BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
In just over a month, it will crescendo. It has already begun. Weeks and weeks worth of commemorations, conferences, demonstrations, marches, memorials, museum and monument dedications, pilgrimages, rides, etc. will culminate in… what? Actually, they will even continue beyond April 24, 2015.
But what’s really the point of all this? A good feeling of having done right by our soon-to-be-formally-sainted martyrs? Working on getting Turkey to recognize the Genocide, but at a more fevered pitch? Informing the rest of the world of our fate? Celebrating our survival? Putting it all behind us with one big, blow-out week/month/year of activity? No, no, no, no, no, and no to any other such pathetic, ultimately insubstantial motive.
It’s all about making things right. It means, as succinctly put by the name of the recently completed conference in New York, “Responsibility 2015,” responsibility to make Armenians whole by returning lands, property, wealth, and dignity. It means reconnection with our stolen homes and orchards, shops and factories. It means the wealthy of Turkey must be compelled to disgorge the massive ill-gotten gains of their murderous grandparents. It means us walking and living in safety wherever our original homes were, whenever we choose to go. It’s not just about recognition. In fact, recognition is a small part of the picture. It’s everything else. After all, are not those lands and properties ours REGARDLESS OF GENOCIDE?
It’s time to come out of our fearful shells, for all Armenians to get with the program and not just plead for recognition. We deserve and have earned FAR more than just that.
And there’s another coming out, that of the crypto-Armenians who, through incredible perseverance, have endured for a century under different guises – as Moslems, Kurds, Alevis, and amazingly, in this age of ISIS-like nut-jobs, even as Christians. These compatriots already have associations in Sasoon, Moosh, Dersim, and Diarbekir. It’s time for Diasporan compatriotic unions to reconnect with those of us who remained on ground zero – Western Armenia. And, in some places it is even more overt than that. On the Mediterranean coast, on Musa Dagh, the village of Vakef has persisted. On the Black Sea’s shores, we have the Hamshentzees.
All this is necessary for us to elementally, fundamentally, viscerally, reconnect with our stolen… everything. In this context, the rapidly increasing number of Mt. Ararat climbs is very important, as are trips such as those organized by Armen Aroyan to Turkish occupied Armenian lands. We have to resolve, among ourselves, the dilemma of not supporting the Turkish economy with our tourism dollars vs. remaining distant from our lands.
And there is progress, especially now, in Turkey. The Dersim Armenian and Alevi Union plans to commemorate the Genocide in the gorge in Kharpert where Armenians were thrown in. A human rights group has set out to document the sites of Armenian (and others’) mass graves. In Sasoon, a soft echo of an ancient Armenian pilgrimage to Maroota Mountain can be heard. Traditionally held on the last Thursday of July, it is scheduled this year for July 31. Locals expect other Sasoontzees to return home and join this re-birthing event. Stanford University is sponsoring three students to go to Constantinople for Genocide commemoration activities. And in this same city, where 100 years ago, our community’s leaders were rounded up in the dead of night to be butchered, a conference titled “The Armenian Genocide: Concepts and Comparative Perspectives” is being organized.
Yet, as always and unsurprisingly, we have the “traditional” Turkish policies on display as well. And, it is not only the higher level stuff – the fiasco/farce of scheduling the Gallipoli centennial remembrance on April 24th or Turkish government “academic” hacks boasting that they will deflect Armenians Genocide-related efforts – which offends any human’s sensibilities. Smaller scale, yet perhaps more brutal episodes, also abound. In the village of Ksert (Kurdish name), an Armenian cemetery adjoining a ruined church was dug up and bones strewn about, all to build a new road. I suppose it would have been “impossible” to redirect the road by a few dozen yard/meters… Then there is the hue-and-cry over the Armenian roots of Alevis and Kurds, and now Arabs and Assyrians, too! But that’s not all. The argument seems to be since these groups have (partially) Armenian roots, therefore there is no Alevi or Kurdish issue in Turkey. It’s all about the Armenian issue! Maybe we should be thanking those Turks making such ridiculous assertions for doing some of our public relations work for us.
Keep on punching. We are on a journey of a million steps, and have taken very few of them. Constant engagement, effort, and activism will lead to full restitution of Armenian rights.