Clark University Professor Taner Akçam, Endowed Chair of Armenian Genocide Studies, presented the keynote address at the 2015 International Hrant Dink Award ceremony in Istanbul on Sept. 15. The late Hrant Dink was a prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist known for his efforts of reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and his advocacy of human and minority rights in Turkey. The Robert Aram and Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Endowed Chair of Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark is the only chair in the world dedicated to research and teaching on the subject of the Armenian Genocide. Akçam was the first Turkish scholar to publicly express his conviction that the 1915 Armenian genocide occurred under the Ottoman Empire.
Also in attendance at the ceremony was John R. Bass, U.S. ambassador to Turkey. In his speech, Akçam said the conception of the legal terms “humanitarian law” and “crime against humanity,” and the concomitant crime of genocide, is directly related to Turkey’s past. He stressed the importance of facing the past to be able “to give back the massacred people their dignity, to restore justice and conscience, and to overcome enmity, atrocity, and conflicts.”
According to a news release by the Hrant Dink Foundation, Akçam emphasized that, in these lands, ethnocentric politics have only caused catastrophe and devastation, and that the real solution could be achieved through co-existence, which is, in fact, much easier than militarization and murder. He also stressed the importance of keeping Hrant Dink alive as a civil rights leader for the pursuit of co-existence.
In February, Akçam was presented the Hrant Dink Spirit of Freedom and Justice Medal by the Organization of Istanbul Armenians on the 8th commemoration of Dink’s assassination. In 2006, he was recognized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for his outstanding work in human rights and for fighting genocide denial.
He also received the Hrant Dink Freedom Award from the Armenian Bar Association for being “a champion of historical truth about the Armenian Genocide” and for his “courageous defense of liberty and free speech.”
At the core of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University are the study and prevention of genocide, mass atrocities, and crimes against humanity. Home to a uniquely rich undergraduate program and a landmark doctoral program, the Strassler Center is the first and only institute of its kind. Since it was established in 1998, it has gained international standing as the sole program to train students for doctoral degrees in Holocaust History and Genocide Studies. The Center’s growth and development demonstrate that a small research university can achieve excellence and broad regard with a flagship program.