Weekly Writers Tell Their Column’s Story

The Armenian Weekly
January 2010 Magazine

In celebration of the Armenian Weekly’s 75th anniversary, we asked our columnists to recount their column’s genesis story.

AYSE GUNAYSU

I’m not sure, but I think it was the year 2007. I had received an email from Khatchig Mouradian, whom I knew only by name from the Armworkshop email group, telling us about his short encounter with an elderly lady in Beirut during a meeting on the Armenian Genocide. Khatchig had quoted a passage from one of my writings, on my feelings about the April 24th anniversary. I had written that the great loss in 1915 had left behind a barren land that was once the cradle of a great culture; how all the attempts at economic and social development (the roads, electricity, water supplies, and dams) over the decades in what was once the old Armenia all failed to bring even a quarter of the vibrant civilization the Armenians had created before 1915.

Armenian Weekly columnist Ayse Gunaysu

Khatchig wrote to me how, after his presentation where he had quoted my words, an elderly Armenian lady approached him and asked, “Tell me, what was the name of that woman who wrote those words?” When Khatchig told her my name and asked why she asked, she told him, “I will pray for her tonight.” What Khatchig wrote to me brought tears to my eyes and a very real, almost tangible bond was established between that lady and I—a lady who prayed for me.

I communicated with Khatchig from time to time.And one day he invited me to write a column for the Armenian Weekly. I looked at the internet version of the newspaper and saw that it was a publication of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Tashnagtsutiun, which was known in Turkey as a party of rabid haters of Turks and an eternal enemy of Turkey as a whole. Despite the strong urge in me to say yes, I hesitated, thinking of the possible repercussions in Turkey. Imagine me, writing for a Tashnag publication. Then I thought of Khatchig, how he had valued my words, had shared them with his people. The words of an ethnic Turk and Muslim by birth. And I thought of the elderly lady who had prayed for me, a Turkish woman from Turkey. I believed in them, in Khatchig and his audience. So I said that I would be happy to write for the Weekly. As for the “haters of Turks” attributed to the Tashnag prototype, after all, “hatred,” much like “affection,” is not without reason. It’s up to us in Turkey to build, brick by brick, reasons for forgiveness for the unforgivable, unimaginable, and irreversible human catastrophe that was carried out in a country where we continue to live and prosper, in the absence of its Armenian children.

CK GARABED

Twenty years ago, when Antranig Kasbarian was the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly, I proposed to him an idea for a limited column of short articles and anecdotes, mostly humorous, for the Weekly. He didn’t think much of the idea. I decided to appeal to the editor, Mimi Parseghian, and she thought it was a great idea. I submitted enough material for several columns, but just imagine my consternation when she used it all in one issue.

Now I had to decide whether or not I was going to be able to continue for the long haul. So I labored week by week and, of course, weeks became months, and months became years. And this is how “Uncle Garabed’s Notebook” came to be. I am indebted to the editors of the Weekly for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the paper in some small way.

TOM VARTABEDIAN

What started out as a reflective piece back in 1970 turned into a staple reflecting my life in journalism. I had written about the absence of humor in the press and that with all the doom and gloom in the world, readers needed a little levity in their lives.  They needed a personal touch, stories about everyday trials and tribulations that could be identifiable, whether it was a family crisis, romantic interlude, or rigmaroles inside the workplace. My editor at the Hairenik Weekly—Jimmy Tashjian—got such a smile out of it that he suggested we turn it into a regular series. And that is how “Poor Tom’s Almanac” got its start—and is still going strong today on its 40th anniversary.

BETTY APIGIAN KESSEL

Creative writing was always my forte in school. I realized I had a great love for vocabulary, both English and Armenian. I started first as a young AYFer sending in brief articles. Every organization I joined eventually made me its secretary and I began submitting articles on our activities. One such group was the St. Sarkis Ladies Guild. To my joy, I was being printed. Editor Mimi Parseghian approached me about doing a regular column and “Hye Beat” was born, but I refuse to limit myself to Michigan. After a work required hiatus, my longtime mentor James Tashjian kept urging me to resume writing. I happily did so six years ago. People ask me how I crank out a column each week. It seems I have a lot to say. I have a strong background in the Armenian lifestyle since I grew up in a family with close ties to both the Pontiac and Detroit communities.

Writing is a wonderful creative outlet for me. It agrees with my independent nature. I am a people person but one who likes flying solo, in other words, just me and the computer together. My purpose is to be objective. I especially want to write about those who otherwise would not get noticed and when time allows, to bridge the Detroit area Armenian community into my column. I have been around long enough to realize there is strength in unity and it must come to be. I want to do as much as I can to contribute to that endeavor. Ultimately, I write because of the injustice of the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Cause must not die.

HARUT SASSOUNIAN

When I was hired as editor of the California Courier in 1983, the publisher asked me to write a column every week, regardless of whether I was too tired, sick, or out of town, not skipping a single week! I did not know what to write at first. But, 26 years and 1,300 columns later, I have not run out things to say.  The Armenian Weekly started publishing my columns around 20 years ago. Amazingly, my columns are now reprinted in more than a dozen publications in several countries, translated into Armenian, Arabic, French, Russian, etc., and posted on countless non-Armenian websites worldwide.

GAREN YEGPARIAN

The Weekly editor’s request for a blurb about “how my column got started” elicited a sense of writing the stereotypical school year-beginning’s “What I Did Over Summer Vacation” essay. Every kid has the sense of not having done anything and ending up with some pathetic description of mundane doings.  This scribble is equally pathetic. There’s no there, there. I used to write for the Weekly sporadically in the 1980’s. Then, when I moved to the LA area, I should have continued with Asbarez. But after one article and a Letter to the Editor that got printed as an “op-ed,” I stopped. The closest thing to a “reason” for that cessation was my decision to write everything bilingually. That meant more time per piece, and I never found that much time.  Along came the evil TARC machinations of the State Department, Armenian Assembly, and Turkey, and, I erupted. But it still took another year to begin writing regularly, and that was in October 2003. First I was submitting to Asbarez, soon thereafter expanding to the Weekly.

That’s it, bland but true.

HENRY D. ASTARJIAN, M.D.

Armenia’s independence and Levon Ter Petrossian’s ascendance to the presidency prompted me to assume the role of a loyal opposition member. That was politically incorrect for some segments of the Armenian Diaspora, who were grateful for having a piece of land called Armenia. It didn’t matter if it was good or bad. I was of the opinion that the newborn had congenital deformities, needing to be corrected.

Some English-language Armenian newspapers published my articles after subjecting them to censorship; The practice gave me indigestion, so after a handful issues, I decided to quit and came to The Armenian weekly. The column was born with Tatul Sonentz being the “Midwife” and Vahe Habeshian (the editor at the time) the “Godfather.” He christened it “Loud and Clear.” The writings were so caustic and critical of Petrossian that the government of Armenia included me, seventh from the top, in a “List of 31” who were not allowed to enter Armenia. I did not attempt!

I did not blame Petrossian for his outrage, because I had called him “son of a Turk” and had said “Amot kezi Baron Nakhakah” for his participation in the funeral of Turgut Ozal, the president of Turkey, on our most sacred day, April 24.After a few years of writing, I decided to practice what I preached—that one has to know when to get on stage and when to get off. So it was time for me to get off.

When the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Committee (TARC) was surreptitiously and sneakily created, it was time to write again—this time with 14 articles, all devoted to the issue.  Now, with this colossal threat to the Armenian nation by the Armenian-Turkish protocols, it was time to get on stage again.  It is time to mobilize all our resources and fight with all our might to oppose, forcefully, this fatal plot against our nation.  It’s good to be back, and for that I am grateful to the Weekly.

LALAI MANJIKIAN

As a Canadian Armenian, my first exposure to the Armenian Weekly was during my years as a camper and staff member at Camp Haiastan. I remember the excitement when the newspaper with the camp supplement in it was delivered fresh off the press to that stretch of Armenian woods in Franklin, Mass. The Armenian Weekly generously published our teenage camp anecdotes, thoughts, and feelings imbued with carefree nostalgia, while informing us of what was going on in the Armenian world outside the cabin circle.

Armenian Weekly columnist Lalai Manjikian

Many years after camp, I was contacted by the current editor of the Armenian Weekly, Khatchig Mouradian, who asked if I would be interested in joining the Weekly family as a columnist. His invitation followed the publication of an article he requested I write for the Weekly; it was a short piece presenting my book Collective Memory and Home in the Diaspora: The Armenian Community in Montreal, which had just been published in Germany. Originally written as my master’s thesis, the monograph examines notions of home and collective memory existing in the diaspora, particularly articulated through Armenian community centers. It was shortly after the publication of that article that the editor extended the unanticipated invitation to join in as a columnist. He described my contribution as the voice of a young Armenian who writes about diasporan issues. After a rather entertaining email exchange, during which various ideas for titles were thrown about, the editor shortlisted my proposed list of titles down to three, one of which was “Scattered Beads.” Working with this malleable and apt metaphor to describe our collective condition as diasporans has been an enriching challenge and fulfilling experience so far. I am truly honored to be part of such a long-standing, respected, and thriving diasporic media institution such as the Armenian Weekly.  I want to thank Khatchig Mouradian and the Weekly team for taking a chance and believing in young minds and new perspectives. Your vision has allowed me, along with others, to share our voice and scattered realities.

14 Comments

  1. Why do you keep writing about the Armenian point of view which doggedly ignores the Armenian war crimes, agitation, terrorism, raids, revolts, treason, territorial demands, and Turkish suffering as a result of these?

    Why do you insist on misrepresenting Tereset (temporary resettlement of 1915) which came as a result of these heinous acts of treason as a one way genocide?

    How long do you think you can keep the attitude of “fooling all of the people all of the time”?

    Why this ethocidal cultivation of hate and vengeance?  Don’t you see where it got you in 100 years–i.e. back to square one?    Poverty-stricken, corrupt, and very violent?

    How come NO ONE IN YOUR COMMUNITY knows (or has the courage to cover) the SIX T’S OF THE TURKISH-ARMENIAN CONFLICT?

  2. The comment by FairObserver above, probably a Turk brought up in schools with textbooks that brainwashed him or her, prompts me to think about Turkey’s much heralded “zero problems with neighbors policy.”   As if any country that does not explicitly have such a policy actually wants problems with its neighbors.  
    And one wonders why Turkey has had so many problems with its neighbors that it must institute such a policy in the first place.   I can’t think of even one neighboring country, except perhaps Georgia, that has not had problems – in many cases major problems – with Turkey.

    I also can’t help recalling how Turkey not only annihilated or expelled nearly every Christian over the years – not just Armenians – but has also tried mightily to stifle the identity of Kurds and others.   Even Jews have left in droves.  What is is about Turkey that is so uncomfortable with other  ethnic groups and religions?  I don’t have the answer, but there is clearly something fundamentally wrong with Turkey that its ridiculously named “zero problems” policy does not even begin to address.  

  3. I’m fairly certain “FairObserver” is Ergun Kirklikovali, the “Dwight Schrute” of the Turkish Community. In his mind, the Armenians are to blame for the Balkan wars, the OE’s dissolution, their own deaths, the deaths of millions of muslims (must have been at the hands of the Armenian women and children, and they must have been superhuman killing machines since according to Turks, there were only 1 million Armenians in Asia Minor to begin with). He also claims that Armenians are anti-Islamic despite the fact that they get along with Arabs, Persians and increasingly with Kurds.

  4. Enjoyed reading the article about Ayse Gunaysu.
    It hits the bull’s eye so to speak as it exemplifies how a spiritual action from a victim can touch someone from the other camp. It solidifies the higher levels expected from us  no matter where  we worship  and how we worship .  It speaks of authenticity for humanity instead of claiming  the ideology of our different tribes.
    Genocide is a hollow victory which will never last the Truth of time.
    Victims, when they have something better to offer, are the TRUE VICTORS.

  5. Fairobserver:
    Do you have any shame, honor oe integrity left in your blood?
    As an Armenian put it mildly, we know exactly who you are.
    How come NO ONE IN YOUR Turkey who  knows (shamelessly covering) the 12 G’s (Stands for Genocide) of the Turkish Vs Innocent, defenseless peoples of the world whose people you still are butchering?
    Kurdistan will be free and soon, you murderers wait and see.

  6. Kurdistan will not be free until the Kurds acknowledge their role in the genocide (which is no worse than the role of the Turk), and begin actively participating for genocide recognition in Turkey.
     
    Until then, don’t expect the Armenians or the outside world to take you seriously.

  7. Mr. Sassounian, I love to read your articles.  You are always inspiring me with your insights and intellect.  I know now why your columns were translated in so many languages and people like to read and know what you have to say.  Thank you.

  8. Henry Dumnian:
    I guess news travels slow in this part of the planet. 
    Kurds have a parliament in exile, since we cannot have one,  because about 300,000 Turkish soldiers man our side of Turkey. Therefore our parliament in exile has accepted the Genocide. So, I am surprised as to why Armenian newspapers are mum about it.
    To conclude: Henry what you have asked in your post, has been done long time ago.

  9. The pathetic contribution by “fair observer” seems to be a familiar regurgitation of Turkish propaganda fed to simple minded fundamentalists that have a tendency of clinging to guns and religion when faced with facts.
    I’m guessing the author behind the fallacious comment is that of either the fascist Ergun Kirklikovali or one of his ultra-nationalist Turkish brethren on salary doing his grunt work. In either case, I would fathom “fascist observer” would better characterize the authors views.

  10. Debate, controversy, myth, historical fact, freedom of speech. This is what the comment section of the Armenian Weekly represents and it is what freedom loving Armenians cherish. We didn’t have it in Turkey but we have had it for 75 proud years in this English language newpaper in the US. We remember Hrant Dink’s fate, especially this month. It is absurb for any Turk to deny the ruthless annhiliation of the Armenians from their homeland and the ultimate goal of the Turks that the only surviving Armenian would be in a museum. While many enlightened Turks may abhor the behavior of their leadership in 1915 and thereafter, it is only until the Turkish government itself accepts responsibility for their heinous acts of genocide against their Armenian citizens that justice will begin to be done. Til then the pens to correct a terrible wrong will continue writing, the voices of Armenians and their supporters will continue to rise around the world in protest against those who commit genocide and yet deny their evil intent. Armenians will never accept the fate the Turks thrust upon us, not after 100 years or 200 years. Why doesn’t the Turkish government welcome and guarantee the Keghetzis, Vanetzis, the Sepastiatzis, the Zonguldaktzis, the Marashtzis and all the rest of the diasporan Hyes a safe return to their homeland to resume rightful ownership of their property? Your nation was built on the blood of the Greeks, the Assyrians, and the Armenians in particular. I shall never forget how the Turks decimated my family in Keghi and I shall not remain silent.

  11. The PKK, PUK and IDP have all publicly acknowledged the Genocide and the Kurdish role in it. The Kurds deserve their own state in what is now Northern Iraq and parts of S.E. Anatolia.

    • life is NEVER that simple, easy or convenient for you kurds or you present enemy turks, which USED TO BE YOUR ALLIES THEN when it came to mass murder and plunder of Armenians and Assyrians as well as . by simple utterance the word “acknowledge” does not change your and our faiths.

      EVERYBODY WILL LAY IN THE BED THEY MAKE. OR WHERE MADE FOR THEM IN OUR CASE ALMOST A CENTURY AGO AND BEYOND.

      In case you don’t realize, historically sincere acknowledgement for this horrific crime against humanity do not constitute mere words. It will have to be EARNED by actions and through time. I must say, your credibility is just about zero at this point.

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