Sunday, April 12, 2015

Open Wounds: Remembering the Roots of the Armenian Diaspora

"Eternal Flame," a memorial to Armenian genocide, one of many
memorials throughout America and the world. (yahoo/wiki image).
The photos, pictures and documents are graphic and horrifying.     
"Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it." Pope Francis  (

I don't see why anyone or any nation would be upset by the Pope's remembrance of the Armenian genocide on it's 100th anniversary.  He called it "the first genocide of the 20th century."  Why is that controversial? The term "genocide" was coined to describe this systemmactic massacre, a policy of extermination that took place during and after World War I, on the very homeland of the Armenians.  The Ottoman Empire at that time destroyed a whole people and their culture, painfully scattering the Armenians who survived the tragedy, god knows how, around the world, a diasporan experience that continues to this day.  Why does Turkey deny it?  The violence and evil of the World War I era are still with us, still affect our geopolitical relations, still remain unresolved, or so it seems.

Actually, what astonishes me when I read about World War I is how the world learned nothing, or so little, from it.  Another world war followed, another holocaust.  World War I was one of the most violent in human history.  Millions upon millions were killed, wounded and maimed--physically and psychologically.  It changed the world's geography and destiny. We even see some of the horrors--the deaths and destruction, the grisly aftermath--portrayed on popular public television shows like Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge. We see the lost and wounded.  We hear the names: Verdun, Tannenherg, Gallipoli, the Somme.  But it seems we learn nothing.

The below article on the Armenian Genocide from Wikipedia touches on some of the issues and the apparently controversial definition of "genocide" and "holocaust."  The references are worth following.

From Wikipedia article on the Armenian Genocide:
The Armenian Genocide[7] (Armenian: Հայոց Ցեղասպանություն Hayots Tseghaspanutyun),[note 3] also known as the Armenian Holocaust,[8] the Armenian Massacres and, traditionally by Armenians, as Medz Yeghern (Armenian: Մեծ Եղեռն, "Great Crime"),[9] was the Ottoman government's systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects inside their historic homeland which lies within the territory constituting the present-day Republic of Turkey. The total number of people killed as a result has been estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million. The starting date is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day Ottoman authorities rounded up and arrested some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre.[10][11][12] Other indigenous and Christian ethnic groups such as the Assyrians and theOttoman Greeks were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government, and their treatment is considered by many historians to be part of the same genocidal policy. The majority of Armenian diaspora communities around the world came into being as a direct result of the genocide.

Raphael Lemkin [a Polish Jewish lawyer who fled to America] was explicitly moved by the Armenian annihilation to coin the word genocide in 1943 and define systematic and premeditated exterminations within legal parameters.[13] The Armenian Genocide is acknowledged to have been one of the first modern genocides,[14][15][16] because scholars point to the organized manner in which the killings were carried out in order to eliminate the Armenians, and it is the second most-studied case of genocide after the Holocaust.

Man's inhumanity to man continues unabated into our time.

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