Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko Churchill | January 26, 2012

Who now remembers the Armenians?

Being an Armenian in Turkey today means You are one brave soul.

It means you are not afraid to live.

It means you are not afraid to die.

It means you are not afraid to be.

Or maybe it means you are more afraid to leave your roots behind and seek a new home…

Yet if it were as simple as doing nothing it would be easy.

Because this is not about being fearless or living on the edge, nor is it about being reckless or an adrenaline junkie. This is not about being daring. It’s about just being there. To simply be. To be left alone to simply have a Life, a family and a job. To be allowed to just be a human being. Being there, where you were born and simply carrying on… the toil of the earth you’ve found your lot into.

It’s about labouring under the same sky and in the same patch of land your forebears toiled into.

But then, sometimes it’s not that, yet it’s a lot more than what others can see, or say about you. It’s about identity, and the stick in the mud stickiness some people have with destiny.

Sometimes you find yourself in those moments that rip your chest open. That was when I heard how Hrant Dink was assassinated in broad daylight walking to his journalist office in Isticlal Cadessi. It was here in the midst of the  busiest street of Istanbul, at the most busy time of the day, an assassin’s bullet cut off his golden thread. Only because he was a Turkish Armenian. A hate crime of great magnitude…

I remember writing back then about my friend’s death and feeling sorry for myself too. “It’s so sad that it takes everything you’ve got; not to wrap your arms around yourself to feel protected. It’s time to go… because you are at the edge of a cliff looking down at where you know you want to be, and the knot in your stomach keeps you from making that leap and getting there to be on the safe ground.”

I left Istanbul the very next day, as did so many others notable or not. People like Orhan Pamuk, and all the writers, all the ones who were on the list of the writers accused of  “Insulting Turkishness” either because they spoke of the genocides or because they wrote about them… all left for abroad after the killing of Hrant Dink.

All of the ones on the list left. And afterwards we would meet frequently in Paris for a while. Paris where many of the recent emigres shared and swapped horror stories and laughed with strong milk white coffee and black gallows humour. That’s all you can do. You wrap yourself up in thoughts of your family and friends, and thoughts of every day and do what comes natural to human beings. You forget… Pretend it’s not there. Protect yourself from the bumps and bruises you’re sure you’ll get. But the protection is an illusion. Staying safe–that’s what hurts the most. So you go on living and hoping that some day you’ll forget entirely.

But the new French Law about the Armenian genocide denial has brought all of it back and it’s not to be forgotten. It’s a bold move to protect the memories of old and new genocides…

How can you prevent new genocides if you forget the Armenians? How can you forget Rwanda? Can you forget  Nazi Germany and the Holocaust? What about Stalin’s ethnic cleansings? What of Armenia, Greek Asia Minor, Kampuchia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Darfur, South Sudan and so many other lesser known genocides?

Would all of these genocides have to have happened? Could we have escaped maybe one of them if we had properly remembered the Armenian people’s genocide in Turkey back in early 20th century and had punished justly and severely the perpetrators? Could there have been one or more human lives saved? If that answer is yes, then let France shows us the way of Democracy Truth and Justice, and teach us to rightfully declare a spade a spade. A genocide is genocide – no two ways about it.

We must not forget lest we repeat this pattern of annihilation of humans because of their differences. Lest we forget the annihilation of hope… Lest we forget that we are better than this. Lest we forget that we are civilized and not blood crazed savages…

For to forget is to forgive… And we ain’t ready for that yet — as a species. We are not mature enough to forgive and still not forget… Or are we?

Now the story of the Armenian genocide can get told freely by modern chroniclers who go on, like this American perspective from the ambassador of the US in Istanbul at the time of the Armenian genocide: Back in 1916, Henry Morgenthau, American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, resigned. His State Department superiors’ demand that he maintain cordial relations with Turkish nationalists and their brethren, Islamist zealots and ethnic purists of Turkey’s leadership, as they went on and massacred the whole of the Turkish Armenian Christian minority disgusted him.

Morgenthau went on to say: “I found intolerable my further daily association with men who were still reeking with the blood of more than a million innocent human beings slaughtered in cold blood.”

History will tell you that the Turkish nationalists, perpetrators of the first genocide of the 20th century, got away with it, as they almost invariably do. None of them hanged by the neck. Not one went to prison. Instead they were celebrated and are still considered heroes of the Turkish nation… Even later when Turkey found itself with the axis of evil on the losing side of the First World War, the victorious allied armies never held war-crimes trials against the Genocidaires in Turkey. They apparently had bigger fish to fry… And more pressing matters soon took over the attention of the world and the whole sordid mess was forgotten soonest. But their pattern of genocide persisted and the German officers who were close allies of Turkey at the time of the Armenian genocide and in some ways assisted the extermination of the Armenians, they used the lessons learned of how to exterminate human beings at large scale and large numbers efficiently and applied their evil science to the new “others.”  To the gypsies, the homosexuals, the Jews and all other unwanted minorities, they applied the newly learned and unpunished doctrine of genocide  with horrific efficiency and no fear of retribution…

For Turkey, and the fragile world of the intermission between the two world wars, it was convenient to forget the Armenians and to rewrite history. Especially since nothing was heard from the Armenians. Not a peep was heard from the Europeans or the Americans and the Russians either… And in Turkey it was state science to vilify Armenians, Kurds, and Greeks and all the “others” as Unturks. Because the Armenian people who survived in Turkey stayed mouse quiet… They pretended to be deaf mutes. Believing that staying quiet they would be safe in their room with the door shut, and that was easy. But it never is. Then again, because they didn’t seek justice, they missed the boat on that one. And since they didn’t seek redress they also missed out on that land.

Because as we all know, you have to open your door and scream at the top of your lungs. Because if you don’t open that door you miss everything. You miss who you are. You miss who you are meant to be. You miss your purpose. You miss love. You miss Life.

Something Hrant Dink never did… cause he stayed screaming till the end and spoke against genocide and was tried in court three times for the Thought crime of “Unturkishness” because he mentioned and wrote about the Armenian genocide – as a historical fact – something that the modern Turkish state refuses to believe and punishes those who have the temerity to remember it.

Hrant Dink was a fighter for justice and truth. He was a fighter for the People’s future and ultimately he was a fighter for a better Turkey. He was a just warrior of the heart. He loved his country and never wanted to leave even after all that had happened to him and his people. He hoped for a better Turkey. But history proved him that although his aims were noble, himself was ultimately very brave and very brazen…

But the warrior isn’t brave on his own strength. It’s because of the people he protects that he is fearless. It’s because of our sad, tender broken-open hearts that the rest of us can be brave.  And it’s about Love of principles and humanity. It’s about “amour” and not about armor. It’s about being naked of fear, and it’s not about keeping your shield at the ready to protect yourself or others you love. It’s the opposite; it’s stripping off your armor and laying down your shield in Love with Life and it’s true drama. Because genocide is just part of the human drama we are all engulfed into sometime…

It’s getting to the cliff’s edge and diving off — for this is the edge of humanity.

Yours,

Pano

PS:

It’s all about refusing to give up and refusing to stay hidden in bed — even though that feels safer —  but going out boldly to face your fears and live as a person, be it Armenian, Turk, French or Greek.

Do this and scream for justice every chance you get.

Otherwise we will relive these genocides like Hitler’s Nazis did, when he famously urged them on the kill of the Jews and some of his officers objected on the grounds of History…

Adolf exclaimed : “Who now remembers the Armenians ?”


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