14:33 - 24 / 04 / 2015

Armenian Genocide victims are commemorated in Istanbul President
Sargsyan delivers toast at state dinner at the Presidential Palace
President of Cyprus: Both Armenia and Cyprus are victims of impunity
Paris-based Turkish NGOs to commemorate Armenian Genocide

At the origins of commemoration: April 24 as a day of mourning and
commemoration of the Armenian Genocide

Chicago Tribune published an article by columnist John Kass about the
story of an Armenian-American judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan and the fact
that people allow their memories to be washed. The article reads:

Pope Francis set off a diplomatic furor recently when he said what
historians and most diplomats have been saying for almost a century

That Turkey participated in the first genocide of the 20th century
by slaughtering 1.5 million Armenians in 1915.

Friday, April 24, marks the 100th anniversary of the genocide that is
still not officially recognized here in the United States as genocide.

And so I sat down at breakfast with U.S. District Judge Samuel
Der-Yeghiayan, America's first immigrant of Armenian descent to be
named federal judge.

"The pope acknowledged, as have historians since the beginning of this,
that it was a genocide," Der-Yeghiayan said. "It was unspeakable. But
still, we speak of it, to remember."

The Turkish government denies genocide and says the deaths were the
result of civil war. It withdrew its ambassador from the Vatican.

President Barack Obama wrung his hands.

"That's politics," said the judge. "But whatever they call it, it
was genocide. It wasn't an accident."

The U.S. ambassador of the time, Henry Morgenthau described the
Turkish policy as one of systematic, "wholesale slaughter."

I'd call it a Muslim cleansing of Christians, with fire and sword.

Armenians weren't the only ones. Thousands of Greeks and Assyrian
Orthodox were also killed by the Turkish army and its surrogates.

And 1.5 million Armenians were killed.

Think of it as low-tech killing. The Armenians were slaughtered in
their villages. They were chopped to pieces and thrown into rivers.

They were raped and shot and sabered by cavalry as they ran with
their children on their backs.

The fine actor, Russell Crowe, has directed a controversial movie
coming out Friday called "The Water Diviner," about Turkey of that
troubled era.

I can't wait to see it. I've read that in his film, Turks are
sympathetic figures. It is the Christians -- notably the Greeks --
who are the savages.

But just Google "Armenian Genocide" and check "images." And you will
see how brutality becomes viral.

One photo I just can't shake depicts Armenian girls who've been
crucified by Turks.

The girls are naked. Their long, black hair covers their faces. The
crosses are set on the side of a dusty road. It demands vengeance.

"My great-grandfather was an Orthodox priest," Der-Yeghiayan said.

"The Turks rounded up the family, his sons and daughters, his wife.

They gathered them. Then they dishonored him.

"First they cut off his beard. They laughed. They told him to deny
Christ. He refused. And when he refused, they chopped off his hands.

They chopped off his feet. They threw him in the river."

I saw an old family photo. There was a tiny, 5-foot-tall woman,
a great-aunt in the back row. She was the only survivor.

The Turks had killed her infant daughter. She jumped in the river
to die.

"She told me from her own mouth," Der-Yeghiayan said. "The river was
called the River of Blood. She became lost in all the bodies.

Downstream she was fished out, saved by a kind Turkish family. And
there were kind Turkish people too."

I liked visiting Turkey. I liked the culture and the people very much.

That's what makes writing this column so difficult. But the dead
compel me.

Americans forget too easily. We allow our memories to be washed,
from generation to generation, in the interests of commerce. Yet the
dead can't be coerced by capitalism.

Der-Yeghiayan's grandfather, who had been living in the U.S. working
in a steel plant, went back in 1919 to find those who were left.

"He never smiled," said the judge. "As a boy, late at night, I would
hear him from the other room, on his knees, praying for all their
souls. But I never saw him smile once. My grandmother never smiled.

All the Armenian people of the time, they lived, they survived,
they raised families.

"But they never smiled. Ever."