My Family's Genocide Will Never Be Forgotten
If we’ve ever had the pleasure of being personally acquainted, one of the first things I make sure people know about me is that I am an Armenian. Now, what is that you may ask? It’s a person from a tiny part of an obscure corner of the world. It’s neither in Europe, nor in Asia, nor in the Middle East, yet the inhabitants have ties to all the three. In the Caucasus mountains south of Russia and just north of Iran, is a country known as Armenia. It used to be far larger. Under King Tigran the Great, its furthest extent stretched from the Caspian sea, all the way to the Mediterranean while even holding part of Israel as its vassal state.
But perhaps what Armenia is most known for, is that it was the first country to adopt Christianity as the state religion. Even before the Bible was canonised during the Council of Rome in 382 AD, Armenia officially became a Christian kingdom 81 years earlier.
For centuries, Armenia was the battleground between the world’s two greatest powers: Rome and Persia. Never fully yielding to either side, using diplomacy and sometimes military defiance, Armenians maintained their cultural, religious, and, usually, their political independence for centuries. Then came the Turks. In the 11th century, the Turks swept through Anatolia, effectively rendering Armenia a vassal state with minimal independence. Nevertheless, the Armenians persisted under this new Turkish and, later, Ottoman rule. Even under the massacres of the last Sultan, Abdul Hamid II, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians, they still eked out a living. But sadly, this was only the beginning of the birth pains.
The Sultan was not a popular man. He was eventually deposed by a revolutionary group known as the Young Turks. This group of revolutionaries, led by the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) had partnered with the Armenians promising them religious toleration, a prospect sorely longed for by the Armenian community for centuries. It is a shame these promises of equality were only worth as much as the sand in Syria.
Through modern historical research, we now know from the beginning that the CUP had a nationalist vision of a Turkey unified by one Turkish ethnicity and one Islamic religion. As over 2 million Christian Armenians were living in Anatolia, there was an ‘Armenian problem’ to this vision. However, Enver Pasha, the leader of the CUP, had his own final solution. It was so barbaric and sadistic, Adolf Hitler drew inspiration from it. On April 24, 1915, the Armenian intellectuals, politicians, military members, and artists were rounded-up and never seen again. Notices went up all across Anatolia that all Armenians were going to be deported. They were to leave behind all their belongings and were assured they would return to retrieve them later. They were told this deportation was to put them out of harm’s way from the violence of World War I. All of the promises were lies. Town by town, the Christian Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and other Christian minorities were gathered up and sent on death marches through the desert. In addition to being deprived of food, water, and rest, they were subject to torture, rape, and outright murder. Often, as a mockery to their faith, the Turks would nail victims some to make-shift crosses. As a small example of this genocide’s barbaric nature, the Turks responsible for the massacre of the village of Marsovan reportedly didn’t want to waste their bullets, so they used axes instead. Even my family’s story carries some of the brutalities of the Genocide. When my mother’s grandmother’s family was fleeing for its life, the family was stopped by a Turkish patrol and the father was beheaded in front of them.
There are so many countless atrocities with details too unbearable and barbaric for civilised readers such as yourself. With such wanton destruction and human death, one would like to believe this tragedy was condemned by the world. Sadly, Turkey has worked very hard to sweep the blood under the rug. For over a century, they have spent millions of dollars lobbying foreign governments into perpetuating a silence on the massacre of over a million through state-sponsored genocide. They even propagate an army of phoney academics such as Justin McCarthy and fund social media campaigns like #lethistorydecide.
This technique of gaslighting and throwing distracting nuances into the conversation has not deterred the academic consensus nor does it discredit the endless archives detailing the crimes of the Turkish government. Also, the fact some parts of the Turkish archives are spotty at best and missing some of the time gives a strong indication of suspicious knavery.
The reason why so many countries have not acknowledged the Armenian Genocide as a genocide is because the modern republic of Turkey has made itself a useful Middle-Eastern ally to many powerful states, including the US. During the Cold War, they allowed the US to host their closest military bases to Moscow. After the fall of the Soviet Union, they were a vital strategic partner in the US’ wars against Iraq. Even though President Obama promised in his 2008 election campaign to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, he remained silent for his 8 years. Most likely due to the fact that Turkey was an ally against ISIS.
But with the recent collapse of the terrorist group, the excuses were out. In October 2019, the US House of Representatives voted with an overwhelming 97% margin to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. Later that year in December, the US Senate (albeit on their 4th try that session) voted unanimously to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. Now all that remains is for the current President to release a statement recognising that the extermination of over 1.5 million Armenians, in addition to other Chrisitan minorities, was perpetrated by the Ottoman government. Granted, the current American President has an impressive talent for saying things people don’t like to hear, but like all of his Presidential actions, we shall wait and see what he does next.
So what does this all mean? Why should we care about recognising the Armenian Genocide? After all, it was over 105 years ago. The reason this is important today is that if a country cannot come to terms with its past mistakes, what assurance do we have they will not commit the same atrocities again? Genocide denial is genocide perpetration. In addition to the tragic loss of life and the decimation of entire communities, there is also a cultural genocide which continues to this day. Few people have heard of the Armenians, let alone their historic tragedy. My hope is after you are finished reading this, you leave with an impression of our uncompromising resilience and unflappable strength of will. On the commemoration of the 105th anniversary of the Genocide on April 24, remember our story. Remember us. We are here to stay.
“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - - William Saroyan
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