Orhan Kemal Cengiz, who spoke at a panel at Harvard yesterday, has falsely accused Dani of dissuading people from attending the event and despite repeated attempts by Dani to set the record straight (over Twitter) has failed to retract the statement. His false charge was picked up, predictably, by Today’s Zaman, which then produced a story with the headline “Rodrik dissuades people from attending rights advocate’s address.”
Unlike what Cengiz and the article say, Dani did nothing to dissuade people from attending. He did not send any messages to discourage people from attending the presentation. He did send an e-mail to the director of the program that invited Cengiz, but only to suggest that there are different viewpoints on the topics to be covered by Cengiz and that in the future she may want to consider inviting also speakers with those alternative viewpoints.
Also, unlike what Cengiz claims, Dani did not send an e-mail to “potential participants” in the seminar. The only message he sent (the one mentioned above) was the one addressed to the director of the program, with a copy to the academic chair of the program. There were only two recipients of this e-mail.
Nor did Dani speak to anyone about the panel with the purpose of dissuading them from attending it. So Cengiz and Today’s Zaman are flatly wrong about their claims.
To put this matter to rest, we produce below the e-mail in question in its entirety:
To: Elaine Papoulias
Cc: Brian Mandell
I would welcome a conversation at some point about how the Kokkalis program selects its invitees from Turkey. This is the second Zaman columnist the program has featured in the last two months. This is a newspaper that may have the appearance of championing democratic values but operates, in reality, as a vast disinformation machine. I know this from first-hand experience, but anyone who is willing to do a bit of research can figure it out on his/her own.
Turkey is going through a wrenching period, with truth often the casualty in the ongoing battle between the AKP and the Gulenists on the one side and the secular old guard on the other. Unfortunately, the “democratic liberals” who are allied with the first camp are showing an equal disregard for facts, evidence, and the rule of law as the authoritarian forces from the past that they take on. Etyen Mahcupyan and Orhan Kemal Cengiz are among those who are complicit in this process.
My fear is that the Harvard community is being exposed to a rather one-sided and ill-informed view of what is really taking place on the ground. In the interest of balance, if you want ideas for names of those who can present a fuller picture, I am happy to pass them on to you.
Harvard is an institution of research and higher learning. We are and should be open to all viewpoints and sides of a debate. Even though we disagree with Cengiz (and a previous invitee Etyen Mahcupyan), it would be against our principles to deny them a forum at Harvard or to discourage people from being exposed to their ideas.
However, it is also important that the Harvard community be exposed to differing viewpoints, when these exist. Dani’s letter, as its text makes clear, was meant to ensure that students and faculty at Harvard do indeed get that opportunity.
And by the way, it is interesting how this episode nicely confirms the point in Dani’s e-mail message about Zaman’s disinformation efforts.
UPDATE: Orhan Kemal Cengiz has sent a Twitter message where he says he has asked Today’s Zaman to remove the article mentioned above following a request from the Harvard organizers of the panel.
UPDATE2: Because the original Today’s Zaman article has been removed from the paper’s web site (removed, mind you, not corrected!), we reprint the text as it originally appeared below:
Rodrik dissuades people from attending rights advocate’s address
06 May 2011, Friday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL
Dani Rodrik, a professor at Harvard University, tried to dissuade people from attending a presentation by Orhan Kemal Cengiz, chairman of the Human Rights Agenda Association and jurist-writer, on minorities and Turkish democracy at his university, Today’s Zaman has learned.
Rodrik is the son-in-law of retired Gen. Çetin Doğan, the former head of the Turkish 1st Army. Doğan stands as the prime suspect in the ongoing trial into Sledgehammer, a suspected coup plan drafted in 2003 that allegedly sought to undermine the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government to lay the groundwork for a military takeover.
Speaking to Today’s Zaman, Cengiz said he was invited to make a presentation on minorities and the future of Turkish democracy at Harvard University. The presentation was slated for May 5. “Before my presentation, Rodrik sent an e-mail to potential participants in which he discouraged them from attending the presentation, saying that I am a columnist for the Zaman newspaper, and therefore I cannot be impartial in my statements. In other words, he asked participants not to attend my presentation. He tried to discredit me in the eyes of my audience,” the writer stated.
Rodrik is known for his efforts to discredit the Sledgehammer investigation and deny a direct link between his father-in-law and the coup plan.
Cengiz was asked if Rodrik’s message impacted people’s attention to the presentation. He initially said, “I do not think so,” but then added: “Maybe it did. He showed me to people as if I were a side in an ongoing political debate. He tried to impact people’s perception about me and my presentation. I was greatly surprised. His e-mail was really manipulative.”