Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rabbi Shmuley and Centennial Committee Depict Obama as ‘Liar’ in NY Times Ad

The Centennial commemorations of the Armenian Genocide were marked with unprecedented, and sometimes, unexpected developments.
One such occasion was the full page ad placed in the New York Times on April 18 by well-known and controversial Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (Founder, The World Values Network) and the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee, Eastern U.S. (AGCC), harshly criticizing Pres. Obama for not keeping his campaign promise on the Armenian Genocide.
A knowledgeable source told The California Courier that the ad had upset some White House officials. The placing of the ad coincided with the efforts of the U.S. National Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Centennial to convince reluctant administration officials to participate in the commemorative events in Washington, D.C., May 7-9.
Nonetheless, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power attended the Ecumenical Prayer Service at the National Cathedral on May 7, in Washington, but neither delivered remarks nor was their presence acknowledged. Surprisingly, both officials wore the “forget me not” pin, the official logo of the Armenian Genocide Centennial. Also in attendance were Pres. Serzh Sargsyan, Catholicos Karekin II, and Catholicos Aram I.
The paid ad featured a young boy holding a placard stating, “Pres. Obama why did you lie to us?” This was followed by the title of the ad in large bold letters: “1.5 million Armenian victims cry out from their grave: How long will you deny our genocide just to appease the Turkish tyrant?”
The paid announcement strongly criticized both Pres. Obama, for not keeping his campaign promises, and Ambassador Power, for remaining silent after condemning U.S. indifference to Genocide in a book she wrote before assuming her government post (“A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”). The ad also targeted Turkish President Erdogan, calling him a “bully” and “quasi-dictator who has dismantled Turkish democracy.”
Furthermore, the ad quoted from a news report by CNN’s Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper: “For the sixth year in a row President Barack Obama has broken his promise to the Armenian community, made when seeking their votes as a senator and a presidential candidate, to use the word ‘genocide’ to describe the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. He did this in deference to the government of Turkey.”
The ad reminded readers that Tapper was referring to Sen. Obama’s 2008 statement: “The Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable. …As President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
The authors of the ad went on to state: “Seldom has an American President misrepresented himself so brazenly on an issue of such profound moral importance. Pres. Obama’s willful moral blindness stands in stark contrast to the courageous statement by Pope Francis last week calling for the world’s recognition of ‘the first genocide of the twentieth century.’”
In the ad, the Rabbi and AGCC posed this question to Ambassador Power: “As a leading voice against genocide, will you stand by your principles or will you become yet another who, after entering office, silences her voice and becomes part of the ‘problem from hell?’”
A second newspaper announcement reminding Pres. Obama of his promise on the Armenian Genocide appeared in the Los Angeles Times on April 24. The three-quarter page ad, placed by Ed Muradliyan, a California businessman from Orange County, asserted: “It’s time for you to be the leader you promised to be. On this 100 year anniversary Mr. President, it’s time to fulfill the promise you made.” Muradliyan’s ad featured a picture of Pres. Obama, copy of Amb. Morgenthau’s cable to the State Dept., dated July 16, 1915, and the headline of a news report from The New York Times, dated December 15, 1915. The announcement ended with: “It’s Time to Recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
If one or both of these ads caused some discomfort to White House officials, it was well worth the money!
The ads should have included Pres. Obama’s own words from his book, “The Audacity of Hope”: “Say one thing during the campaign and do another thing once in office, and you’re a typical, two-faced politician.”
Although the commemorative events in Washington were organized with utmost professionalism, there was one major shortfall. When special honors were being awarded at the May 9 Centennial Banquet to prominent individuals, organizations and representatives of countries that had recognized the Armenian Genocide, it would have been only fitting to pay tribute to John Evans, the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia (2004-2006), whose diplomatic career came to an abrupt end when the Bush Administration recalled him for publicly acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. The organizers of the Banquet assured The California Courier that “no slight was intended,” and that it was simply “an oversight.”
Fortunately, this gross error was somewhat mitigated when the “oversight” was brought to the attention of the master of ceremonies, attorney Mark Geragos, who acknowledged from the podium the presence of Amb. Evans. The 2,000 guests at the Centennial Banquet gave the righteous Ambassador an enthusiastic standing ovation and thunderous applause! Needless to say, Amb. Evans deserves far more than mere applause for having sacrificed his career in defense of the Armenian Cause!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Nor Zartonk: Turkey’s Politics of Annihilation Continues

The following statement was issued by Nor Zartonk, a youth movement in Istanbul, on the recent demolition order targeting Camp Armen, the former summer camp located in the Tuzla district of Istanbul that provided asylum for Armenian orphans until 1983. Demolition began on May 6, despite campaigns to stop the camp’s destruction. Following protests by activists, the destruction has been halted temporarily.
Activists gather to block the demolition of Camp Armen
The Nor Zartonk statement, which was issued on May 15, follows in full.
Camp Armen has been entrusted to us from the Armenian children of genocide survivors!
To the press and public,
Only days had passed since we came together to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide when we received news that the Tuzla Armenian orphanage was being demolished. It was just a few days ago that we raised our voices all across Turkey and remembered the deepest wound of this land that is the Armenian Genocide, which was the result of the systematic, planned deportation and extermination policy to destroy the entire existence of a people.
We cried out against the effective and widespread rhetoric of genocide denial, and the enmity that denial has created, as well as the ongoing massacres. We became one in our efforts to end ongoing denial and massacres by crying, “Never again!”
And now, only a few weeks later, we stand here in front of the Tuzla Armenian Orphanage, Camp Armen, which was built by the Armenian orphans themselves.
Now we stand in front of Camp Armen, where bulldozers and construction machines have come to demolish what was built with the sweat of more than 1,500 Armenian children. It is now where we face the demolition team and witnesses, in front of one of the most important places of a people’s geographical and cultural history!
The Tuzla Armenian orphanage was built in the 1960’s in the post-genocide shadow of never-ending, hateful politics; it was built against all odds, without the support of the government, and with the labor of children. In the aftermath of the 1980 coup d’état, the founder and supervisor of the camp, clergyman Hrant Güzelyan, was accused of raising militant Armenians and became the victim of torture, and then had the land usurped from him. Now they are destroying this camp which they previously pronounced guilty.
This orphanage produced life and hope for those impoverished children who were born and raised in the geographical lands of where the genocide took place. The children who lived here were in large part coming from families who lived through or witnessed the genocide.
It is tradition to stand against and take responsibility of the past and of history despite all measures taken by the state and public institutions that have sought to destroy and to deny the massacres, the murders, the threats, and the hateful politics that have been spread in the past.
Despite the destruction of the genocide, the collective efforts of 1,500 Armenian children who were dealing with loss made history by living together and by not losing their faith.
This area, which faces demolition to build luxury villas, marks the history of the orphaned children who still had hope despite their suffering.
This area, which faces demolition to build luxury villas, marks the history of the orphaned children who still had hope despite their suffering.
This space that they are trying to destroy represents where hope and the fight to continue to live together—as one of the most ancient peoples of this land—continued.
Moreover, we here today in this historical building want to recognize the other losses that have taken place on this land, such as the labor deaths from the Tuzla shipyards, the poverty that comes with deindustrialization, the spiral of poverty-unemployment-cheap labor that comes from pushing labor outside the city, the massacres of forests and animals, the opening of the coastline for profit, and the plundering of neighborhoods due to urban renewal, resulting in displacement and forced migration.
We urge you to stand together and join the efforts and witness the battle for hope in testimony for the history, the pain, and the history of loss for Camp Armen.
Because Camp Armen has been entrusted to us from the Armenian Genocide, and from the Armenian children.
Because Camp Armen is all of our history and represents the common history of all peoples of this land, and serves as the hope for giving life to this memory.
The genocide was the result of systematic planning from the part of the government and organized relocations, as well as the preceding isolation spread effectively in a policy for extermination.
The decimation of millions of Armenians in 1915 is the biggest wound of this land. The genocide is not limited to the physical destruction of a previously existing presence; it also includes the societal, cultural, and spatial affiliation of these people. The genocide is the common history and destruction of everyone’s experience in an effort to destroy the past altogether.
The attempt to demolish Camp Armen is the most effective evidence that shows that the genocide in Turkey is not over; in fact, it shows quite the opposite—that the politics of annihilation is violently continuing.
The murder of Hrant Dink from the part of the state, the protection of the murderers who did not face trial, the murder of Sevag Balıkçı on April 24, 2011, when serving his mandatory military service, the homicide of Maritsa Küçük, the victimized Armenian population throughout Turkey by the state itself and official institutions, the isolation, the expropriation and the countless injury, fear, intimidation, threats, and oppression that continue, all serve as proof that the genocide is continuing.
We call out to Armenians and all friends of the Armenian people to take responsibility of Camp Armen and say, “Never again,” for the camp represents what began in 1915 and continues today, but through more effective ways through denial and the exclusion of Armenians and other populations by means of policies of intimidation and destruction.
We call out to Armenians and all friends of the Armenian people to take responsibility of Camp Armen and say, “Never again,” for the camp represents what began in 1915 and continues today, but through more effective ways through denial and the exclusion of Armenians and other populations by means of policies of intimidation and destruction.
Camp Armen is entrusted to us from our orphans, from our brothers and sisters who took refuge in the shade of the trees they planted, from Hrant Dink, and from all slain Armenians. Camp Armen is the venue to foster hope, unity, and fraternity despite all our losses.
We call on everyone to take on the entrusted responsibility that is Camp Armen, which represents our common past, future, and our fight to co-exist.
Nor Zartonk

Armenia Advances to Eurovision 2015 Final

VIENNA, Austria (A.W.)–Armenia, represented by the group “Genealogy,” has moved forward to the final stage of the Eurovision 2015 contest. Armenia was one of 16 countries taking part in the first semi-finals in Vienna on May 19.
Armenia, Belgium, Greece, Estonia, Serbia, Hungary, Russia, Albania, Romania, and Georgia qualified during the first semi-final round.
The second semi-final round will take place on May 21, when 17 more countries will compete to move onto the final stage of the contest.
Below is a video of Armenia’s performance.

On March 12, Armenia released its Eurovision 2015 song entry, “Don’t Deny.” The song enraged some in neighboring Azerbaijan, which claims the lyrics carry a political message. The Armenian delegation denies any specific political subtext in the song.
Along with the release of the song and its music video, Inga Arshakian of Armenia was revealed as the final performer of Genealogy. Arshakian joined Stephanie Topalian, Essaï Altounian, Vahe Tilbian, Mary-Jean O’Doherty Vasmatzian, and Tamar Kaprelian, who hail from Europe, Asia, America, Africa, and Australia, respectively—and are all of Armenian origin.
According to the official website of the Eurovision Song Contest (, this is the first time a country is participating with performers from different parts of the world.
A few days following the release, the Armenian delegation announced that it would rename the song to “Face the Shadow” in order to suppress concerns of a political theme and to “strengthen” its themes.
The music for Armenia’s entry was written by award-winning Armenian musician and composer Armen Martirosyan, who also composed Armenia’s entry into the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest, “Apricot Stone.” The lyrics to the song were penned by Inna Mkrtchyan; the music video was directed by renowned Armenian director, Aren Bayadyan.
The finals take place on May 23, when 27 countries compete for first place. The 10 qualifying countries from both semi-finals will qualify to the finals, where they will join the host nation Austria and the five main sponsoring nations: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, and Australia, which was invited this year to commemorate the contest’s 60th anniversary.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Komitas: A Genocide Survivor or Victim?

Special for the Armenian Weekly
(Soghomon Soghomonian)
Soghomon was born to Kevork and Takoohi Soghomonian, a young Armenian Turkish-speaking couple, in Kutahya, Ottoman Turkey. Takoohi composed music, which the couple sang. Soghomon was less than a year old when 17-year-old Takoohi died. His uncle’s wife nursed him with her daughter, Marig, while his grandmother and aunt cared for him until he graduated from the local elementary school. Soghomon spoke only Turkish, yet could sing Armenian hymns, having served on the altar with his father and uncle. Kevork sent him to Brussa to continue his education; however, a few months later, Kevork passed away, and Soghomon returned to Kutahya.
Komitas (1909 photo)
In 1881, his uncle and the Parish Council selected him from among other orphans to be sent to Holy Etchmiadzin to further his education. In 1895, Catholicos Khrimian Hayrig ordained Soghomon—now Komitas Vartabed—a celibate priest. Komitas pursued his passion of collecting and arranging folk music. The Catholicos, recognizing his musical talents, helped him receive a grant to study music in Germany. Upon his return, Komitas continued to teach at Holy Etchmiadzin, collecting and arranging folk music. Over the years, he collected and arranged nearly 4,000 folk songs, including the songs his mother had composed in Turkish, which the elders in Kutahya continued to sing years later.
In 1910, he moved to Constantinople and rented a townhouse with the painter Panos Terlemezian. That house became a cultural center. Komitas taught music, refined and composed church music, held concerts in Kutahya, Constantinople, Izmir, Alexandria, and Paris, and received rave reviews. He continued to visit Germany, Paris, and other European cities, where he lectured and attended conferences of the International Music Society, as a founding member of the Berlin branch. Toward the end of March 1915, he was invited to perform at the Turk Ojak concert hall in Constantinople, where he was showered with praise by leading Turkish intellectuals. Yet less than two weeks later, before dawn on April 23, 1915, he was awakened by Turkish police and taken to the police station, then to the central prison—Mehterhaneh Prison—in Constantinople. There, he saw the more than 200 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders who had also been rounded up and imprisoned.
The following day, on April 24, the prisoners were escorted by armed guards to the central train station without due process or conviction. At the Senjan Koey train station, the prisoners were ordered out of the wagons and separated; 72 were called out to be sent to Ayash Prison, and were executed in the following weeks. Komitas and the rest were escorted toward the Chankiri armory, which had been vacated after an epidemic and not disinfected. Along the way, at a watering hole, the gendarmes gave preference to their animals over the thirsty Armenian prisoners. In Chankiri, after a few weeks, Komitas and a few others received permission from Talaat Pasha to return to Constantinople.
The Master returned to a muted Armenian cultural atmosphere in Constantinople. It had become dangerous to be an Armenian in the city. Armenians there lived in terror, while Komitas suffered from acute stress and survival guilt: He had not been able to save his friends, his people. He had a keen awareness of the long-term cultural impact of this Turkish policy on the Armenian population. He wished to be left alone; he prayed in solitude, read the Bible, avoided policemen. He remarked to a young compatriot, “These people should not be trusted…” His behavior, so atypical of the formerly good-humored, joyous Master, was cause for concern for his friends. Komitas had episodes of anxiety. Although he believed they would pass, people were scared to see such drastic changes in the Master. They did not realize that the trauma of the unfolding genocide could affect a witness’s psyche to the point of preventing him from concentrating on work or writing.
Nevertheless, Komitas continued to compose when physically and mentally able. In 1916, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the date we now know as the start of the genocide, he composed the hymn “Antsink Neviryalk” (Devoted Individuals) and the music of “Moushi Bareh” (The Dance of Moush). Yet, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) prevented him from leading his formerly active life, and his symptoms were not properly understood or diagnosed at the time. He could not teach music, earn a living. When his landlord threatened eviction if he did not pay rent, Komitas’s friends wrongfully decided to place him in the La Paix Turkish military psychiatric hospital,1 emptied his house, and returned it to the landlord. His 4,000 musical notes and personal items were dispersed, lost; only a third have been retrieved.
At the La Paix Turkish hospital, he complained that he was being given inferior food, that he had found pieces of rope in his soup, and devoured the bread and chocolate his students brought him. The Turkish chief neurologist and psychiatrist received honors for his studies of eugenics and overseeing the castration of mental patients. Komitas remained suspicious and uncooperative. He seems to have been discharged briefly in 1917, but was re-hospitalized. In 1919, his friends, seeing no progress, transferred him to a psychiatric hospital in Paris where a caretaking committee continued to provide the funds for his hospitalization. Since his “mental illness” was not cured, in 1922 he was transferred to an asylum outside of Paris, to Ville Juif, where he would die years later from a foot infection. The French psychiatrist who knew Komitas for 13 years wrote that he was not sure what diagnosis had been given, to legally keep him in the hospital and asylum.
Komitas Vartabed’s attitude remained the same over the 19 years of psychiatric hospitalizations: He accepted visitors he did not know, but refused to see old friends or acquaintances. He conversed with patients, yet refused to speak with psychiatrists. He verbally expressed his anger, demanding the key to his apartment, his musical notes, his belongings, his right to self-determination.
Cover of Karakashian’s ‘Komitas: Victim of the Great Crime ‘
The newly published book Komitas: Victim of the Great Crime2 (M. Karakashian, Zangak, 2014) examines the visitor reports on Komitas’s behavior and his conversations, as well as his hospital records, and lets the reader understand the trauma that this great Master endured. He was in need of alternative treatment, such as talk therapy and medication, to alleviate symptoms of trauma—treatments he was deprived of, or that were not available at the time.
Komitas was a Master musicologist, a genius who saved Armenian folk music from extinction. He cleaned up church music from foreign influences, introduced Armenian folk music to European experts, and left a large legacy of musical compositions, church hymns, and liturgy that are sung all over the world today. He is cherished by Armenians.
Komitas Vartabed, a survivor of early orphanhood and poverty, and a sensitive artist, had a predisposition to psychological trauma. During his productive career, he channeled this early trauma and depression through his artistic and creative work. His imprisonment, exile, the degradation he felt, his inability to save his beloved Armenians from extermination, and his possible homelessness shook his sensitivity and caused a break-up of his defenses (i.e., sublimation through artistic work). He exhibited signs of Acute Stress Disorder and PTSD that lasted years before he succumbed to deep depression. Without the proper psychiatric treatment, he was held in institutions for 19 years, where, he said, only his body was being fed.
Komitas Vartabed’s story is of the Armenian who, to this day, is grappling with the devastating effects of psychological trauma passed on through generations of survivors. Since Komitas was a famous individual, a lot has been written about him, and a lot remains to be discovered; the archives that are available point to the severe psychological suffering of survivors.
Komitas’s story is but a symbol of the emotional wounds left behind by human malice and evil, wounds inherited by all Armenians.

1 A French-owned hospital that was taken over and converted into a military psychiatric hospital.
2 Komitas: Victim of the Great Crime is available through the Hairenik Bookstore by visiting

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Theriault: 2015 and Beyond

This paper is an expansion of remarks given by the author at McGill University and the University of Toronto on March 18 and 20, 2015, respectively.
There is an oft-repeated false truism about genocide, that denial is the final stage of genocide. It is so unquestionably accepted that it has even made its way into formal stage-theories of genocide. It is, unfortunately, quite wrong. Denial is not the final stage of genocide, but rather present throughout most of the genocidal process. When they are doing it, perpetrators almost inevitably deny that what they are doing is genocide. For instance, Talaat and his cronies were adamant that their violence against Armenians was not one-sided mass extermination, but instead a response to Armenian rebellion and violent perfidy in Van and elsewhere. They maintained that the deportations were intended to move Armenians to other areas of the empire, not a means of destroying the Armenian population of village after village, town after town.
The sky above the Armenian Cemetery of Diyarbakir (Photo: Scout Tufankjian)
We see variations on this theme in case after case. The United States did not hunt down Native American groups, did not kill those under their control or force them onto destructive reservations; no, my country fought the so-called “savages” in a series of “Indian Wars.” (One need only look at the historical record of hyper-violence by the U.S. military and general population, which tortured, raped, killed, and then mutilated Native Americans, to see who the real savages have been.) The Tasmanians were killing livestock and even settlers, while the Herero were in revolt. The Jews had a world conspiracy that was out to get decent Aryans and needed to be stopped by the most brutal means possible. Pro-democracy activists in Indonesia were actually a communist insurgency, while Guatemalan Mayans, who appear to have been hardworking people in dire poverty just trying to survive the assaults on them by their government and country’s wealthy elite, were actually communists determined to destroy the good values of their society and impose a horrible political and social order. The Tutsi were hell-bent on dominating the Hutu, who had no choice but to respond, and the Bosnians Muslims, not Serbs were the aggressors, despite the fact that the latter had by far more military power. Today, the supposed rebellion in the Nuba Mountain and Blue Nile regions of Sudan leave “statesman” Omar al-Bashir no choice but to bomb thousands of civilians with Antonov aircraft.
Denial is not a stage of genocide, but part of the commission of genocide, especially as prosecutions have led sophisticated perpetrators to begin their international tribunal defenses while the blood is still flowing.
Denial is not a stage of genocide, but part of the commission of genocide, especially as prosecutions have led sophisticated perpetrators to begin their international tribunal defenses while the blood is still flowing.
Denial is certainly prevalent after genocide, as the false truism does capture correctly. It is not a final stage, however. Indeed, as long as denial persists, we can be sure that the genocidal process is still operating. Denial accompanies this operation, and furthers its goals of “eliminating the consequences” of the genocide for the perpetrator group, even generations and centuries after the violence and destruction. Denial is not the final stage of genocide; consolidation of the genocide is.1 A genocide is consolidated after the phase of direct destruction—sometimes long after—when the perpetrator group has made final and irrevocable all the various demographic, political, identity, military, cultural, financial, territorial, and other material and symbolic gains achieved through and deriving from the genocide, when the post-genocide state of affairs has become completely, utterly, and irremediably rendered permanent so that, whether the victim group has faded out of existence or still somehow persists, its condition will remain as it is, in the enduring position of victimhood unredeemed and unrepaired. Denial, geopolitically motivated treaties, and other influences all conspire with the passage of time in the process of consolidation. What is striking about consolidation is that, no matter to what extent complex forces can be blamed for the direct phase of a genocide and leave room for repentance by the perpetrator group, consolidation is done with a full understanding of what was done through a genocide and the moral obligation to repair that it has imposed, and in deliberate rejection by the perpetrator group of somehow doing right by the victims.
A genocide deeply ruptures the pre-existing status quo and in particular devastates the victim community. Just because the violence and destruction of a genocide end does not mean that their consequences are mitigated. On the contrary, so long as the impact of a genocide on its victims remains unrepaired, that impact continues devastating them in perpetuity. Despite the wishful thinking of philosophers such as Jeremy Waldron, as Jermaine McCalpin has emphasized,2 time does not heal the wounds of genocide. On the contrary, as generation follows generation, more and more people are injured, demeaned, and assaulted by the original violence. With each day that passes without repair, the scope of the destruction increases. The end limit point of this process is not successful denial, but the point at which denial no longer is necessary because the genocide’s impact has become fully irreparable, as the genocide’s consequences become everlastingly secured in the global social, political, and economic status quo. Denial ends not with the success of denial, but the total and complete consolidation of genocide. Genocides are denied because their effects—both material and in terms of historical memory—are, thankfully, still contested. Consolidation can happen through denial, at the point where denial has erased the genocide completely enough that it will never rate contemporary political and legal consideration, but it can also occur when the genocide is fully known yet considered so far removed from present concerns that its results are generally accepted.
‘Still waiting for the fair trial’ (Design and photo: Ruben Malayan)

This is evident through a few examples. The genocides of the Herero, Australian Aborigines, Native Canadians, and Native Americans are still denied actively, precisely because the victim groups still experience the impacts of the injuries of direct massacre, religious and cultural destruction, internment on reservations, family degradation through boarding schools and other forced transfers of children from their home groups, and more, and so a reparative process could actually address these harms. Denial stops reparations. Denial of the Holocaust continues because the evils of anti-Semitism that it maximized horrifically remain vibrant forces in human society across the globe; the Holocaust persists through its legacy of making Jews, already considered fit targets of oppression and violence, the fit targets of mass extermination. Denials of the Bangladesh, East Timor, Cambodian, and other cases continue because perpetrators and survivors yet live, and the deep harm done to each society remains largely unaddressed. The list of denied genocides goes on.
No one denies the genocides of Melos and Carthage, of the Cathars or by Chengis Khan, because the destruction they imparted into the world has long since been completely and irreparably incorporated into the world order. For these and all too many other genocides, utterly and completely “getting away with it” has been the final stage. How many so-called great societies and states celebrated in the present and past are so because of their complete success in consolidating the genocides they committed?
The false truism reflects an important effect of denial. Years of denial after a genocide actually skew the framework through which that genocide is perceived and understood. Faced with a strong denial campaign, survivors and concerned others, including in the perpetrator group, find themselves in a seemingly endless, disheartening, degrading, and exhausting struggle simply to get the truth recognized by enough people that it will not be erased from the annals of human history. Soon enough, the genocide itself is lost in the struggle against denial: The struggle against denial becomes an end in itself. The defeat of denial under such circumstances comes to be seen as justice for the genocide. With this, defeated or not, denial wins the day, by preventing a victim group from seeing that the defeat of denial does not give it justice, but merely gets it back to the starting point from which a justice process can finally be initiated. For long-past genocides, victim groups and others forget that recognition of the genocide against denial does not repair the harms done by the genocide, but merely addresses the secondary problem of denial. Only by directly and substantially engaging those harms through a comprehensive reparations process can the world do what it can to bring justice to the victim group and all of humanity.3
The recent attention on reparations for the Armenian case represents an important move beyond focus on denial. With this in mind, it is clear that 2015, the 100th anniversary, should not be understood as a culminating point in the post-genocide history of the Ottoman Genocide of Christian Minority Groups. If recognition comes this year, as it could—though I am not holding my breath—it will mean only that finally, after a century, the victim groups and others concerned with human rights can finally start addressing the harms done. But the effects of genocide are not measured in such neat little packages of 10 years, 50 years, or 100 years, which we make special, after all, simply because of the evolutionary accident that has given us 10 fingers to count with. As much as some people, especially those outside of victim communities who need a good story before they are willing to care about a legacy of mass violence, attach significance to such time intervals, the consequences of genocide play out in a complex history of material and social causal chains so that no particular year or date has any great actual meaning. Or, to put it more correctly, every year and, indeed, every day in the long aftermath of a genocide have great importance, until the injuries are addressed in a substantial way that is appropriately transformative for both the victim and perpetrator groups.
Cover of the AGRSG Report on Reparations
Helping to accomplish this shift in focus toward repair has been the Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group (AGRSG), which in 2007 I formed with renowned international lawyer and legal scholar Alfred de Zayas, former Armenian Ambassador to Canada and treaty expert Ara Papian, and dynamic Jamaican political scientist Jermaine McCalpin. The AGRSG has done a comprehensive study of reparations for the Armenian Genocide. The AGRSG Final Report4 analyzes the harms done and the legal, historical, and ethical justifications for repair, and then proposes an innovative transitional justice process to effect it. The report includes determinations of territorial and other restitution that should be made by Turkey and discussion of the ways in which reparations should be used by the Armenian group as a whole to ensure the future viability of its state and its global identity.
The harms done by the Armenian Genocide are very much present today. They include the dramatic demographic impact on the Armenian population through direct and indirect killing as well as forced assimilation that reduced the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire to less than 40 percent of its pre-genocide number, but also the compounding impact on birthrates and retention of members by rape and other torture; rampant poverty; long-term effects of malnutrition; global dispersion; loss of religious, educational, and other institutions necessary for the cohesion of Armenian communities; and much more. To these harms are added the extensive lost property of Armenians. Not only were virtually all land, businesses, farms, warehouse inventories, food stocks, and other such property taken from Armenians, but the mass expropriation reached down to the most trivial items, from kitchen pots and pans to the clothes on deportees’ backs and shoes on their feet. Turkish activist and writer Temel Demirer has stated of this mass theft that it was with this Armenian property that the national economy of the new 1923 Turkish Republic was founded.5 What is more, since this time, Armenians have lost all that would have been built on this wealth, which compounds daily, with many living out their lives over the past century impoverished because what was theirs was denied. And this mass of material resources has not just disappeared: Wealthy Turkish families, the government, and average people have received the cumulative benefits of all that this wealth has allowed them to build, its daily compounding interest. In fact, scholars such as Uğur Ümit Üngör and Mehmet Polatel have traced expropriated Armenian property right through to contemporary national and regional elite families, some of whose family fortunes were built with the property pilfered from exterminated Armenians.6
The destruction of religious, educational, cultural and artistic, and other aspects of Armenian communal existence, coupled with demographic collapse and global dispersion, have rendered Armenian identity and peoplehood fragile, requiring continual, draining efforts by members of the community just to prevent their erasure. The demographic destruction and individual as well as state territorial expropriations of the 1915-23 period are the most important factor in the verity that today’s Armenian Republic is a small, landlocked country of barely 3 million facing a gigantic, economically and militarily powerful Turkey of 70 million—a hostile Turkey that enjoys tremendous regional power and geopolitical prominence that allows it nearly free reign in its treatment of the Armenian Republic. Even had the genocide occurred but Ataturk’s ultra-nationalist forces not invaded and conquered the bulk of the 1918 Armenian Republic, historian Richard Hovannisian has estimated that the Armenian Republic today would be a much larger and secure state with a population on the order of 20 million.7 What would it mean for such an Armenia to face a territorially and demographically smaller Turkey today? Surely Armenians in the republic and around the world would be infinitely more secure and enjoy a level of community well-being that became a fantasy on April 24, 1915.
Armenians in Turkey have borne a great share of the genocide’s impact. After almost a century of suffering in relative silence, the legacy of oppression and violence is now well known. Reflecting on Native Americans in the United States, Mayans in Guatemala, survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and other such groups, it seems clear that the most difficult situation a victim group or individual can find itself, himself, or herself in—even beyond the terrible situation of all victims—is to remain subject to the perpetrator group or individual. Far beyond the painful, demeaning effects of denial for a group that has escaped, the situation of those still under perpetrator hegemony is to be constantly forced to live within the world of violence and power of the original harm, feeling always on the edge of being pushed back into the violence, with no escape from the terror, nor space simply to mourn what happened. And perpetrator groups and individuals seem never content even with that level of continuing harm to their victims but, as we have seen with Turkey, continue with such things as repression of non-Muslim minority foundations and expropriation of their property8 and the assassination of Hrant Dink.
Reparations for the Armenian Genocide are certainly legally, historically, and morally justified in abstract terms. But, as the Armenian Republic struggles economically and politically, the Armenian Diaspora expends greater and greater energy to be less and less effective in preserving Armenian identity, and Armenians in Turkey continue to live under threat and oppression, reparations are an absolute need if the Armenian Republic, the Armenian Diaspora, and the Turkish-Armenian community have any future at all, and the 1915 genocide is not to succeed by 2065. The current trends make it a real possibility that the state will fail in the next half century, the Armenian-Turkish community will become a perpetually subjugated group with no hope of true participation as full citizens in their state and its society, and Armenian identity will become a residual and decaying aftereffect of genocide, rather than the vibrant, living community anchor it should be.
The full history of the Armenian Genocide is far from written.
Coupled with this analysis of the need for reparations, it is useful to consider some of the standard objections raised against reparations in a case such as the Armenian Genocide. First, another false truism is that time heals all wounds. Nothing could be more wrong, unless by healing we mean that perpetrator groups and the world in general eventually can forget about a past genocide when the victim group finally fades away in the ultimate triumph of genocide. Unless the harms of a genocide are addressed, then they persist and in fact compound over time, with each generation of the victim group grappling with them.
[A]nother false truism is that time heals all wounds. Nothing could be more wrong, unless by healing we mean that perpetrator groups and the world in general eventually can forget about a past genocide when the victim group finally fades away in the ultimate triumph of genocide. Unless the harms of a genocide are addressed, then they persist and in fact compound over time, with each generation of the victim group grappling with them.
If time is running out, it is running out for the perpetrator groups. As Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks join what I will call the “100-plus Club” of groups whose experience of destruction has endured for more than a century, it is Turkey that should regard the sands flowing down in the hourglass with foreboding and disquiet. As time passes, harms become more difficult to repair, and those in the victim communities who have lived and died without justice can never receive it. Already Japan is on the verge of failing utterly to repair in any way at all the harms done to the Comfort Women—actually, many if not most were underage girls—whom its military government subjected to brutal sexual enslavement in the 1931-45 period. These girls and women were interned in hellish stations and raped sometimes 30 times a day, 6 days a week, for months and even years. Many died, but those who survived have for a quarter century demanded an apology and meaningful atonement through material reparations (necessary for such things as their medical bills as they deal with the life-long effects of their horrific captivity, often without children helping them because of the hysterectomies forced on them). Japan has refused and denied, and now many former Comfort Women have passed on. Japan has already lost the opportunity with them, and as a state and society must bear the taint of this terrible human rights abuse as long as it continues to exist. And once the last former Comfort Woman is gone, the taint will be complete. I have termed this kind of impact an “impossible harm.”9
Turkey and other such perpetrators have the benefit that national, ethnic, racial, and religious groups, if they survive attempted annihilation, have identity cohesion over time, and so as long as genocide does not succeed completely, there is always a group that can receive efforts at repair. Of course, Turkey has already irrevocably lost its greatest opportunity to repair the harm to survivors and itself, as there are virtually no direct survivors of the genocide alive today. There is no longer anything to be done about this intentionally lost chance. But much can still be done. Unfortunately, with each passing day the harm grows and there are more and more members of the victim group who have lived and died without repair and who thus represent a growing permanent taint for the perpetrator state and society. Not only have Turkey and states and societies like it so far failed to do right by Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks, and other victim groups, respectively, but they are failing their own future generations by imposing on them the stigma of a more and more irreparable genocide.
Second, even setting aside the legal status of Turkey as the Ottoman Empire’s continuing state and Turkish Republican forces’ perpetration of the second phase of the Armenian Genocide from 1919 to 1923, Turks in the Turkish Republic today do bear responsibility for addressing the harms of the genocide. They are not in any way to blame for it,10 even when they deny it (though they are separately culpable for denial). But, as their state and society continue to hold the gains made and to benefit from them, and Armenians continue to suffer from the material, political, and identity losses sustained, today’s Turks have an obligation to repair the damage as much as possible. Of course, nothing approaching full repair is possible: They cannot bring back the dead, nor can they turn back the denial clock to erase all the damage done as the harms to Armenians who have lived and died have compounded for a century. But, as the AGRSG Report lays out, significant symbolic and material reparations are very possible today; they require only the political and ethical will to make them. Making them is not unfair to present-day Turks. This is not a burden forced on them by Armenians, who should just go away quietly. On the contrary, the burden of genocide has been forced on present-day Turks and Armenians by the perpetrators of the genocide, who damned their progeny to the moral taint of genocide for this past century and beyond. However extensive a reparations package is made by Turks today, the burden they assume in giving reparations is the barest tiny fraction of the burden of loss and suffering the genocide still imposes on Armenians. The push for reparations is asking Turks today to shoulder just a small part of the burden borne by Armenians, to share just a part of the unfairness history has imposed. If this is a sacrifice for Turks today, this is appropriate: Such a sacrifice confirms the true rehabilitation of the Turkish state and society, which were formed in part by the many genocide perpetrators in the Turkish Republic’s government and military, and which have retained deep within their political culture the same genocidal attitudes toward past victims as drove genocide in the first place. Reparations are necessary for the rehabilitation of the Turkish state and society, as surely the Kurds and those residual Armenian and other communities in Turkey could attest.
[A]s the AGRSG Report lays out, significant symbolic and material reparations are very possible today; they require only the political and ethical will to make them. Making them is not unfair to present-day Turks. This is not a burden forced on them by Armenians, who should just go away quietly. On the contrary, the burden of genocide has been forced on present-day Turks and Armenians by the perpetrators of the genocide, who damned their progeny to the moral taint of genocide for this past century and beyond.
Even a substantial territorial return to the Armenian Republic, which seems to cause an existential crisis for some Turks, is not an absurdly irrational imposition. How dare, many Turks say or think, Armenians demand Turkish land? But that very thought betrays the problem. This land became Turkish through the genocidal ideology that depopulated it of Armenians. Holding that land against what is right means holding on to that genocidal ideology. That is why land reparations are crucial for Turkey’s rehabilitation away from genocide.
Another objection is that the quest for reparations, particularly territorial, is a hopeless pipedream kept alive by deluded so-called “Armenian nationalists” who refuse to live in reality. Realpolitik is the dominant ethic of international relations, and it leaves no room for moral imperatives toward repair. Armenians are too weak to compel reparations, and should focus on what is actually possible. What is more, international law, however much based on the principle that harms should be repaired, simply does not have the legal and procedural mechanisms to deal with the Armenian and other long-standing cases. As the perpetrator groups have held out for so long, they have in fact made law irrelevant. And even where laws and procedures are available, domestic courts usually want no part of such overarching concerns, and international courts are subject to a range of political forces that bring the matter back to realpolitik again. Wherever victim groups such as Armenians turn, the situation seems hopeless.
How dare, many Turks say or think, Armenians demand Turkish land? But that very thought betrays the problem. This land became Turkish through the genocidal ideology that depopulated it of Armenians. Holding that land against what is right means holding on to that genocidal ideology. That is why land reparations are crucial for Turkey’s rehabilitation away from genocide.
This is just what those who know that their power rests on genocide and oppression want them to think. Again and again victim groups, oppressed groups, are told that there is no hope, that they have no power, that realpolitik trumps morality every time. Why do the powerful say this? Because they know that to hold their power and ill-gotten gains, they must convince their victims to believe it. For, once victim groups believe that nothing can change, nothing will change. We must be thankful that slaves and abolitionists in the United States and around the Western world did not believe that the system of slavery of Africans was inevitable and would not fall. Surely countless slave holders in the U.S. South made this claim in 1855, only to see the end of slavery within the decade. And their descendants said the same thing about segregation, but Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and millions of others refused to believe it and continued pressing, until the world did change. Surely Gandhi was told in 1935 that decolonization was a useless pipe dream, and thankfully he refused to bow to such an oppressive “reality.” Nothing in the world is given, and as much as human history is filled with genocide and oppression, it is filled with the efforts of those who oppose and overcome it. However much we might debate the nature of “justice” as a philosophical context, divergent ethical theories all seem to agree that causing others to suffer is wrong and imposes an obligation to help those caused to suffer. Rather than succumbing to the apparent limits of politics and law, if they do not allow justice (though from ancient times promotion of justice has been their sole validation), then we must transform politics and rewrite the law. Politics and law must conform to genuine justice, not dictate to humanity some stunted, anemic shadow of the just.
The examples of King, Gandhi, and others suggest something else we should consider. I have written before about the importance of group reparations for such peoples as Armenians, over individual reparations, which do not contribute to the rebuilding and reconstitution of the people as a whole.11 But now I would like to push these ideas further. The current reality we live in across the globe is a world order formed through the forces of aggressive war, colonialism, slavery, apartheid, economic exploitation, mass rape and sexism, and, of course, genocide.
It might be said that, because the deep-reaching forces of destructive change have been so dramatic and blatant, and their result so often absences that mean there is nothing to see, the denial process inherent in human political arrangements and societies has led us all the more readily to miss the impact of the past on the present. Benedict Anderson might have highlighted the process by which what became nations in Europe and elsewhere were built through a linguistic and conceptual homogenizing process,12 but as Ernst Renan explained a century before him, this process of nation formation is accomplished through a long period of destruction that can include both the physical elimination of divergent populations and the cultural destruction of competing language, ethnic, and other groups.13 Let us not forget that the Christianization of Armenians in the 4th Century of the Common Era was accomplished through the rampant and now quite regrettable destruction of the religion, culture, and art of the paganism that existed before. To recognize the forces of destructive change that have made the reality we inhabit is not very hard once we know that we are looking for incongruous presences and bright, shining absences. Consider Europe, for instance, with its multitude of cultures; languages; political arrangements; great philosophical, literary, and artistic traditions; and cuisines. Yet, in the midst of our gaze, a nagging twinge at the edge of consciousness and history becomes a full question: Where are the Jews? To answer in Israel or the United States, Canada, or elsewhere begs the question. A conglomerate of groups sharing a religion and sense of identity in areas from Russia to France, this group was a central part of the very fabric of European identity and society for a millennium, but now they are largely gone relative to that prior presence, their great contributions erased through centuries-ago expulsions from England, forced conversions in Spain, pogroms in Russia, and more, and then, of course, the maximal moment of anti-Semitic destruction continent-wide, the Holocaust. The world we have today is the product of this treatment of the Jews.
The absence of European Jewry is inverted in the presence of African Americans in the United States. They are there every day, in the highest echelons of celebrityhood, politics, and business, but also in the great ghettoes that punctuate major and minor U.S. cities, in the U.S. prison system that incarcerates more people than the rest of world combined, and in the anxieties of polite white society. How many thousands of hours of political talk shows and academic and government reports try to sort out why the majority of African Americans are in a place of rampant poverty and violence. Why is such a high percentage of Blacks poor? The answer seems so complex that it is unanswerable. But is it? Perhaps I betray the simple limits of my mind by pointing out what seems obvious, but is not Black poverty the direct result of slavery and Jim Crow segregation and discrimination, or more exactly the fact that the extreme damage done by both has never been repaired? The release of slaves followed generations of legally and violently imposed illiteracy and educational exclusion; of family destruction, torture, rape, and degradation that materially undermined and psychologically traumatized the population; and the loss of 250 years of extorted free labor to build the Colonies and then the United States. While for a brief moment during reconstruction some small repair was made, in the form of the land necessary for former slaves to become working-class citizens, the 40 acres and mule were quickly repossessed by Uncle Sam and the slave owners then compensated for the loss of their property—their property. The vast majority of African Americans were plugged into the already genuinely inhospitable capitalist economy of the United States without capital, training or education, or full recognition as human beings. Is it any wonder they started poor? That they stayed poor? Despite some upward (and downward) mobility in the United States, class is generally constant across generations, for the simple reason of inheritance. Those with money give it to their offspring, who are plugged into the economy with property, while those without it have nothing to offer their children, who end up at the same low level as their parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents. Add to this the powerful exclusions and discriminations of Jim Crow, which kept Blacks from joining the various Caucasian immigrant groups in their upward economic climb and took away whatever they were able to get, to keep them right where they always had been, and Black poverty today is not just explicable, but inevitable.
While setting right each instance of such a historical wrong is a step in the right direction, this approach to reparations is not simply an aggregation of cases by single groups. Reparations is the process of global transformation through which we can finally begin to rework our world away from the structures resulting from genocide and all these other destructive, terrible forces, toward a vision in which all human beings have dignity and enough to eat, in which all people can live free from violence and degradation. “Solidarity” in its true sense is not just recognizing the similarity of experiences and struggles and lining up different groups together in a mutual support network. It is built on recognition that victim groups are together in a single, unified, shared world formed by genocide, slavery, imperialism, and so on, and that, at the deepest level, they face a common force of oppression and destruction that must be addressed as a whole if the local success of one group will not be cynically balanced by a shift in the structure that will mean victimization of other groups. The problem is so big and individual groups’ parts so interwoven that it can only be solved for each group through a coordinated global approach. As each specific group pursues justice against the legacy of mass violence and oppression it has experienced, it must do so in a way that resonates with and promotes every other group in the struggle for justice across the world.
Explained this way, the task ahead surely appears daunting. If the world has taken more than half a millennium to become what it is today, it is a given that such a broad transformation will not happen overnight through some fantasy of revolution. Fortunately, in the past decade, there has emerged a global reparations movement. Jews, Hereros, African Americans, indigenous North and South Americans, Aborigines, South African Blacks, former Comfort Women, Assyrians, Greeks, a host of other groups, and, yes, Armenians are more and more recognizing their common cause and working toward the great goal of a repaired world. However long it will take, if we are committed to a truly just and good world order, we must all actively participate this struggle.


[1] This concept and approach are first introduced in Henry C. Theriault, “Denial of Ongoing Atrocities as a Rationale for Not Attempting to Prevent or Intervene,” in Samuel Totten (ed.), Impediments to the Prevention and Intervention of Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review. “Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review” book series, Vol. 9 (New Brunswick, NJ, USA: Transaction Publishers, 2013). pp. 47-75.
2 Jermaine O. McCalpin, “Reparations and the Politics of Avoidance in America,” The Armenian Review 53:1-4 (2012): 11-32.
3 This line of argument is developed in Henry C. Theriault, “From Unfair to Shared Burden: The Armenian Genocide’s Outstanding Damage and the Complexities of Repair,” The Armenian Review 53:1-4 (2012): 121-166.
4 The full report is available at
5 Temel Demirer, presentation, “The ‘Armenian Issue’: What Is and How It Is to Be Done?” panel, “1915 within Its Pre- and Post-historical Periods: Denial and Confrontation” symposium, Ankara, Turkey, April 25, 2010.
6 Uğur Ümit Üngör and Mehmet Polatel, Confiscation and Destruction: The Young Turk Seizure of Armenian Property (London, UK: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011).
7 Richard G. Hovannisian, public lecture, Armenian Relief Society Armenian Summer Studies Program,
Amherst College, July 1991.
8 Sait Ҫetinoğlu, “Foundations of Non-Muslim Communities: The Last Object of Confiscation,” International Criminal Law Review 14:2 (2014): 396-406.
9 Henry C. Theriault, “Repairing the Irreparable: ‘Impossible’ Harms and the Complexities of ‘Justice,’” in José Luis Lanata (ed.), Prácticas Genocidas y Violencia Estatal: en Perspectiva Transdiscipinar (San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina: IIDyPCa-CONICET-UNRN, 2014), pp. 182-215.
[1]0 This distinction is informed by George Sher’s treatment of the difference between “blame” and “responsibility” in “Blame for Traits,” plenary address, 28th Conference on Value Inquiry, Lamar University, Beaumont, TX, USA, April 14, 2000.
[1]1 Henry C. Theriault, “Reparations for Genocide: Group Harm and the Limits of Liberal Individualism,” International Criminal Law Review 14:2 (2014): 441-469.
[1]2 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London, UK: Verso-New Left Books, 1991).
[1]3 Ernest Renan, “What Is a Nation?”, Martin Thom (trans.), in Homi K. Bhabha (ed.), Nation and Narration (New York, NY, USA: Routledge, 1990), pp. 8-22.

About Henry Theriault (11 Articles)
Henry C. Theriault earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1999 from the University of Massachusetts, with a specialization in social and political philosophy. He is currently a professor in and chair of the Philosophy Department at Worcester State College, where he has taught since 1998. Since 2007, he has served as coeditor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal Genocide Studies and Prevention. His research focuses on philosophical approaches to genocide issues, especially genocide denial, long-term justice, and the role of violence against women in genocide. He has lectured widely in the United States and internationally.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Aghjayan: Descendants of the Remnants of the Sword

A short distance from here, in the Chayash Bahcesi [Çayaş Bahceli] valley, the Armenian men of Stanoz were murdered in 1915. There were over 3,000 Armenians living in Stanoz, an almost entirely Armenian village. For years after the genocide of 1915, the Armenian cemetery in Stanoz remained as a silent remnant of that once-thriving community. Over the last few years, the cemetery has been looted and destroyed in a purposeful effort to wipe clean even that simple silent marker of death.
Now all that remains are our memories of the life before the great crime of 1915 and the memory of the existence of Armenians left behind, until now counted as deaths.
In 1915, Ibrahim Shah [Şah] chose to rescue the Armenian women and children of men conscripted into the Ottoman Army. He dispersed them among the Muslim villages in the district.
Today, how many are descended from these remnants of the sword [kilic artigi]? While we do not know for sure, we do know that for the past 100 years they have continued to live under persecution and discrimination. They have they lived in the same town with the perpetrators of the crime—not only as neighbors, but sometimes even in the same household.
1.5 million Armenians were murdered in 1915. What can be done today? Recognition of the crime by the Turkish government is necessary to stop the vilification of the Armenian people and the destruction of Armenian cultural sites. The Armenian identity of the “remnants of the sword” must be allowed to flourish without fear of persecution or discrimination. Today, that Armenian identity is not separate from the Muslim and Kurdish or Turkish identity, but also by a miracle it is not completely erased. In this way, we can bring back from the dead some of those 1.5 million Armenians. We demand that right in the name of our people born of this land!

Makasdjian: Giving Voice to a Lifetime of Unanswered Questions

My name is Roxanne Makasdjian. I represent an educational organization called the Genocide Education Project.
The Genocide Education Project is a civil society, non-profit organization that helps teachers in the United States bring the Armenian Genocide into their classrooms. As we learned earlier today by the professor, Turkish students do not learn about the Armenian Genocide because of official state denial. What you may not know is that the Turkish government’s denial extends to the school system in the United States. Most of our textbooks and classrooms do not include lessons about this important event, and there have been many efforts by Turkish government-affiliated organizations to prevent its inclusion. On every occasion that there’s been a proposal to include it in the school instructions, it has been met with strong opposition. For this reason, the Genocide Education Project was formed, to create lessons and train teachers on how to include these lessons in their history courses about the Ottoman Empire and World War I.
As a third-generation Armenian American, it feels like my whole life has led me to this moment, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
All of my grandparents are survivors from Kharpert (Harput). They lost many family members and all of their property, but through the kindness of Turkish neighbors, their own ingenuity, and luck, they escaped death in 1915, and fled to other countries. They built new lives and took care of their new families.
They taught me to appreciate life, to laugh, to love, and to remember, in order to build a better future. Remembering through education is the best means to create a commemoration that lasts, which will hopefully translate to a lasting peace. Education must take place at all levels of society, beginning with a transformation of our textbooks for children, through the engagement of civil society and political discourse. Your presence here and the steps to take after today’s meeting to continue the conversation is vital to that education process. More than anything else, education is the key to preventing atrocities of all kinds, bringing light to the darkness, revealing truth to denial, enabling action in the midst of inaction. Education has the power to reshape our world into one that is more humane and just.
In the absence of truth, each passing decade has allowed the mortal wound of 1915 to worsen, and many deeply unsettling questions have continued to vex the descendants like me.
Question: By the genocide’s centennial, will Turkey acknowledge it and begin the process of reconciliation? Will my teenage son and his generation finally be relieved of the burden of living with the pain and injustice of the denial, or will they endure yet more denial and complicity by those who’d say, “Just get over it!”, giving credence to Hitler’s question to his generals: “After all, who today, remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?”
The immediate question for my family this year was, “Where should we be on commemoration day?” Should we stay home in San Francisco, where we were able to acquire a memorial site that is an expression of thanks to the city for welcoming our survivors a century ago? Or, should we be in Armenia, that tiny remnant of land that avoided the genocide? Or should we be in Turkey, showing that we’re here for the truth to be heard?
We ended up choosing all three answers: My son was in San Francisco, educating his schoolmates about his family history; my husband was in Armenia with his ethnic countrymen; and I decided to come to Turkey, reconnecting with my ancestral homeland and giving voice to the lifetime of unanswered questions that have led me here

Barsamian: A Century Is a Long Time. It Is and It Isn’t.

The following talk was given by Alternative Radio founder and director David Barsamian in Ankara on April 25. The commemoration was co-sponsored by 18 human rights groups and political organizations from Turkey, including the Human Rights Association, Dur-De, and the leading pro-Kurdish political party HDP. The commemoration event featured remarks by writers, artists, and human rights activists from Turkey and the Armenian Diaspora. Armenian Weekly Editor Nanore Barsoumian, scholar and activist George Aghjayan, co-founder and board member of the Genocide Education Project Roxanne Makasdjian, Seda Byurat, the great-great-granddaughter of prominent Armenian writer Smbat Byurat, and scholar Khatchig Mouradian were among the speakers.
David Barsamian delivering his remarks at the Armenian Genocide commemoration event in Ankara (Photo: Mehmet Ozer)
It is important to complete the poems and eat the last pieces of lavash and sujuk. Our grandparents are singing, let’s finish their songs.
The lost child of Bitlis cries out: Mayrig, mayrig, Oor es? Minag em. Ge vakhnam.
Mother, mother. Where are you? I am alone and afraid.
Tarihini Bilmeyen Milletler, yok Olmaya Mahkumdur.
“A nation that does not know its own history will die out.”
“Those who control the present, control the past, and those who control the past control the future.”
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting. … The assassination of Allende quickly covered over the memory of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the bloody massacre in Bangladesh caused Allende to be forgotten, the din of war in the Sinai desert drowned out the groans of Bangladesh, the massacres in Cambodia caused the Sinai to be forgotten, and so on, and on and on, until everyone has completely forgotten everything.”–Kundera
“Who speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
“The past is never dead. It is not even past.”
Yergeer. Memleket. Homeland. Water so clean, air so pure, fruits and vegetables so tasty. So survivors of the genocide told me, maybe with some exaggeration. Yergeer. A magical place full of wonder and cruelties.
Bedros, my father, was born in 1895, in Nibishi, near Palu, during the Hamidian massacres. In the same year, his father, Barsam, disappeared, never to be seen again. Bedros left Yergeer in 1912. Eighty years later he is hit and killed by a car on 87th and 1st Ave. in New York. The car was driven by a Turk. When I told my sister what happened, she said, “Jagadakeer.” Kismet. Fate. Written. I went to the accident site in March. I found two pennies in the street. I kept them.
Turkey: A crime scene. No more Enver and Talaat statues and streets. No more pretending it didn’t happen. No more macho posturing. Liberate yourselves from twisted and toxic nationalist narratives.
Ambassador Morgenthau: “Where are the Armenians heading?”
Talaat: “Their destination is the abyss.”
My mother Araxie remembered how in early 1915 there was a plague of locusts in her village of Dibne, north of Diyarbakir. The elders said it was a bad omen.
The Death March.
“The ground was so hot my feet were burning,” Sarkis Hagopian told me.
“We were so hungry we ate unripe fruit. We were so thirsty we wet our parched lips with horse urine,” my mother told me. The last time she saw her mother and brothers was in Urfa.
We, the keepers of memories and dreams, keep coming up like weeds to remind you and ourselves of the past. A faded but dear landscape drenched in blood. The burning of books and churches. We live in their ashes and beyond them.
“Against the ruin of the world? There is only one defense: The creative act.”
Let us play again in our gardens and fields and glory in the beauty of the flowers forever.
A century is a long time. It is and it isn’t.
Paree janapar. Safe travels.
Shnorhagalem. Thank you.

Byurat: My Grandfather’s Legacy--Armenian Genocide commemoration event in Ankara

The following talk was given by Seda Byurat in Ankara on April 25. Byurat is the great-great-granddaughter of prominent Armenian writer Smbat Byurat, who was arrested and killed in 1915. Byurat currently is a student at UC San Diego. The commemoration was co-sponsored by 18 human rights groups and political organizations from Turkey, including the Human Rights Association, Dur-De, and the leading pro-Kurdish political party HDP. The commemoration event featured remarks by writers, artists, and human rights activists from Turkey and the Armenian Diaspora. Armenian Weekly Editor Nanore Barsoumian, scholar and activist George Aghjayan, co-founder and board member of the Genocide Education Project Roxanne Makasdjian, scholar Khatchig Mouradian, and Alternative Radio founder and director David Barsamian were among the speakers.
Seda Byurat speaking at the Armenian Genocide commemoration event in Ankara (Photo: Mehmet Ozer)
“Yes I am sure we will be killed. But the intent of the war is clear. The Turks will lose a lot, but the Armenian race will not die. I am a dead man now. Save my writings.”
Those were Smbat Byurat’s last words, etched on the prison walls in Ayas, where he and other prominent Armenian intellectuals were imprisoned during the onset of the Armenian Genocide. These words encompass the attitude the Armenian people have held over the past 100 years. Whether it is in the nation of Armenia or the Armenian Diaspora, Armenians have survived.
We have survived by creating resilient Armenian communities. We have survived by reading Taniel Varoujan’s poems. We have survived by listening to Komitas’s songs. We have survived by reading Smbat Byurat’s plays. We have survived by our strong passion and the connectivity we feel for our culture and land. Even if we cannot walk through the hills of Zeitun or swim in Lake Van or pray in one of the 1,001 churches in Ani, those places are forever with us and within our souls.
Smbat Byurat’s legacy is found amongst the Armenian people, but even more so it is found within myself. He was my grandfather’s grandfather, and I grew up hearing his stories every day. His story has helped shaped the person I am today.
Even now, I am reminded of his legacy as I have a picture of him hanging in my room. Every day when I see his picture, I am reminded of the great struggles he endured and the strides he made to further the Armenian cause and demand justice in the tumultuous climate of the Ottoman Empire. From the years spent imprisoned in Marash and Aleppo to furthering Armenian intellect from Zeitun to Constantinople to Cairo.
His passion for the Armenian land and culture is evident through his poems and plays and even through his biography—it was described that his adoration for the Armenian land and people could be felt with every breath he spoke. I am inspired by his perseverance and determination. I myself want to ensure that truth, equality, and justice come for the Armenian people.
However, this struggle is not limited to Armenians and the genocide of 1915. This is a struggle for humanity and this struggle cannot be ended with the Armenian people alone. The truth does not exist if Armenians are the only ones advocating for it. There exists an undeniable connection that Armenians and Turks have; we can either acknowledge it and do nothing about it, or we can embrace it and fight for justice together.

Byurat delivered a version of this speech at the April 22 concert in Istanbul, dedicated to the memory of the Armenian intellectuals arrested in the city on April 24, 1915, and the weeks that followed. Here is the link to that concert (Byurat’s speech, and her reading of Smbat Byurat’s letters from prison begin at the 2:28 minute mark):

There Is No Peace without Justice

There Is No Peace without Justice

The following talk was given by Armenian Weekly Editor Nanore Barsoumian in Ankara on April 25. The commemoration was co-sponsored by 18 human rights groups and political organizations from Turkey, including the Human Rights Association, Dur-De, and the leading pro-Kurdish political party HDP. The commemoration event featured remarks by writers, artists, and human rights activists from Turkey and the Armenian Diaspora. Alternative Radio founder and director David Barsamian, scholar and activist George Aghjayan, co-founder and board member of the Genocide Education Project Roxanne Makasdjian, Seda Byurat, the great-great-granddaughter of prominent Armenian writer Smbat Byurat, and scholar Khatchig Mouradian were among the speakers.
Hundreds gathered for a commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in Ankara (Photo: Mehmet Ozer)
The genocidal process targeting Armenians had just begun when the Armenian version of the newspaper I edit, the Hairenik Daily, published the following telegram on May 6, 1915:
Treason against Armenians in Bolis [Istanbul]. All our ungers [comrades] and the intellectuals of the community, even former Minister Mardigian, former Patriarch Arsharouni, and other clergymen arrested. Situation frightful. Immediately organize protest meetings on international soil and appeal to government to influence through Ambassador in Bolis. Otherwise the Armenian people will be annihilated.
Fast forward to 2015.
It was about a month ago when I received an e-mail from a friend.
He told me he had an ad—that a friend hoped we could publish it in the Armenian Weekly.
When I saw the ad, I almost fell out of my chair.
It was a drawing of a young boy with bright blue eyes, and it had a message under it from a 109-year-old woman whose last wish is to find her older brother.
The woman and her brother had been orphaned during the genocide, and were separated after they were put in an orphanage.
The woman remembers crossing the blood-red waters of the Arax River, and she remembers her brother and the way she would ride high up on his shoulders.
We ran the ad on the front page of our newspaper.
Nanore Barsoumian delivering her remarks (Photo: Mehmet Ozer)
Now think of all that was robbed from this woman—her parents, maybe grandparents, her home, maybe a favorite tree she used to climb, maybe that stray cat she used to play with when she would go visit her grandmother every Sunday. She lost her beloved brother, and she has not forgotten him even after 100 long years.
But most of all she lost her home and her land.
She was robbed of her right to stand where her grandparents, her great grandparents and their parents had stood, toiled, sweated, and finally bled. She lost all that they had built for centuries.
But this crime has countless victims, and survivors.
There are survivors and descendants of survivors among your neighbors, your teachers, your politicians, your grandparents, and your children. Tens of thousands of orphaned children were brought in to live with Turkish and Kurdish families. Some have told their children about it. Many have not. It must have been tremendously hard and painful to be a member of a hated people. I have met some of these survivors—as have my friends who are here with us today, and as have you…whether you have realized it or not.
Yes, this crime has countless stories of destruction, uprooting, and murder, but it also has stories of heroism and the triumph of compassion.
Let’s not bury these survivors with the crime. Haven’t they suffered enough? Let’s not bury justice with the crime—because there can never be peace without justice. And let’s not bury hope with the crime—because all of us, all our children, deserve better.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Socialist Youth World Council Adopts Resolution Calling for Armenian Genocide Recognition, Reparations

YEREVAN (A.W.)—The International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) World Council unanimously passed a resolution on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, condemning the denial of the genocide and demanding justice for the crime. The World Council, which took place in Yerevan and was hosted by the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) of Armenia, adopted the resolution on May 9.
The resolution, which was proposed collectively by the AYF regions represented, states that IUSY supports the “Armenian people’s struggle for the recognition and reparation of the Armenian Genocide by calling upon Turkey to start an immediate process of eliminating the consequences of the Armenian Genocide and initiate a process of restoring the rights of the Armenian people.” It also notes that “IUSY believes this is the only reliable road to reconciliation of the two countries and nations.”
IUSY delegates paying their respects at the Armenian Genocide Memorial at Dzidernagapert (photo: Patil Aslanian)
“The fact that the resolution was unanimously passed speaks measures,” said Nairi Khachatourian, who is in Yerevan representing AYF Eastern United States. “IUSY is sending a strong message to Turkey that true reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey can only be built upon recognition, reparations, and real justice.”
Titled, “An Equal World Is Possible,” the IUSY World Council includes participants from 60 countries, with over 160 delegates representing various socialist youth organizations, in addition to over two dozen AYF representatives from Armenia, Artsakh, and the Diaspora.
Earlier that day, participants of the council paid their respects to the 1.5 million victims of the genocide at the Armenian Genocide Memorial at Dzidernagapert.
Below is the text of the resolution:
Resolution on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide
The International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY), being a faithful follower of the principles of justice, democracy, equality, and human rights, reaffirms its position on the Armenian Genocide as the world commemorates the 100th anniversary of the first Genocide of the 20th century.
The Armenian Genocide opened a whole new circle of genocides that were encouraged by the impunity of the perpetrators of the first genocide as well as inspired by its techniques and genocidal methods.
Genocide is a crime under international law contrary to the spirit and aims of the IUSY. This is why:
IUSY condemns the genocide against the Armenian people which was planned and carried out by the Ottoman Empire and various regimes in Turkey in 1915-23. During these years more than 1.5 million Armenians, living in their ancestral homeland (what is largely known as Eastern Turkey today), were brutally exterminated; their heritage was confiscated and largely destructed. The small number of Armenians who survived was spread all over the world.
IUSY strongly condemns the denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government as well as all the attempts of the Republic of Turkey to mute and bribe every initiative that is aimed at the recognition and reparation of the Armenian Genocide. IUSY believes that the denial of the genocide is a double crime that ought to be punished and has nothing in common with the right of freedom of expression.
IUSY supports the Armenian Youth Federation’s (AYF) and the Armenian people’s struggle for the recognition and reparation of the Armenian Genocide by calling upon Turkey to start an immediate process of eliminating the consequences of the Armenian Genocide and initiate a process of restoration of the rights of the Armenian people.  IUSY believes this is the only reliable road to reconciliation of the two countries and nations.
IUSY sees education as one of the most vital and constructive ways of fighting any form of extremism. With this, we call upon our member organizations to spread the knowledge of the Armenian Genocide, because only by knowing and condemning past genocides can we prevent new ones from taking place.

29 Heroes Recognized for Contributions to Armenian Community at Centennial Banquet in DC

29 Heroes Recognized for Contributions to Armenian Community at Centennial Banquet in DC

Presidents Wilson and Reagan, the American Red Cross, the New York Times, and Numerous Foreign Governments among Recipients

WASHINGTON—Twenty-nine individuals and organizations were given Hero Awards on May 9 in a show of gratitude from the Armenian community to those who helped save hundreds of thousands of lives during the Armenian Genocide from 1915-23, and have worked for its recognition thereafter.
(L-R) Ruben Vardanyan, Paul Ignatius, Noubar Afeyan, and David Ignatius
At a banquet sponsored by the U.S. National Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Centennial (NCAGC), descendants of genocide survivors and many others gathered to honor the nearly 1.5 million lives lost during the genocide and to thank those whose selfless and heroic actions enabled the Armenian community to survive and thrive.
The evening first welcomed guests at a reception featuring exhibitions on the history of the genocide, musicians playing Armenian music, and displays of Armenian artwork. Guests gathered in the banquet hall for the formal dinner, which included remarks by former Secretary of the Navy Paul Ignatius, former U.S. Ambassador Edward Djeredjian, and journalist Lara Setrakian.
“If not for the actions of these men, women, groups, and governments, the Armenian community as it is today would not exist,” said Noubar Afeyan, NCAGC chair, who is himself the descendant of a genocide survivor.
 Prof. Taner Akcam
“While this Centennial is a solemn commemoration of the tragic events 100 years ago, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to those saviors whose brave actions helped us survive,” he continued. “We must now unite and work together to forge a more peaceful future free of genocides.”
At the ceremony, a diverse group of awardees—including representatives of the United States Congress, former U.S. presidents, and numerous foreign governments and institutions—were honored for their contributions to the survival and rebuilding of Armenian life over the past 100 years. John Heubusch, the executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, accepted the award on behalf of the late 40th U.S. president and the last commander in chief to have recognized the genocide formally while in office.
Adam Strom of Facing History and Ourselves
“On behalf of our foundation, I am truly honored to accept this award for President Reagan,” said Heubusch. “The president cared deeply about these issues and was proud to lend his voice to the Armenian community. He was proud to have acknowledged what occurred 100 years ago was, in fact, a genocide.”
Saturday’s banquet concluded a three-day weekend of commemorative events marking the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide in Washington. With a focus on promoting awareness, gratitude, and unity among participants, the NCAGC led a series of events that included an Ecumenical Service at the National Cathedral, led by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Church; performances by renowned Armenian musicians at the Strathmore; a Divine Liturgy at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception; and various other cultural exhibitions.
Fethiye Cetin, author of ‘My Grandmother’
“Tonight, we gather for this final event in Washington to commemorate the tragedy that occurred 100 years ago and to honor the heroes who emerged,” said Afeyan. “But tomorrow we look forward to the next 100 years,” he said. “It is not enough for Armenians to survive. We must dare to be alive, dare to thrive, and come together to commit to a future free of genocide.”
List of the 29 individuals and organizations given Hero Awards
President Woodrow Wilson’s great granddaughter Jessie Sayre
Zulal trio performing