Politics, scholarship, and the Armenian Genocide

Perspectives on the ITS Scandal

by Lou Ann Matossian

Published: Saturday July 19, 2008

Sükrü Elekdag at the Hudson Institute, April 17, 2007. Armenian Reporter

"Prof. Heath Lowry and the then Turkish Ambassador and now Turkish Parliamentarian, Sükrü Elekdag, brought about the Institute's formation," Mr. Cuthell wrote in the December 2006 ITS newsletter. Prof. Lowry recalled in a 2000 article that in response to an inquiry from the Turkish Embassy, he suggested that $3 million be allocated to endow a nonprofit educational foundation that "some eighteen months later was to emerge as the Institute of Turkish Studies."

Founded in 1982, the ITS, Inc., "does not seek to influence legislation nor advocate particular policies or agendas," according to its website. The institute does not lobby, Mr. Cuthell told the Washington Post.

However, academic critics such as Richard G. Hovannisian of UCLA and Roger Smith of the College of William and Mary have pointed to a history of active Armenian Genocide denial from the institute's earliest years, starting with a statement against congressional recognition in 1985.

"The Institute of Turkish Studies and its director, Heath Lowry, were instrumental in securing the signature of sixty-nine academics in Turkish studies, many of whom had been awarded grants by the institute, for an open letter published as an advertisement in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and read more than once into the Congressional Record," Prof. Hovannisian wrote in a 1999 article. "The advertisement and its use by several Senators and Representatives brought rationalization and relativization of the Armenian Genocide to the halls of Congress."

Mr. Elekdag would later acknowledge in a 2000 Milliyet column that the paid political ad "resulted from the intense efforts of professors Bernard Lewis, Heath Lowry, Justin McCarthy, Alan Fischer [sic] and Roderick [sic] Davison in close cooperation with the Institute of Turkish Studies (ITS) in Washington." Prof. Vryonis found that 46 of the petitioners "were directly or indirectly the recipients of financial support from the ITS, Inc."

Prof. Quataert told Inside Higher Ed he never expected the statement would be used to question the Armenian Genocide, but as a signatory, he was viewed favorably by the Turkish government.

A September 26, 1990, memorandum from ITS, Inc., executive director Lowry to Turkish ambassador Nüzhet Kandemir indicated that Mr. Lowry, acting in his official capacity, had long been engaged in an ongoing relationship with the Turkish government, regularly advising the ambassador and other persons in Turkey on denial of the Armenian Genocide. Mr. Kandemir, in his capacity as ambassador, was the honorary chairperson of ITS, Inc., at that time.

The memorandum and related correspondence ghostwritten by Lowry for the ambassador's signature were published by Prof. Smith, Eric Markusen, and Robert Jay Lifton in 1995.

"Though this point has been repeatedly stressed both in writing and verbally to I.A.D.A.-Ankara," Mr. Lowry had written, "we have not yet seen as much as a single article by any scholar responding to Dadrian (or any of the others as well)."

The IADA (renamed IAGM), was the intelligence and research division of the Turkish Foreign Ministry that specialized in "the terror organization ASALA, which killed the Turkish diplomats, and Armenian militia," the Turkish newspaper Tercuman reported in 2003. Tercuman noted that agency head Ecvet Tezcan was visiting the United States in an effort to meet privately with representatives of Armenian-American organizations.

Mr. Lowry's 1993 appointment to the Atatürk Chair at Princeton University, a position funded in part by the government of Turkey, sparked controversy. "As director of the Institute of Turkish Studies in Washington, Lowry (according to the institute's annual report) had helped set up the very chair in which he was then placed," Peter Balakian told the Chronicle of Higher Education in 1998. A statement signed by Prof. Balakian and more than 150 other writers and scholars denounced "the Turkish government's denial of the Armenian Genocide and scholarly corruption in the academy."

"I realize that not only my own subsequent career, but indeed those of several hundred undergraduate and graduate students, doctoral candidates and scholars have benefited from the impact of what began as nothing more than a polite response to a request for advice from the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C.," Prof. Lowry wrote some two decades later.

The situation was changing in October 2000, as Ankara lobbied furiously against another U.S. House resolution on the Armenian Genocide. Mr. Elekdag in his Milliyet newspaper column complained that the "69 scholars" petition had become useless because, with the exception of Justin Mc- Carthy, none of the original signers were prepared to sign a similar communiqué.

By the time H. Res. 596 was shelved a few weeks later, Mr. Elekdag had come to the "chilling realization" that only "accidental" developments had averted the collapse of U.S.-Turkey relations. "Turkey must take measures" against a new resolution, Mr. Elekdag declared. In particular, "the Washington- based Institute of Turkish Studies has lost its function and its effectiveness. It should be dissolved and replaced by a new Turkish think-tank."

The Institute for Armenian Research, which is dedicated to denial of the Armenian Genocide, was established in 2001 and is headed by retired ambassador Ömer Lütem. Known as EREN or ERAREN in Turkish acronym, the Ankara-based think tank is a subdivision of the Center for Eurasian Strategic Studies (ASAM), which has been headed since 2006 by retired ambassador Logoglu.

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