To be completely honest, I didn’t think reading these stories was going to have such an impact on me. I knew they would be bad, but I underestimated them. This genocide, compared to all the other ones we’ve learned about so far, has taken the greatest toll on me; I opened my laptop with the mindset that I had to do yet another homework assignment, but as soon as I read the Katherine Magarian story I started tearing up.
Earlier in the year we talked about dehumanization---one of the tactics used by people and governments to carry out genocide. If one simply believes that another group is inferior, it is easy to also believe that they can be slaughtered and mistreated: they are just another animal. This is exactly what was occurring in Armenia. The letter from the Turkish Embassy said that many Armenians perished from deportations, but that was only because of limited supplies and necessities. Yet, in Katherine Magarian’s story, a Turk is depicted cutting out the baby of a pregnant woman and stabbing it, in front of the mother, with a knife. How could this be true then, that Armenians perished from limited supples, when there are real, legitimate testimonies that the Turks were in fact using supplies to kill Armenians. Killing the baby of the pregnant woman had nothing to do with deportations. It had everything to do with the mindset of the Turks at this time: Armenians were inferior, and had to be exterminated.
That is the definition of a genocide. What happened in Armenia was a genocide.
Thus we are lead to the question of what is real history and what is not real history. I’m sure many Armenians did perish from limited supplies, but even more were denied those supplies purposefully, starved purposefully, and killed purposefully. In this way, both the words of the Turkish Embassy and the words of genocide survivors are true, but one is not the complete truth without the other: one must combine the words of the Embassy and the survivors to see the bigger picture. It is so sad that the Turkish government refuses to do this. They argue that “all we need to do is move on” without realizing that the only way many Armenians can move on is if they are recognized---if they receive at least a sorry for the deaths and hardships that their ancestors had to endure.
I don’t believe a single survivor story was untrue. Why would it be? These Armenians were presented with a platform to share their story and bring awareness to something deserving of it; they had no reason to lie. The stories, especially from those who were in the genocide themselves, were heartbreaking because they were so pure. They make readers realize that these people being murdered were people, and that all human life is precious. Many of the Armenians in fact expressed, in their stories, their gratitude for those who helped make these websites possible. Giving them an opportunity to say what they have been dealing with ever since the genocide ended must have relieved a great many of survivors. The only thing that could complete their healing process is if Turkey, too, faces the history and admits that what they did constitutes a genocide.
Questioning whether the words of the Turkish Embassy were true or untrue is more complicated. I already mentioned that I think their words were true, but they were complete half-truths, as juxtaposing as that sounds. Turkey knows that there is much information already public that supports the claim that this was a genocide. Thus, anything Turkey says must be completely thought out, so as to make their words believable by those who may have read a few survivor stories, but also to make their words argue that this was no genocide. One thing extremely frustrating from the letter was the dogmatism, saying that “no serious scholar could or would ever draw a comparison with the Holocaust or any of the genocides perpetrated in history.” This is no half-truth. This is a lie. Any “serious scholar” could draw a comparison between Armenia and the Holocaust, especially since Hitler literally said “who remembers Armenia!” before he began killing all the Jews. It’s so disgusting that, not only does Turkey deny this, but they think that if you do draw this comparison, you are not a “serious scholar,” you’re just an irrelevant one. If that is the case then so be it, some of the best scholars will be irrelevant.
This exchange is like a game of tug-of-war, as childish and as bad a simile as it is. The words of Armenians are on one side and the words of the Turkish government are on the other, and they are fighting to have their story be seen when they think of 1915. Turkey refuses to listen to what the Armenians have to say, and right now the Turkish truth is triumphant. But the stories of Armenians are so, so important, and that truth of their history is one that cannot be forgotten. I am really hoping that one day, the Armenians will win the game, and have their truth be the face of 1915. It deserves to be recognized for everything that it was: a genocide.