Turkish speech canceled

September 27, 2007

Georgetown’s Woodstock Theological Center postponed a speech by Patriarch Mesrob II Mutafyan of the Armenian Church in Turkey because of security concerns, according to one of the event’s co-sponsors.

“The Patriarch got messages from the Armenian Diaspora that there would be some protests at the school, and he informed me about that, and he was scared a little bit about this,” said Dr. H. Ali Yurtsever, the president of the Rumi Forum, an organization that co-hosted the speech.

Yurtsever said Georgetown was unable to provide enough security guards before the event.

Mutafyan’s scheduled lecture was controversial because he does not believe Turkey committed genocide against Armenians in World War I, according to Yurtsever, who shares Mutafyan’s opinion.

Paul Brooks, Woodstock’s Director of Advancement, confirmed that security concerns played a role in the postponement, though he also cited an inability to find space for the lecture on campus and the short time to plan the event.

Brooks said he was not contacted by any Armenians before the lecture. Neither Brooks nor the Woodstock Center has a position on the alleged genocide, he said.

According to Yurtsever, the Patriarch has received death threats in Turkey because of his views. While he didn’t receive any while in the United States, “Since they [Armenians] are everywhere, he is scared,” he said.

“I’m certain that Armenians did weigh in with Georgetown,” Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, said. Hamparian’s organization did not contact Georgetown, though they did send a letter to members of Congress explaining the Patriarch’s position, Hamparian said

“It’s very hard to speak about Armenian issues in Turkey,” Hamparian said, explaining why he thinks the Patriarch, who lives in Turkey, doesn’t speak publicly about the genocide.

Brooks said he didn’t know when the postponed lecture would be rescheduled.

Armenians at Georgetown said they disagreed with Mutafyan but thought he should be allowed to speak on campus.

“I wasn’t against him speaking,” Sevan Angacian (SFS ’08), the president of Georgetown’s Armenian Student Association said. “I wasn’t one of those people who was calling Georgetown a million times.”

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