ARMENIAN’S COME TOGETHER FROM ALL OVER CLEVELAND: INK ON INDEPENDENCE
Cleveland Sun News, Ohio
April 16 2015
By Dale Guidroz, special to Sun News
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — April 24th represents the 100th anniversary of
the Armenian Genocide.
Their diaspora (scattered population) effected not only the Middle
East and Europe, but many ended up across the Atlantic pond to cities
like Independence in the United States.
Intellectually, I was aware of this anniversary, but was gently
reminded by a considerate Parma Heights subscriber, who also happens
to be of Armenian heritage.
Maryann Baker is the first generation of her family to be born in
this country. Her late father was an Armenian from Istanbul, Turkey,
and her mother was born in the former Soviet Union.
What has surprised and disappointed me in my Armenian journey this
week, and a sentiment shared by Maryann in her email, is how so few
Clevelander’s have never heard of this atrocity, nor the Armenian
Volumes of historical information has been released on other 20th
Century genocides, such as the Holocaust carried out by the German
Nazi’s, the Cambodian genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge, the
Rwandan genocide consisting of the mass slaughter of Tutsi’s and
moderate Hutu’s; but where are the Armenian’s in this vast grave
Before we get into various theories of how the Armenian diaspora has
not been adequately addressed by politicians and governments, let’s
address the horrific events that took place only a hundred years ago.
Armenians had a strong population base in the Asia Minor. Their
population practiced a form of Christianity, which was in contrast
to Sunni Islam that predominated the region.
Armenians lived within The Ottoman Empire, which is sometimes referred
to as the Turkish Empire. It was founded in 1299, and had conquests
through the Balkans, North Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and
into Eastern Europe. As a transcontinental empire, it proclaimed itself
a caliphate to the Muslim World as it claimed rights to both Mecca and
Medina. Due to actions by the League of Nations after World War I,
with the partitioning of lands within its empire to Western Europe,
it lost its caliphal power. Secular reforms and the exile of the
last royal family in 1924 from the newly formed Republic of Turkey,
secured its role in the newly drawn western world.
A coalition of activists calling themselves the “Young Turks” began a
mission of propaganda by instilling a mantra of “all things Turkish” in
1908 in response to the waning power of The Ottoman Empire. The loss of
Eastern Europe in the Battle of the Balkans, and Russian support from
many Armenian’s in the Battle of Sarikemish in the Caucasus, solidified
the branding of Armenian’s to many Turks as a security threat.
These events, and likely a policy of directed blame, led to a program
of extermination beginning as early as 1895 with the slaughter of
over 350,000 Armenians, to its height in 1915 with the massacre of
over 1.5 million people.
This massacre was accomplished through death marches, mass graves,
concentration camps, and exposure and starvation in the neighboring
April 24, 1915 is considered the anniversary date of the genocide,
as that is the official date of arrests and executions of Armenian
intellectuals. Survivors claimed that these executions began as early
as 1894 and extended well into the 1920s.
Takes some of the “roar” out of the “Roaring 20’s”, a decade considered
full of fun and opulence.
One hundred years later, the Armenians and the Turks are still at
odds over acceptance, forgiveness, and oddly, word choice.
“History, despite its retching pain, can not be unlived; but faced
with courage, it need not be lived again” – Maya Angelou
Turkey does not accept the word “genocide” when confronted with
the Armenian issue. Its official stance is that over 1.5 million
Armenian’s died as a result of events in World War I and internal
conflicts between Armenian Christians and Islam.
In reality, they just don’t want the same historical distinction as
Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot.
On Friday night at the St. Gregory of Narek Armenian Church in Richmond
Heights, Armenian’s from all over Cleveland attended a presentation
by Dr. Ani Kalayjian entitled “A Century of Genocides: Healing
Generational Transmission through Forgiveness and Peaceful Activism”.
Dr. Kalayjian is an internationally recognized expert on the
psychological effects of trauma in disaster victims, either man made
or natural, and the author of a handbook “Disaster & Mass Trauma:
Global Perspectives in Post Disaster Mental Health Management”.
She is also an Armenian.
Dr. Kalayjian’s parents were survivors of the 1915 genocide and
she grew up experiencing the trauma her parents and grandparents
Their trauma became her trauma, but she didn’t understand why.
Through her research, she discovered the common denominator of those
who have been tortured or displaced is a reluctance to discuss their
experiences and their feelings. This silence then will manifest itself
in their children and grandchildren with secondary traumatization as
the result of traumatized parents.
Often silence results in a culture of repression within the home,
where the children and grandchildren react to a hidden mystery from
the traumatized adults. She noted that “pain is not transformed,
it is transferred”.
So despite all of the pain, the best method is to somehow forgive.
Her website notes “A sense of meaning, peace,
and justice, although unique to each individual, is achieved through
a transformative journey that integrates knowledge and experience
with a sense of responsibility and reflection”.
We are blessed to live in country where we are removed from the horrors
witnessed on television. Millions of victims exist around the globe
suffering, displaced, hungry, and traumatized. There likely haven’t
been this many displaced people since World War II.
Dr. Kalyjian’s vision is that by teaching and utilizing peaceful
resolution methods, man’s injustice to man can someday be prevented.
She travels the globe lecturing on the effects of trauma, as well as
conflict resolution and peace education.
I only wish more were listening.