UCLA: Armenian Genocide Reveals Lessons for Today

The Daily Bruin
April 21, 2004

Armenian Genocide Reveals Lessons for Today
By Garin Hovannisian
Daily Bruin Columnist
[email protected]

On April 24, Armenians around the world will commemorate the darkest
period in their history. Through organized deportations and massacres
of 1.5 million people, over half of the Armenian population was
forcibly removed from its home of 3,000 years.

The crimes began on April 24, 1915 and were continued by successive
Turkish governments until 1923, when the ethnic cleansing of Armenians
in the region was virtually complete.

Today, the Armenian Student Association will join in the commemoration
of these crimes with a silent march across the campus to Bruin
Plaza. There, the group will open an hour-long ceremony, including
poetry, music, recitations and addresses to spread awareness of the
first genocide of the 20th century.

For most participants, the day will be filled with memories of
ancestors and relatives who either died or miraculously survived but
remained scarred for life. Yet the dominant emotion will be a deep
resentment toward the Turkish government and others that continue to
deny the reality of the Armenian Genocide.

The commemoration today and this column are not meant to garner pity
for the suffering of the Armenian people. Even the most sinister of
historic tragedies lose much of their poignancy and impact over
time. What is crucial is that people understand the magnitude and
historic legacy of this precedent-setting event – especially when
their own government does not.

Like most cases of deliberate violence against members of a society,
the Armenian Genocide was executed by the government itself.

On April 24, 1915, several hundred Armenian civic leaders and
intellectuals were arrested in Istanbul, and subsequently exiled and
murdered. While the world was preoccupied with the Great War, the
so-called Young Turk government created its own blueprint of genocide.
First, the young men were drafted and placed into unarmed labor
battalions, where most would be killed. Then, the populations of all
Armenian towns and villages were forced to relinquish any weapons in
brutal arms searches. After the religious and political leaders had
been led away to meet a bloody end, the remaining population – largely
women and children – were placed in caravans of death leading to the
desert wasteland of inner Syria. En route, the caravans practically
melted away under the scorching sun. As women were raped and
tormented, children were kidnapped and forcibly converted as the
elderly died of starvation and dehydration.

The relatively few people who somehow made it to the final
destination, the desert of Deir-el-Zor, were murdered there or burned
alive in their cave-shelters.

In the end, the Armenian nation lost its homeland to a xenophobic
regime that used genocide to achieve its vision of a new regional
order based on one people, one religion, one language and one
identity.

To this day, the Turkish government denies an Armenian Genocide ever
happened. Other governments, including the United States, are
complicit in the cover-up for economic, political and military
reasons. These deniers dismiss a historic happening that stripped an
entire people of its rights, properties and homeland.

They fail to acknowledge the need to face history and engage in acts
of redemption that may lead to reconciliation, or at least
conciliation. They spurn the eminent importance of truth.

What does this mean for you and me in the contemporary world? It means
mass murder has been carried out without repercussions. It means that
even now, our right to life – the most basic of rights – is vulnerable
and should never be taken for granted.

The events of 1915 are not antiquated occurrences of a bygone
era. They were repeated throughout the 20th century by Hitler, by the
Khmer Rouge to the Cambodian people, and through slaughters in Burundi
and Rwanda, among others. The 20th century began and ended with
genocide. All of these mass killings shared important aspects in a
historic pattern scholars and human rights activists are trying to
decode and prevent.

The passionate commitment of individuals and the integrity of
governments is required. Only through recognition can this history be
understood and made meaningful to prevent future crimes against
humanity.

Recognizing, understanding and learning from the Armenian Genocide is
not an end in itself. It is only a means through which we can craft a
free, just and prosperous new century.

On April 24, take a moment to remember the lost Armenians — if not
for the memory of their lives, then for the longevity of our own.

Hovannisian is a first-year history and philosophy student. E-mail him at
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From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS