Who Remembers the Armenians?


So far, Turkey has been able to resist the drive for international recognition of the Armenian genocide, in large part because of the nationís superior resources and strategic importance. For Armenians, the sense of national identity is bound up with the genocide. As much as they are Armenian, they believe they are victims. Until their suffering has been acknowledged, they will not rest.

St. Etchmiadzin
Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church

On January 18, the Turkish Grand National Assembly issued a statement warning against approval of a bill proposed in the French National Assembly. The legislation would, the Turkish lawmakers claimed, "abolish the freedom of thought and expression" and ensure that "the bringing up of new generations free of prejudice will virtually become a crime in France." Despite these protests, the bill was passed. Consequently, Turkey's ambassador to France was recalled for consultations; the chairman of the Ankara Trade Chamber, Sinan Aygun, called for an economic embargo on France and asked consumers not to buy French goods; French companies were excluded from bidding on several public-works contracts; and French travelers were banned from the VIP lounge at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.

All this was the Turkish reaction to a one-line resolution: "France publicly recognizes the Armenian Genocide of 1915." This French declaration corresponds with pronouncements by the European Parliament, as well as the parliaments of such countries as Sweden, Lebanon, Russia, and Argentina. But Ankara has branded it "a grave historical and humanitarian mistake."

Pressure on the President

The passage of the French legislation increases pressure on US President George W. Bush to acknowledge the atrocities committed against the Christian Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire more than 80 years ago. Bush's predecessors have annually expressed sympathy for the Armenians on April 24 — the date traditionally remembered as the anniversary of the "genocide." Last April, President Clinton issued a statement in recognition of "the deportations and massacres of roughly 1.5 million Armenians in the final years of the Ottoman Empire."

However, Armenians insist that the term "genocide" must be included in such statements, since they believe that events in Anatolia corresponded to the definition of the term. The term "genocide" was actually coined some years after the events of 1915, and defined at the 1948 Geneva Convention as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group."

If President Bush does not use the term in a public reference to the Armenian tragedy, he will face the accusation of backpedaling. In a letter to the Armenian Assembly's National Tribute Gala last June 2 — during his campaign for the presidency — he stated that "the Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign." In that letter Bush promised, "If elected President, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people." According to Aram Hamparian of the Armenian National Council of America (ANCA), "the pressure is now on the President to honor his pledge." Campaigners are mobilizing with a "million postcards" campaign. On May 8, the ANCA will meet members of Congress on Capitol Hill. The American-Armenian community insists that the President fulfill his commitment by "clearly and unambiguously characterizing the Armenian Genocide as a genocide."

But President Bush will not be alone if he fails to acknowledge the "genocide." The British government assiduously avoids the term "genocide" in all references to the events in Anatolia. This is in spite of the fact that, in 1916, it was the British government that produced what is now a centerpiece of pro-genocide evidence: The Blue Book, by Viscount James Bryce and Arnold Toynbee. That study provides copious eyewitness accounts and testifies that the "genocide" was meticulously planned. Winston Churchill, writing before the word "genocide" had been coined, referred to the "infamous general massacre and deportation of Armenians in Asia Minor," attributing events to "the Turkish government," and thereby fulfilling Geneva's criteria for genocide.

However, a fracas erupted in London in January, over the exclusion of the Armenians from the inaugural National Holocaust Memorial Day. Poems and diary extracts were read, and film footage shown, in honor of victims of genocide in Rwanda, Cambodia, and Kosovo, and particularly European Jews, in a ceremony attended by the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Tony Blair. But the Armenians were accorded only a few passing references. This omission prompted a flurry of activity from Armenian lobbyists, who organized a demonstration outside the Home Office, and in the press, so that in the end they received more public attention than the less contentious Cambodians and Rwandan Tutsis. The British government found itself under assault on both flanks, as Britain's Turkish community objected to any recognition whatsoever for the Armenians at the London ceremony. Eventually Turkish apologists were invited to the House of Lords, where they produced "historical documents" intended to show the insufficiency of evidence for "the so-called genocide."

Indeed Turkish campaigners have recently been as active as their Armenian rivals. A European Parliament exhibition due to take place in Strasbourg in February was dropped at the last minute. Among the planned exhibits were photographs of Armenian "genocide" victims. One high-profile Turkish ally is the American ambassador in Istanbul, Robert Pearson. Last October, he testified to Congress against recognition of the "genocide." In January he was quoted in Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper likening the Armenian "genocide" to "the rumors of flying objects." But later, forced on the defensive, he qualified his comments, recognizing that "tragic events" had occurred to the Armenian people "during World War I." In an effort to draw attention away from the historical controversy, he argued that today "it was more important to support efforts by Turkey and Armenia to work together to improve their relations." (Currently, the two nations do not have diplomatic contacts. The "genocide" issue remains a significant barrier against their establishing diplomatic ties.)

A Persecuted People

On April 24, 1915, approximately 200 Armenian writers, journalists, doctors, and clergymen were detained at the central police office in Constantinople. Over the next three days, their number swelled to 600. They were deported into Anatolia, where few survived. Amongst those who escaped was the composer Gomidas. (Born Soghomon Soghomonian, the composer had adopted the name Gomidas in honor of a 7th-century Armenian church musician.) The experience ruined Gomidas; he ended up in a Parisian mental asylum.

Although April 24 is a symbolic day for Armenians because of those arrests in Constantinople, that date may not actually deserve the prominence that it currently commands. According to Bryce and Toynbee's Blue Book, the persecution of the Armenian people began earlier in the month. Between April 15 and 18, 24,000 Armenian males were systematically executed in the Van region. Turkish apologists claim that an Armenian uprising in Van necessitated the subsequent deportations. Whether the uprising arose from persecution or national aspirations exacerbated by the war, it occurred in a region whose governor, Djevdet Bey, was notorious for threatening the death of any Muslim who protected a Christian. Bey had also issued the chilling order: "The Armenians must be exterminated."

In the four decades prior to these events, Armenians had learned to be prepared for danger. Under Sultan Abdul Hamid, they enjoyed only the semblance of freedom. They were not allowed to bear arms; they endured tax extortion; the evidence they presented was considered inferior to that of Turks in the mehkeme — the religious court (to which a Muslim could apply to have a case against a Christian heard); and in the winter they were obliged to provide free quarters to nomadic Kurds. There were atrocities, such as happened in Urfa in December, 1895. Escaping from a mass assault in their quarter, about 3,000 Armenians piled into the cathedral, traditionally respected under Islamic law as a place of refuge. But shots were fired at the windows, the iron door was broken down, and troops used the raised sanctuary as a convenient spot from which to target the huddling masses. Then they set the cathedral on fire.

Events like these fueled Armenian hatred of the Sultan's regime, so when the Young Turk movement seized power in July 1908, they joined Turks on the streets in celebration. Such was the new sense of solidarity that, according to the British ambassador, Turks joined Armenians to remember the victims of massacres of 1895 and 1896. Armenians were now allowed to carry arms, and they believed that they would be accorded equal status in a modern Ottoman Empire devoid of ethnic tensions. They were soon to be proved wrong.

One of the new "privileges" accorded to the Armenians was military conscription. This turned out to be the first stage of the genocide campaign. In early 1915, Armenian conscripts were dispossessed of their arms and formed into labor battalions. Heavy loads were piled on their backs, and they were forced to march huge distances. If they survived, they were shot. The Armenians were soon rapidly losing their young men: their most likely source of collective self-defense.

Intellectuals and businessmen with contacts in the West, who might have been able to alert foreign friends of the need for help, were victims of the second stage. All this was facilitated by the war, which provided a pretext for a news blackout. In fact, many historians argue that the opportunity to exterminate the Armenian population provided the Young Turk leadership with their main incentive for joining in the war.

The final stage was the deportation of rural Armenians. In towns like Erzerum, Bitlis, Sebastia, and Trebizond — none of which were in the war zone — Armenians were systematically collected and either killed where they stood or marched toward the Syrian desert. In Trebizond they were loaded onto ships which were then sunk in the Black Sea. Turkish apologists insist that the deportations arose from security concerns. But the Armenians were provided with little security themselves, as they were raped, pillaged, mutilated, and murdered by marauding Kurdish tribes, Turkish villagers, chetes (armed militia groups), or the officers who were supposed to be their guards. Not all of them were killed. There were concentration camps in Mesopotamia and Syria to deal with the survivors.

Some of those survivors, like Arman Keshishian, now aged 96, reaped the benefit of useful contacts. He reports:

One night we were told in 15 days we must be ready to leave our home and go to Syria. Everyone was trying to get some money, to arrange their property. A Turkish man came and said to my grandfather, "Your son-in-law saved me from the hangman. I want to help you. But I can't help you unless you become a Muslim."

Arman's grandparents refused, so the Turk, Ahmed, prepared a carriage for their journey to Aleppo. Keshishian recalls:

During the walk I saw rape, kidnap, killing. I remember two girls holding hands and throwing themselves from the top of the Interley tunnel. Those who had money gave it to the gendarme to leave them alone. We weren't allowed into Aleppo, but Ahmed paid some money to the gendarme, who let us through.

The image of a passive populace, guilelessly walking to their deaths, is not entirely true. Resistance movements were formed out of the Danshaks and the Hunchaks, the major Armenian political organizations, and assembled from volunteers in Armenian towns. The resistance rarely lasted as long as it did in Suetia, where a Turkish bombardment was resisted for 40 days.

Some escaped: 4,000 people managed to flee Musa Dagh and hid in the mountains. As their supplies ran out, they sent runners to attract Allied ships from Alexandretta harbor. A French vessel approached and transported them to Port Said. Others were saved by benevolent Turks. Ali Suad Bey, governor of Deir ez-Zor, in the Syrian desert, housed and fed 1,000 Armenian orphans and provided protective camps to 30,000 survivors. But such kindness inevitably led to denunciation in Constantinople, and his good work was quickly undone: he was replaced by Zeki Bey, a more "loyal" Ottoman official, who re-introduced torture, rape, and hangings and turned Deir ez-Zor into one of the most notorious death spots. So horrific did the place become that it is now the major memorial site to the Armenian "genocide".

Debating the evidence

When presenting their historical arguments, Armenians cite the Allied powers of Britain, France, and Russia, who condemned Turkey (through the American embassy, in May 1915) for "crimes . . . against humanity and civilization." The US ambassador, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., wrote in a dispatch to his Department of State, "it appears that a campaign of race extermination is in progress." Count Von Wolff-Metternich, the ambassador from Germany (an Ottoman ally), wrote to his government in 1916 that the Turkish ruling party "demands the annihilation of the last remnants of the Armenians and the Ottoman (government) must bow to its demands." The Turkish government of Damad Ferit Pasha held war-crimes tribunals and condemned leaders like Mehmet Talaat to death. (Talaat escaped, but was later one of many Ottoman officials killed by the Armenian execution squad, Nemesis). Most damningly of all, Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, said in a 1926 interview that the Young Turks "should be made to account for the lives of millions of our Christian subjects who were ruthlessly driven en masse from their homes and massacred."

There are still proponents of the Turkish cause. Admiral Mark Bristol, US High Commissioner in Turkey between 1919 and 1927, condemned "false reports" by the Armenians who were, he claimed, stirring up trouble. In The Armenian File (1982), the Turkish historian Kamuran Gurun insisted that the casualties were necessitated by Armenian terrorist attacks on Turkish civilians. He blamed Armenians for the massacre of 600,000 Kurds between 1915 and 1916, claimed that bombs were found in Armenian houses, and laid further responsibility on Britain and Russia for inciting the terrorists. According to the Assembly of Turkish-American Associates, one photograph of a pyramid of Armenian skulls was inventively culled from a Russian painting. And frequently, Turkish apologists insist that the Ottoman Empire has been the victim of an historians' holy war in which Christian scholars unite against the under-funded intelligentsia of Islam.

One of the most fiercely contested issues is the number of Armenians who were actually killed. The inefficient census system in the Ottoman Empire renders exact statistics impossible to compute. According to Morgenthau, between 600,000 and 1 million were killed. According to Viscount Bryce, the number was 800,000. Armenians argue that up to 1.5 million of their people lost their lives.

That last number represents between one-half and two-thirds of the total number of Armenians then alive; it suggests that the proportion who died was similar to that of the European Jews who fell victim to Nazism. Turkish historians reduce the number to 300,000. But Jemal Pasha, who was closely involved at the time as Ottoman Minister for the Marine, estimated that "800,000 Armenian deportees were actually killed." What is certain, however, is that Armenians represented the Ottoman Empire's largest Christian minority. By 1923, their presence in Anatolia had been all but extinguished.

These statistical disputes serve more to confuse than clarify the "genocide" issue. But it is worth noting that when Raphael Lemkin coined the term "genocide" in 1948, he cited as examples the fate of European Jews under the Nazis, and the Ottoman Armenians.

Perhaps more important than the actual number of casualties were the consequences of the tragedy. Approximately 800,000 Armenians were dispersed across the world, forging communities in places as far apart as Australia, America, and France. Famous Armenian authors and poets like Grigor Zaohrab and Varoujan were killed; their potential masterpieces died with them.

Architectural monuments and centuries-old manuscripts were destroyed. Nor did the Armenians receive any real compensation in terms of money, recognition, or political autonomy. The promise of an independent state, briefly realized in 1918, and enlarged upon at the Treaty of Sevres in 1920, was destroyed by a combination of Allied machinations, Turkish resourcefulness, and Soviet imperialism. It was not until the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 that the dream of an independent Armenia was finally fulfilled.

And the effects of the persecution were felt beyond the Armenian people. Without the Armenian genocide, Armenians believe the Nazi Holocaust might have been different. Some argue that the ideology of pan-Turkism, which contributed to anti-Armenian feeling, may have provided an incentive and inspiration for Nazi Aryanism: ideologues like Zia Gokolp dreamt of Turan: a vast Turkic state stretching from the Balkans to China. The Armenian plateau was a temporary obstacle to the realization of this vision. Most famously, Armenians cite Hitler's speech to his Death's Heads, on the eve of the invasion of Poland; as powerful an admonition as there is to diplomatic complacency. According to the London Times, Hitler said, "Go, kill without mercy. After all, who remembers the Armenians?"

Today's political equation

There are several reasons for today's Turkey to avoid recognition of the "genocide." According to Ara Krikorian, chairman of the Armenian National Council of France, passage of the French bill "opens up the legal possibility of extending the Gayssot Law, condemning racist remarks, to include denial of the Armenian genocide, and provides the opportunity to expand the teaching of the genocide within French schools." Even more serious, in view of Turkey's struggling economy, is the question of compensation — which, under the Geneva Convention, Turkey would be obliged to pay to survivors and their descendants.

Arman Keshishian believes that the proof of the Turkish intentions — and the motivation for the current refusal to acknowledge the genocide — lies in the confiscation of Armenian land and property. He explains:

My mother put her jewelry in the Ottoman bank. Everyone put their things in the bank. But there was no intention to bring these people back. Their belongings were appropriated. I applied in 1927 to go to Turkey to get our property and they wouldn't give me a passport.

The issue of compensation has been complicated by the passing of time: the government of Turkey is different from the Ottoman authorities, and modern Turks do not feel that they should be held responsible for the "alleged" sins of their forefathers.

Turkey's application to join the European Union has been blocked on the grounds of its poor human-rights record. Last October, Father Yusuf Akbulut, an Assyrian priest in Diyarbekir, was arrested for "crimes against public order," under Article 312, Book 2, Section 5 of the Turkish Penal Code. His crime was to publicly affirm the Armenian genocide, as well as the massacres of Assyrian, Greek, and other Christian minorities under the Ottoman Empire. Such cases have done little to help Turkey's EU application, and Armenians insist that recognition of the genocide would help rather than harm Turkey today. "The Turkish government have to fundamentally come to terms with their own history," says Hratche Koundarjian of the Committee for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide; "it would demonstrate that Turkey has reached a new watershed of human rights."

But the Turkish Embassy in Washington claims that "Turkey has striven to safeguard fundamental rights and liberties in all the written Constitutions it has drawn up over the past 150 years." Such statements are justified in Turkish eyes by a belief in Armenian disingenuousness. In Igdir, there is a monument to the "memory of the 90,000 Turks massacred by Armenian bands" between 1915 and 1920. Orhan Tung, of the Turkish Embassy in London, says of the Armenian lobbyists that "it is hard to deal with them because first of all they have to get rid of their hatred. The hatred makes them blind."

To date Turkey has been able to resist the drive for international recognition of the Armenian genocide, in large part because of the nation's superior resources and strategic importance. The British peer, Baroness Ramsay, argued in the House of Lords two years ago that "a foreign government taking a public position on an issue as contentious and sensitive as these events of 84 years ago would severely hamper their ability, as a friend of all parties, to help the region realize its potential." She was referring to such potential as, perhaps, oil in the Turkish South Caucasus, which has attracted the interest of British Petroleum. Or she might have meant such potential as Turkey's air base at Incirlik, which is used for British and American missions to Iraq. There are also Turkey's military assets; last November, Ankara offered the European Union 6,000 troops for its proposed rapid reaction force, along with 8 warships, two squadrons of F-16 combat aircraft, and two large transport aircraft. Last October 19, a US resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide was withdrawn moments before the House of Representatives was due to vote. President Clinton had sent a letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert, citing "grave national security concerns." There was also the threat, issued by Ankara, that a $4.5 billion deal with US defense contractor Textron, to provide 145 helicopters, would be cancelled.

But for Armenians, beyond political, financial, and historical considerations, the desire for recognition is a source of national pride. Koundarjian explains: "Armenia, due to the diaspora, was defined out of the genocide." There are approximately 4 million Armenians living in the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas — a number roughly equal to the population of today's independent Armenia. According to Armenian historian Ara Sarafian, "Over 90 percent of these are descended from genocide survivors." For these expatriate Armenians, the sense of national identity is bound up with the genocide. As much as they are Armenian, they believe they are victims. Until their suffering has been acknowledged, they will not rest.

Armenian Geography

Independent Armenia today is a landlocked country in the Caucasus region of northwestern Asia, approximately the same size as Maryland. It is bordered in the north by Georgia, in the south by Iran, in the west by Turkey, and in the east by Azerbaijan. The disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, largely populated by ethnic Armenians and regarded by most Armenians as the nation's spiritual homeland, is uncomfortably separated, inside Azerbaijan.

The land that Armenia now controls is a tiny proportion of historic Armenia which, in the 1st century BC stretched from the Black Sea to the Caspian shores, comprising territory in all of the countries now on its borders. It is also a tiny proportion of the land offered at the Treaty of Sevres, according to which Armenia would have assumed control of much of eastern Turkey.

The Ottoman Empire, at its height, controlled the entire eastern Mediterranean; its territory included much of eastern Europe (including Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece), North Africa (from Egypt to Tunisia, and stretching South along the Red Sea coast to Eritrea), and a considerable proportion of the Arabian peninsula (including Kuwait, Syria, Palestine, and the Hejaz region of modern-day Saudi Arabia, on which are located the Islamic holy sites of Mecca and Medina).

But, as the 20th century dawned, Turkey had become the "sick man of Europe," and the empire began crumbling. Egypt, Tunisia, and Aden had fallen under British and French protectorates, while Greece and Romania were among several European countries that had either achieved, or were clamoring for, independence. In 1914, Turkey was embroiled in a global conflict that would see it lose its entire empire in the space of four years. By the Treaty of Sevres, in 1920, the Ottoman administration had no control outside of Turkey.

Map of Armenia

Armenia and the Catholic Church

This year, Armenians celebrate their 1700th anniversary as the first Christian nation. A year-long program of celebrations is underway, including concerts, literary, musical, and artistic festivals, fireworks, and a pilgrimage to Deir ez-Zor, led by President Robert Kocharian and the Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II.

The importance that Armenians have attached to the anniversary underlines the central place of their religion in the national psyche. Approximately 90 percent of Armenians belong to the Apostolic Church of Armenia, or Gregorian Church: a monophysite branch of Christianity which follows doctrinal lines similar to those of the Coptic and Ethiopian churches. The Gregorian Church is named after St. Gregory the Illuminator, who in 301 converted King Tirdat III to Christianity.

Today the Gregorian Church has international scope, caring for the faithful of the Armenian diaspora. The most significant of the expatriate communities is in the Holy Land, where the Armenian Patriarch is one of the three major Christian leaders and has considerable influence in governing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

His Holiness Karekin II Nersissian

Relations between the Catholic Church (which represents 8 percent of Armenians) and the Gregorian Church have rarely been so strong as they are today. A Vatican delegation attended the enthronement of Karekin II in November 1999. A year later, the Catholicos visited Rome, receiving the relics of St. Gregory in an ecumenical service at St Peter's Basilica. In a joint statement of faith, the disputes which had led to the split at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD were formally resolved, and the hope expressed for "full visible communion." Both Pope and Catholicos declared their faith in "the Church, one, catholic, apostolic, and holy." Armenians are hopeful that the Pope will pay a return visit later this year.

But the Catholic and Gregorian churches have not always seen eye to eye. In the 19th century, Catholics complained of Gregorian persecution, while the discriminatory conduct of the Ottoman authorities — who tended to favor Catholic Armenians in order to appease France and the Vatican — generated further inter-denominational tensions. Ultimately, however, the Ottomans drew Armenians together against a common enemy. Armenian Catholics became heavily involved in resistance movements.

Even now, one of the strongest sources of solidarity between Gregorian and Catholic Armenians is the genocide. The marauding tribesmen, military rapists, and rampant villagers responsible for most of the murders did not distinguish between denominations. Now, all Armenians are bound together by a common grief. That unity was strengthened by the joint communique issued last November, in which the Catholicos and the Pope together affirmed the "Armenian genocide" in which "organized campaigns of extermination took the lives of millions of faithful."

A Survivor's Story

The town of Hadjin, in southeastern Turkey, had a pre-war population of approximately 25,000. Less than a third of that number were repatriated in 1919, hopeful that the massacres would be a thing of the past. But in early 1920, Turkish chetes were sighted. By the end of March, the battle lines had been drawn and a 600-strong army of Hadjin residents was assembled. But the residents of the town proved incapable of resisting the Turkish machine-guns, cannons, and bombs.

Yervan Shekerdemian still remembers the battle that he survived due to the kindness of a Turkish officer. Shekerdemian, now aged 95, was a 13-year-old messenger scampering between battalions when Hadjin was besieged. His father was an entrepreneur who traded with Turks. He remembers his home town as "mainly Armenian, although there was a Turkish street and a few Kurds. The local Turks were friendly and there was harmony in the community. But their minds were poisoned by immigrant Turks and they started to change the way they dealt with us." Hadjin's Armenians held off the Turks for 8 months before the town finally fell. Then, in one week, the resistance crumbled and 2,000 people ran to the mountains. Four hundred managed to reach nearby Adana.

Yervan Shekerdemian was one of a small group captured while attempting to escape. "The Turks were grabbing anyone they could," he explains:

I was in a group of twelve. The other eleven were beaten to death: some were chopped up with swords, but I survived because I was giving names of important Turkish people who my father had dealings with. The soldiers took me to their leader, Yousef, and he said, "I knew your father. He was a good man who helped me a lot." Yousef had been imprisoned for not paying taxes, and my father had paid off his debts and arranged his release. So he said, "I've killed a lot of Armenians, but because of what your father did for me, I'm going to spare you."

So Yousef took me to his house. He had three wives and thirteen children. When they realized I was Armenian, they treated me badly, because one of the brothers had been killed by an Armenian. But Yousef said, "His father was good to me. You will have to look after him." But once Yousef was out of the house, they would beat me. I suffered from lack of sleep, I had to work all the time. They treated me like a bad slave.

Yervan's brother, Mesrop, had escaped to Adana, where he asked the local bishop to enquire after Yervan. Eventually the boy was traced by Kazim, a Turkish peasant, who accepted the task of bringing him to Adana. One night, when Yousef was out, Kazim took Yervan, and hid him amid the food and goods in his carriage. They traveled to Jihan, near the border with Allied territory, where Yervan was re-united with his brother. From there they continued to Adana, where they stayed for two months, until the Turks conquered the town. Mesrop, again aided by the bishop, found passage on a boat which took them to Cyprus, where they lived for 40 years.

Yervan was one of the lucky ones. Another brother and two sisters, survived. But his parents died in "deportations" from Hadjin. He lost uncles, aunts, and cousins, as well as friends. His childhood, like so many others, was shattered by the atrocities. But his story also emphasizes the distinction between the government's policy, and the actions of individual Turks like Kazim, who risked their lives to help Armenians — to whom, often, they had no obligations.

Now, more than 80 years after he lost most of his family and all his possessions, Yervan has only one wish:

I do not seek money. I do not seek anger or hatred against the Turks. I seek peace. But what I do want is the recognition — they are guilty of genocide — and I want them to recognize that. Turkey must recognize what it did to us and our dead. We must have that dignity.


Nicholas Jubber ""Who Remembers the Armenians?" Catholic World Report (April, 2001).

This article is reprinted with permission from Catholic World Report an international news monthly.


Nicholas Jubber is a free-lance writer specializing in coverage of the Middle East, and a regular contributor to CWR.

Copyright © 2001 Catholic World Report

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