Who Is Taner Akcam?

Taner Akçam

1. Taner Akcam Arrested
2. Taner Akcam's Educational Background
3. Criticism of Taner Akcam
4. Conclusion

Taner Akçam is a historian from Ardahan, Turkey born in 1953. Taner Akcam studied economics and graduated from the Middle Eastern Technical University in 1975. In 1975, he was arrested and sent to Ankara Central Prison. He has written many controversial books in support of the Armenian Genocide thesis and has even claimed that the Armenian Genocide debate is already over, which was widely criticized by Western historians and scholars.

Taner Akcam Arrested

During his years in the university, Taner Akcam was arrested for contributing to the Devrimci Genclik (Revolutionary Youth) journal. [1] [2] Revolutionary Youth was the journal of Devrimci Yol (Revolutionary Path), a communist organization with ties to the PKK terrorist organization. Taner Akcam was sentenced in 1976 to 9 years in prison and he served one year before escaping Ankara Central Prison in March of 1977. [3] Taner Akcam was granted asylum in Germany in 1978.

Taner Akcam said in an interview, that he was arrested in 1976 for writing about the "existence of Kurds in Turkey" because he claims that the Turks did not acknowledge the existence of Kurds in Turkey. [4]

In another interview, Taner Akcam explains that the police accused him of writing about his opposition "to the invasion of Cyprus". In the same interview, Taner Akcam also states that in Turkey, at the time, one had to have permission to distribute literature from the police station, which he says he had, but that he was arrested anyway. Taner Akcam says that he was also punished for writing about class struggle and "worker's strike in Istanbul and the right of workers to establish a trade union." [5]

The New York Times reported that Taner Akcam was arrested for "spreading communist propaganda" on a leftist journal according to what Taner Akcam said to Belinda Cooper, an American journalist. [6]

After the statute of limitation passed on his arrest, he was able to visit Turkey several times.

Taner Akcam's Educational Background

Taner Akcam graduated from the Middle Eastern Technical University in 1975 by studying economics. In 1996, Taner Akcam received his doctorate in Sociology with a dissertation titled "Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide: On the Background of the Military Tribunals in Istanbul between 1919 and 1922".

Taner Akcam later came to the United States as a Visiting Associate Professor of History at the University of Minnesota. Later he was hired by Clark University and currently works there.

Criticism of Taner Akcam

In one interview Taner Akcam mentions that the first free elections in Turkey were held "in 1974" even though a variety of parties existed in Turkey since the 1930s. In addition, the Democratic Party had gained power with Adnan Menderes in 1950 which had opposing views to the Republican People's Party which makes one question the credibility of Taner Akcam on Turkish history.

The Boston Globe article argues that Taner Akcam is not even a historian. [7]

Taner Akcam claims that discussing the Armenian Genocide is "a taboo" and "outlawed" in Turkey, even though charges on Hrant Dink were dropped and even though he is able to write to newspaper articles discussing the events to Taraf, Radikal, and other major newspapers. In addition, Taner Akcam is able to sell his Armenian Genocide recognition books in bookstores in Turkey and can travel freely in Turkey, even conducting research in the Ottoman archives. [8]

Taner Akcam had acknowledged that the Aram Andonian "Naim Bey" documents (collection of telegrams by the Ottoman Minister of Interior in 1915) were forgeries, by stating in his book "There are important grounds for considering these documents fake." [9] Later he reversed his position in his newer book "A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility" and has claimed that they may be valid.

The alleged telegrams and documents were written on pieces of paper, with incorrect Ottoman ciphers, contradicting dates, inconsistent information, and forged signatures. Most importantly scholars have proven that these telegrams had no originals and even the existence of Naim Bey (who allegedly gave the telegrams to Aram Andonian) had been proven wrong.

Taner Akcam has engaged in smear campaigns against Turkish historians and in one article, "Anatomy of a Crime: the Turkish Historical Society’s Manipulation of Archival Documents", has accused hundreds of Turkish historians of various crimes. [10]

In one radio interview with Michael Enright, Taner Akcam claims that the Armenians were driven into the desert, even though the provinces of Aleppo and Deir el Zor which was the area where Armenians were relocated to are actually called the "Fertile Crescent" and they are definitely not deserts. [11]

In a PBS Debate on the Armenian Genocide, Taner Akcam argued "Muslims killing by the Armenians it is a legend." This drew great criticism by many historians and scholars who have proven that Armenians were indeed in full rebellion during 1915 (until the Relocation Law in June) and that there were also rebellions before 1915 in many cities in Turkey.

In another article Taner Akcam claims in response to Prime Minister Erdogan's statements on the Armenian deportations: "The argument says there were Armenian uprisings. It is simply a lie."

In an article, Taner Akcam claims that "Turkey cannot become a member of the European Union if talking about history is a crime." The problem is, Turkey does have abundant numbers of people talking about history (including a Turkish Historical Society established by the founders of Turkey) including the Armenian Genocide (some openly support it even). The fact that Taner Akcam has been able to publish his books and sell them openly in Turkish bookstores makes one wonder why Taner Akcam makes such statements.


Much of Taner Akcam's history is widely debated and his statements are widely disputed. However, one thing is certain, Taner Akcam did go to jail and he did escape, and every single thing he has written or talked about seems Anti-Turkish or related to the treatment of Armenians or Kurds by the Turks and the alleged Armenian Genocide. One would wonder what kind of serious grudges Taner Akcam holds toward Turkey.

1. Taner Akcam'a Ozgurluk - http://www.devrimcigenclik.org/include/yazigoster_dergi.php?no=806
2. Taner Akcam Bio - http://www.iletisim.com.tr/iletisim/person.aspx?pid=517
3. Taner Akcam Bio - http://www.iletisim.com.tr/iletisim/person.aspx?pid=517
4. Minnesota Law and Politics - Only our name is boring - http://www.lawandpolitics.com/minnesota/Is-It-Still-Genocide-if-Your-Allies-Did-It/cef7381e-fe46-102a-aeb9-000e0c6dcf76.html
5. Minnesota Law and Politics - Only our name is boring - http://www.lawandpolitics.com/minnesota/Is-It-Still-Genocide-if-Your-Allies-Did-It/cef7381e-fe46-102a-aeb9-000e0c6dcf76.html
6. New York Times Taner Akcam - http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9801E0D8113FF935A35750C0A9629C8B63
7. Boston Globe, Taner Akcam - http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/letters/articles/2008/06/03/turkish_historian_not_the_best_choice_for_clark_university/?p1=email_to_a_friend
8. Minnesota Law and Politics - Only our name is boring - http://www.lawandpolitics.com/minnesota/Is-It-Still-Genocide-if-Your-Allies-Did-It/cef7381e-fe46-102a-aeb9-000e0c6dcf76.html
9. Turkish National Identity and the Armenian Question - note 8, p.119
10. the Turkish Historical Society’s Manipulation of Archival Documents -
11. Taner Akcam Radio Interview - http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/media/akcam_se050206.ram


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