When Eric , my yougest son , was seven we sent him from London – where we live – to Tehran, together with his two elder brothers Robert and Edwin, to spend part of their holidays with their respective grand-parents and also (and this was really my husband’s and my main purpose) to learn better Armenian , be in Armenian-speaking society , access closely their Armenian roots through our family ties and attend and get involved with the various events undertaken by the Armenian organisations who were in charge of promoting our culture , traditions and history in the lives of the young Armenian teenagers in Tehran , many of whom not being registered in Armenian schools were exposed , daily , to non-Armenian culture and education .
One of our sons visits coincided with the Easter Holiday which often falls in the month of April . As it happened , that year, on 24th April , Eric had been taken by my mother to the Ararat Stadium , where a monumental Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide Ceremony , Vigil , Requiem and Cultural Programmes had taken place . While holding his hand as not to loose him in that huge crowd, my mother had explained to Eric that these 20.000 Armenians were gathered in that Stadium to remember the death of the one and half million Armenians who had been killed by the Turks in 1915 , while they were living in their own homes and on their own soil .
Eric had been affected so badly by this that immediately after returning home , he had insisted to talk to me . I called him with aprehension and just by hearing my voice , he bursted in tears , told me what he had seen and made this remark : “Mum , I saw today 20.000 Armenians together , I sang today with 20.000 Armenians . You could hear us everywhere . There were many, many ; it was a big big crowd ! Mum if 20.000 were so many , then how many more were that one million and half Armenians ?”
How big is a crowd of one and half million people?
Often we repeat the statistics revealed by the research of International historians: one million and half Armenian victims of the genocide! We repeat automatically that number because it is carved in every Armenian’s heart and memory . But do we stop and think ? Do we try to visualise the trail of death stretching from house to house , school to school , square to square , town to town ? If the voice of 20.000 Armenians singing together the National Anthem during a Remembrance Ceremony had beeen “heard everywhere” according to my little boy , then the voices of one million and half Armenians who had cried together, yelled together and sobbed together in 1915 under the yatagans , the bayonets and the guns of the Turks must have been heard in all the Turkish towns , all the Turkish schools , all the Turkish squares , echoing everywhere under the Turkish skies . The whole Turkish population must have heard them .
What did the Turkish man, woman , mother , child, cleric, doctor , teacher , nurse or any ordinary Turk think and do when they heard those cries , when they saw those rivers of blood , those villages and hamlets set to fire with their flames shooting high , like the arms of the victims elevated to the skies in prayer , seeking help and comfort ? They must have been affected . They must have felt guilty and they must also have been scared for it is scarry and disturbing to witness the death of an innocent human being and realise that by keeping silent , one becomes an accomplice to the crime … or were their hearts as devoided of mercy , justice and pitty as those of the ones who had signed the death sentences?
I cannot believe that ! I cannot believe that the hearts of the entire Turkish population were devoided of mercy and compassion . The Armenian genocide was the work of the Ottoman government of 1915 and not the people of 1915 ! It was that government who had planned what Winston Churchill – referring to the events of the time – had called “ the Holocaust of an entire Nation and Race “ It was the Ottoman government of 1915 who had forced its military, its employees and its staff to obey and execute its orders , often being reduced to free criminals from their jails and trust them with its vile and sinister project , knowing well that these criminals would – willingly- commit any crime for the price of their freedom and maybe secretly concerned that the ordinary Turkish people could not be trusted entirely with committing these killings .
Ordinary people must not be judged by the actions of their governments and I am sure that there must have been Turks who have tried to help, who have felt the injustice and the enormity of the crime , who have told their children about what they have witnessed and have written somewhere in their secret diaries about the murder of an Armenian neighbour, a fellow labourer, a shopkeeper , a banker , a teacher … a friend.
I am calling on those Turks : the ones who , knowing the truth , acknowledge publicly that wrong has been done and that crime has been committed . I am calling on all those Turks who – lately – had the courage and decency to hold the posters which claimed their solidarity with the Turkish- Armenian journalists and their Armenians compatriots in Turkey. l am calling on those Turks who have a conscience to stand up ,to tell the truth, to research and expose the documents which have legalised these crimes and to encourage their own children , their families , their relations , their pupils and their colleagues to join them in their campaign.
I am calling on that one and half million good Turks, men and women and ask them not to be afraid of the authorities retaliation as even Turkish jails cannot house such large number of protesters . I am calling on those good people of Turkey urging them to stand up, to speak up and ask justice for the one and half million innocent victims who were murdered so cruelly :
I am asking one good Turk with a conscience to do one good deed for one innocent Armenian victim .
I am calling on the Turkish shepherd who , having found a human bone in the fields knows that it belongs to an Armenian victim , on the peasant who can locate accurately the “ mass graves “ where thousands of Armenians are buried , on the teacher who knows that entire pages relating to the Armenian genocide are missing from its pupils history books , on the passer-by who lifts its head and looks at the Armenian Churches with sorrow knowing well why they are empty, on the clerk who knows exactly where the secret documents which have ordered the Armenian genocide are filed and kept , on the Turkish Parliamentarian who denies a historic fact knowing it to be true and real , but – all the same – denies that truth just to keep its seat and remain in power …. ….and on all those who comply with the deceitful lies of denial , too afraid to speak and worried to loose their comfort and their benefits.
As the great Turkish historian Taner Akcam is rightly advocating , it is clear now that the revolution of recognition of the Armenian genocide, of penance and acceptance of guilt by the Turkish government for the actions of their ancestors has to come from within Turkey, from the ordinary Turkish man/woman in the street , from its own population, from the civilised and educated youngsters who have to open the channels of correspondence and interaction through the Internet first with their own colleagues and friends in Turkey , then with Armenian youngsters in Armenian universities and schools , with Armenian people and organisations in the Armenian Diaspora and with International Organisations who have in their possession the correspondence and the documents which prove and expose the veracity of the Armenian genocide .
Since times immemorial, revolutions have aimed to remove self-promoted ruling tyrants, replace them with elected representatives of the people and establish the will of the people and democracy.
In Turkey – if achieved peacefully by the Turkish people- this revolution of recognition of the Armenian genocide will bring closer two neighbours estranged from each other because of that genocide and its denial, will dismantle the segregating barbed wires which separate them, will present Turkey and its people in a more advantageous light of democracy and protection of Human Rights and will facilitate it’s ascencion and admission to the European Union .
Let the process begin . Please.