HOW TO RESPOND: “Why Do You Care So Much About Something That Happened Almost 100 Years Ago?”By: Levon Sarmazian | Posted on: 22.02.2013
I am one of many Armenian youth around the world who spends countless hours of my time during the week at the Armenian Community Centre, either in a meeting or working on the next event. The Community Centre has really become my second home. I have dedicated much of my life towards various Armenian organizations and causes with many people asking me “what for?” It is important to reflect on why we dedicate so much time and effort towards the Armenian cause – spreading awareness about the Armenian Genocide with the ultimate goal of recognition by the government of Turkey.
As Armenians living outside of Armenia, we have to take time to step back and remember why we are living outside of our motherland. The reality is that there are more Armenians living outside of Armenia than in Armenia itself, yet we still identify ourselves as Armenians first. Through every tragic event in our ancient history, we continue to hold tightly to our culture, language, religion and heritage. The hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide is fast approaching, yet the government of Turkey denies the events of 1915 from ever occurring. How long is the fight for recognition going to last? Are we going to eventually just give up? A question I am frequently asked by many of my Armenian and non-Armenian friends is, “Why do you care so much about something that happened almost one hundred years ago?” This very question, although seeming so simple in my mind, comes as a challenge in the minds of others.
In order to answer this question, it is important to understand the facts and what forces we are up against. Yes, the current government of Turkey is not directly responsible for what its ancestors in Ottoman Turkey did to the Armenians. However, to completely deny the facts that genocide occurred is just unreasonable. In fact, today, the Turkish government spends millions of dollars on Armenian Genocide denial and lobbying in other countries.
The government of Turkey has been carrying out many anti-Armenian Genocide actions to supress the discussion of the truths about the genocide in international and public forums. They even go to the extent of blackmailing other nations with cancelled economic trade if they dare discuss the genocide as a recognized event in world history. The current Turkish government’s goal is to erase all physical records and memories of the events. They have even been caught paying representatives of various countries to lobby against the Armenian cause. The struggle for recognition has become ever so difficult because of the Turkish government’s continued effort to silence the Armenian voice.
The most current example occurred in early 2012 where both Houses of the French legislature passed a bill to criminalize the denial of the Armenian Genocide, just as they had done years before with the Jewish Holocaust. And what came afterwards was sadly expected. The Turkish government cut all economic, political and military ties with France, and recalled the ambassador from Paris. When the bill reached France’s Constitutional Council, they deemed the bill unconstitutional which halted its implementation and allowed Turkey to restore its ties with France. I would not be surprised if the Turkish lobby had something to do with stopping the bill into becoming law. Interfering into other countries political decisions about the Armenian Genocide is something they have succeeded in doing on a number of occasions.
The Turkish Minister of Affairs to the European Union recently made comments regarding Turkey’s history and stance on genocides: “If only all countries’ past had been simple and transparent just like Turkey’s past. No genocides have occurred in Turkey’s history. What’s genocide? Turkey doesn’t know what genocide is”. This is just one example of the type of Turkish denial we have to deal with in our work.
The Canadian government recognized the Armenian Genocide in 2004. This is something I am very proud of. But this does not mean we pack up our bags and stop going to the nation’s capital every April 24th. It means we continue to remember those woman, children, men, intellectuals, and religious leaders, who were intentionally murdered through the orders of the Ottoman Turkish government. Just as the government of Canada and other governments have recognized the Armenian Genocide as a part of history, it is also possible for the same governments to give into the Turkish lobby and take that recognition away. We cannot let this happen.
I imagine a world where the Turkish government recognizes the events of 1915 as genocide. What a great example they would be for the international community and for human rights. When that day comes, we can finally find some peace. But if the current Turkish administration continues in the path they have chosen to take, then we still have a duty to perform.
Referring to the famous words of Adolf Hitler when carrying out the Jewish Holocaust, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” When I first heard these words, they haunted my thoughts for a long time. Then I realized that it is a reminder of how we cannot give up the fight for recognition of the genocide and for justice of those one and a half million lives lost. My family’s descendants in 1915 consisted of seventy-seven members; only eighteen surviving the genocide. I cannot go about a normal everyday life knowing that justice has not been brought to both my family and millions of other Armenian families worldwide.
To answer the questions of many, the reason I am so involved is because I feel an obligation to continue my ancestor’s legacy. This is why I will never stop fighting for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. After everything we have been through in our history, how could I not care?