Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sassounian: Armenians Should Now Pursue Legal Claims Rather than Further Genocide Recognition

Armenians experienced unforgettable days last week during the Centennial commemorations of the Armenian Genocide. In many respects, Turkish denialists’ much-feared “Tsunami” became a reality! While Armenians around the world were busy organizing commemorative events in recent years, their efforts were amplified by some unexpected developments, including Turkish President Erdogan’s irrational rhetoric and reaction.
The year began with Erdogan’s childish maneuver, switching the Gallipoli War Centennial to April 24, to derail the observances planned for the Armenian Genocide Centennial. The international media quickly exposed the Turkish president’s ploy, providing extensive publicity for the upcoming genocide anniversary.
Flowers placed at the Armenian Genocide Memorial m=and Monument at Dzidzernagapert in Armenia (Photo: Harout Kassabian)
In early April, the Kardashians’ visit to Armenia generated thousands of articles and TV reports, and millions of social media posts. A few days later, Pope Francis created his own “Tsunami” by uttering his courageous words on the Armenian Genocide. Once again, Erdogan made matters worse for Turkey by insulting not only the Pope, but also 1 billion Catholics and the nation of Argentina, the Pontiff’s birthplace. Shortly thereafter, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the Armenian Genocide, providing further media coverage of this issue.
Being in Armenia for the first time on April 24, and on the occasion of the Centennial, was a deeply moving experience. The Armenian government did monumental work inviting 1,000 dignitaries from 60 countries, including prominent scholars, legal experts, political leaders, parliamentarians from 30 countries, and survivors of other genocides. On April 22-23, the distinguished guests participated in a Global Forum “Against the Crime of Genocide,” where I delivered brief remarks castigating President Barack Obama’s failure to keep his promise on using the term “Armenian Genocide.” I explained that contrary to a widely held misperception, the United States has repeatedly recognized the Armenian Genocide.
On April 23, all six political parties represented in the Austrian Parliament issued a joint declaration recognizing the Armenian Genocide. As expected, Turkey overreacted by withdrawing its ambassador from Vienna. This is the second Turkish ambassador to be recalled to Ankara this month. As an increasing number of countries recognize the Armenian Genocide, Turkey may soon have fewer envoys, isolating itself from much of the world!
Also on April 23, German President Joachim Gauck delivered a powerful speech at a memorial service in Berlin, acknowledging not only the Armenian Genocide, but also Germany’s complicity in the Ottoman-Turkish genocidal campaign. Despite heavy pressure from Turkish leaders, the German Bundestag is expected to adopt a similarly worded resolution that would send shock waves throughout the 1,000 rooms of President Erdogan’s newly built palace, since Germany was Turkey’s ally in 1915, and continues its close relationship until today.
In the evening of April 23, the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II and the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I jointly presided over a historic rite of canonization in Etchmiadzin, declaring the 1.5 million Armenian Genocide victims to be Saints. Following this moving ritual, at the exact hour of 19:15 or 7:15 p.m., churches throughout the world began ringing their bells 100 times. Later that night, the System of a Down band performed a free concert at Yerevan’s Republic Square. The thousands of young people in attendance were highly energized despite the heavy downpour. The concert was aired live, disseminating the band’s genocide message to millions of people worldwide.
The Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II and the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I jointly presided over a historic rite of canonization in Etchmiadzin, declaring the Armenian Genocide victims to be Saints. (Photo: Varant Meguerditchian )
On April 24, a memorable observance took place on the grounds of Dzidzernagapert, the Armenian Genocide Monument in Yerevan, with the participation of hundreds of religious leaders, ambassadors, officials, and the presidents of Russia, France, Cyprus, and Serbia. While the heads of two superpowers came to Yerevan on April 24, Turkey was unable to attract to Gallipoli the same caliber of leaders, despite its considerable efforts. It was perfectly fitting to this solemn occasion that the distinguished guests at the Yerevan Memorial spent several hours huddled in blankets like refugees, in freezing temperatures, sheltered under a large canvass from the rain.
One of the most stunning developments last week was Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s declaration that the Armenian “deportations were a Crime Against Humanity”—which, under international law, is tantamount to recognizing the Armenian Genocide. No one should be surprised if Erdogan dismisses Davutoglu after the June parliamentary elections.
Now that the Centennial is behind us, it is high time that Armenians turn the page on Armenian Genocide recognition and begin to systematically pursue their claims from Turkey through international, regional, and local tribunals.

Akcam: The Other Turkey

Prof. Taner Akcam, the Robert Aram, Marianne Kaloosdian, and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University, gave the following remarks at the Armenian Genocide Commemoration in Times Square, New York, on April 26.
On this, a day laden with great urgency and historical meaning, I would like to thank you for allowing me to appear with you and to share your grief and sorrow.
Today does not merely mark the centennial of the annihilation of some 1.5 million Armenians; it also marks a century of denial of this crime. The Turkish government continues to deny not merely any responsibility for the horrors inflicted upon Armenian people, but even the fact that it happened at all. As a Turk, it is from this fact that my sorrow and great shame derive.
A scene from the Armenian Genocide commemoration in Times Square (Photo: Tom Vartabedian)
My sole consolation is that I do not grieve alone. The nation of Turkey consists of more than simply its denialist regime; there is another Turkey, and the citizens of that Turkey are ready to face their history. It is those Turks who feel obligated to erase the black stain left by those who committed these crimes. In more than 25 cities from Istanbul to Van, the people of this Turkey have not waited for a denialist government to recognize the genocide. Instead, they have been blazing a new path, one that allows them to discover their past. I am not an official representative of this other Turkey, but I know I speak for many when I convey to you, the Armenian people, my sincere apologies for both past crimes and for this century of denial.
Here, as I stand before you today, I think I can promise in name of this other Turkey to do everything in our power to finally put an end to this denialism.
Our history is not merely a chronicle of murderers. It is also a history of brave and righteous people who risked their lives to save thousands of Armenians. And it is only through the recognition and honoring of these people that we can hope to build a better future. While we should indeed today condemn those crimes committed and the refusal to acknowledge them, we must also acknowledge our debt to those who refused to participate in or actively opposed them. Such persons have taught us, through their example, that human decency and courage can indeed survive in times of great evil.
Recognition of my country’s historic wrongs is not simply important for the sake of historical accuracy—instead, it directly concerns the kind of society that we envision for our future. Dehumanization is the most important component of all mass atrocities. In order to be able to kill, perpetrators first dehumanize their victims. Recognition of the crime is necessary for restoring that humanity, for returning to the victims their dignity! Without this recognition subsequent generations cannot properly mourn and heal. Mourning and healing are necessary for closure, and can only come after the truth is acknowledged. If we fail to do so, we inadvertently lend legitimization to the perpetrators and their goals. After decades of denials, you Armenians need to heal and to be assured that the justice you seek will be attained. Any reconciliation between Turks and Armenians will have to be built on a foundation of acknowledged truth! Without truth, there cannot be peace. And I am here to assure you in name of this “other Turkey” that we are determined to continue the struggle until the truth shall finally prevail.
To achieve a Turkey that is a democratic, secure society and respectful of human rights, it must begin with a confronting of the past, an acknowledging of past wrongs.
A hundred years ago, the Ottoman government had a flawed concept of national security. They viewed the Armenians and their demands for equality and social justice as a threat to the Ottoman state and society. They targeted the Armenians for extermination. Today in Turkey, Turkish and Armenian children are taught, through textbooks published by the Education Ministry, that the Armenians continue today to pose a threat to national security. These textbooks are filled with hateful and racist remarks against Armenians and are steeped in distorted narratives about “treacherous Armenians.”
Today in Turkey, Turkish and Armenian children are taught, through textbooks published by the Education Ministry, that the Armenians continue today to pose a threat to national security. These textbooks are filled with hateful and racist remarks against Armenians and are steeped in distorted narratives about ‘treacherous Armenians.’
It is very troubling to see that the U.S. has still not officially recognized the Armenian Genocide. The justification for their position remains the same: the crucial role of Turkey in the country’s geopolitical security strategy. To raise a moral argument regarding a century-old event, they argue, would needlessly anger their Turkish ally and jeopardize American security interests. It is ironic that the words “national security” continue to haunt Armenian people even here in the United States.
But juxtaposing “national interest” and “morality” is just plain wrong. Any security policy in the Middle East that excludes morality cannot ultimately be a “realistic” policy because it ultimately undermines national security. History and historical injustices are not dead issues and have very real consequences in the Middle East, where the past has always been the present. There is a strong interconnection between security, democracy, and the accurate understanding of history, and perhaps nowhere more than in the Middle East.
Juxtaposing ‘national interest’ and ‘morality’ is just plain wrong. Any security policy in the Middle East that excludes morality cannot ultimately be a ‘realistic’ policy because it ultimately undermines national security. History and historical injustices are not dead issues and have very real consequences in the Middle East, where the past has always been the present.
Historical injustices and their continual denial by a state or dominant group pose an obstacle to both further democratization and also for stable relations between different ethnic and religious groups. Kurds, Arabs, Alewites, Armenians and other Christians in the region perceive each other and Turkey through this flawed prism of history. If we want a successful regional policy, we have to find a way to integrate acknowledgement of past wrongs into any national security policy.
Turkey’s ongoing policy of denialism both at home and abroad is not simply a moral abomination; it threatens to the country and the region’s democracy, stability, and security.
Turkey continues its denialist policies because it has yet to face serious external pressure to do otherwise. This “other Turkey” of which I spoke is determined to face up to the darker history of our country’s past and put an end to the denialist policies. All that is lacking is external pressure from international community.
The United States has thus far continued to support the denialist regime in Turkey, but how can the United States, which prides itself on its exceptionalism in supporting liberal values and human rights at home and across the world, justify a position at odds with its own democratic values? America should not uphold human rights only when it is expedient. The test of American exceptionalism is the commitment to persevere in upholding these principles even when it may seem costly or inconvenient to do so.
By officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide, the United States could lend its moral and political weight to encourage Turkey to come to terms with its history, to further embrace democratization, and to contribute to its own future stability and that of the region. The citizens of my Turkey, the “other Turkey,” and the Armenians throughout the world are waiting for the U.S. to join us in acknowledging the truth.
Again, I thank you for allowing me to address to you here on this day of both sorrow and hope. Let us remember and honor the victims, and continue to figh

Commemorations in Istanbul Demand Truth, Justice for Genocide

Commemorations in Istanbul Demand Truth, Justice for Genocide

ISTANBUL, Turkey (A.W.)—Human rights organizations in Turkey, under the umbrella group “100th Year—Stop Denialism,” gathered in front of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Sultanahmet Square on April 24. The building was known as the central prison in 1915; individuals from the Istanbul Armenian community, including intellectual and cultural leaders, were arrested in their homes, detained here, and then sent off to the Haydarpasha train station.
A commemoration was held at Haydarpasha with participants holding photographs of the intellectuals arrested and killed in 1915, and placards that demanded recognition and reparations for the Armenian Genocide. (Photo: George Aghjayan)
After a moment of silence, the crowd began the “Genocide March,” walking from Sultanahmet to Eminönü, and then crossing over to Haydarpasha by sea. The detainees of April 24, 1915, were deported from Haydarpasha to the depths of the country—in actual fact, to their deaths.
A commemoration was held at Haydarpasha with participants holding photographs of the intellectuals arrested and killed in 1915, and placards that demanded recognition and reparations for the Armenian Genocide.
From Haydarpasha, the crowd proceeded to the Şişli Armenian Cemetery to commemorate Sevag Şahin Balıkçı, a victim of an ethnic-hate murder on April 24, 2011, while on mandatory military duty in Batman, and to express its support to the Balıkçı family in their pursuit of justice.
In the early afternoon, thousands held a commemoration in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. The commemoration event included a Wishing Tree ceremony, when participants from Turkey and abroad tied strips of fabric to a tree as homage to the victims and survivors of the genocide.
Thousands gathered in Taksim Square to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. (Photo: Rupen Janbazian)
Following the Wishing Tree ceremony, participants held pictures of the Armenian intellectuals who were murdered a century ago in Istanbul, including Taniel Varoujan, Rupen Zartarian, and Krikor Zohrab. During the sit-in, they were joined by thousands of protesters who held banners and signs urging the Turkish government to recognize the Armenian Genocide. The demonstration, which was organized by the Nor Zartonk youth movement of Istanbul, began at Galatasaray High School (Galatasaray Lisesi), and saw participants marching down Istiklal Street to join the commemoration.
During the commemoration, Dr. Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh delivered a speech in Armenian and Turkish on behalf of Project 2015. The voices of our ancestors, she said, “are calling for justice. We are calling for justice. We are here today with Armenians from around the world and citizens of many nationalities who have traveled to stand against denial. We are here today with citizens of Turkey who are standing with us in our quest for redress and restitution.”
Project 2015 has been a two-year-long effort to organize members of the Armenian Diaspora and others committed to human rights and genocide prevention in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East to travel to Turkey to join the centennial commemoration.
A scene from the Armenian Genocide commemoration event at the Haydarpasha train station (Photo: George Aghjayan)

From Haydarpasha to Ayash on April 24 … 2015

Special for the Armenian Weekly
I was awakened unexpectedly at 4 a.m. on April 24, 2015.
There was no knock at the door. No noise on the street. No alarm clock. Just a sudden awakening and an early start to a long day.
A scene from the Armenian Genocide commemoration held at the Haydarpasha train station (Photo: Matthew Karanian)
The day was still two hours shy of sunrise, but I was unable to rest. Instead, I stared out the window of my hotel room, and I squinted at the distant lights of Taksim Square in central Istanbul.
One hundred years ago, hundreds of others were awakened at this same hour in this same city. For most of them, it would be the start of a life-ending journey. For me, it was the start of another day trying to make sense of a senseless event.
I was in Istanbul on April 24 because I wanted to be in the city where, 100 years earlier, the warrant for the arrest of the Armenian nation was first executed. I wanted to commemorate our national tragedy in the place where the tragedy had begun.
On April 24, 1915, hundreds of Armenian intellectuals, activists, and national leaders had been rousted from their sleep without explanation, setting in motion a national holocaust and a century-long national trauma.
Some of these leaders had lived in the Taksim Square area of central Istanbul. Gomidas, the cultural and artistic leader of the Armenian nation, was one of them. He lived in an apartment just down the street from my hotel.
And so I found myself, on April 24, 2015, at the Ground Zero of the Armenian Genocide staring up at a window that I imagined might have been the bedroom window of Gomidas himself.
The Armenian community, and friends of the Armenians, protested peacefully in Istanbul on April 24 this year. There were candle-light vigils and public gatherings of prayer. There was a memorial concert. And there was a short pilgrimage, a march, from Taksim Square to the former home of Gomidas.
A man holds a sign reading, ‘This building is a crime scene,’ at the Haydarpasha train station (Photo: Matthew Karanian)
I walked with a group of hundreds to the former Gomidas home. The crowd was too large for the sidewalk, but not too large to go unnoticed. We marched. We held placards at the home, which is today located above a modern drug store. We created a traffic jam because we unavoidably blocked one lane of traffic on the busy street.
But when the vigil here had ended, and after we had walked back to our hotels, the traffic again flowed freely, and Istanbul went on with its business. I imagined that we had today been unnoticed. That we had been unimportant to the business, the politics, and the cultural life of Istanbul.
One hundred years ago, after our leaders had been arrested, they were taken by train to a central station just outside the city. Here, at this train station, called Haydarpasha, the gravity of the situation first became apparent to many of the arrestees.
At the train station, our leaders realized that they weren’t alone.
They looked about and discovered their Armenian neighbors were here, too. They each realized that their arrest hadn’t been a single, solitary mistake that could be corrected. They realized that the entire leadership of the Armenian community of Istanbul had been targeted, arrested, and put on a train east.
And so, on the afternoon of April 24, I arrived at this same train station. I suppose I may have arrived at the same hour, or at least on the same date, as my ancestors had, 100 years earlier.
Hundreds of other Armenians, and friends of Armenians, made the same journey on April 24, 2015. We displayed placards that showed the faces of some of the arrestees. We held a banner commemorating the genocide. Some signs declared that the train station was a crime scene.
Customers at a nearby café were curious. But not too curious. They didn’t leave their seats. Our vigil was briefly disturbed by the noise of a nearby construction worker’s jack hammer until one of the protesters admonished the worker to stop working, at least for a few minutes. He obliged.
And then we left. The café resumed selling Turkish coffee.
The construction worker returned to work.
And the two dozen or so tactical police who had been standing by just around the corner, out of sight, went on to their next job.
One hundred years ago, the arrestees who we commemorated here had subsequently been transported for processing at a station just outside Ankara, which is east of Istanbul. And so on April 25, 2015, I traveled to this location as well. I was following the path of destruction.
On April 25, I found myself at the site of the prison where our arrestees had been taken following their arrests, a remote place outside Ankara, a place known as Ayash.
I looked for the prison. Instead I found the Turkish equivalent of a Seven-Eleven. The site had been cleansed of its history.
I was traveling with a small group. We unfurled a banner commemorating our national loss. Someone in our group spoke a few words in memoriam. And then we left.
There was no one to see our banner. No one to hear our words. But we observed our loss. And we remembered our past. Our origin.
And then the dust settled back down on Ayash—a forgotten footnote of a town, perhaps, for local historians. But a painful headline for the Armenian nation.
Matthew Karanian is a lawyer in Pasadena, Calif. He is the author of the newly published book, Historic Armenia After 100 Years, which details the cultural and historic Armenian landmarks of Ani, Kars, and the six provinces of Western Armenia. Details at

Maine Genocide Commemoration to Feature ‘The Great Fire’

On Thurs., May 14, Portland Public Library and the Armenian Cultural Association of Maine will host an evening to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Author Lou Ureneck will speak about his newly released book The Great Fire: One American’s Mission to Rescue Victims of the 20th Century’s First Genocide.
The evening begins at 7:15 p.m. in the Rines Auditorium with comments from the president of the Armenian Cultural Association of Maine, Gerard Kiladjian, and will be punctuated with a historical photo display of Armenian culture in Maine. There will be a reception in the Lewis Gallery after the lecture.
The Great Fire: One American’s Mission to Rescue Victims of the 20th Century’s First Genocide is the harrowing story of a Methodist minister and a principled American naval officer who helped rescue more than 250,000 refugees during the Genocide of Armenian and Greek Christians. It is a tale of bravery, morality, and politics, published to coincide with the Armenian Genocide Centennial. By turns harrowing and inspiring, The Great Fire uses eyewitness accounts, documents, and survivor narratives to bring this episode—extraordinary for its brutality as well as its heroism—to life.
Lou Ureneck, a former Nieman fellow and editor-in-residence at Harvard University, is a journalism professor at Boston University. He was deputy managing editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer and editor of the Portland (Maine) Press Herald.
Portland Public Library’s Brown Bag Lecture Series features bi-weekly reading and question-and-answer sessions with authors from around the nation as well as those who hail from Maine.
All Brown Bag Lectures are free to the public (unless specifically noted as a fundraiser). Because they usually take place over the lunch hour, guests are encouraged to bring their lunch; coffee is provided by Coffee by Design. Books on sale at each lecture are courtesy of Longfellow Books, which donates a portion of the proceeds to the Portland Public Library.
For more information,

Cilicia Catholicosate Files Lawsuit against Turkey for Return of Historic Headquarters

 On Tues. April 28, the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia filed a lawsuit in the Turkish Constitutional Court to regain ownership of the historic headquarters of the Church, which includes the Catholicosate, the monastery, and cathedral of St. Sophia, a major Armenian Christian holy site located in Sis (currently Kozan), in south-central Turkey. This site was confiscated by the Turkish Government following the genocide of 1915 in which an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed or deported by the Ottoman Empire.

The Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia filed a lawsuit in the Turkish Constitutional Court to regain ownership of the historic headquarters of the Church, which includes the Catholicosate, the monastery, and cathedral of St. Sophia, a major Armenian Christian holy site located in Sis.
The Catholicosate’s press statement regarding the lawsuit is available here.
This lawsuit reflects the determination of Armenians worldwide, on the Centenary of the genocide, to reclaim their sacred religious property and Christian heritage in lands where they lived peacefully for centuries.
A press conference is scheduled to take place at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on April 29 with the participation of Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Eastern U.S.; Payam Akhavan, former UN prosecutor at the Hague and lead international counsel in this case; Cem Sofuogleu, Turkish human rights lawyer and local counsel in this case; Teny Pirri-Simonian, senior advisor to the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia; and Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America.
The Catholicosate, which is the administrative center of the Church, was moved from Armenia to Cilicia in the 10th century, and after changing a few locations it was finally established in Sis in the year 1295, where it remained until 1921. Under the Ottoman Empire, the Catholicosate of Cilicia was recognized as an independent church.  During the Armenian Genocide of 1915-23, the Armenian population of Sis was massacred and deported, and its Christian holy sites were pillaged and confiscated.
In 301 A.D., Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion.  Armenians have had a long historical presence in what is present-day Turkey.
According to Payam Akhavan, a former UN prosecutor and lead international counsel in this legal action, the return of the historical Seat of the Catholicosate of Cilicia “is a litmus test for the Turkish Government’s respect for the human rights of its Christian minorities, their freedom of worship in a culture of tolerance and dignity.  This is a unique opportunity to do justice, to help heal the wounds of the past, to move towards Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, a better future for both nations.”
ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian noted that “The restoration of the Catholicosate would represent an act of justice, a first step toward the legal return of the Armenian Church and its faithful to their lawful place in their rightful homeland, and a meaningful milestone in the Armenian nation’s journey toward a just resolution of the Armenian Genocide.”

Aleppo’s Armenian Church of Forty Martyrs Destroyed

ALEPPO, Syria (A.W.)—The Armenian Church of Forty Martyrs in Judayda, Aleppo, has been destroyed. Some sources reported that the church was bombed with explosives placed underneath the structure through underground tunnels; others claimed the destruction was due to shelling.
Aleppo’s Armenian Church of Forty Martyrs destroyed (photo: iNews)
The Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern U.S. confirmed the destruction of the church to the Armenian Weekly.
The Forty Martyrs Church dates back to the 15th century. The first mention of the church appeared in the second edition of the book, The Exploit of the Holy Bible, by Father Melikseth in 1476. The bell tower was built in 1912. The Church housed khatchkars, relics, and icons, including “The Last Judgment,” a painting that dates back to 1703.
The Church was at the center of Armenian community life in Aleppo, where for centuries religious and cultural initiatives took place.
The destruction of the Forty Martyrs Church comes about four months after terrorists bombed the Armenian Catholic Cathedral Our Lady of Pity (also known as St. Rita), located next to the Armenian Catholic Archeparchy of Aleppo, leaving the church partly destroyed. In September 2014, terrorists destroyed the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Der Zor, Syria—considered the Auschwitz of the Armenian Genocide.
Before the start of the Syrian crisis in the spring of 2011, between 60,000-70,000 Armenians called Syria home, constituting less than 0.5 percent of the country’s total population. More than half of them lived in Aleppo, with the other half scattered in such cities as Latakia, Homs, Qamishli, Hasakeh, Yaqubiye, Raqqa, Kessab, and the capital Damascus.
A photograph of the Forty Martyrs Armenian Church in Aleppo taken in 2006 (photo: Hovic, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Monday, April 27, 2015

AGCCA Issues Statement on Obama’s April 24 Address

The Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of America (AGCCA) issued the following statement in response to President Barack Obama’s April 24 address.
We are deeply disappointed President Obama has chosen to break his promise and stand apart from the global community on speaking the truth about the Armenian Genocide on its 100th anniversary.
From Pope Francis and Germany to Israeli President Rivlin and the European Parliament, world leaders joined together this month to call the Armenian Genocide by its proper name: genocide. Sadly, the president again joined the ranks of American leaders who turn a blind eye to genocide for political expediency.
Most troubling, President Obama’s explicit and forceful promise in 2008 to call the Armenian Genocide a “genocide” stands in striking contrast to his refusal to use the term. The American descendants of the 1.5 million Armenians systematically murdered by Ottoman Turkey 100 years ago deserve better leadership from their president. There can be no doubt that when history looks back on President Obama’s legacy, this broken promise and his failure to stand for truth and justice will reflect poorly.
This April 24 is not the end of this cause, but the start of a new chapter. From New York to California, and everywhere in between, it is clear that Turkey is losing its war on the truth. It will soon have to confront its past and do right by the descendants of the survivors. As Martin Luther King once remarked, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Someday soon, our ancestors will be remembered with the dignity and respect they deserve. Never Forget 1915.

Youth Lead Massive March to Dzidzernagapert

By Harout Kassabian
YEREVAN—Armenians from around the world converged at Yerevan’s Republic Square late in the evening of April 24 to march through the city center in a torch-lit procession in commemoration of the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide.
Hundreds of thousands marched—many with torches, banners, and flags—to the Armenian Genocide Memorial at Dzidernagapert to lay flowers at the eternal flame.
A scene from the march (Photo: Harout Kassabian)
Flags of the 23 countries that have recognized the genocide were in front of the procession, followed by a sea of torches held by members of the Armenian Youth Federation and Homenetmen Scouts.
Many in the crowd shouted chants and sang patriotic songs such as “Tsayn muh Hnchets” as they ascended to the hill-top memorial. Participants visiting the country from abroad waved the flags of their home countries, such as Greece, Canada, U.S., and Lebanon.
The police were well organized and effectively managed the procession to allow everyone the opportunity to enter the memorial.
Participants laid flowers at the eternal flame in the memorial, a mound that reached over 6 feet tall by the end of the evening. With so many participating in the march, the last group of people did not reach the memorial monument until 3 a.m.
Flowers placed around the eternal flame reached over 6 feet tall by the end of the evening (Photo: Harout Kassabian)
A scene from the march (Photo: Harout Kassabian)
A scene from the march (Photo: Harout Kassabian)

Kaligian: Denial, Reparations, and Armenia’s Security

Kaligian: Denial, Reparations, and Armenia’s Security

Below is the text of a speech delivered by Dr. Dikran M. Kaligian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Eastern Massachusetts, at the Armenian Genocide Centennial Commemoration in Boston’s Heritage Park on April 24.
A scene from the Centennial commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in Boston (Photo: Aaron Spagnolo)
As we have approached the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide, a wave of pressure has been building on Turkey. But Turkey has been preparing for this for years, and their chief tactic has been to try to divide the Armenian people.
The Turkish government desperately wants to divide us, so that they can avoid giving us justice. So they try to create false divisions between “Ideological Armenians” and “Pragmatic Armenians,” between “Radical Armenians” and “Realistic Armenians,” and between Diasporan Armenians and Armenia-born Armenians.
To do this, they create phony arguments, like the Armenians in Armenia don’t care about the genocide issue, that they only want security and a better economy. But we know this isn’t true.
We cannot fall into Turkey’s trap; we cannot allow ourselves to be divided. Because we know what we can do when we are united.
In the 1990’s, Azerbaijan’s army vastly outnumbered the Armenians of Karabagh. Azerbaijan, with Turkey’s military support, was sure that they would have no problem massacring yet another group of helpless Armenians and driving them, too, out of their homes, their homeland.
We know what actually happened. The Armenians of Karabagh fought back, and together with the Armenians of Armenia and the Armenians of the diaspora, they not only stopped the Azeri Army, they drove it back 100 miles.
Getze Artsakhi mardigneruh.
Turkey’s worldwide, multimillion dollar genocide denial campaign concerns us, not just as Armenians, but as Americans, because the main battleground for the cover-up is here in the U.S.
A scene from the Centennial commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in Boston (Photo: Aaron Spagnolo)
The denial has corrupted our Defense Department, because they always submit to Turkey’s blackmail, and they convince President Barack Obama, and President George Bush before him, “Oh no, you can’t use that word or we’ll lose our air bases.”
The denial has corrupted our public schools, as Turkey tries to remove the Armenian Genocide from high school textbooks.
The denial has corrupted our colleges, as Turkey is funding a denial factory at the University of Utah that is churning out PhDs, publishing and sending them out for free to libraries a string of denial books that have been rejected by legitimate publishers.
But the wall of denial is cracking. When the Pope, the European Parliament, Austria, Germany, and newspapers around the world are calling on Turkey to finally come to terms with its own history, we see the reaction.
From Turkey, we see President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stomping his feet, recalling his ambassadors, and having his prime minister call the Pope part of an evil front.
But we also see the reaction from Turkey’s defenders in this country. So, to their everlasting shame, the State Department continues to submit to Turkey’s gag rule.
Its friends suddenly get published in the national media, mislabeling our fight for justice as hatred, and claiming that the diaspora’s fight for recognition hurts the security of Armenia.
But we’ve heard this tune from them before. It used to be, don’t fight for Karabagh, you’ll lose Armenia. It’s just more of a smokescreen.
So, we must ask our friends in Congress who are here with us today to go to the State Department and remind them that:
It is not Armenia that has refused to establish diplomatic relations; it is Turkey.
It is not Armenia that has blockaded its neighbor for 20 years; it is Azerbaijan, and it is Turkey.
It is not Armenia that is desperately covering up its own history; it is Turkey. And it is time that the State Department stopped being an accomplice in the cover-up.
One day soon, Turkey and its PR agencies will craft some kind of acknowledgement.
But it is not sincere if Turkey apologizes without paying the price of reparations and restitution.
It is only justice if Armenia and the Armenian people receive more than just words on a piece of paper.
It is only justice when Armenia receives back the lands, and the properties, and the farms and the businesses, and the wealth that was stolen by Turkey.
The world must recognize that the Republic of Turkey was built on Armenian blood and Armenian sweat and Armenian labor, and that is why reparations are an integral part of justice for the Armenian Genocide.
We in the diaspora are accused of being obsessed with the genocide, but our demand for justice is actually very practical. Armenia will never be truly safe next door to an unrepentant genocide denier.
Turkey is determined to keep Armenia subservient, because it knows the one thing that is hanging over its head is Armenia’s demand for justice.
Turkey refuses to allow Artsakh to be reunited with Armenia because then Armenia could feed itself.
Turkey refuses to allow discussion of the stolen lands of Western Armenia, because with them, Armenia would have defensible borders and an outlet to the sea so it couldn’t be blockaded.
So on this day, we stand here and in cities around the globe to say that:
Armenia will never be secure and truly free until Artsakh is a part of the Republic of Armenia.
Armenia will never be truly free until Javakhk is a part of the Republic of Armenia.
Armenia will never have national security until Western Armenia is a part of Armenia

Sunday, April 26, 2015


Armenian Genocide Museum of America

1334 G Street, NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005
Date: April 23, 2015
Contact: Press Office
Telephone: (202) 383-9009

WASHINGTON, DCThe Armenian Genocide Museum of America (AGMA) announced today the opening of a state-of-the-art online museum (

The interactive site invites visitors to explore the story of the Armenian people and its fateful experience in 1915. The site is currently optimized for laptop and desktop computer viewing, with full mobile device, as well as the addition of galleries, scheduled for later this year.

Presenting the Armenian Genocide from multiple perspectives, the online museum highlights the role and extent of American involvement in denouncing the atrocities committed against the Armenian people during World War I and in delivering the humanitarian aid that rescued the remaining survivors from further mistreatment.

The online museum begins with an exploration of the rich culture of the Armenian people created over millennia to underscore the gravity of the loss of an entire civilization with the destruction of historic Armenia.

The enormity of the human losses during the Armenian Genocide are set against this background to stress the relationship that once existed between the Armenian people and their now decimated homeland. It reveals the extent to which the places once associated with worship and celebration, with commerce and education, and the historical memory of significant events from the time of the Armenian monarchies, have been erased from the face of the earth.

By underlining with resonant content the historic identity of the Armenian people, their art and culture, and their perseverance in the face of adversity, the online museum also reinforces the universal message of our common humanity and collective responsibility, and explains why the story of the Armenians and other peoples who have suffered similar fates must be told.

The museum is also dedicated to educating the public about the continuing consequences of the Armenian Genocide. Viewers will learn how the international community's failure to condemn the genocide and hold the perpetrators accountable made the Armenian Genocide a prototype for later crimes against humanity.

An instructional video introducing the entire online museum explains the Armenian Genocide in the context of a century and more of mass atrocities around the world and examines the role of American leadership in responding to the problem of genocide.

The introductory video as well as the online exhibits feature the oral testimony of survivors supported with pictorial and other documentary evidence.

The testimony of other significant figures underscores the world's reaction and America's response to the Armenian Genocide with observations by Theodore Roosevelt, Major General James Harbord, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Consul Jesse Jackson, subsequent remembrance day statements issued by sitting presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, supplemented by the striking invocations made by Pope Francis during this April's commemorative observance at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

The online museum also confronts the Turkish government's denial policy by recalling the late Hrant Dink's heroic and singular role in exploring avenues for creating a common ground for understanding.

The title of the introductory video, "Coming to Terms," echoes the expression that has become the international theme of the centennial as governments and world leaders join Armenians around the world on calling upon Turkey to face up to the evidence. It urges the Turkish authorities, civil and political, to acknowledge this shameful chapter in history and take bold and honest steps toward putting the legacy of the murderous Young Turk regime once and for all behind them.

The launch of the online museum was timed with the centenary of the Armenian Genocide.  It follows the production of a series of digital exhibits previously issued by AGMA, the Armenian National Institute (ANI) and the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).  With these digital exhibits hundreds of images from the Armenian Genocide and previously unexplored aspects of the Meds Yeghern were brought to light.  These and other resources will also be available through the AGMA online museum.

In the spirit of cooperation to pay due respect to the victims of the Armenian Genocide, many individuals and organizations joined with AGMA in supporting the creation of the online museum and its many components. Among them are the Armenian Film Foundation, Zoryan Institute, Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, and Armenian Studies Program at the California State University in Fresno. They augmented the resources available from the United States National Archives, the Library of Congress, the Republic of Armenia National Archives, and Armenian General Benevolent Union's Nubarian Library, among others.  AGMA also extends special thanks to film makers Carla Garapedian and Ted Bogosian, as well as historian and geographer Dr. Robert Hewsen.

AGMA also thanks with particular appreciation the renowned photographer Hrair Hawk Khatcherian whose commitment to documenting the cultural and religious heritage of Armenians across their historic homeland and the diaspora is on display through the magnificent photographs he shared with AGMA and which form such a central part of the visual experience of visiting the online museum.

Joining Hrair Khatcherian in making the online museum an exceptional experience is the soulful musicianship of Gevorg Dabaghyan, enveloping viewers with haunting melodies from the mountains of Armenia. He continues the unique tradition of composing and playing music on the national instrument of Armenia, the duduk, made from the native apricot tree. AGMA is honored to feature Mr. Khatcherian's and Mr. Dabaghyan's exemplary and unequalled artistry.

The AGMA online museum is being produced by the museum planning and exhibit design firm of Gallagher & Associates which has been working with AGMA, ANI, and Assembly staff and board members to bring the concept of an Armenian Genocide museum to the public since the start of the project. Its video production wing prepared "Coming to Terms: The Legacy of the Armenian Genocide" under the direction of Mike Buday.

The online museum was primarily made possible by the generous contribution of the Estate of Agnes Kazanjian. Donors to AGMA, Anoush Mathevosian, Hirair & Anna Hovnanian Foundation, Edele Hovnanian, Dr. Sarkis Kechejian, Dr. Nishan Kechejian, the Alice Ohanessian Irrevocable Trust, Julie Kulhanjian Strauch, Noubar Tcheurekjian, and the Trustees of the Armenian Assembly of America, are also gratefully acknowledged.

The project was overseen by the AGMA Online Museum Working Group consisting of Mark Malkasian, Richard H. Papalian, Van Z. Krikorian, and Rouben Adalian under the guidance of the AGMM Building and Operations Committee composed of Van Z. Krikorian, Chairman, Denise Darmanian, Edele Hovnanian, Richard H. Papalian, and Zaven Tachdjian.  The Board of Trustees of the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial, Inc., includes Hirair Hovnanian, Chairman, Anoush Mathevosian, Vice-chair, Van Z. Krikorian, Secretary, and Kathleen Baradaran.

The Armenian Genocide Museum of America is a joint effort by the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial Inc., the Armenian Assembly of America, and the Armenian National Institute. Its online museum offers a place for reflection and learning filled with hope, inspiration, and a commitment to eradicating the scourge of genocide through education and a focus on prevention. Interactive tools in the narrative galleries allow visitors to navigate at their own pace across the many features of the online museum, which will be expanded over the coming months.

Armenian Genocide Centennial Special Issue

A First-Person Testimony About The Heroic Battle of Vasbouragan

A First-Person Testimony About The Heroic Battle of Vasbouragan Between April 7 and May 4, 1915, the free-spirited and courageous Armenians of Van had no other means but to defend themselves in order to escape massacre and total annihilation.
April 23rd, 2015

ASBAREZ EXCLUSIVE: Eric Bogosian on Writing ‘Operation Nemesis’ and How the Project ‘Radicalized’ and Changed Him

ASBAREZ EXCLUSIVE: Eric Bogosian on Writing ‘Operation Nemesis’ and How the Project ‘Radicalized’ and Changed Him Eric Bogosian’s new book is not a novel or a script or a volume of monologues – the genres for which he is best known.
April 23rd, 2015

Memoirs of an Armenian Genocide Survivor from Hadjin

Memoirs of an Armenian Genocide Survivor from Hadjin Petitions were made via the National Union to the French Government. However, these requests to send French forces to Hadjin, remained unanswered. Each day, telegrams from Hadjin were received expressing the close proximity of the danger. The petitions would be repeated to send aid
April 23rd, 2015

The Great Retreat from Vasbouragan (June-July 1915)

The Great Retreat from Vasbouragan (June-July 1915) After two and one half months from the April-May battles, just as the new Armenian government was starting to operate, the Russian command suddenly—and without any explanation—decided to retreat from the areas it was occupying
April 23rd, 2015

‘A Wreath of Violet’s’

‘A Wreath of Violet’s’ A Wreath of Violet’s is the story of survival during the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey. It is a fictionalized account, based on the true story of Lori Berberian’s family. Following is an excerpt from the unpublished manuscript
April 23rd, 2015

A Deconstruction Of Connected Histories In Aline Ohanesian’s ‘Orhan’s Inheritance’

A Deconstruction Of Connected Histories In Aline Ohanesian’s ‘Orhan’s Inheritance’ I must admit, picking up a book with a narrative already too familiar is a tall order. The task is made even more difficult when the narrative is one that speaks to my ethnic and communal sense of belonging. The room for disappointment is wide since so much is at stake.
April 23rd, 2015

Aline Ohanesian {in her words}

Aline Ohanesian {in her words} Hidden Stories
It was August of 1983 and the heat of the San Fernando Valley kept us indoors. There were six of us on my aunt’s king-size bed, all under the age of nine: my brother and me and four “cousins” who were technically my aunts and uncles because they were the offspring of my grandmother’s [...]
April 23rd, 2015


iwintness The iwitness public art installation by artists Ara Oshagan and Levon Parian and architect Vahagn Thomasian and sponsored by LA County Major Michael Antonovich will open April 25 at 5 pm, at the Music Center and Grand Park in downtown Los Angele
April 23rd, 2015

The Memoir of Armenian Hero Hrant Guzelian

The Memoir of Armenian Hero Hrant Guzelian Guzelian rescued hundreds of Armenian youths left in Turkey in the decades following the genocide, including Hrant Dink, who was his protege
The Youth Home of Istanbul: A Story of the Remnants’ Homecoming, the inspiring memoir of Armenian hero Hrant Guzelian, was published in Armenian in 2007 and was just released in English. Guzelian was a [...]
April 23rd, 2015

Harnessing the Hundredth

Harnessing the Hundredth It will come as no surprise that during these days of intense activity on the occasion of the Genocide’s centennial, some serious discussions occur, despite how occupied everyone is with this intense activity. Some are inspiring, others banal; some irritating, others activating; some profound, others superficial; some with the usual activist suspects, others with people who have just come on or returned to the scene; some constructive, others distracting.
April 23rd, 2015

The Memory of the Genocide as a Moral Compass

The Memory of the Genocide as a Moral Compass During the last few years there has been great enthusiasm for presenting the Armenian Genocide in fictional, story, form. My sense is that this notion animates all Armenians around the world. We all want our “Schindler’s List”, we all want our “Sofie’s Choice”. We want it because we cannot stop talking about the Genocide.
April 23rd, 2015


EDITORIAL: What’s Next?

Armenian Genocide Centennial Special Issue

Here we are at the much-anticipated and much-talked-about 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The events of this month alone—recognition and reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide by the Pope, European Parliament, Germany and Austria, as well as the international media’s focus on the issue—validate the aspirations of the Armenian people and our national struggle for justice for the unpunished crime of the Genocide. Ankara’s continued insistence to deny the Genocide has only made Turkey look more irrational and out of touch in the eyes of the international community and the rhetoric from government officials only cements the reality that more and more it is isolating itself from the rest of the world.
The Obama Administration’s announcement that the president would not use the word “Genocide” to commemorate the Centennial, similarly isolates the United States from the rest of the world and conventional wisdom, which has been echoing our long-standing demands. Obama’s decision certainly is not sending a signal of a leader of the free world, when in the wake of international affirmation, it continues to deny the Genocide. For Armenian-American community leaders to have been summoned to the White House, only to be told that their aspirations were going to be quashed by the very person who continuously echoed words of justice during his campaign is not but reckless disregard for universal truth and justice.
The next time the United States dares to wag its finger at—or withhold assistance from–countries for poor human rights and democratic norms, it should perhaps look at itself in the mirror for having closed its eyes to Turkey’s abominable human rights record, which, first-and-foremost, stems from its official policy of denial of the Armenian Genocide.
Instead of going in the annals of history as a man committed to change and fairness, Obama will be seen as a weak leader whose promises and principles for justice and “doing the right thing” can be manipulated by those whose course of action is anything but just.
But we must move on, since the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide should become that moment that we reaffirm our convictions and should serve as a reminder that our work is far from done.
The international insistence that justice must be served for the crime of the Armenian Genocide, is a critical signal for us—as a nation—to embolden our resolve and pursue our just demands of reparations and restitution for the crime of the Genocide.
Skeptics might say that such demands are unattainable and nothing short of a dream. The same could have been said about the resurgence of an independent Armenia during the Soviet Union, or the fact that a pope would use his pulpit to reaffirm our aspirations and call for justice. For if one does not dream, there will be nothing for which to aspire.
At this juncture, the entire Armenian Nation must be proud of its identity and its will to persevere. From the streets of Yerevan, to Los Angeles to the squares of Istanbul the call for justice is being heard around the world—Justice for the Armenian Cause.
With the canonization of the 1.5 million martyrs of the Genocide by the Armenian Church, let us bow our heads and remember them. More important, however, let us join hands and vow that their martyrdom was not in vain and let each and every Armenian march forward toward a FREE, UNITED and INDEPENDENT ARMENIA.
Every year when we publish our annual April 24 Special Issue, we are humbled by the generosity and support of our sponsors who wholeheartedly answer our calls and support the publication and production of this issue. This year with this Armenian Genocide Centennial Issue we can report that through the generous support of community organizations and members we are publishing the largest special issue—in volume and circulation—in our 107-year history.
We are making a special mention in this issue of a long-time reader, supporter and generous benefactor, Mrs. Tina Carolan. When Mrs. Carolan was told of the scope of our publication and production, she, in the name of the her family and in memory of her beloved brother Walter Kerian, decided to sponsor the entire cost of this publication, for which we are grateful.

After a century of silence the grandmothers have returned-NEVER FORGET THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

The Grandmothers

by: Peter Balakian on April 24th, 2015

An aerial view of thousands of people marching for the Armenian genocide.
Awareness of the Armenian genocide is growing not only in the countries of the diaspora, but also in Turkey. Above, the Armenian March to Remember Genocide in Hollywood, CA. Credit: CreativeCommons / JR Woodward.
I was standing under Halogen spot lights spoking the white walls of a chic art gallery on Istiktal Street in Istanbul, a bustling pedestrian avenue of boutiques and restaurants, as I shook hands with three young Turkish fiction writers. Their publicist from their publishing house Yapi Kredir, led us to the table where we each had a small microphone and a name card in front of us, which for me was a kind of identity card. Three Americans, three Turks, all were writers of fiction but me. We had English translations of our Turkish colleagues’ works, and I felt the silence in the room grow as we moved between Turkish and English.
I was here in Istanbul in late October of 2014 to read in public for the first time. I agreed to join a group of American writers organized by the poet Christopher Merrill who directs the Iowa Writers International School at the University of Iowa. The project was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy as a cultural reading tour to Turkey and Armenia. The underlying concept was to foster some kind of dialogue between Armenians and Turks on the eve of the centennial of the Armenian genocide. When Chris called me I pushed out of mind for a moment the fear I was feeling about going to Turkey to do something public. I had friends and colleagues who had spoken publicly in Turkey about the Armenian genocide, and at worst they had been publically harassed but still returned to tell of a rewarding time. Still, the impasse between Turkey and the Armenian global diaspora and Republic over the destruction of the Armenians and their indigenous culture of 2,500 years in 1915 was so deep that going to do a public event was never simple. And, we were all haunted by the assassination in 2007 of the Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink for his public speaking about the Armenian past.
When it was my turn, I read a segment from my memoir Black Dog of Fate, about my family’s history in Istanbul before the city’s name was changed from Constantinople in 1922. I noted that my great grandfather Murat Panosyan’s large Queen Anne style house had been in the Uskudar section of the city and that he had a prosperous coal business in Istanbul and owned mines in the Zonguldak region along the Black Sea. My father was born on the island of Kanali, where Armenians vacationed, a few miles off the coast of the city in the Sea of Marmara, in September of 1920. I noted that my grandmother had graduated from the Constantinople College for Women (as had 2 of her sisters)–then part of the famous Robert College, now Bogazici University – in 1904. When I noted that she had been a good friend of the celebrated feminist writer Halide Edibe when they were school mates I saw the faces of my audience kind of hunker down on me–the gallery had gotten more silent.
After I read, there was a general applause for all of us, and some questions, a couple for me concerning my family in Istanbul. The Turkish writers were cordial and shook our hands and everyone said good night as we drifted out onto crowded Istiktal Street.
The next evening, the public affairs director at the U.S. Embassy threw a party for us and to our surprise not only did the writers from the previous night come, but a dozen other writers, editors, journalists had traveled from as far as London and Ankara, turning the whole event into a bit of a gala. As we drank wine and ate sarmas and lemajunes each of the writers who read the night before approached me and began talking with a fervidness that was surprising. One said, “it has been acknowledged by my parents that that I have an Armenian grandmother, but she is no longer living. When I ask more questions about her, they tell me to go away. I know it’s true, but no one will give me more clues, and I want to write about it.” Another writer said: “in his home town in central Turkey, our family’s best friend was an Armenian, but he kept his ethnic identity secret. But, we all knew he was Armenian,” he said, “and that is how I first heard about the genocide.” When he used the word genocide I did a double take–since the word was normally taboo in Turkey.
The first writer became emotional and I could see it wasn’t just the wine. I could see the idea of the Armenian grandmother in her family past was gripping her, and she kept talking to me in fragments in her very good English about how this had changed her sense of self and her relationship to the mainstream world of Turkey.
She was part of a new awakening in Turkey about the long hidden Armenian past; of the hundreds of thousands and maybe millions of Turkish grandchildren with an Armenian grandparent, a result of Armenian women or girls who had been abducted by Turks or Kurds during the massacres and forced marches of 1915.
Ever since Fetiye Cetin’s memoir My Grandmother about her grandmother’s death bed confession of being Armenian, became a sensation in Turkey in 2004, the awareness among Turks of the Armenian past has come to haunt a large part of the population. At a conference on Islamized Armenians held in Istanbul in 2013, it became clear that the grandchildren of the Armenian grandmothers confront a complex reality of pain and sorrow, anxiety, and also sometimes liberation as they try to square their family histories with the official position of the Turkish state on the Armenian past, one in which official school textbooks vilify the Armenians and blame them for their fate.
After midnight, we exchanged warm wishes, signed each other’s books and said we’d keep in touch. Coming face to face, writer to writer had made a difference; we were part of some common past–chopped, hacked, repressed, disconnected as it was across the great gaping tortured impasse of history between Turkey and the Armenian people. An hour later, I found myself on my hotel balcony as a waiter named Murat brought me tea in a vase shaped glass. I sat sipping the sweet, bark colored tea as I looked across the light glittered Bosphorous to the eastern side of the city where my family lived a hundred years ago, just before the killing started; it was a part of the city where Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Bulgarians, Turks, and others had lived side by side for centuries. Maybe the revelation of the hidden Armenian grandmothers would bring back some of the lost past of multi-cultural Turkey and a truth reckoning about the Armenian genocide and its legacy for Turks as well as Armenians. After a century of silence the grandmothers have returned.

Peter Balakian is the author of 7 books of poems as well as The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response (A New York Times Notable Book and a New York Times Best Seller), Black Dog of Fate, winner of the PEN/Albrand Prize and New York Times Notable Book. He is Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities at Colgate University. Vise and Shadow: Essays on the Lyrical Imagination, Poetry, Art and Culture, (forthcoming University of Chicago Press) features essays on major Armenian writers and artists and the Armenian Genocide.