Armenians gather around the world to recognize the Armenian Genocide today, April 24th. Today, on April 24 1915, Armenian intellectuals were banished from the city of Constantinople, which is modern-day Istanbul, Turkey.
Approximately 1.5 million Armenians were brutally and systematically slaughtered by the Sultan and Young Turks of the Ottoman Empire, in what is considered to be the first genocide of the 20th century and one of history’s most calculatedly evil acts.
this was AD. just 100 years ago.
The Genocide, in fact, was used as a model for the Holocaust just two decades later. Hitler himself was said to have remarked on the subject.
We are a diaspora community. Because of the killing of our people, we were forced to spread to cities and countries across the world, including France and the United States.
Out of every photo I’ve posted, this one devastated me the most.
The phrase, “starving Armenians”, came from the Genocide, when so many generous Americans and Europeans donated money and provisions to feed young Armenians who were left orphaned and to die.
What devastates me the most is that this photo of little Shushan looks exactly like my mother when she was that age. And that my mother’s grandmother fled with everything she had, from a land where little Shushans and Anis and Armens starved, to a giving land where my grandfather and my mother could be born. To think of what my great-grandmothers thought when she saw my mother as a young girl, as Shushan, haunts me.
My ancestors were forced to flee their homeland and the only lives they knew. They entered the US through Boston and Canada to escape, changing their names in the event they were hunted down. They assimilated to American society, and started a new life in this land of opportunity.
They told the stories of the relatives they left behind knowing they’d never see again. Of ancient cities obliterated by an evil force, seeking to extinguish all things Armenian and Christian from the land. They hoped — they prayed — they would be able to visit those left behind. They would earn money in this new land, sponsor them to come.
Most didn’t survive. It took another 70 years for some extended family to escape from the then-Soviet Armenia and join their brothers and sisters in this new land.
Hemingway referred to the “Lost Generation” as those who grew up during World War I, “lost” meaning “disillusioned, wandering”. Armenians had a real “Lost Generation” – a majority of our population wiped out, obliterated from the face of the earth. Their potential, their contributions to humanity that could have happened were lost to history – doctors, scientists, artists, intellectuals.
The camera had come into more common use during the early teens, and the pictures of that time are an indescribable horror. If you’ve ever seen photos out of Auschwitz or Bergen Belsen – you’ve seen these photographs.
Despite every atrocity, Armenians have survived. For thousands of years we lived on blessed land that allowed us to experience the best the world had to offer, between Europe and Asia. But that left us vulnerable to attacks from every ethnic group who went through that area. Persians. Seljuks. Mongols. Turkmen. Russians. Azeris.
No matter what, we survived.
We started life anew.
We are the first Christian nation, established over 1700 years ago, before Rome. It is a part of who we are, an indelible hallmark of our identity.
Today, we honor those who could not make the journey with us. The martyrs who died for their beliefs, for who they were.
To this day, we face an incredible obstacle.
The current Islamist government of Turkey does not recognize that what they committed was genocide. That word, one word, is anathema to them. They lobby with extraordinary force for the US and other governments to not recognize the Genocide.
Germany owns their crimes in full. It is a crime in Germany to promote Nazi ideals.
In Turkey, it’s celebrated. As this country seeks to enter the European Union and become a part of the civilized world, we must take pause. They are engaging in an ugly and systematic campaign of genocide denial. They are holding our American troops stationed in the country hostage, threatening to withdraw support and remove them from their base if we don’t comply to their terroristic demands.
It is a great shame that our country still cannot recognize the Genocide for what it was. That we must talk like children in euphemisms because a regional power puts the lives of our brave men and women on the line. It’s not an easy decision for those in our government to make. But the right decision always becomes immediately clear in the eyes of history.
So many have worked so hard to raise awareness for our cause. Of special renown in recent times is the Kardashian family, who traveled to Armenia and have rallied faithfully to have the Genocide recognized. They didn’t have to. They chose to.
It goes to show that support in times of need can come from the most unlikely places. It’s a lesson I’ve seen play out in my own life, and it’s one I hope to spread to others through mine.
On a day like today, we remember. We never forget.
In high school, I wrote a poem about the Genocide which was reproduced and which my parents proudly shared. I’m recalling it from memory here, with a few tweaks from the past decade.
Few remember that time
Horrible as it was
The pain, the suffering, the consternation
The screams that cry out of from a hellscape between life and death
One point five million lives extinguished
One point five million lives lost
Banished from this earth
Unrecognized by history
Forgotten to most
Forced to leave their homes, their every possession
Marched through the valley, of the shadow, of death
An identity reduced to a statistic
A century forward, the killers remain
Proud, arrogant, selfish
A paragon of evil in this world
The old ones remember
But there are so few old ones left
And the young ones don’t know
But let me tell you a story
From one generation, to the next
Let us always remember
Let us never forget
The millions of fears
The one hundred years
The sea of tears
My child dear