19 January 2009
A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility,
TANER AKCAM, translated from Turkish by PAUL BESSEMER, 2006 New York: Metropolitan Books
The tragic fate of the Ottoman Armenians during World War I, the massacres that accompanied their forced migration, and the role of the Committee of Union and Progress.the ruling faction in the Ottoman government during World War I. constitute one of the murkiest . . chapters in the modern history of the Middle East.
This article argues that those who have dealt with this complex subject have not always respected the limits set by scholarly ethics and have failed to use their sources scrupulously while engaging in distortions, deliberate quoting out of context and doctoring of data. At this point Taner Akcam's book, translated and distributed by the Zoryan Institute, deserves particular attention, and therefore it is essential to examine this work with a closer scrutiny by checking and comparing the original sources utilized by the author. The article will illustrate this point by a case study presenting the discrepancies between the texts preserved in the original sources and those presented by the author in his work.
This book, dealing with the Armenian Question, is a substantially revised English version of the author's earlier book, Insan Haklari ve Ermeni Sorunu,1 published in 1999. The book is welcomed by many authors including Erik Jan Zurcher who, on its back cover, wrote that Taner Akcam's study is the "state of the art in this field". Elsewhere Stephen Feinstein described it as the "best book ever written on Armenian Genocide".
Akcam, a sociologist often credited as the first Turkish scholar to acknowledge the "Armenian Genocide", contends that there is no doubt that the "scale of the operations would have been impossible without planning at the political center" (p. 7). The readers would have welcomed a bibliography (a surprising omission in a heavily referenced work), tables and perhaps more than one map. However, despite revisions, the trail of errors and inconsistencies still mar the book. Moreover the influence of Vahakn N. Dadrian's earlier findings and arguments is also visible throughout Akcam's study.
The book tells us little that is new, and suffers from inadequate understanding and use of sources.
The book is divided into three parts: part one discusses the Ottoman state and its non-Muslim subjects, and covers the era of the Committee of Union and Progress Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 28, No. 2, August 2008
(CUP) and discusses Turkish nationalism; part two deals with the events leading to the decision for executing genocide and its aftermath; part three is devoted to investigation and prosecution of the crimes committed during the catastrophic events of 1915.1916. Unfortunately the book lacks a comprehensive conclusion and suffers from poor organization and repetition.
Presenting the Course of Events
In discussing the massacres of the 1890s, the author does not mention the provocations carried out by the Armenian revolutionary groups that were also an important factor in bringing about Muslim attacks on the Armenians. In the second chapter the author quotes a single instance of this kind for a different occasion (p. 63). His argument, however, is not a synthesis of the evidence presented. Instead of discussing how such incidents shaped the course of events, the author prefers to limit himself to pointing out how the Turkish historiography makes use of them.
Akcam suggests that the Ottoman Special Organization (Teskilat-. Mahsusa) (OSO) has been instrumental "in implementing the Armenian genocide" (p. 59); however, the documentary evidence does not support his claims.2 Moreover, in discussing the structure and the assignments of the OSO, AkcCam incorrectly attributes a statement to Cemal Kutay (pp. 96.97) that was in fact made by . .
Download The full Review Here
x t 376 pp., notes to p. 464, index to p. 483, $30.00 (hardcover), ISBN: 0-8050-7932-7
Publisher Routledge, London
Online Publication Date: 01 August 2008
Sahin, Erman(2008)'Review Essay: A Scrutiny of Akcam's Version of History and the Armenian Genocide',Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs,28:2,303 . 319
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