Children of An Ongoing GenocideBy: Tamar Najarian | Posted on: 10.05.2012
There are many facets to the Armenian identity, each one a living, breathing part of a proud people. The music, the language, and especially the cuisine are all staples in the Armenian communities around the world, each one bringing its own flavour, influenced by the environment in which it flourishes. No matter where each of us is in the world today, every Armenian is united by a collective unresolved memory frozen in time. The common pain lived through our ancestors and our understanding of everything we have lost in the years following the genocide of 1915 are enough to bridge the vast divides between all Armenian communities around the globe. For the majority of us living in the diaspora, the stories of those ghastly years are what define our actions and thoughts, creating an identity unto itself.
April 24, 1915. It was the day that didn’t see dawn, a night filled with fear, confusion, and deep sorrow. Wives and daughters wept as husbands and fathers were dragged into the night, most never to be seen again. The writers, the wealthy merchants, the politicians and the common intellectuals were herded like animals, awaiting their slaughter. Priests were not spared in this roundup. Neither were those who had befriended the Young Turk triumvirate. The head was chopped off mercilessly, leaving the body to flounder. The arms came next, the brute strength harnessed within the young males of the nation. Without arms to defend with and a logical path to follow, the helpless remainder of the battered body fell against the onslaught of hunger, thirst, disease, defilation and exhaustion. April 24 was the beginning of the end for many, stretching into years of torture, famine and putrid death. Amidst the deafening roar of cannons and gunfire, the turmoil that swept across the world and drowned the innocent in seas of blood, the Armenian howls for help and cries of agony fell on deaf ears until too late. Few were brave enough to stand up and try to end the injustice, fewer managed to gather invaluable evidence of the savage acts that turned a once thriving community into forgotten ashes, and those pieces that survived would become the core of all that we identify with.
To be an Armenian in the diaspora is to live and breathe the genocide. The memories of the atrocities are passed down from the old generation to the next, in the hope that their children may live to see justice rendered. Nearly each one of us has a unique story of survival, a novel of epic proportions with repeated themes and unimaginable scenes. Some have known those who were marked with tattoos, a symbol of slavery in such grotesque forms. Others have had to live with cold and empty shells of the once vibrant individuals in their families. The pain that’s relived within each generation is a flame that is fueled by an eternal source, forcing the heart to beat and the will to survive to take root. Our identities are shaped by our genocide and finished with a layer of sheer fortitude. For every hint of uttered denial, we respond with a rebellious stubbornness that astonishes even ourselves. However, more than the actual genocide, it’s the denial that truly creates our wayward identity. To have a rather intelligent individual stare into your eyes and refuse to accept that your family suffered insurmountable losses due to inhumane atrocities is infuriating and deplorable. To have the sheer magnitude of what occurred ridiculed and presented as simply the banality of warfare is despicably unacceptable.
Music, dance, traditions and our exquisite cuisine may define us as Armenians as a whole, but when it comes to truly understanding our identity in the present age, we must look into the shattered mirrors salvaged by our genocide survivors and try to piece together what is reflected back to us. The genocide stole from us more than just our land and our lives. The denial today continues to rip from our grasp the dignity that truth has to offer, the small amount of solace respecting all that we have lost would grant us. We are Armenians, the surviving children of an ongoing genocide.