Law 11:06 13/10/2021 World

Why did the Turkish institute in Washington close down?

By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier

The Hoya, the student newspaper of Georgetown University in Washington, DC, published last week a lengthy investigative article about the demise of the Institute of Turkish Studies, established by the Turkish government. Interestingly, a note at the bottom of the article stated that it was written by Liam Scott and another staff writer who “requested anonymity due to safety concerns in Turkey.”

Even though the Institute was established to paint a positive picture of Turkey in the United States, it ended up antagonizing its own American board members when the Turkish government decided to shut it down.

In 1982, the government of Turkey founded the Institute of Turkish Studies (ITS) at Georgetown University with an endowment of $3 million. The purpose was to give Turkey a respectable image in the United States by recruiting and funding American academics who would do research on Turkish topics. Throughout its existence, the ITS spent around $350,000 a year to give “grants, scholarships, subventions, and seed money” to 400 scholars in 19 universities to publish books and journals in order to promote Turkish studies. The ITS stated that it played “a key role in furthering knowledge and understanding of a key NATO ally of the United States, the Republic of Turkey.”

Not surprisingly, the ITS had appointed as its Honorary Chairman of the board of governors Turkey’s Ambassador to the U.S. to oversee its activities and funding decisions. The board consisted of prominent former State Department officials and well-known American scholars in Ottoman and modern Turkish studies. The first Executive Director of the ITS was Heath Lowry, a denialist of the Armenian Genocide.

I got involved in a legal dispute with the ITS in 1985 after I wrote an editorial in the California Courier titled, “How the Turks Use Our Tax Dollars Against Us.” I pointed out that many of the scholars who had received grants from the ITS were the same ones who had signed a statement denying the Armenian Genocide. The statement was published as a paid ad in The Washington Post and The New York Times on May 19, 1985. Lowry was involved in drafting this statement and collecting signatures for it. In my article, I reported that 20 of the 69 signatories of the statement had received tens of thousands of dollars from the ITS. Lowry’s role in this ad was a violation of the tax-exempt status of the ITS which was legally prohibited from political lobbying at a time when the U.S. Congress was considering adopting a resolution on the Armenian Genocide. The ITS also contradicted its own statement that it “does not seek to influence legislation nor advocate particular policies or agendas.”

Even though I had obtained the amounts received by the scholars who had signed this denialist statement from an ITS brochure, the ITS sent a letter threatening my newspaper with a major lawsuit, unless I published a lengthy retraction, which I refused to do. The ITS dropped the lawsuit.

The Hoya article provided extensive details about the collapse of the ITS, a Turkish propaganda project disguised as an academic endeavor. The Institute was closed down in September 2020 because some of the independent-minded scholars on its board had refused to go along with the directives of the Turkish government.

The Hoya wrote that “according to former ITS Executive Director Sinan Ciddi and former ITS board members Walter Denny and Steven Cook, Turkey’s decision to defund the ITS came amid rising government pressure to blindly support and loyally promote Erdogan. The ITS was caught in the line of fire of government repression that has characterized Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic Turkey, they said.”

Ciddi, a Georgetown professor of Turkish studies, told The Hoya that the ITS was initially a separate entity from Georgetown University. Later on, the University “provided the ITS with office space and administrative assistance, but the university did not have a say in the Institute’s operations. Georgetown also supplemented the salary of the Institute’s executive director after the ITS lost funding from the Turkish government.” Prof. Jenny White, who served on the ITS board for nearly 20 years, told The Hoya that the ITS was “the best advertisement that there could have been for Turkey.”

In 2006, former Binghamton University professor Donald Quataert resigned as chairman of the ITS board after insisting on the importance of researching the Armenian Genocide, reported The Hoya. The Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom, in an open letter to then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, complained that “Quataert resigned because of pressure from the Turkish government. Several other ITS board members resigned in support of Quataert.”

As Erdogan became more repressive, the Institute was viewed by the Turkish government as funding academic research that was not favorable to Turkey. In May 2015, Turkish ambassador to the U.S. Serdar Kilic, during the semi-annual dinner at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC, complained to ITS chairman Ross Wilson that “some recent work from the ITS was negative toward the Turkish government and expressed interest in redirecting the work of ITS to politically benefit the government,” The Hoya reported. Amb. Kilic then cancelled the scheduled ITS dinner in the fall of 2015. Finally, “in early September 2015, Saltzman and Evinch, a Washington, D.C. law firm representing Turkey’s U.S. embassy,” told the Institute that the Turkish government would no longer fund the ITS. Later, Kilic sent a letter confirming the end of funding.

“After Turkey cut the organization’s funding, the [Georgetown University’s] School of Foreign Service provided the ITS with additional financial and administrative support,” The Hoya reported. The ITS had enough funds to continue its operations till Sept. 30, 2020 when it finally closed its doors.

The saga of the failed Institute of Turkish Studies should be a lesson to all universities not to repeat the mistake of Georgetown, welcoming a politically-motivated project contrary to its academic standards. Mixing academics and politics is never a good idea!



Source Panorama.am
Share |

Newsfeed

12:32
National Assembly to discuss delimitation issues at a closed sitting
The one-fifth of the total number of Armenian parliamentarian proposed to hold an urgent discussion concerning the situation on the contact line...
11:50
Armenia reports 59 Covid deaths on Oct. 26
Armenia has confirmed 1,517 new cases of coronavirus in 24 hours, bringing the national tally to 298,069  as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, October...
11:26
US envoy says Iran nuclear deal effort is in “critical phase”
Efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are at a “critical stage” and Tehran’s reasons for avoiding talks are running...
10:50
Deputies welcomed with applause the opposition lawmaker released from custody
Opposition lawmaker from Armenia bloc, former head of Sisian community Artur Sargsyan, who has  been recently released from custody on...
10:23
Snow reported in Sisian, Goris regions
Snow is observed Sisian, Goris regions and Sravan and Meghri mountain passes as of October 26 at 09.10, the Road Department Fund reported. All...
20:00
Another quake registered near Bavra village
On October 25, at 16։57 local time (at 12։57 GMT) the Seismological Network of the Territorial Seismic Protection Service of the MES of RA...
19:29
Greece reportedly declared Turkish-Armenian intellectual Sevan Nisanyan 'persona non grata'
The government of Greece on Monday declared Turkish-Armenian author and intellectual Sevan Nisanyan "persona non grata." Nisanyan was...
19:12
Georgia's Garibashvili ‘not to allow’ mandatory vaccination
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, the chair of Government’s Inter-Agency Coordination Council tasked with handling COVID-19 in...
18:18
Singer Mher Armenia marches from Shurnukh village to Yerevan demanding authorities to resign
Armenian singer nicknamed Mher Armenia, who is also the founder of "The Voice of the Nation" party has announced the launch of...
17:59
Snow observed on some roads in Armenia
Light snow is observed on October 25 at 17.00 on the roads of Ani, Artik, Ashotsk regions and on Talin-Mastara-Lanjik roadway, the...
17:36
Converse Bank: A success story - Under one roof
In 2018, A1 Group established a Business Center in Shengavit, joining under one roof companies operating in IT, marketing, accounting and other...
16:56
The 7th Science Camp at Byurakan Observatory kicked off
Schoolchildren aged 12-14 from Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora are attending the 7th Science Camp at Byurakan Observatory. This year's...
16:11
Iranian Ambassador describes charging Iranian trucks in Armenia by Azerbaijan as 'unacceptable move'
Iran’s ambassador to Yerevan decried Azerbaijan’s unacceptable move to receive toll from Iranian trucks on a road passing through...
15:48
Australia’s former Defence Minister says the international community should call out Azerbaijan to stop their belligerent activities
Australia’s former Defence Minister, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP has risen in the Parliament’s Federation Chamber calling on...
14:58
Artsakh records 42 new Covid cases on Oct. 25
Artsakh confirmed 42 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Health reported on Monday, October 25. In total, 113...
14:51
German IS bride sentenced to 10 years in prison over Yazidi girl murder
A German woman and former member of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) group was given on Monday a 10-year prison sentence by a Munich court...
14:41
Opposition MP: Unblocking of regional transport links will lead to deeper blockade
It is “regrettable” that the current Armenian authorities failed to draw conclusions even after last year’s war in Artsakh,...
13:48
Viva-MTS: Problem of semi-constructed building to be solved in Gandzakar
A two-room semi-built building, lack of facilities, walls covered in smoke coming from the stove, many problems and uncertainty of perspectives...
13:39
MP Joel Fitzgibbon calls on Australia to publicly condemn Azerbaijan’s belligerent actions and war crimes
Australia’s former Defence Minister, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP has risen in the Parliament’s Federation Chamber calling on...
13:21
Former MP urges Armenian authorities to declare one-week lockdown amid Covid surge
Former lawmaker Naira Zohrabyan from the opposition Prosperous Armenia faction urges the authorities to declare a week-long lockdown across the...
12:31
Snow expected to hit some Armenian regions
Snow is expected in some regions of Armenia on Monday evening and at night, the Armenian Center for Hydrometeorology and Monitoring reported....
12:11
Expert: Armenia’s territory was about 1,500 sq km larger in 1928 map of Soviet Union
Armenian expert on Iran Vardan Voskanyan shared a map of the Soviet Union showing that Armenia had approximately 1,500 square kilometers more...
11:36
Armenia reports 1,184 new Covid cases on Oct. 25
Armenia has confirmed 1,184 new cases of coronavirus in 24 hours, bringing the national tally to 296,552 as of 11 a.m. Monday, October 25, the...
11:23
Finnish PM says Turkey’s move to expel ambassadors is ‘very regrettable’
The decision by Turkish authorities to declare 10 foreign ambassadors - including seven from Europe - as persona non grata is a "tough...
11:11
Ombudsman: Armenian captives must be immediately released without any preconditions
All Armenian prisoners of war (POWs) and civilians illegally held by Azerbaijan must be immediately released and returned home without political...
10:24
Outgoing Armenian ambassador to Iran visits Isfahan
In the final days of his diplomatic mission, Armenia’s Ambassador to Iran Artashes Toumanian accompanied by his wife, Anahit Shahverdyan,...
10:02
Basketball star Michael Jordan's trainers sell for record $1.47m at auction
A pair of trainers worn by the US basketball star Michael Jordan have sold for a record $1.47m (£1.1m) at auction, BBC News reports....
19:30
NATO pulling forces to Russian borders amid calls to deter Russia - Shoigu
NATO is consistently pulling its forces to Russian borders amid calls for military deterrence of Russia, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei...
19:09
ALC announces new cases filed on “disappeared captives” and “unlawful killings” before the ECHR
The Armenian Legal Center for Justice & Human Rights (ALC) has announced the filing of 16 new cases of “enforced disappearances”...

Follow us and get updates!

Most popular articles

{"core.blocks.header.spell_message1":"Selected mistake: ","core.blocks.header.spell_message2":"Send a message about the mistake?"}