Armenians need to move beyond genocide, open dialogue

Liana Aghajanian

Ninety-two years ago, 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered in cold blood by the Ottoman Empire. Ninety-two years after the fact, we still struggle to have it recognized by not only the world, but by the very country and government that carried out the mass killings.

What has happened in the 92 years after these killings? The Holocaust, in which 6 million victims perished, the Cambodian Genocide, which claimed 1.7 million victims in 1975, The Rwandan Genocide of 1994, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia where over 8,000 victims were killed, and most recently the crisis in Darfur, which has claimed 200,000 to 400,000 lives and displaced millions of others.

Have we not learned anything? Is history doomed to repeat itself endlessly? Must governments turn their cheeks to human rights violations because of politics?

I can only speak on behalf of one of the aforementioned tragedies, and it is the one that the Armenian Diaspora and international communities around the world remembered this week.

Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, who was assassinated in January of this year, worked his entire life to establish relations and open dialogue between Turks and Armenians. He was not only critical of Turkey, but of the Armenian Diaspora. He once said, “Turkish-Armenian relations should be taken out of a 1915 meters-deep well.”

Hrant Dink’s view was that Turkey needed to come to terms with its history, and accept that colossal wrongs were committed in the past. At the same time however, he also had Turkish friends and supporters, like author Orhan Pamuk, who has spoken openly about and in support of bringing the Armenian Genocide to light. The difference between him and Armenians abroad, Dink said, was that he was living with the Turks of today, while they were still living with the Turks of 1915.

Dink’s funeral turned into a surprising reconciliation, if only for that moment, between Turks and Armenians, as 100,000 people attended and held up signs that read “We are all Hrant Dink” and “We are all Armenian.” In many ways, at that moment, the peace Dink had been seeking between the people of the two neighboring countries had been achieved. His killer’s motives to silence his voice and the voices of his supporters backfired. If anything, they grew louder. Condemnation came from the media, the president and prime ministers of Turkey and many other government officials, not to mention a never-ending list of international human rights organizations and countries.

“There are Turks who don’t admit that their ancestors committed genocide,” he said in the documentary “Screamers.” “If you look at it though, they seem to be nice people? So why don’t they admit it? Because they think that genocide is a bad thing which they would never want to commit, and because they can’t believe their ancestors would do such a thing either.”

May all the members of the Armenian Diaspora remember that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. May all the denialists of the Genocide one day realize the facts that have been right in front of them for 92 years. May Hrant Dink’s dreams of open dialogue, communication and good relations between these two groups of people one day become a reality.