Remembering the Armenians of 1915

As a subscriber to the Monitor for over 30 years, I have been impressed by your fair and complete coverage of events in the Middle East. I am often pleased to see news about Armenia and Armenian poetry.

The genocide that Armenians commemorate on April 24 is etched in the minds and hearts of every Armenian. For me it involves not ever knowing my grandfathers, all but one uncle, my aunts, and many other relatives and family friends.

On April 24, I read with disbelief your careless comments to the poem "Monument" on The Home Forum page. Your cutting words defame the memory of the 1.5 million Christian Armenians who died at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

The Monitor has been in the vanguard covering atrocities in Bosnia and the genocide in Rwanda. I challenge your newspaper to do justice to historical accuracy.

Moorad Alexanian

Wilmington, N.C.

I was delighted to read "Monument" but deeply insulted by your Editor's notes: "According to some contemporary historical accounts, about 1.5 million Armenians died" in deportations following "revolutionary acts by Armenians seeking independence."

This ignores documentation in US, British, Dutch, French, and German archives. It ignores the first killings by the Turks in 1890s. It is painful to witness an insult to six million living Armenians and the first nation that accepted Christianity (AD 301). It is not the Armenians, but historians and world governments who termed the massacres the first, most documented, and least recognized genocide of this century.

Jackie Abramian

Wellesley, Mass.

As a regular Monitor reader, I was appalled by your editorial comments. You wrote: "A poem for April 24, when Armenians commemorate what they term a genocide of 2 million that began on that day in 1915."

Your evasive language supports and encourages the Turkish government to continue to deny the truth. The most dramatic human rights issue of that time was reported regularly in newspapers across the US.

When Raphael Lemkin coined the word in 1944, he cited the 1915 annihilation of Armenians as a seminal example of "genocide." The UN, the European Parliament, and scholars of genocide have reaffirmed the extermination of Armenians as genocide by the definition of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

Tania J. Chichmanian

Takoma Park, Md.

Editor's Note: The Monitor drew considerable outrage after publishing a poem on April 24 by Arevshad Avakian. The outrage was not directed at the poem, a gentle and healing commemoration of the darkest period in Armenian history. The outrage was directed at us.

In notes of explanation before and after the poem, we seemed to cast doubt on whether a genocide of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in fact occurred between 1915 and 1922. That was not our intention.

We tried to indicate that, while the poem refers to "two million sorrows," most research puts the number of Armenians killed in that period at about 1.5 million. The Turkish government says that 300,000 died in mass deportations across the desert (a number that has little support among historians) and that there was no official policy or systematic intention to slaughter Armenians.

Even in the Turkish version, the cruelty and disregard for human life reached such a level that the term genocide might be applied. At the higher numbers of deaths more generally accepted, the term is hard to avoid.

Our intention, poorly executed, was not to challenge the poem but to provide context for readers in as noninflammatory a way as possible in the healing spirit of the poem. To us, that spirit does not and has never included denying the grievous events of those years.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail, only a selection can be published, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Mail letters to "Readers Write," and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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