards the issue, a member of the group stressed the unacceptable nature of his approach. “The use of the term ‘events of 1915’ is commonly used by genocide deniers. The fact that this term keeps being used makes us question the impartiality and academic integrity of this conference. We do not see a beneficial purpose to continue being a part of this event,” said the Armenian attendee, initiating the mass walk-out. The group went on to the major intersections in downtown Ottawa to pass out flyers to the general public regarding Turkey’s human rights record, its denial of the Armenian Genocide, and why it should not be trusted as a NATO ally.
“Turkey has one of the highest numbers of jailed journalists in the world and uses excessive force to silence protestors and other dissenters of the country, yet they are still regarded as Canadian allies. Furthermore, NATO has yet to speak out against Turkey’s human rights violations,” said Belian.
The AYF said it fully condemns the decision by Carleton University to host an event intended to spread inaccurate and divisive speech, and demands that the administration formally apologize for the oversight.
Founded in 1934, the Armenian Youth Federation of Canada is the largest and most influential Armenian-Canadian youth organization, working to advance social, political, educational, and cultural awareness among Armenian-Canadian youth.
Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West