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Latest Hye Geen Lecture Draws Full-Capacity Crowd to AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Center in Pasadena Harvard PhD Rachel Goshgarian Discusses “Turkey and the Memory of the Armenians”

January 8, 2013

Throughout the year, AGBU Hye Geen’s lecture series presents audiences from across Southern California with renowned scholars and visionary leaders who spark dialogues on everything from art and culture to politics and history.

On Saturday, November 10, 2012, Hye Geen proudly hosted author and Lafayette College professor Rachel Goshgarian, PhD, who drew a full-capacity crowd to the AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Center in Pasadena. Her discussion, “Turkey and the Memory of the Armenians,” traced the dark history of Armenian repression since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and highlighted movements toward recognition and reconciliation that offer hope and inspiration today.

Hye Geen committee member Ms Houri Keshishian opened the event, after which Dr. Goshgarian brought the audience back to the turn of the 20th century, drawing from the extensive research that has informed her published works and forthcoming book, “Ahis Futuwwa and the City: Urban Culture and Inter-Faith Interaction in Late Medieval Anatolia.” She detailed Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s rise to power and the radical cultural shifts that followed – in language, as a new Turkish alphabet was adopted; in clothing, as European fashions were embraced; and, most dramatically, in demographics, as minority groups were forced to assimilate, resulting in an estimated two million Turkish nationals who now claim Armenian ancestry. What has had the most lasting impact, Dr. Goshgarian argued, was the carefully orchestrated campaign to erase the public memory of Armenians’ long-standing presence in the region, notably through the destruction of ancient and medieval monuments. She cited the case of Vasbouragan, the region in modern Turkey, where over 900 monuments stood at the end of World War I, more than half of which have since vanished; the rest remain in ruins.

Despite such reports, Dr. Goshgarian continued, voices of dissent – many from within the Turkish community itself – are debunking widely held national myths. She praised the work of Turkey’s leading academics Hulya Adak, Halil Berktay, Selim Derengil, Osma Kavala and the late Hrant Dink, each of whom have helped re-write the historical narrative and account for the horrific atrocities committed against the Armenian people. Their contributions, Dr. Goshgarian noted, have created a positive alternative to the dominant public discourse.

However, as Hye Geen founder Mrs. Sona Yacoubian commented following the lecture, the greatest burden of change lies on Armenian youth. “Today, our youth are more educated than ever before, and full of the resources to correct the wrongs of the past,” she stated. “The future rests in their capable hands – and in the hands of those like Dr. Goshgarian, who is successfully advocating for our cause.”