Türkkaya Ataöv speaks to full houses in Toronto and Montreal
TORONTO AND MONTREAL BUREAU
historian and political scientist Professor Türkkaya Ataöv's much
anticipated seminars in Toronto and Montreal attracted a lot of
attention from Turkish and Armenian communities. Prof. Ataöv came
to Canada as part of a North American conference series that are
ongoing until March 28, 2009, in over 20 cities including Boston,
Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC. Many Turkish organizations
across United States and Canada collaborated in organizing the seminars
titled "How to Come to Terms with One's Past: A Probe into
History Including Armenian-Turkish Relations."
Ataöv, Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Ankara University,
spoke in Toronto, at the Ryerson University on February 18, 2009,
and in Montreal, at the McGill University on February 20, 2009.
Toronto event was organized by the Federation of Canadian Turkish
Associations and the Montreal event was organized by Bizim Anadolu
and the Turkish Students Society of McGill University.
universities were under tremendous pressure from the Armenian community
to cancel the seminars. However, at the end, academic independence
and freedom of speech prevailed. Ryerson and McGill university officials
stood up to the pressure and refused to cancel the lectures. Dr.
Mustafa Koç, who teaches as an associate professor at the Department
of Sociology at the Ryerson University, said that Ryerson always
tried to provide a space for open discussion. Dr. Koç who moderated
the seminar in Toronto, said that, unlike many jurisdictions where
different viewpoints were ignored, not provided, censored or banned,
universities such as Ryerson aimed to create an open environment
of teaching and learning. "We make room for debate and offer
a platform for expression of differing viewpoints." he said.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Koç emphasized the desire for dialogue
and peaceful debate: "I am hopeful that Turkish and Armenian
communities will find ways of dealing with the past tragedies in
open and honest ways by listening to each other, not by trying to
silence the other. This is true for all other disputes where there
are competing historical narratives. I cannot imagine peace without
the threat of cancellation of the seminar they helped organize,
Turkish Students Society of McGill University (TSSMU) issued a statement
which reiterated their belief in "healthy dialog, reconciliation,
mutual respect and peace." TSSMU statement also referred to
Turkey's proposal of a Joint History Commission, consisting of Armenian,
Turkish and independent scholars, to examine all the historic evidence
to come up with a final conclusion which both parties would abide
with. This proposal supported by the Government of Canada has been
refused by Armenia.
Türkkaya Ataöv, recipient of numerous international awards, medals
and honorary doctorates, has been elected to central executive positions
of UN-related international organizations that deal with racial
discrimination, human rights, terrorism, nuclear war and exchange
of war prisoners. Professor Ataöv has published over 80 books on
the Armenian issue and was invited, by the French court, to the
1984 and 1985 Paris trials of Armenian terrorists, as a witness
Toronto, at the end of Professor Ataöv's speech, moderator Dr. Koç
opened the floor up for questions, indicating that there was only
half an hour of time left until the room had to be vacated. Dr.
Koç asked the guests to limit the time of their questions to two
minutes so that as many people as possible could get a chance to
ask. First request came from the Armenian National Committee of
Canada's (ANCC) Executive Director Aris Babikian. Mr Babikian was
offered the podium and the microphone so that he could be heard
better by the audience. Babikian first said that he wished to speak
for half an hour, in other words, the entire time that was left
for the reserved room. This drew reactions from the crowd and the
moderator reminded that he was giving two minutes for each question.
Regardless of the warnings, Babikian spoke for over 20 minutes,
while Prof. Ataöv sat at the side of the stage and listened patiently.
Finally, after increasing pressure from the audience and the moderator,
Babikian managed to form a few questions. Once presented by the
questions, Prof. Ataöv held the hand of Mr. Babikian and said "Don't
go anywhere, stay here by my side while I answer all your questions."
As Prof. Ataöv answered Mr. Babikian's questions, they remained
hand-in-hand for minutes on end, occasionally sharing a laugh together.
portion of Prof. Ataöv's visit was organized by Bizim Anadolu and
the Turkish Students Society of McGill. The moderator Dr. Aydin
Yurtcu, 1964 graduate of McGill, welcomed the Turkish and Armenian
students that filled the room, by saying "It is good to be
back home." Dr. Yurtcu, before leaving the podium to the guest
speaker, promised the Armenian students that they would be allowed
to read a statement after the lecture.
after Prof. Ataöv started his speech, it became evident that the
Armenian students were not there to listen but to create a distraction.
Addressing the students who were disturbing the seminar, Prof. Ataöv
said "I only ask you to listen. You may not agree, but you
should listen." Prof. Ataöv added that he had listened to many
opposing views including Mr. Babikian in Toronto. Prof. Ataöv also
urged the students to sometimes read the Turkish sources just as
he himself reads the Armenian sources.
Prof. Ataöv's speech ended, Dr. Yurtcu, before opening the floor
for Q&A, invited an Armenian student who had asked for Dr. Yurtcu's
permission to read a long statement. This statement which was written
beforehand to prevent Prof. Ataöv from speaking at McGill, did not
contain any references to any of the topics Prof. Ataöv had discussed
during his speech. After the statement ended, other students, both
Turkish and Armenian were able to ask questions. Prof. Ataöv made
extra efforts to speak one-on-one with all the Armenian students
who had questions.
Ataöv has two M.A. degrees and a Ph.D. from Syracuse University
in New York. His books have been translated into 20 languages and
have appeared in 35 countries across 5 continents. Professor Ataöv
has lectured in several American, British, Russian, German, Dutch,
Indian, Chinese, Middle eastern, African and Australian universities
in four decades.
Ferid Shafiyev from Azerbaijani Embassy.
the Ryerson and McGill seminars, Prof. Ataöv kindly accepted to
speak in Turkish in yet another event supported by Bizim Anadolu,
Turkish-Canadian Action Committee, Azerbaijani Community of Ottawa,
Quebec Azerbaijanis Association and Council of Turkish Canadians.
At this last gathering in Canada, Prof. Ataöv told the story of
how he, as a young man studying in United States, one day came across
a book written by William Saroyan, an Armenian author, and he liked
it so much that he decided to translate this book into Turkish ("Aram
Derler Adima") and promote it in Turkey. Türkkaya Ataöv who
charmed all who came to listen to him, ended his Canadian tour on
the note that he was, as all Turks were, only after truth, peace
by Celal Uçar, Elif Özgecan Çelik