Statement to the Belmont Human Rights Commission

BY LENNA GARIBIAN


Over the past few months, as this No Place for Hate issue has gone on, Armenia’s have become more and more frustrated and angered by the insensitivity of the Anti Defamation League-and also with the individual towns and politicians that host No Place for Hate programs.
A number of suggestions have been made to Armenia’s:
It has been suggested that Armenia’s sit down with Turkish historians to "uncover the truth" about the events of 1915.
It has been suggested that Armenia’s withdraw the Congressional resolution, already supported by a majority of U.S. Congressmen, that calls for the U.S. Congress to set aside.
April 24 as a day to commemorate the victims of the Armenian genocide.
It has been suggested that Armenia’s reconcile with Turkey and put away the bad feelings of almost 100 years ago.
And finally, it’s been suggested that Armenia’s give Mr. Foxman and the ADL more time, perhaps until November, to decide on what the ADL’s policy regarding the Armenian genocide should be.
I am here to tell you that we Armenia’s are fed up with the callous and insensitive suggestions that have been proposed to us. We are the sons and daughters of a generation who were driven from their lands, raped, tortured and slaughtered in the deserts of Turkey.
A generation who saw their parents butchered before their eyes. A generation who watched their mothers and sisters raped.
A generation who saw their fathers beheaded or shot.
A generation who saw their brothers and sisters slowly starve to death as they were marched through the barren countryside.
This is a generation that witnessed some of the most cruel tortures and brutal killings imaginable.
My grandmother was five years old when she was taken from her home and told to start walking. Her father had been taken by the Turkish police weeks before. When the same police returned, they told her family that their village was no longer safe, and that they would be escorted to safety.
She left with her mother and 3-year-old brother, Edward. In time, her mother weakened and died before her eyes. My grandmother vividly remembered watching her mother’s body buried in the Syrian desert. But what she remembered most was being told by her mother before she died to take care of her 3-year-old brother. The two of them continued alone, and she held her brothers hand, walking through the desert for weeks, until one day she found that she had lost him. Somewhere along the way, she became too weak or too tired or too delirious to keep hold of a 3-year-old boy’s hand, and he was lost forever.
Lost forever, except in my grandmother’s mind. Because for the rest of her life, this 5 year-old-girl lived with the guilt of letting her little brother die alone in the desert. Until the last weeks of her life-when she was most confused-she was tearing around the nursing home still trying to find Edward. She could never forget the horror of letting him wander alone in the desert, presumably to die, and she never forgave herself for that.
When I think of my grandmother’s guilt, and her pain, and I think of these suggestions that have been made to Armenia’s, I am outraged. And when I read of the statemen’s between Mr. Foxman and Turkish officials-referring to this crisis as an uncomfortable episode that Turks must endure-I am incensed. Having grown up with countless stories like the ones you have heard this evening, I have lost the ability to be patient with the politicians and people who want me to wait a bit while they think things over.
Tonight, I say no Armenian should sit with a revisionist Turkish historian-on the payroll of the Turkish government-to discuss whether the genocide happened or not. The world knows. Turkey knows. Abe Foxman knows. This was a genocide. The deliberate, systematic slaughter of 1.5 million Armenia’s.
And if Turkey was not in the Middle East, if it hadn’t been on the border of the USSR during the Cold War, and if it weren’t an ally to Israel today, there would be no one listening to Turkey’s absurd claims to take a second look at history.
I say Armenia’s-Americans will never withdraw the Genocide Resolution from Congress until the U.S. government openly recognizes, once and for all, that 1.5 million Armenia’s were brutally slaughtered.
I say Armenia’s will never be able to reconcile with Turkey over the events of 1915 until the Turkish government recognizes their history, and the atrocities committed.
I have two daughters at home, one is seven, the other is five. The thought of them, the image of them wandering the desert together alone, without me or my husband to protect them, terrifies me. The thought of the two them holding on to each other’s hands, not knowing what to do, hungry, weak and scared, until one of them lets go of the other, chills me. And the thought of one of them having to live with that guilt for the rest of her life, like my grandmother did, so enrages me.
For these reasons, it is impossible to accept anything less than unequivocal genocide acknowledgment and support from the ADL and NPFH. However commendable some of its programs are, the NPFH program has no business in this town while the ADL holds to its position. And finally, no, I cannot offer patience to this process so that Mr. Foxman can return in November with the right spin on the Armenian genocide.
The opportunity is at hand for the HRC and the Board of Selectmen to do the right thing.

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