Unclenching the Fists: Clearing the Path to Justice for the Armenian Genocide

"Light shines forth at the end of every storm, even one that has lasted for over a century."

“Light shines forth at the end of every storm, even one that has lasted for over a century.”

University of California, Berkeley – Class of 2016
ANCA LSI Class of 2015

As an intern with the ANCA this summer, I worked on a project that involved reading a collection of eyewitness testimonies of the Armenian Genocide regarding how it transpired from 1915 onwards. While reading these accounts (approximately 150), I faced the challenge of learning in detail all that our people endured and having to reconcile the emotions I felt with the unfortunate realities of current international politics. I read stories of massacre, theft, and deportation that would leave me both emotionally drained and yet somehow empowered, knowing that the work I was doing would go towards achieving justice for every man, woman, and child who lost their lives in those pages. I felt so angry, frustrated, and cheated because of how our people suffered, people who had already lost their ancestral homelands to invading hordes and who just wanted to live their lives in peace with the little that they had left. Overall, I found myself at a crossroads at which I could either choose to succumb hopelessly to the pain of the past or harness what I had learned to energize the drive for justice regarding this issue and pursue the advancement of our cause in general. Thankfully, I chose the latter.

Reading the history between the Armenians, the Turks, and the Kurds during this time, it is very easy to allow oneself to break into tears, pound a fist on a table, and wonder out of sheer disbelief how anyone could possibly deserve to endure the sheer horrors that the Ottoman Armenians experienced. It is easy to hate the people who committed this crime and to refuse to have anything to do with Turks and Kurds today. It is easy to do all this, but when have Armenians ever done things the easy way? Instead of focusing our energy on undirected anger, we should take that power and apply it constructively through political action in our respective countries. With the unifying factor of a common cause and the solidarity that comes with it, we can organize in such a way that the international community will be unable to ignore our calls for justice. Already we have seen considerable leaps and bounds in this effort, most notably the recent increase in official recognition of the Genocide by various groups and individuals. Even within Turkey itself there are increasing numbers of people demanding that the truths of history be accepted no matter how inconvenient they are. Of course, this has been met with opposition, but it is something that we must encourage so that those who speak out know that they are not alone. By working with Turks and Kurds who seek to make reparations for the actions of their predecessors, we can take the steps towards achieving closure for this horrible crime that has gone unabsolved for over a century now.

We have made our case very clear. The mountains of evidence in government archives point to the fact that the events of 1915-1923 were undeniably and unequivocally acts of genocide. It is now up to the world, including Turkey, to decide whether it will pursue the cause of peace or continue fanning the flames of conflict for the sake of special interests. I sincerely feel sorry for Turkey for having to carry the weight of genocide denial and all because of what I sense is a fear of dealing with the discomfort of addressing the attempted murder of a people as well as a perception that admitting to a mistake and/or other people’s viewpoints is a sign of weakness. The fear, arrogance, and ignorance that sparked the Genocide one hundred years ago can be countered by the courage, humility, and wisdom to acknowledge that chapter of the past openly, make amends for the crimes committed, and respect the memories of those lost by validating their sacrifice. A crime as horrible as the Genocide must never be forgotten or downplayed, and even if relations between the victim and perpetrator groups are never completely the same again, acknowledging what happened as what it truly was would make great progress towards ensuring that nothing like it ever happens again. I ask Turkey today to unclench its fists because I have unclenched mine.

When the Ottomans tried to destroy us, they took the Armenian nation like a pomegranate and threw it against a wall, ripping apart the fruit and casting the seeds to the farthest reaches of the world. Where those seeds landed, they took root, and one hundred years later we see that they have grown into beautiful orchards. We have the motivation to effect real political change and we have the presence to do so on a global scale. While we may find ourselves working in different systems to achieve our goals, the fact that we have unique regional differences can serve to our advantage, giving us the means to thrive in different theaters of action and improve our people’s situation through constructive local, national, and international community initiatives. When I now look at our place in the world, I don’t see a people that has been shattered. I see a civilization that has survived, thrived, and found its way forward despite all of the obstacles that have stepped in its way, and I know that with the right motivation, we will always be able to achieve our goals.


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  1. danoog said:

    Well done, Patrick. Great insight. I think you have succeeded in summarizing the gamut of emotions all Armenians feel toward the Genocide of our ancestors Should we forgive? Forget? They say just letting goal is good for the soul. Or should we hate the ancestors of those who perpetrated this most heinous act of pure, unadulterated genocide? I think I fall somewhere in between. I don’t hate Turks and Kurds, but I pity those of them who refuse to face the truth. It’s true, people. The truth WILL set you free. And it’s good for the soul. Give the victims of this genocide the peace they could not find on this earth.

    • Patrick Babajanian said:

      Thank you! I definitely agree. I honestly believe that Turkey is hindering its own progress by denying the Genocide such that it is wasting its energy on avoiding the topic rather than taking the inconvenient step of addressing the uncomfortable nature of what happened. Instead of maintaining the hate, they can accept what their ancestors did no matter how much they might not want to believe that such an event was possible, and thereby move forward with civil diplomatic and business relations with Armenia today. As long as they hold on to the stubborn idea that what happened was not genocide, then there can be no real progress in my opinion. Of course, I’m not sure how possible it is to have everything go back to completely the way it was before the Genocide, but at least we can all coexist if the Genocide is recognized and reparations of some kind are made. Hopefully we’ll see some progress in the near future!

    • Patrick Babajanian said:

      Thanks! I remember hearing it somewhere but I wasn’t sure where it was from, perhaps just a general analogy that has been circulated among the community. I definitely thought it was tragically beautiful in a way and very fitting to the situation at hand.

    • Patrick Babajanian said:

      Thank you! It was truly an incredible summer and I’m very grateful for having had the opportunity to work there. Looking forward to seeing how things go in the future!