|Photo of death marches
On April 24, 1915, officials in Ottoman Turkey rounded up over 200 Armenian intellectuals and deported them. Most of them were eventually murdered. This is considered the beginning of the Armenian Genocide and is now the day we remember what happened. That massacre kicked off a nearly decade-long period when Armenians living in Ottoman Turkey were arrested, deported and killed.
|Decapitated heads on stakes
|Armenian woman being sold
Those who lived and the descendants of those who lived have a responsibility. We must remember. We must tell the story.
History is full of atrocities. It is much more comfortable to forget these terrors or to view them as part of a distant past than it is to remind ourselves of such horrors. It may seem unnecessary to hold on to events that happened a century ago. But memory is a powerful thing.
In a 1939 memo, outlining his plans to attack Poland, Hitler surmised that his brutal activity would cause little consequence. He rationalized this saying, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
Not even two decades after the end of the Armenian Genocide, Hitler was sure the event was forgotten to history. With that knowledge, he rationalized that his own horrific plans would cause little stir.
Remembering also honors those who died and those who survived. It acknowledges our identity as the Armenian diaspora, those of us scattered around the world where our ancestors took refuge.
This act of memory for Armenians isn't simple. The Armenians Genocide goes unacknowledged in most of the world. The current Turkish government still denies it ever happened, and Turks who publicly acknowledge that it did, face criminal charges for insulting "Turkishness."
Genocide, massacres, ethnic and religious cleansings and whatever else we want to call them continue to happen, and we must continue to remember. We must continue to tell the stories and honor the victims. We must also challenge ourselves to not only acknowledge but also respond to the terrors happening in the world around us.
Today is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Today, I remember with my fellow Armenians the plight of our ancestors. Today, we tell their stories. Today, we are proud of their courage. Today, we remind the world that we were not destroyed. Today, we create new Armenias wherever we are.
- Watch The Promise, a film about the Armenian Genocide.
- Read Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian or The Road From Home by David Kherdian, both of which tell Genocide stories. The latter is a middle-grade book and more appropriate for younger audiences.
- Find a wealth of information on the Armenian National Institue's website.
*This is a highly disputed number. Estimates range from 800,000 to 2.5 million.
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