Monday, April 09, 2007

“In the midst of the first World War a monumental crime occurred against humanity.”

April 24, 2007 marks the 92nd Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Armenians worldwide will be commemorating the First Genocide of the 20th Century with religious and civil ceremonies. Along with the Armenian people, prominent celebrities and statesmen will be participating in this day of remembrance.

During Word War I, The Young Turk, political faction of the Ottoman Empire, sought the creation of a new Turkish state extending into Central Asia. Those promoting the ideology called “Pan Turkism” (creating a homogenous Turkish state) now saw its Armenian minority population as an obstacle to the realization of that goal.

On April 24, 1915, several hundred Armenian community leaders and intellectuals in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) were arrested, sent east, and put to death. In May, after mass deportations had already begun, Minister of the Interior Talaat Pasha ordered their deportation into the Syrian desert.

The adult and teenage males were separated from the deportation caravans and killed under the direction of Young Turk functionaries. Women and children were driven for months over mountains and desert, often raped, tortured, and mutilated. Deprived of food and water and often stripped of clothing, they fell by the hundreds and thousands along the routes to the desert. Ultimately, more than half the Armenian population, 1,500,000 people were annihilated. In this manner the Armenian people were eliminated from their homeland of several millennia.

On April 29, 1915, Henry Morgenthau, Sr. United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire had stated that “I am confident that the whole history of human race contains no such terrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared to the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915.”

In 1915, thirty-three years before UN Genocide Convention was adopted, the Armenian Genocide was condemned by the international community as a crime against humanity.

Despite Turkish contentions to the contrary, hundred of eyewitnesses, including the neutral United States and the Ottoman Empire’s own allies, Germany and Austria-Hungary, recorded and documented the Genocide.

Balakian, the author of “The Burning Tigris: The Armenian genocide and America’s response”, says the Turkish government’s efforts to stop media coverage of the Armenian issue dates back to 1935, when it pressured the U.S. State Department to shut down a Hollywood movie about the killings.

After decades of denial and silence, scholars, historians, journalists, and authors like Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak have published books that tell about the killings of Armenians. Orhan Pamuk has been indicted by a prosecutor in Istanbul on the grounds that his remarks amounted to "public denigration of the Turkish identity". Shafak’s latest novel, The Bastard of Istanbul, has caused an uproar in Turkey as it may be the first Turkish novel to explore the emotional realities of the Armenian Genocide through three generations of women in a Turkish family in Istanbul and an Armenian American family in the United States.

Books, DVD’s and videos about Armenian Genocide at Burbank Public Library will shed light on the tragedy that took place 92 years ago.

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