Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?
The haunting chorus of Lin Manuel Miranda’s ending to “Hamilton” swirls through my mind during my early-dawn reading of “Forced into Genocide: Memoirs of an Armenian Soldier in the Ottoman Turkish Army” by Yervant Alexanian.
I read it in one sitting, preparing for a presentation at Fresno State Tuesday by the book’s editor, Adrienne, Alexanian’s daughter. Her speech comes one day before his birthday, Nov. 15, 1895. He died in 1983. Perhaps she can take a moment on his birthday to sit in the exquisite Armenian Genocide Memorial at Fresno State. It would make a lovely photo.
Alexanian will fly in from her home in New York City to discuss this gripping and unique eyewitness account of a conscripted soldier forced to serve under the flag of the country that would put 51 members of his family to death. He kept his detailed journal a secret even from his family. And those stories would remain unknown to this day had it not been for his daughter, who discovered a cache of mysterious pages written in Armenian among her father’s belongings after he died.
One of the presentations in southern California will take place at Abril Bookstore on Thursday evening, November 16, 2017 at 7:30 PM, co-sponsored by Abril Bookstore and the Armenian Assembly of America. This event is free and open to the public. Additional information about the 11/16 presentation is attached to this note. Direct: 818.291.6466 Cell: 818.817.1714 [email protected]
If you live in the central San Joaquin Valley, you know the basic framework of the Armenian holocaust. There were systematic massacres by Ottoman Turks of about a million and a half Armenians between 1915 and 1923. Many escaped to the United States, and Fresno was a refuge.
We hear an unrelenting drumbeat from their sons and daughters for the U.S. to officially declare this horror a genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks and yet that remains denied. But they will not stop until their families’ sufferings are acknowledged. Fresno’s libraries and Bee files are filled with their memoirs, advocacy, poetry and artwork in honor of their slain relatives.
This book, however, is unique from all other stories. No comparable account is chronicled in Armenian Genocide literature, according to the scholars who have reviewed it. There are rare documents and photographs included. One reviewer said he shares not only the suffering of the victims but also the suffering of survivors.
Alexanian turned to a professor in Fresno State’s Armenian studies department, Dr. Sergio La Porta, for the introduction. This remarkable daughter is an accomplished woman herself, an educator and a 2010 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Reading Alexanian’s memoir is far more than a recounting of history. We can see ourselves – today – in this story. The descriptions of the brutality faced by the refugees are all too fresh, for they are in our news reports constantly. From the memoir:
“I witnessed … pogroms and massacres of Armenians, in full view of Western troops. I saw with my own eyes Armenians jump into the sea and swim toward the Allied battleships stationed offshore, which represented Christian nations, thinking the ships would save them…
Many of the battleships turned on their hot-water hoses to keep these poor souls away, causing them to drown. Only a Japanese battleship was willing to throw down the rope ladder and rescue Armenians.”
The survivors and their progeny have made it their communal goal to make sure no one forgets what is often called “a murderous stain on humanity.”
And with that, we welcome Adrienne Alexanian to Fresno and thank her for sharing this gift not only to the Armenian people, but all of us as well.
How did you discover your father’s story?
They say that “life is what happens when you’re making plans.” My only plan was to archive my father’s papers and memorabilia as chairman of four Armenian organizations. I then found numerous booklets, individual papers, rare documents in Ottoman Turkish and Armenian and one-of-a-kind pictures and surmised what I had, since my father never told my mother or me that he had written his own memoir. This was confirmed when I had all of the papers translated by two professional translators.
What was the biggest surprise you discovered in the memoir?
My father didn’t talk about his experiences in the Armenian Genocide because he didn’t want to traumatize me, so instead he wrote about them. He did say that he escaped a firing squad and that playing the bugle saved his life, while 51 members of his family were killed, but didn’t elaborate.
What surprised me was how detailed his memoir is and how his experiences are backed up with not only the details but also with documents and pictures.
It also surprised me that his experiences were so much more devastating than I had imagined.
What was the most difficult part of this immense project?
I not only edited the book but collaborated with the translator for over a year to make sure that every detail was included in my father’s memoir and also that the words accurately conveyed what my father intended.
Actually, the easiest part was getting the book published since Transaction, the first publisher I contacted, grabbed it since there are no other books in literature on this aspect of the genocide … the survival of an Armenian man conscripted into the Ottoman Turkish Army.
The Valley has many people of Armenian descent. What special meaning would you like them to get from this?
I know that Armenians in Fresno strongly embrace their heritage and promote it. We always point to Fresno as a model since Armenians here have achieved so much success, not only personally, but also in the wider community.
My father’s memoir reinforces the fact that Armenians are a strong people who can survive the most traumatic events, like the Armenian genocide, and go on to realize the American dream. The majority of my father’s life in America was spent advocating for recognition of the Armenian Genocide and keeping our language and heritage alive.
I hope, too, that my father’s story encourages those Armenians who are not now part of advocacy groups to join and promote genocide recognition and the rest of Armenia’s agenda.
Describe the array of feelings this brought up for you as a daughter.
Of course, hearing about the brutality toward my father, his family and my people was very difficult to hear. Not only I, but the translators had to stop reading because our tears flowed on several occasions.
It angers me that not only has Turkey refused to admit that the Ottoman Empire is responsible for the genocide of 1 ½ million Armenians from 1915-1923, but it’s also not officially recognized by Israel, despite the fact that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, which was patterned after the Armenian genocide, nor the U.S. government despite the fact that 47 states have officially recognized it.
It saddens me that I will never get to know so many members of my father’s family and their potential offspring.
What about this project has brought you the most joy, gratitude or satisfaction?
My father always wanted his story told. If he were alive today, he would humbly say that he is just the messenger to tell a bigger story…that of the Armenian Genocide. My father’s memoir “Forced into Genocide” accomplishes both of my father’s goals.
I’m also very grateful that well-respected scholars such as Israel Charny, who wrote the foreward, and Sergio La Porta, who wrote the introduction, are involved in the book. There are endorsements from high-profile, well-respected men such as Taner Akcam, Vartan Gregorian, Eric Bogosian, congressman Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, and Andrew Goldberg.
I’m also grateful that interest in my father’s memoir has been so positive that Amazon sold out of three units and is re-ordering a fourth.
Gail Marshall is the Acting Editor of the Editorial pages for The Fresno Bee. Connect with her at [email protected]
Well-known Israeli historian and will speak at the National Center for Armenian Remembrance, in Décines-Charpieu commune of Lyon, France, informed the official website of this center.
Auron will deliver remarks on the occasion of the French-language publication of his book, entitled Israel and the Armenian Genocide.
This work complements his previous book, entitled The Banality of Indifference and Denial, and analyzes the attitude over the last 100 years by Zionism and, subsequently, by Israel toward Armenian Genocide.
Heroin, Organized Crime, and the Making of Modern Turkey explores the history of organized crime in Turkey and the roles which gangs and gangsters have played in the making of the Turkish state and Turkish politics. Turkey’s underworld, which has been at the heart of several devastating scandals over the last several decades, is strongly tied to the country’s long history of opium production and heroin trafficking. As an industry at the center of the Ottoman Empire’s long transition into the modern Turkish Republic, as important as the silk road had been in earlier centuries, the modern rise of the opium and heroin trade helped to solidify and complicate long-standing relationships between state officials and criminal syndicates. Such relationships produced not only ongoing patterns of corruption, but helped fuel and enable repeated acts of state violence.
Drawing upon new archival sources from the United States and Turkey, including declassified documents from the Prime Minister’s Archives of the Republic of Turkey and the Central Intelligence Agency, Heroin, Organized Crime, and the Making of Modern Turkey provides a critical window into how a handful of criminal syndicates played supporting roles in the making of national security politics in the contemporary Turkey. The rise of the “Turkish mafia”, from its origins in the late Ottoman period to its role in the “deep state” revealed by the so-called Susurluk and Ergenekon scandals, is a story that mirrors troubling elements in the republic’s establishment and emphasizes the transnational and comparative significance of narcotics and gangs in the country’s past.
Ryan Gingeras is the author of Fall of the Sultanate: The Great War and the End of the Ottoman Empire 1908-1922 and Sorrowful Shores: Violence, Ethnicity, and the End of the Ottoman Empire, which received short list distinctions for the Rothschild Book Prize in Nationalism and Ethnic Studies and the
How and Why Sakine Cansiz Survived Torture, Led Women in Combat and Was Murdered for Kurdish Freedom
Authored by Hamma Mirwaisi, with Douglas M Brown
The life of Sakine Cansiz mirrors the history of the Kurdish People. To become known as an active champion of human rights, democracy and feminism, she had to be tortured, to receive more wounds as an active soldier in a vicious guerrilla war, ad to become an assassin’s target. For the Kurds to get any attention, they’ve had to be gassed by Saddam Hussein or invaded by ISIS. Now the world can see them as the only effective fighters against ISIS, and see their success in establishing truly democratic communities in a region that knows only oppressive rulers. Who are they? What do they want? Why can’t they have a country?
“Kurdish-American writer Hamma Mirwaisi uses the 2013 execution-style murder of Kurdish feminist activist Sakine Cansiz in Paris as a launching point to explain Kurdish history, Kurdish aspirations, and the Kurds’ insurgency against Turkey – a conflict measured not in decades but in centuries. Whatever one;s perspective, one thing is clear: neither the Kurds nor the PKK can be ignored any longer. The Accidental Martyr may infuriate Turkish nationalists and frustrate diplomats, but it is a must-read to understand where the PKK has been and where Syria and Turkey’s Kurds may be going”.
(Michael Rubin, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute).
- Publication Date: Sep 23 2017
- ISBN/EAN13: 1976050146 / 9781976050145
- Page Count: 204
- Binding Type: US Trade Paper
- Trim Size:7″ x 10″
- Color:Black and White
- Related Categories: History / Middle East / Turkey & Ottoman Empire
- About the author:
Hamma Mirwaisi joined the Iraqi pershmerga as a teenager after Saddam Hussein closed the Kurds’ schools. He later emigrated to the US, earned a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and spent his career working on US Air Force projects. He returned to Iraq as a US Army interpreter. Today he lives in Florida, where he writes about the history of the Kurds and why they want to be free.
This book represents an earthquake in genocide studies, particularly in the field of Armenian Genocide research. A unique feature of the Armenian Genocide has been the long-standing efforts of successive Turkish governments to deny its historicity and to hide the documentary evidence surrounding it. This book provides a major clarification of the often blurred lines between facts and truth in regard to these events.
The authenticity of the killing orders signed by Ottoman Interior Minister Talat Pasha and the memoirs of the Ottoman bureaucrat Naim Efendi have been two of the most contested topic in this regard. The denialist school has long argued that these documents and memoirs were all forgeries, produced by Armenians to further their claims. Taner Akçam provides the evidence to refute the basis of these claims and demonstrates clearly why the documents can be trusted as authentic, providing more evidence as to the intent of the Ottoman-Turkish government towards its Armenian population. As such, this work removes a cornerstone from the denialist edifice, and further establishes the historicity of the Armenian Genocide.
Armenian Mirror-Spectator – Dawn Anahid MacKeen’s book, The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey, is a finalist for the prestigious Dayton Literary Peace Prize in nonfiction. She is one of 12 authors shortlisted in nonfiction and fiction for the award, which recognizes the power of literature to promote peace and reconciliation.
Inspired by the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize is the only international literary peace prize awarded in the United States. The prize celebrates the power of literature to promote peace, justice, and global understanding. This year’s winners will be honored at a gala ceremony in Dayton on November 5.
The other finalists include Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Underground Railroad, and J.D. Vance’s best-selling Hillbilly Elegy.
“At a time of great uncertainty in the world, this year’s finalists reveal how we got to this point and offer powerful lessons on how we can heal, reconcile, and build a better world,” said Sharon Rab, co-chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation. “Now more than ever, we need to celebrate authors who dare to explore the impact of war, exile, racism, and economic inequality and, more importantly, endeavor to offer hope in these tumultuous times.”
The Hundred-Year Walk tells the courageous story of MacKeen’s grandfather, Stepan Miskjian, one of the few to survive the massacres in the Deir Zor region of present-day Syria. Miskjian left hundreds of pages detailing his survival, which MacKeen, an investigative journalist, used to reconstruct his life and death march. She then retraced his steps across Turkey and Syria. The book alternates between the two accounts. Miskjian believed he’d lived in order to tell the world about the atrocities. “Being a witness to that satanic pogrom, I vowed it as my duty to put to paper what I saw,” Miskjian wrote in his notebooks.
Both the New York Post and Outside declared the book a “must read.” It was also awarded best biography by the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and longlisted for the Chautauqua Prize. It’s beginning to be taught in universities and high schools. “I’m so honored that many students and readers are learning about the genocide for the first time through my grandfather’s story,” MacKeen said. “Education is the reason why I spent a decade on this book.”
The Turkish Aras publishing house has published the Turkish-language edition of the Armenian Genocide novel As the Poppies Bloomed (Gelincikler açarken) by Los-Angeles based Syrian-Armenian writer Maral Boyadjian, Ermenihaber reports.
The novel tells the story of young lovers Anno and Daron, who fall in love as their Armenian village, Salor, comes under increasing threat by Turkish authorities in the period leading up to the Armenian Genocide. The couple wants to marry and continue life in their homeland, but they are unprepared for the dangerous secret Daron’s father keeps or the dark days ahead.
Maral Boyadjian paints a timeless love story against the backdrop of one of the most dramatic tragedies of the early twentieth century – the Armenian Genocide. Unforgettably touching, As the Poppies Bloomed reveals a beautiful and heart-wrenching tale of love, loss and hope of two young Armenians who face seemingly insurmountable odds while the land of the sultans breaks apart and World War I rushes toward them along with the greatest massacre the world had ever known.
Born in Aleppo, Maral Boyadjian moved to Los Angeles, U.S. together with her family as a child. In 2011-2014, she paid visits to Van, Bitlis, Mush, Shenik and Sasun, the fatherland of her grandparents, survivors of the Armenian Genocide, for the first time. Boyadjian’s novel As the Poppies Bloomed was published in the U.S. in 2015.
GLENDALE, Calif.—An evening of celebration and joy marked the 75th anniversary of the Armenian Evangelical Secondary School of Anjar, Lebanon, and the birthday of German missionary, Schwester (Sister) Hanna, who dedicated her life to help build and sustain this institution.
Over 350 alumni, former teachers and pastors of the school, as well as community supporters gathered at a banquet on June 23, in Glendale, to celebrate this milestone in the life of the school and pay tribute to Schwester Hanna.
The Armenian Evangelical Secondary School with its boarding school has distinguished itself as a life-altering institution for many young Armenian children in the Middle East. In fact, the boarding school became home for over 40 Armenian students who came from Camp Armen Orphanage in Tuzla, Istanbul, through the efforts of Hrant Guzelian. Through its open doors, Armenian students from Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Bulgaria, Iran, Iraq, India, Sudan, and Armenia received quality instruction, Christ-centered teaching, and nurturing care.
Schwester Hanna Christenn, a young German missionary, joined Schwester Hedvig Aenishanslin, Schwester Hanna Nishke, and Schwester Marie Rock in 1959 in the mission field of the Bekka Valley where they ministered to the displaced Armenians of Musa Ler, after the Armenian Genocide. These missionaries were sent by the Hilfsbund Foundation, which had been ministering among the Armenian people since 1896 starting from historic Armenia, and later in Greece, Bulgaria, Syria, and Lebanon. Schwester Hanna, who speaks fluent Armenian, embraced the Armenians, saying, “I am German by birth, but my soul has become Armenian. You are my people and I am yours in Christ.” Responsible for the well-being of the young children in the boarding school, she soon became known as “Mama Hanna” to them. Taking on the role of mother, she met their emotional, physical and spiritual needs. Her selfless, dedicated service prompted many of her former students to travel across the globe, some as far away as Australia, to pay tribute to her.
In addition to the dedicated service of the missionaries at the school, teachers and principals played a vital role in educating and shaping the lives of young children entrusted to their care. Honored were over 20 teachers who served within the walls of this institution and who impacted the lives of countless students. Heartwarming scenes of former students and teachers reuniting, sharing fond memories of their years at the school, were played out throughout the evening. Several decades have passed but the love felt and the joy seen on the faces of former teachers and students, thrilled to be reunited, created a banquet hall exploding with energy and excitement.
Special recognition was given to the pastors who faithfully served the Armenian Evangelical Church of Anjar. Those present, in chronological order of service, were Rev. Hovhannes Melkonian, Rev. Hovhannes Sarmazian, and Rev. Nerses Balabanian. Also acknowledged were ministered who are no longer with us: Rev. Aram Hadidian, Rev. Mardiros Marganian, Rev. Bernard Guekguezian, Rev. Manasseh Shnorhokian, and Rev. Hagop Janbazian. Unable to attend were the two most recent pastors—Rev. Raffi Messerlian and the current pastor, Rev. Hagop Akbasharian.
On the occasion of the Armenian Evangelical Secondary School Diamond Anniversary, Rev. and Mrs. Hovhannes and Jeanette Melkonian made a generous donation of $50,000 to the school. Early in their ministry, Rev. and Mrs. Melkonian served in this mission field with the four German and Swiss Missionary Sisters, Rev. Melkonian as the pastor of the church and principal of the school, and Mrs. Melkonian as a teacher at the school. Acknowledging the vital contribution of this institution to the Armenian community, Rev. and Mrs. Melkonian lovingly gifted to this institution so that the Lord’s work may continue. “We love the school and church, and we love our former students and colleagues. We have many beautiful memories of our years in Anjar, where we experienced the joy of serving the Lord. We were blessed during our time there, and we want to be a blessing,” the Melkonians stated. An emotional moment for Rev. and Mrs. Melkonian occurred when Levon Filian, who was a former student of Rev. Melkonian, acknowledged them for their gracious gift.
A rich cultural program was planned for the evening. Former students, Arpy Aintablian and Vartan Kazanjian graced the audience with their beautiful singing of “Bari Aragil” and “Edelweiss.” In keeping with the Boarding School tradition, Rev. Nerses Balabanian led the audience in the singing of a hymn. On behalf of the AMAA, congratulatory words were delivered by Dr. Nazareth Darakjian, Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) president. A slideshow was prepared by Sevan Balabanian, documenting the history of the school. Finally, the traditional Anjarsti davoul – zurna accompaniment commenced an evening of kef which lasted until the early morning hours.
The banquet committee, spearheaded and inspired by the leadership and vision of Levon Filian, was comprised of Hagop Avedikian, Nancy Bederian, Pauline Ishkhanian, Raffi Kaldjian, Bagho Kasparian, Vartan Kazanjian, and Doris Melkonian. Their hard work in planning and executing this event was evident as alumni and guests enjoyed a historic, unique evening, reflecting the Armenian and Christian heritage in which the students were nourished. Levon Filian reflected, “The banquet was a testimony of the seeds planted in Christian love bearing fruit in the lives of the next generation.” Indeed, it was an event to be remembered.
At the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Berlin was presented the book “Das Deutsche Reich und der Völkermord and den Armeniern” (German Reich and the Armenian Genocide), which contains numerous articles on the role of Germany during the genocide of the Armenians. The subject became relevant after the vote of recognition of the genocide of the Armenians by the German Parliament on 2 June 2016 and especially the assertion in the Bundestag text of Germany’s “share of responsibility” during the genocide. Even if the vote created Turkey’s anger, this recognition of Germany’s responsibility as an ally of Turkey during the genocide is of paramount importance and opens up new avenues of study on genocide.
What did Germany know about the crimes of 1915? It turns out from the German and foreign press reports of the time of the facts that Berlin was not ignorant of the mass massacres and the deportation of the Armenians. The historian Kristin Pchikkoltz, who has researched the German archives, asserts that the German government understood the necessity of the deportation of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire and knew that these deportations carried out by the Young Turks meant annihilation Of the Armenian people. “Germany had a large network of consulates in the Ottoman Empire, whose agents regularly informed Berlin of the situation of the Armenians and not only during the First World War, but even before that. The German government knew how difficult the Armenians were and how explosive the situation was, “ says the German historian.
At the presentation of the book, Rolf Hosfeld, director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Berlin, stated that on 7 July 1915 the German Ambassador had returned from Constantinople to Berlin. The diplomat then wrote that the will of the Turkish leaders was the elimination of the Armenian nation in the Ottoman Empire. He also asserted that German diplomats at the time had very fairly presented what was later termed genocide. He recalled that the German parliamentarians had not only described the term “genocide” as having occurred in the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1916 but had also accepted the responsibility of Germany, which was the ally of Turkey . The German deputies also considered that Berlin had done nothing to save the Armenians from massacres and deportation.