Taner Akcam stands in front of bookcases in Rose Library

Historian Taner Akçam uncovers ‘smoking gun’ of Armenian Genocide

January 17, 2018

Turkey has always denied the Armenian Genocide carried out by the Ottoman government beginning in 1915. While decades of scholarly research has decisively established the systematic annihilation of Armenians, the scarcity of direct evidence has allowed the Turkish government to persist in its denial.

Cover of the book "Killing Orders," by Taner AkcamIn his groundbreaking new book, “Killing Orders: Talat Pasha’s Telegrams and the Armenian Genocide,” due out in March, Clark University historian Taner Akçam destroys the Turkish government’s denial strategy. Akçam includes a recently discovered document — a "smoking gun" — that points to the Ottoman government’s central role in planning the elimination of its Armenian population. Furthermore, he successfully demonstrates that the killing orders signed by Ottoman Interior Minister Talat Pasha, which the Turkish government has long discredited, are authentic.

Akçam, described as “the Sherlock Holmes of Armenian Genocide” in a New York Times article in April 2017, made these landmark discoveries in a private archive. He argues that the documents he uncovered remove a cornerstone from the denialist edifice and definitively prove the historicity of the Armenian Genocide.

“Successive Turkish governments have gone to great lengths to ensure that evidence of the intent to extinguish the Armenian people could not be located,” Akçam says. “These findings are ‘an earthquake in the field of genocide studies.’ They will make it impossible for the Turkish government to continue to deny the Armenian Genocide.”

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Dirk Moses of the University of Sydney in Australia, says the book is “essential reading for all those interested in genocide and human rights studies.”

Akçam holds the Robert Aram and Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark’s Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. An internationally recognized human rights activist, Akçam was one of the first Turkish intellectuals to acknowledge and openly discuss the Armenian Genocide.

Akcam has lectured widely and published numerous articles and books, translated into many languages. His 2012 book, “The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire,” was co-winner of the Middle East Studies Association’s Albert Hourani Book Award and one of ForeignAffairs.com’s “Best Books on the Middle East.”  

Akçam’s many honors include the Hrant Dink Spirit of Freedom and Justice Medal from the Organization of Istanbul Armenians and the Hrant Dink Freedom Award from the Armenian Bar Association (both in 2015), and the "Heroes of Justice and Truth" awarded at the Armenian Genocide Centennial commemoration in May 2015. The Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) recognized him as a Friend of the Armenians in 2016.

In May, he will receive the 2018 Outstanding Upstander Award from the World Without Genocide organization.