Public forum was not the place for private concerns

The Oct. 19 letter to the editor by Aram Zamgochian (“Stifling free speech,” p. 4) slanders an event that had the sole purpose of presenting the view of the American and Turkish governments on relations between the two nations on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic.

Our speakers were the deputy chief of mission of the Turkish Embassy and the director of the southeastern Europe division of the U.S. State Department, who each presented their views on the subject.

As in many conferences, we decided that the moderator would take written questions, because our experience has been that there are always many more questions than time allows.

Therefore, this system serves the purpose of combining similar questions and avoiding time lost on lecture-length oral questions. Contrary to Mr. Zamgochian’s allegations, this is not censorship, but an often-applied conference technique. As in many public forums, many questions, including those of several Turkish students, went unanswered simply because we had to stick to the panel’s time frame.

It also is interesting to note that the subjects of the questions posed, which Mr. Zamgochian named one by one in his letter, are – diplomatically stated – less related to the panel topic than to the issues that are close to his heart.

Furthermore, both speakers and the moderator were available for at least another 45 minutes to chat with the participants during a post-panel reception. If the real goal of these complaining participants was to get an answer to a question, then they had ample time to do just that. But the nature of Zamgochian’s letter proves once more that the real goal was to promote an agenda on certain issues not related to our panel. I don’t think the Turkish Student Association has an obligation to provide a forum for that.

Slandering our activities as “propaganda” shows how much respect this fellow student, and those he obviously speaks for, have for the opinions of others.

To get hysterical about a simple panel intended to highlight Turkish-U.S. relations, is an example of the fanaticism of some of our fellow students with regard to anything related to Turkey.

But let’s be honest – Mr. Zamgochian’s letter was not designed as a critique of the panel, but as just another attack on Turkey’s image, and The GW Hatchet was nice enough to help.

-The writer is president of the Turkish Student Association.

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