Ottawa – On February 25, 2015, the official email address of the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa circulated an email which called upon Turkish Canadians to sign a petition calling upon the University of Toronto to uphold academic freedom. The email was in response to a campaign by human rights activists to ask the University of Toronto to not provide a forum for well-known Armenian Genocide deniers Dr. Justin McCarthy and Mr. Bruce Fein.
The Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) welcomes the Turkish government’s apparent about face on academic freedom. The ANCC anticipates that Turkey?s newly discovered appreciation for the rights of scholars will be reflected by the immediate dismantling of its Higher Education Board (YOK), which monitors the activities of university educators and prevents them from discussing topics under threat of losing their positions. The ANCC also expects that Turkish President Erdogan will apologize for demonizing academics in December 2012 when he stated academics should “teach students valuable information, like how to use a computer. I condemn all academics who support [student protesters at Middle East Technical University]. We do not need teachers like this.”
The ANCC is also interested to see how quickly Turkey intends to repeal Article 301 of its Penal Code which makes insulting Turkey, the Turkish nation or the Turkish government a crime. Article 301 has been used numerous times to prosecute writers and activists who express opinions on the Armenian genocide that disagree with the Turkish government?s official point-of-view.
Immediately following the release of the Turkish Embassy’s email, ANCC President Dr. Girair Basmajian stated “We are very pleased that the Turkish government has chosen to finally lift all of its restrictions on academic freedom. It would otherwise be brazen hypocrisy for the Turkish Embassy to call for academic freedom in Canada when the Turkish government is one of the world’s foremost suppressors of academic freedom. I can’t imagine that the Ambassador would push for these rights to be upheld in Canada, unless his colleagues in Ankara had finally decided to stop trampling these rights in Turkey.”
Sadly, despite waiting over a week to see change, the ANCC can report that academic freedom in Turkey remains under siege and that free discussion of the Armenian Genocide is still not possible. The Turkish government has once again simply cloaked its denial of the Armenian Genocide in the fabric of academic freedom.
Armenian National Committee of Canada
The ANCC is the largest and the most influential Armenian-Canadian grassroots human rights organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout Canada and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCC actively advances the concerns of the Armenian-Canadian community on a broad range of issues and works to eliminate abuses of human rights throughout Canada and the world.