A Genocide cannot be erased – April 24th, 2011

I am Armenian. I grew up remembering the Armenian genocide every April 24th. I learnt about the world´s widespread denial of this horrible event from very early on. It was not until many years later that I experienced this denial in the flesh, when I went to Istanbul and realized how uncomfortable it made some Turkish people feel when they found out I was Armenian. Some would even bring up the subject out of the blue and say things like, “yeah, and all those lies other people made up about Armenians and Turks…” I sensed the fear in this words, the fear of our anger, or our revenge, but, more than anything a fear of our demand for justice; historical justice that we owe to all those people who died and lost their homes and had to flee to foreign lands, so that I could still be born, so that my family could still exist, so that I could be a Uruguayan.

I am not a historian and I am not an expert on the subject, but I am a writer, and I once wrote something that has to do with the day it is today. It is not an ordinary day. It is a day we choose to remember what half the world wants us to forget. Hitler said ” Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” to counter the argument that it would be impossible to “get away” with wiping out the Jews. That´s what pushing a genocide under the rug will do; beget another one.

There is currently a big debate about the punishment of human rights violations committed during the Uruguayan dictatorship of the 1970s and early 80´s. Roughly, although the people voted against the prosecution of the criminals, the state is going ahead with it, claiming that the law suspending judgment was unconstitutional. Many people believe that the popular vote should be respected, which would mean that people who killed, terrorized and tortured would get to stay at home and enjoy the rest of their peaceful and prosperous lives.

On a day like today, remembering my people´s genocide, I realize that this type of crimes should never go unpunished, because in losing justice, we lose our soul, because the terrorizing and slaughter of innocent people by an organized state is the lowest, most despicable form of crime that man is capable of, and leaving it unpunished can never bring good things,

A few years ago, only a few months before I first set foot in beautiful Istanbul, as I sailed on a ship around the coast of New York, I wrote this poem. This is a day for a poem like this, and also to hope that nobody else will ever have to write such a poem again on our beautiful Earth.

 

THE WORD (New York, 2006)

 

My blood is marked by genocide 
on the two sides
of these Atlantic lines

My fate was sealed with the blood stains
of cotton workers from Marash
slaughtered by the ottoman
and the mixed blood
of conquerors
and massacred
of masters and estranged slaves

The rot of colonialism
lurks underneath
our 15 second democracy

My eyes were numbed
by what I hadn´t seen
after the dirty war was over
after the bowels of the Earth
had vomited
bones in Uruguay
lifeless infant mummies
in the soft heart
of Africa

after the tide brought in
the loot
of generals,
green men of power and no shame

My past was carved with knives
on children´s bones
in the mountains
of Leninakan
with hanged peasants
on the slopes of Ararat

My human pride was dumped
in Rio de la Plata
one summer night
in a death flight
that time when I
had learnt to sing
before I grasped
the word
The word was born
from the colonial rot
under our soil
and under Africa

The word was black
and cast a deadly storm
before the sun

The word was Genocide

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4 comments on “A Genocide cannot be erased – April 24th, 2011

  1. Very good reminder. It frustrates me when people deny these holocausts.

    The Germans actually helped the Turks with the organization of the slaughter, using mass graves, an idea picked up from US treatment of the Indians here.

  2. Lee Tomboulian Except, we only do ourselves harm if we cannot forgive. Even when the Turks can’t admit the atrocity.

    Veronica Pamoukaghlian I don´t blame Turkish people, but I am not a fan of their general attitude about the subject. All their denial campaigns, etc. It´s insane. I just got a hate message on twitter from a random Turkish guy. I love Turkey; it is a wonderful country. My family is from Turkey. It´s just they are only hurting themselves not acknowledging the fact that this thing was real. How do you forgive a people for something that “never happened”? This is the question.

    Lee Tomboulian I am sorry. I have not been to Turkey or Armenia. I did not realize that that was how the people are, not just the govermment. I am also sorry you got that hate message.

    Nonetheless, that’s the point: they don’t even have to admit it for us to forgive. Forgiveness is something we do for us, not for them.

    Veronica Pamoukaghlian Yeah, you´re right. I don´t have any animosity against the people. I just feel the way the generations of Turks and the different governments have dealt with the issue has been very harmful for the nation, for the new generations of Turks. It is very strange. They are taught in school that it never happened, but they naturally realize that it did, so, they live their lives with this contradiction. I think they owe it to themselves to recognize it. It is nothing to us, those people are dead, nothing´s gonna change. I won´t celebrate, but they may get some peace of mind. I don´t think in terms of forgiveness, because I never felt anger. I feel loss and horror, and more horror in front of denial and what it implies for the future, especially for the future of Turkish people.

  3. I am in shock and in total disbelieve that Armenians (the most peaceful nation) was slathered by Turkish on their own homeland. Just to get rid of the entire nation (that are Orthodox) in order to take their land and to make Armenian women/girls their slaves and force to covert them into muslim. Disturbing and inhuman way cutting open pregnant women, raping and beheading them, and killing children in front of their parents eyes. (even Nazi haven’t get that creative). It’s even sadder to learn that Turkey still denies involvement, using excuses that there are no enough proof. In 1915 no much cameras was used ,especially to film event like that. However, distinctive Turkish men dress and turbans of the time is present on the pictures , where this man are clearly act as a cold blooded killers. Shame on Turkish nation , nothing will clean your history and its reputation.

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