THE BLOG

The Centennial of the Armenian Genocide

21/04/2015 17:45 | Updated 21 June 2015

No matter where one stands on the centenary anniversary of the Armenian genocide, or on what fence one opts to sit instead, it is undeniable that there has been a huge groundswell of support in favour of recognition. This does not mean that Turkey will suddenly recognise the genocide next week. Nor, for that matter, does it mean that people will still speak about it as volubly once the immediacy of the commemorations fades away. However, a psychological threshold has been crossed by the collective efforts of Armenians, assisted by many well-meaning Turks and many other supporters worldwide, who together have confronted the harrowing impact of denial.

As a simple individual with no particular influence, power or principality, I thank each and every one of them. I thank even more deeply those righteous Turks - good neighbours indeed - who helped the Armenians during their moment of need in 1915 let alone the missionaries, ambassadors, consular officials or photographers who bore witness - with their own eyes - to this genocide. But I also thank those individuals and families across the Arab and Muslim Worlds who welcomed, received, cared for and provided shelter and safety to those men, women and children at the very desperate moment when body and soul were no longer held together.

Perhaps a word of appreciation should also go out to all those religious and civic leaders who assembled at the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, Armenia, on 24 April, to remember the well over 1 million men, women and children whose lives were snuffed out from them a century ago.

A collective THANK YOU again!

At moments of anger or frustration, I often re-read Mustafa Akyol's Open Letter to the Armenian Diaspora of 2007. This thoughtful letter by a fellow Anatolian (of sorts since my ancestors hailed from this land too) injects in me a sense of inclusiveness but it also introduces an acute awareness that there are many Turks today who still remain deeply - and genuinely or ignorantly - convinced of their own narrative. They are not the enemy, but they need to face facts too.

Is it not apposite to explore the link for what happened one hundred years ago to Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks living in Ottoman Turkey with the existential challenges facing Christian communities in places like Iraq and Syria today? Is it part of the same trend, and a continuation of a linear religious ideology? Or are those two sets of events disconnected by political expediency? After all, did Pope Francis not appeal to the world not only to recognise the Armenian genocide but also protect the indigenous Arab Christian communities of the MENA region?

But let me go back to 1915 and leave a final challenge to those who are duty-bound to deny what happened to Armenians under cover of WWI! The University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies showed in stark figures that there were 2,133,190 Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1914 but only 387,800 remained by 1922.

My question today is simple: where - and how - did the 1,745,390 Armenians go in 8 years?