Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Never Forget

This has nothing to do with Taiwan, but it's something very close to my heart and my family history.

Telling the Truth About the Armenian Genocide

Armenian Remembrance Day is April 24th. That's the day to commemorate and remember what happened to Armenians living in Turkey circa 1915.

If you don't know what happened during that time - and don't let anyone convince you that it was anything other than a genocide, and a government sanctioned and premeditated one at that - now is a good time to learn some history. The article above is a good introduction to that history.

Because my last name comes from my dad's side, few people realize that I'm actually just as Armenian as I am Polish, despite my "So are you from Warsaw?" last name and my fair complexion.

Not only am I Armenian, but that side of my family was living in Mousa Dagh (a part of Turkey) at the turn of the century, and thus was directly impacted by events at that time. My great grandmother's family was captured and my great-great grandfather executed. My great grandfather was in the military - the Turkish military - and didn't know what was going on for awhile. When he found out, he used his training to become a freedom fighter and was one of the best snipers that the Armenian resistance had. He eventually reunited with my great-grandmother and they escaped to Greece, where they married and had children. When World War II came around, they left Greece for the USA (Hitler was quite well-versed in what happened in Turkey - see his famous "Who remembers the Armenians?" quote - and used it as an assurance that he, too, could get away with ethnic cleansing. It was not a good idea to be an Armenian in a place where Nazis were heading, especially if you were a former freedom fighter).

But, well, history is written by the winners. Many countries do not recognize the genocide (including, until recently, the USA), preferring to keep Turkey and its political thugs happy rather than speak truth to power.

One of the reasons I have great faith in Obama is that he isn't doing this; in his recent visit to Turkey he refused, as the Washington Post put it, "to disavow his earlier statements that the mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire before and during World War I was genocide."

Thank goodness we have a President who is finally willing to take that necessary, courageous, and yet altogether obvious step.

Living in Taiwan has taught me a lot about countries with painful histories. What happened in Taiwan during the White Terror may have stopped short of a full-blown ethnic cleansing, but it created its own set of horrors that society plainly hasn't gotten over. Both sides have their tales to tell - not only what the long-settled Taiwanese have endured at the hands of the Japanese and, later, the KMT, and not only what the aborigines have been through almost since their beautiful island was discovered by neighboring lands, but also the hardship endured by many waishengren who made the trip over here not all that long ago.

It's that sort of sadness, the kind that's pushed aside for every day life and yet never quite forgotten, that compel me to remember even more strongly what my own family went through, not long before what happened here.

So, April 24th hasn't come yet, but it's still a good time to start remembering. Besides Obama's wonderfully principled stance on the matter, new books are coming out this month regarding the genocide, including Armenian Golgotha, which I am very interested to read if it ever becomes available in Taiwan.

Now that we are remembering and beginning to admit, let us not backtrack and let us not forget.

1 comment:

David said...

A film about the Armenian Genocide called "Lark Farm" will be released in Taiwan on 1 May.