As a member of the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee of Fresno, daughter and granddaughter of Armenian genocide survivors, I applaud The Fresno Bee for the recent editorial (Nov. 2) regarding recognition of the Armenian genocide committed by the Ottoman Turks in 1915-1923.
On Oct. 29, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution officially recognizing the Armenian genocide. A genocide which simultaneously took the lives of many Greeks and Assyrians as well and, despite eyewitness accounts and worldwide documentation at the time, continues to be denied by Turkey. My first reaction to hearing the news of the passage of this resolution was, “Finally, it’s about time!” However, I hope the Armenian genocide isn’t being used as a pawn for a “gotcha” moment as a bargaining ploy with Turkey. Armenians worldwide look forward to having this tragic time in history acknowledged with hope the U.S. Senate and President Trump will do the right thing and recognize fact. The genocide eats at the core of every Armenian alive as most have ancestors who were either killed or witnessed unimaginable crimes perpetuated against them.
My father and grandmother (my mother’s mother) were genocide survivors. Like all survivors, they lived with emotional scars. Many were left with physical scars as well, serving as reminders of the atrocities they endured. Dad lost his mother, brother, uncles, grandparents and more. The horrors he witnessed as a child should never again be witnessed by any child! Yet, this continues today against the Syrians and Kurds. My grandmother was held in a concentration camp. Starving, she was taunted with stale bread smeared with bodily excretions of her captors and later taken as a nurse to care for wounded Turkish soldiers. It was “do or die,” for if she didn’t cooperate, she would have been killed.
The Armenian genocide is a cat/mouse game between America and Turkey with Incirlik (the air base on Turkish soil with U.S. access) as the “prize.” Anytime the genocide issue is brought up by the American government, Turkey threatens to withdraw use of Incirlik as punishment for recognition and the U.S. succumbs to their gag order. Armenians are weary of having the genocide dangled before the Turks, giving false hope for moral truth and healing, then having it yanked away when Turkey pays off lobbyists and spews out threats.
Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had a meltdown moment recently, and stated “The House of Representatives has no moral standing to adjudicate on the murder of 1.5 million Armenians.” Referring to current events in Syria, he added, “The House’s decision was basically a contemptuous retort.” Erdogan says he “will never recognize the Armenian genocide” and considers recognition an “insult” to Turkey.
An “insult” to Turkey? What about non-recognition of historical fact as an “insult” to the Armenian people; to the Greeks, Assyrians and others who have suffered atrocities at the hands of the Ottomans? How does Erdogan justify the nonexistence of a genocide when, in 1939, Hitler acknowledged it? Using the the Armenian genocide as his blueprint to eradicate Jews during the Holocaust, Hitler asked, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
Years ago, during discussion of the Holocaust in elementary school, one of my children asked the teacher about the Armenian genocide and was told it couldn’t be discussed. After class, the teacher explained to my child that, though aware of the genocide, she didn’t want to offend those in class of different religious backgrounds. That evening, I received an email from the teacher stating she hoped I understood her position. I was stunned!
With the passage of AB 1915 in California, the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee of Fresno has made strides in educating students in the Central Valley. Education is necessary for the awareness and understanding of history. Only then, can truth prevail.
The Fresno Bee stated it best: “It is simple: The killing of Armenians in the World War I era was a genocide. The U.S. government needs to once and for all put this issue to rest by recognizing that fact.”
History forgotten is history repeated as denial of fact perpetuates crimes to persist. Recognition of the Armenian genocide is paramount to healing open wounds that still exist.
Clarice Krikorian is a retired registered nurse. She is a member of the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee of Fresno, CSU Summer Arts Community Board and the Arts and Humanities Advisory Board at Fresno State.