ATOM EGOYAN: 100 YEARS AGO TODAY, THE ARMENIAN NIGHTMARE BEGAN

Atom Egoyan, National Post | April 24, 2015 | Last Updated: Apr 24 6:48 AM ET
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Wikimedia CommonsNo Turk alive today is responsible for Ottoman
crimes. But with each passing day that the current Turkish state
denies this atrocity, it is committing its own catalogue of horrors

The following is adapted from a speech delivered outside the Ontario
legislature in Toronto, marking the centenary of the start of the
Armenian Genocide on April 24, 1915.

One hundred years ago, my grandparents could never have imagined the
calamity that would befall them. They watched in horror as their lives
were ripped away, as their families were murdered before their eyes.

The next hundred years would see an unfurling of atrocities the likes
of which humankind had never before experienced -- state-orchestrated
murder on a scale unimaginable before the toxic combination of modern
science, sophisticated weaponry, and twisted ideology. We can now
understand that the Armenian Genocide should have been a warning call.

It should have served as a crystal clear example of the tragic
consequences of unencumbered racism. It should have served as a model
of what happens when this racism is allowed to grow within a state
bureaucracy, when a government decides that there is such a thing as
a Final Solution.

And for a few years after the extent of this horror was revealed --
when it was understood that the Armenian race had been eradicated
from their ancestral homeland, when it was understood that what the
world had read in its newspapers was indeed the first widely reported
example of genocide in history -- it seemed that this atrocity had
some bearing.

Then, as the monumental reserves of oil in the former Ottoman Empire
were suddenly made available, the Western powers abandoned the issue
of justice in their race to find favour with Ataturk and the Kemalist
regime. The lessons of the Armenian Genocide were soon forgotten.

It was the fact that these massive crimes were committed without
punishment that helped inspire the Nazis to think it was possible,
under the cover of war, to exterminate an entire race -- to commit
an act of genocide with impunity.

Let's remember that the Germans were wartime allies of the Turks.

Let's remember that the Germans had consular heads in each of the
major Turkish centres who were reporting back to their Reichskanzler
with reports that were properly horrified by what was taking place.

We now understand that many of these German officers who observed the
Genocide were later key members of the monstrous team that aided in the
design of Hitler's Final Solution. We know that Hitler himself made
reference to the Armenians -- to the disappearance of the Armenian
Question -- in justifying his own barbarities.

A report from the German consul in Aleppo to his Reichskanzler at that
time would conclude by stating that the Turkish government would never
"be able to deny responsibility for all that has happened."

And yet it did. And yet it still does.

As Armenians, we are often quick to point out that the Genocide was
committed by the Ottoman Turks. A century after this virulent denial,
why are we so careful about this nomenclature? I believe that we
have been careful not to mention Turkey because we want the current
state to have a way out. To say that the decision to eliminate our
ancestors was confined to this moment of history.

Turkey cannot share the suffering of Armenians -- nothing it has
experienced can compare to this catastrophic loss

Today, 100 years after the horrible events of April 24, 1915, let
us no longer obfuscate. When the invitation comes from the Turkish
Prime Minister, as it did earlier this year, to "contribute to a
new beginning" and to believe that "Turkey shares the suffering of
Armenians," let us be clear.

Turkey cannot share the suffering of Armenians -- nothing it has
experienced can compare to this catastrophic loss. It can try to
understand it. It can feel sorry about it. It can apologize for it.

But that nagging little word -- "IT" -- is precisely what Turkey has
refused to acknowledge.

No Turk alive today can be held directly responsible for the crime of
Genocide committed by the Ottoman Regime. But with each passing day
that the current Turkish state denies this atrocity, it is committing
its own catalogue of horrors.

This has exacerbated the pain of Armenians and -- in its own way --
created a different kind of pain for Turks today. The pain of not being
able to express a true and complete sense of compassion. The pain of
seeing a fellow human being suffer, and not fully understanding --
at some deep level -- how actions are contributing to that suffering.

True compassion -- true healing -- can lead to the revelation and
disclosure of truth and humanity. But we must also understand that
compassion cannot exist if one's energies are used in any way to
conceal and deny.

This is certainly at the heart of the Turkish pain.

As Pope Francis said last week, "when memory fades it means evil
allows wounds to fester. Concealing or denying evil is like allowing
a wound to keep bleeding."

In his book The Inconvenient Indian, the great Canadian First Nations
scholar Thomas King makes the disturbing point that perhaps human
beings don't mind killing each other as much as we think we should.

In particular, contemporary history has demonstrated that we don't mind
killing people we don't like and we particularly don't mind killing if
it can be done at a distance and out of sight. And killing, continues
King, is especially acceptable if the slaughter can be attributed to
a defect in the victims or to a flaw in their way of life or to an
immutable law of nature. Or all of the above.

"How fortunate it is," King concludes, "to have so many excellent
ways of killing people without getting one's hands damp."

One hundred years ago, the Armenian nation was devastated in the most
brutal and violent ways. Hands were not simply damp, they were soaking
in blood. Today the violence continues through virulent State denial.

This denial -- the pain it causes -- might in fact expose a certain
vulnerability in the Armenian soul.

Armenia was the first country to accept Christianity as a state
religion. But this defining ethos -- our Christian faith -- has
placed on us a heavy responsibility to forgive. But in order to
properly forgive we need to sense a genuine remorse in those we are
asked to forgive. We need a clear and unequivocal apology. And while
many of us here today have encountered the honest and very human
sense of solidarity with certain individual Turks, we are caught in
a strange bind.

How can we move forward, how can we embrace these righteous individuals
when they are such solitary voices against the distorted and richly
embroidered tapestry of entrenched state denial? What do we get out
of acknowledging their pain? Don't we somehow make ourselves more
vulnerable in the process?

There is absolutely no doubt about the irrefutable fact of the Armenian
Genocide. But today, a century after this event, we are still asking
what has been the inheritance of those tortured and murdered a
century ago.

And on these steps, as we walk towards the centre of this magnificent
city, I ask you to remind yourselves of their enduring legacy.

The Young Turk murderers could never have envisioned that Armenian
engineers would help construct this city, that Armenian doctors
would make medical breakthroughs in our hospitals, that Armenian
intellectuals would teach at our universities, would help govern
our laws, would help protect our privacies, would sing songs to
our children, would make theatre and films, would conduct symphonic
orchestras -- that Armenians in this province would contribute to
this new life in such a rich and enduring way.

A hundred years ago, our culture was nearly decimated. A hundred years
later, we are strong. We are united. We are determined. Determined
that justice will prevail. And determined that we shall use our
experience -- as Armenians -- to seek justice for those around us.As
we walk through the streets of Toronto, let us cherish that we live
in a country that has acknowledged our pain, a province that has long
recognized our calamity, and a city that has embraced our talents
and our contributions.

Compassion leads to the revelation and disclosure of truth in all of
its interconnectedness and devastating elaboration. And compassion
cannot exist if any of its energies are used to conceal.

With recognition, with respect, with reparation, we can begin the
process of healing

National Post

Atom Egoyan is a Toronto filmmaker.

http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/atom-egoyan-100-years-ago-today-the-armenian-nightmare-began


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