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Turkish historian not the best choice for Clark University

GENOCIDE STUDIES

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June 3, 2008

RE "TURKISH historian to study genocide" (City & Region, May 29): Clark University is of course free to hire whomever it chooses, but to assert that Taner Akcam was the "best scholar in the pool" seems a long stretch.

First, he is not, as the article suggests, a "Turkish historian" insofar as his undergraduate studies were in economics and his graduate studies were in sociology. Akcam's signature work, "A Shameful Act," though lauded by those seeking to validate the Armenian allegation of genocide, has received a fair amount of criticism for selective use of materials, misreading of Ottoman sources, errors in chronology, and the lack of a bibliography. Moreover, although Akcam is keen to apply the term genocide to the Ottoman Armenian tragedy, his writings fail to address the legal requirements for this very specifically defined crime.

Finally, reporter David Abel errs in saying Akcam was imprisoned in the 1970s for his work on the Armenian issue. Akcam was convicted for his participation in leftist groups that were implicated in attacks on US diplomats and the assassination of far-right militants and Turkish security officers. In sum, though Akcam has a certain cachet as a Turk who would take on Turkey, in its search for a Turkish historian versed in the late Ottoman period, Clark could have done much better.

DAVID SALTZMAN, Chief counsel
Turkish American Legal Defense Fund, Washington

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