By Anna Truong ’16
Dr. Herand Markarian, writer and professor at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, presented the annual Historical Society presentation titled The 20th Century, the Age of Genocide and the 21st Century, the Age of Denial, on March 31, in the courtroom, as a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
The Armenian Genocide presentation was attended by many of Midwood’s faculty such as Dr. George Hero, Mr. Eric Jhanji, Ms. Edith Roberts, Ms. Margaret Murphy and librarian Mrs. Arlene Morales. Along with the teachers were students who belonged to their classes as well as other students who were interested.
This presentation focused mainly on the brutal treatment of the Armenian people, and the denial by the Turkish government of such an event.
“Unfortunately, it is a terrible habit we have of killing each other and, as our speaker is going to point out to you, one of the biggest aids that genocides have is peoples’ horrible inclination to forget,” said Dr. Hero. “When you remember something, it’s much harder for these guys to get away with these kinds of things.”
Governments have used many different reasons to enforce genocides as policies over the years and it has only gotten worse. This commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, which started in 1915 and lasted until 1922, is important mainly because the modern government of Turkey still denies the occurrence of this atrocity. They have gone to the extent of deliberately drawing international attention away from this genocide by moving the commemoration of the Battle of Gallipoli to April 24, the same day as the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.
“There has not been any government that came to power and used genocide that openly admitted to it unless they were caught red handed, like the way the Nazi’s were and they still try to deny it,” said Dr. Hero.
Similar to many genocides, the first people to be killed in the Armenian genocide were the intellectuals, the thinkers of the society, the people who instilled ideas and guided the people. Next were the laborers, who were also considered the fighters of the society. Lastly, the most vulnerable were the women and the children. Most women and children became slaves. They were marked with scars on their face as an indication of being Armenian as well as a symbol of being property and some were raped.
If women refused to convert religions, they were stripped of their clothes and crucified for the public to see. If anyone did not speak Turkish, their tongues would be sliced off.
During the presentation, Dr. Markarian shared a heart-wrenching story about a granddaughter who asked her grandmother what her story was. The story goes, when she was 8 years old she travelled with her mother, who was carrying her baby brother on her back. While traveling, she all of the sudden saw blood streaming down from her baby brother’s back. It turns out he was shot and killed. The mother and the girl buried the baby. The 8-year-old girl carried this story along with her up to the age of 105. Up until 1996 or 1997, whenever she would think about the genocide, she would shiver like a baby, she would sit down and cry, “they’re coming, there they are, they’re coming”.
Dr. Markarian said, “You know how I know this? I lived with her. She is my mother.”
To end his presentation, Dr. Markarian shared a quote from philosopher John Donne, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
“The path of a generation is to reverse the bad things that happened in the past,” said Dr. Markarian. “The 21st century is your century. In order for you to make this life for all of us, regardless of nationality or race, if we don’t work together, we won’t think about the past and we can’t move forward. This is as basic as 1 plus 1 equals 2.”