Remembering Anatolia, 1915

The Guardian, UK
April 24 2008

Remembering Anatolia, 1915

Today, April 24, is the day of commemoration of the Armenian
genocide. Is it not time for Turkey to recognise this crime and enable
a just closure?

by Harry Hagopian

Between 1915 and 1923, the Ottoman Turkish government systematically
targeted and killed Armenians in the Ottoman empire. Ultimately, well
over 1 million Armenians lost their lives during this period, which is
now widely regarded by most historians as the first genocide of the
20th century and one that is commemorated today the world over.

Mannig’s story

I was six years old when we were deported from our lovely home in
Adapazar, near Istanbul. I remember twirling in our parlour in my
favourite yellow dress while my mother played the violin. It all ended
when the Turkish police ordered us to leave town.

The massacre of my family, of the Armenians, took place during a
three-year trek of 600km across the Anatolian plateau and into the
Mesopotamian desert. I can’t wipe out the horrific images of how my
father and all the men in our foot caravan were shipped to their
deaths. My cousin and all other males 12 years and older were shoved
off the cliffs into the raging Euphrates river. My grandmother and the
elderly were shot for slowing down the trekkers. Two of my siblings
died of starvation. My aunt died of disease, and my mother survived
the trek only to perish soon after from an influenza epidemic.

Of my family, only my sister and I were still alive. The Turkish
soldiers forced us, along with 900 other starving children, into the
deepest part of the desert to perish in the scorching sun. Most did.

But God must have been watching over me. He placed me in the path of
the Bedouin Arabs who were on a search and rescue mission for Armenian
victims. They saved me. I lived under the Bedouin tents for several
months, before they led me to an orphanage in Mosul. I was sad about
our separation, but the Bedouin assured me that the orphanage was
sponsored by good people.

To my delight, I was reunited with my sister at the orphanage. She,
too, was saved by the Bedouin Arabs. The happiest days in my life were
at the orphanage. We had soup and bread to eat every day and were
sheltered under white army tents donated by the British.

Above all, my sister and I were family again.

This moving personal testimony was spoken by Mannig Dobajian
Kouyoumjian, a survivor of the Armenian genocide, and written for the
US Holocaust Centre by her daughter, Aida Kouyoumjian, from Seattle.

As an Armenian who was born after this grisly period of our history, I
often wonder how our forbears managed to sustain their hope, faith and
perseverance in the face of such immense suffering and painful
adversity. How did those Armenian victims of the genocide find the
personal resources, after what can only have been devastating and
orphaned situations, to carry on to rediscover fulfilling and normal

Is it not time for Turkey to put nationalism, pride and fear aside and
recognise this dark chapter of its history during the first world war?
Is it not time for Armenians and Turks to move forward by seeking a
just closure of this open sore?

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