Argentinian universities cancel conference over ‘genocide denial’

Protesters say conference on Ottoman Empire had been aimed at ‘distorting the historical truth’ of the Armenian genocide

March 29, 2018
Buenos Aires
Source: iStock

Two universities in Argentina have come under fire after a joint conference scheduled to take place on the history of the Ottoman Empire amid accusations of “denial” of the Armenian genocide.

The University of Belgrano and the National University of the West, both in Buenos Aires, were due to host the event on 20-22 March in conjunction with Ankara University.

The conference, titled “1915, the longest year of the Ottoman Empire”, was cancelled at the last hour, however, after a social media campaign launched in protest by students and members of Argentina’s Armenian community.

Twitter users criticised the event as “insensitive” and a “provocation” led by a Turkish state agenda, and called on the Buenos Aires institutions to reconsider hosting the event.

In an open letter to organisers of the event, Nicolás Sabuncuyan, director of the Armenian National Committee of Argentina, said that he took issue with the event’s title, “a reference to the year of the beginning of the Armenian genocide”, during which 1.5 million people were killed.

The event’s schedule failed to make “a single mention” of “crimes” that took place during 1915, he continued, and had been co-organised with Ankara University, “an educational institution that is part of the teaching complex of the Turkish state, and as such, one of the parts of the denialism”.

The same conference has previously been held at universities across Latin America in countries such as Chile, Colombia and Paraguay. The organisers had invited historians to discuss events of the First World War, as well as the establishment of the Turkish republic, for the centenary of the Battle of Gallipoli.

But Mr Sabuncuyan said that all the previous events had included presentations with elements of “denialism…aimed at distorting the historical truth”.

Argentina is home to one of the largest populations of ethnic Armenians in the world, with between 70,000 and 135,000 thought to be living in the country.

The universities involved have not issued a public response.

rachael.pells@timeshighereducation.com

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