For those who know me closely, you’ll know that April 24th is an important day to me, but because I’ve gained quite a few new followers since last year, I’ll explain why.
I’m Armenian, one of many in an ethnic group that usually goes unnoticed. Most odars, or “outsiders,” only know about us if they live in Californian cities like Fresno and Glendale with large Armenian populations, or are otherwise big fans of the Kardashian Klan.
April 24th is culturally significant, because it marks the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, a historical tragedy in which 1.5 million Armenians were massacred by the Ottoman Turks during World War I due to religious differences and political agenda.
This year is especially monumental, because it’s the centennial anniversary of the genocide, which historians estimate as beginning in 1915 and ending in 1923. 100 years have passed since our ancestors were stolen from their homes and sent on death marches, either killed by mass shootings, burnings, and hangings, or by the starvation and disease they suffered in the desert.
Why does this event matter after all this time? Because to this day, Turkey denies that a genocide ever occurred, citing these deaths as grossly overestimated and merely casualties in a time of civil war. Even in 2015, it is illegal to criticize the Turkish government, and many journalists have been arrested for speaking the truth. The United States, fearful of losing a strategic military alliance, has cowardly remained silent on the issue and also refuses to recognize this monstrosity as genocide.
My ancestors may have survived such a terrifying time, but we Armenians are all affected by this injustice. Unlike the Jewish population who has received recognition of Germany’s wrongdoings during WWII via the Nuremberg Trials, Armenians are ignored and dismissed year after year.
This centennial is no different, and I fear that generations of Armenian-Americans–including myself–will die having seen no change, until the diaspora has become so small and diluted that there’s no one left to care. After all, I’m only 25% Armenian. I highly doubt that someone 1/64th Armenian is going to be all that bothered by what her ancestors suffered long ago.
Regardless of this bleak outlook, I believe that everyone in the world needs to hear our story. Every year until my very last, I will spread awareness of this abominable crime, and I urge you to do the same. You don’t have to be Armenian to tell someone about the meaning behind today, so please educate those around you. The more people who know what truly happened, the less likely it will be forgotten.
For those of you in the Bay Area, I will be at San Francisco City Hall tonight to commemorate the genocide’s centennial. The rest of you should come back to Book Club Babe tomorrow for my book review of The Gendarme by Mark Mustian, a story about a Turkish soldier who falls in love with his Armenian deportee.