Pardon My Genocide

I write these words as someone who was long dissatisfied with our almost exclusive pursuit of genocide recognition on the external political front; was thrilled when, about a decade ago, we started raising the issues of reparations and territorial restoration; and, listens to people’s passing comments and attempts to discern emerging mindsets in our community.

A scene from the 2015 Armenian Genocide commemoration in Boston (Photo: Araz Chiloyan)

I am concerned.

There is a worrisome dismissiveness rising towards our genocide recognition, awareness rising, and commemorative activity.  The most recent comment I heard, just a few days ago, was “I’m not that interested in April 24.”

No doubt but that some of this rises from fatigue.  It is not easy to pursue an issue of justice and rights, decade after decade, while confronted with vicious opposition.  But then, no such human problem was resolved quickly and easily.  How long did it take to formally abolish slavery?  Remember that even today it is still practiced covertly, tacitly, in some places and ways.  How long did the U.S. civil rights struggle take to achieve its most basic, initial, aspirations?  And, even today it is not fully resolved?  How long did colonial, exploitative, rule or tutelage of the New World, Africa, and parts of Asia take to dismantle?  How long were empires the normal, common, form of government?

But that can’t explain it all.  There are other factors and drivers of this malaise, both overt and more subtle (perhaps even covert).  I assert this because most of the people from whom I have heard the comments which led me to write this piece, are people who are absolutely dedicated to the betterment of our community and nation.  They work in some aspect of human endeavor—athletic, business, economic, educational, environment, political, social, etc.—in the Diaspora, homeland, or both.

Some argue that pursuing U.S. government recognition is now superfluous.  This may be contributing to the creation of a sense that genocide related activity is unnecessary or passé.  These people contend it has already been achieved by virtue of the 1950s reference to it in a legal filing, the resolutions that have passed a few times in Congress, President Reagan’s proclamation, etc.  Unambiguousness.  That’s my one word reply.

The doubt created by the U.S. State Department’s note in one of its 1982 publications= ambiguousness.  Federal courts striking down California’s Armenian Genocide era insurance claims law based on federal preemption= ambiguousness.  Annual mealy-mouthed presidential statements= ambiguousness.  Failure to pass a “permanent” recognition resolution (vs. a one-time commemorative statement) by both houses of the U.S. Congress simultaneously= ambiguousness.

These are reasons why the pursuit of Armenian Genocide recognition by governmental legislative and/or executive bodies/offices worldwide, and especially in Washington D.C., capital of the world’s hyper-power, is not yet over.  Plus, consider that the Armenian Genocide is a much more understandable access point to newly-elected/appointed officials as they come into office over the years.  Confronting someone in high office with “I want reparations and real estate” on a first encounter is probably not the most effective approach.

Another argument is one which falsely creates a “contradiction” between genocide recognition (and other Western Armenia related issues) and support of the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh, along with Javakhk.  People who present this argument contend that doing genocide work undermines our states’ ability to grow and prosper because of the barrier presented by Turkey.  This mindset effectively extends to Azerbaijan and the ceding of Artsakh’s lands.  They fail to recognize that it is exactly the pressure created by demanding the 3-Rs (recognition, reparations, restoration of lands) that creates maneuvering room for our still-struggling republics.  It is the argument put forth by the likes of former President Levon Ter Petrosyan or his advisor Jirair Libaridian.

Finally, there is the (happily) tiny contingent which contends that we are genocide obsessed and have to get “past” it.  The sounds much like uncomprehending non-Armenians’ advice to “just get over it”—sounds much more reprehensible now, doesn’t it?  This mindset is most loudly and obnoxiously represented by the likes of Meline Toumani and her book, There Was and There Was Not, which succeeded in casting aspersions at and denigrating numerous parts of Armenian society—even genocide survivors.

Our approach regarding Armenian Genocide recognition must be that it is an ongoing battle, more nuanced than before, and situated in a larger, broader, struggle, but one that we can not, must not, desert in the name of… whatever the excuse is.


Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian

Asbarez Columnist
Garen Yegparian is a fat, bald guy who has too much to say and do for his own good. So, you know he loves mouthing off weekly about anything he damn well pleases to write about that he can remotely tie in to things Armenian. He's got a checkered past: principal of an Armenian school, project manager on a housing development, ANC-WR Executive Director, AYF Field worker (again on the left coast), Operations Director for a telecom startup, and a City of LA employee most recently (in three different departments so far). Plus, he's got delusions of breaking into electoral politics, meanwhile participating in other aspects of it and making sure to stay in trouble. His is a weekly column that appears originally in Asbarez, but has been republished to the Armenian Weekly for many years.
Garen Yegparian

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  1. The Genocide is very important even today because Turkey and Azerbaijan may commit genocide yet again.

    Armenia and Artsakh are in constant danger. That is why Armenia has signed security pacts with Russia (as unreliable as the latter may be).

    Turkey, backed by NATO (unlike during WWI), pursues pan-Turkism all the way into Azerbaijan and Central Asia. Armenia is in the way and vulnerable.

    Turkey planned to attack Armenia back in 1993 during a planned coup in Russia.

  2. I want to also add that people (within our community) that are saying “get over it” didn’t have relatives slaughtered like I did. (Or aren’t aware.)
    I’m not going to get over it. Every time I think about it my blood boils. Five generations ago dozens on my relatives were killed. I’m short hundreds of blood relatives today and that burns.
    So to everyone who says get over it I say stay out of it. If you are not feeling the pain I am then out of respect stay quiet.

    • Caren, there are some very good comebacks to people who say “get over it”.

      •If the person saying it is armenian then ask them “would you tell a Jew to get over the holocaust?”

      •If the person is European then ask them “do you think you should forget the fallen of ww2 and not have a minute of silence for those that died in ww1 which was a hundred years ago?”

  3. Pardon my Genocide as well,

    Listing the same events listed by Garen Yegparian, Harut Sassounian has been insisting all along that the U.S. has recognized the Armenian genocide. Strangely, he further claims that the West Coast ANCA lists U.S. among the nations that have recognized the Genocide. Strangely I say, because he makes no such assertion in regard to the East Coast ANCA. Yet again, John Marshal Evans, the one time U.S. ambassador to Armenia paid a hefty personal price. I know of no one else who has paid such a price over the Armenian genocide recognition issue. After all, a life-long career with the State Department is no longer for him.

    To all pundits out there; has in fact the U.S. recognized the genocide of the Armenians? If yes, why have Adam Schiff ask U.S. Congress to recognize the Armenian genocide? If not, what would it entail for U.S. to recognize the genocide of the Armenians? Let us admit it, it is disheartening indeed if we do not know what it entails for the U.S. to recognize the Armenian genocide and yet we have been not only pursuing it but mudding the water along what way with claims that it has.

  4. I really don’t understand the likes of Meline Toumani, who tell Armenians to “get over it”.

    Such statements, especially from an Armenian create intra-ethnic disunity and conflict. You almost never hear jews publicly telling fellow Jews to get over the hocaust.

    I remember when the bill to criminalise Armenisn Genocide denial in France was about to go through. Some Armenian institutions were going against the bill citing freedom of speech imingement.
    Jews don’t have such qualms about these issues which is why the 1990 gayssot act was successfully passed.
    Armenians must stand United with the Moto “we will never forgive and we shall never forget” along with the three r’s of course.

  5. Nobody mentions the fact that Turkey violated the Treaty of Sevres and seized half the territory of the fledgling First Republic. (This despite being on the losing side of World War I.) They forced Armenia to sign a treaty renouncing our claim to that territory and got away with it. None of the great powers challenged this theft of historical Armenian land. I’m less concerned about official genocide recognition (though of course it’s important) than I am about the restoration of what rightfully belongs to Armenia.

  6. We presently live in a individualistic me first society in the US, and increasingly abroad also, which doesn’t leave much room for national ethnic causes. Also, some believe genocide recognition will stop at just that – recognition and won’t go further (i.e reparations), so what’s the point? the point is i believe it will go further than recognition – much further. that’s why the Turks are fighting so hard against it.

  7. No argument with any of the comments.
    Genocide recognition is an imperative step. Our efforts should continue.
    But more important and crucial is Reparations. We do have rightful demands.
    I strongly urge all Armenians to visit the site of ” Armenian Center for Justice and Human Rights” and support it financially.
    Real action is needed. Commemorations are good for the soul. But legal steps that will demand reparations will lead more tangible results, including recognition. It is disheartening that the support for the “Armenian Center for Justice and Human Rights” has not been very strong.
    It is time that we walk the talk.

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