ONE MAN'S BOOK, ANOTHER MAN'S PROMISE
by Khatchig Mouradian

ZNet, MA
Nov 30 2006

It is almost 3 a.m. A minute or so has passed since I turned the
last page of a book that now rests on my table, while I embark on a
journey down memory lane to late 1980s Bourj Hammoud-a Beirut suburb.

I walk up the stairs and knock on the door.

***

While we wait for her to open the door, I want to tell my readers
that back then, she is in her early 90s. I am in my early teens.

A smile greets me and invites me in. Aghavni mayrig is a distant
relative but a close friend of our family. I visit her every now and
then because she is one of the ever-dwindling numbers of old Armenian
women who have a horrible story to tell.

And her story is also mine.

Aghavni mayrig is a survivor of the Yeghern-the Armenian Genocide-the
forced deportations and mass killings executed by the Ottoman
government. A million-and-a-half Armenians fell victim to that massive
campaign of slaughter and grand theft of property in 1915.

The few thousand Armenians who survived found themselves in Syria, and
started to rebuild their lives and that of their nation from scratch.

Today, it is I who has a story for Aghavni mayrig. There is a new
campaign in some countries in Europe and South America to recognize
the Armenian Genocide and call Turkey to face its past. I break the
news to her with such anticipation of her joy-after all, she had lost
almost all members of her extended family and had been waiting for
justice for more than 75 years.

But Aghavni mayrig is not impressed. "Nayir, dghas (Look, my son),"
she says, "Even if the entire world one day unanimously adopts a
resolution recognizing our suffering, it will do little to relieve
my pain. It was the Turks who drove us from our lands, confiscated
all our property, and massacred us like sheep. It is they who must
recognize the horror they committed and compensate."

I promise her that the day Turkey recognizes the Genocide, I will
personally bring her the good news.

She smiles.

***

Aghavni mayrig passed away in 1995.

To this day, the Turkish state invests billions of dollars in
campaigns aimed at vehemently denying that what happened in 1915 was
genocide-the intent to destroy an ethnic group. And, adding insult to
injury, Turkey has begun to accuse the Armenians of killing millions
of muslims. Outside Turkey, very few people believe this 'official'
thesis. But for the handful of survivors of the genocide, and their
descendents, the wound remains open.

Ever since that day at Aghavni mayrig's house, I have made the journey
countless times in my mind telling her that Turkey finally recognized
the Genocide. I imagined going to Bourj Hammoud, climbing up the
stairs to her small apartment, knocking on the door and-the moment
she opens the door-telling her "the good news."

The book I was reading was Taner Akcam's A Shameful Act: The Armenian
Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility (Metropolitan
Books, 2006). Akcam is regarded as the first Turkish-born scholar to
publicly acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. His thoroughly researched
book on the history of the Genocide is a must-read-particularly for
every Turkish citizen.

In the last few years, attempts to shatter the taboo of the Armenian
Genocide in Turkey witnessed some success, as more Turkish journalists,
activists and scholars speak our about the massacres of the Armenians,
often risking being jailed and despite threats to their careers and
even their lives. And I have made that journey to Aghavni mayrig's
apartment more and more often. I make that journey for every Turk
who is courageous enough to recognize his country's dark past-whether
he lives outside of Turkey, or perhaps in the very house in Anatolia
where Aghavni mayrig was born.

Khatchig Mouradian is a Lebanese-Armenian writer, translator, and
journalist. He is an editor of the daily newspaper Aztag, published
in Beirut. He can be contacted at [email protected] .