Commentary Articles

“What good is freedom of press if the truth is too hard to accept?” – Sara Chitjian

What is the price To keep the truth from coming out?  These article clippings represent Sara Chitjian’s search for justice and the struggle for the truth about Anatolia.

(This is a selection of articles made available online, the complete archive of articles will be available at the Chitjian Foundation Archives located at CSUN.)

Djemal Pasha’s Grandson Wants The Armenian Genocide Recognized

The Narrative of Power by Richard Hovannisian UCLA Armenian Studies

Back Page of The Narrative of Power – Sara Chitjian’s notes

Bury my heart at wounded Knee

Armenian Weekly

Article by Avetik Chalabyan.

Article by Nubar Dorian.

Article by Nubar Dorian.

Nubar Dorian Article page 2

Los Angeles Daily News, November 2014

Istanbul Writer Addresses Ghost of The Past

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Armenian Mexican Ambassador

John Evans Tells The Truth

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Shedding Light on Genocide

Historian Warns Important Genocide Archival Material is Being Destroyed.

Nubar Dorian Article

European Court of Human Rights Confirms the 1915 Armenian Genocide

Article about ethnic groups such as the Armenians coming to LA

Perpetually Dissatisfied

First Armenian in Brazil

The Blight of Asia

The Blight of Asia Page 1

The Blight of Asia Page 2

The Blight of Asia Page 3

The Blight of Asia Page 4

The Blight of Asia Page 5

About Perri

Explanation of Perri Page 1

Explanation of Perri Page 2

Explanation of Perri Page 3

Ebb & Flow of Armenian Communities

Ebb and Flow of the Armenians Communities of the Indian Ocean 1

Ebb and Flow of the Armenians Communities of the Indian Ocean 2

Ebb and Flow of the Armenians Communities of the Indian Ocean 3

Ebb and Flow of the Armenians Communities of the Indian Ocean 4

Ebb and Flow of the Armenians Communities of the Indian Ocean 5

United We Stand, Divided We Fall (page 1)

United We Stand, Divided We Fall (page 2)

Doctor Meliksetian Letter

L. Gopoyan Article

Article by Dr. Sanjian

National News by Levon Yergat

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The appalling Aftermath by Winston Churchill

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Does Anyone Remember

Does Anyone Remember (page 1)

Does Anyone Remember (page 2)

Does Anyone Remember (page 3)

Does Anyone Remember (page 4)

An Important Fact We Are Not Paying Attention To.

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Akabi’s Memoir

Mary Torigian’s father was the caretaker of the vineyard in Perri

Mary Torigian (1)

Mary Torigian (2)

Mary Torigian (3)

Turks Have Continuously Slaughtered Armenians For Centuries.

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The Number of Armenians returning to their roots is increasing

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Turks Ignore Genocide But the Momentum is shifting

Erdogan opponents complain referendum campaign unfair

Armenian Lobby should take action.

Armenia Revisited

Speaking the lingo of assimilation

Was there a first universal first language?

April 24 Resolution in Congress Announced.

Anguish and Policy

Hampartzoum Chitjian responds to L.A. Times Article “Anguish and Policy.

Understanding Unity

Is Armenian Language dying a slow death in America?

Armenian Culture: Our Defense, Our Weapon

State Department denies Armenian Genocide Again.

About the Name of the Latin Language in Classical Armenian

From melting pot to Vindaloo

Studies in Armenian American Culture

Armenian Awareness Class

Armenians by Sonia Boghosian (This was hand picked by Hampartzoum Chitjian)

Save a Language, Save a Culture..

Asbarez Masalas

We Shall Remember

We Shall Remember in Order to Live.

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We Shall Remember in Order to Live.

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We Shall Remember in Order to Live.

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We Shall Remember in Order to Live.

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Common Armenian Terms

Mischief in Georgia

Turkey Uncensored

Krikor Zohrab

Turkish Prime Minister Family Owns Foreign Assets

Melting Pot VS Salad Bowl

Melting Pot VS Salad Bowl page 1

Melting Pot VS Salad Bowl page 2

Melting Pot VS Salad Bowl page 3

Melting Pot VS Salad Bowl page 4

Who were the Armenian Merchants

Perpetually Dissatisfied

Facing an Uncertain Future

English not as a second Language

These words have been with Sara since 1963 and expresses a sentiment that her father instilled in her… To listen with ones heart (intuition).

Starvation and its Political Use in the Armenian Genocide

Click to read the full paper

Erdogan Anoints Atesyan

ANCA and US Armenians should Sue!

ANCA and US Armenians should Sue!

A New Dawn

Communication Without Words

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Communication Without Words

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Communication Without Words

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Saul Alinsky Biography

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Saul Alinsky Biography

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Saul Alinsky Biography

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Genocide Never Again.. Failed

Universal Language Needed – Anthropologists Pick Armenian

Armenia: The Bitter Memories of Genocide

The plight of Armenians in Turkey

The Big Armenian Myth

Eliza – Zehra Bilie

Eliza – Zehra Bilie

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Eliza – Zehra Bilie

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Eliza – Zehra Bilie

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Sacred National Duty

Sacred National Duty page 1

Sacred National Duty page 2

Sacred National Duty page 3

The Armenian Case.

Man admits his Armenian Roots

Cosmic Ray Division of Yerevan

Kurdified Armenians Page 1

Kurdified Armenians Page 2

Armenians of Dersim

Organic Evidence!!

Professor says Terrorism and Genocide will Continue to plague the World.

UC helps build resources with Armenian University

A millennium of plundering

One man’s opinion

Latin Language and Armenian

Jerusalem Crisis Narrows


Hastert Bribery Accusations

Exposing Turkish Trickery

Countries that recognize the Armenian Genocide

This bibliography of books is 18 pages long, to view the complete list and access more info, please visit:

Armenian – Turkish Relations: The Road to Justice

Three Turkish Voices on the Ottoman Armenians

Erdogan linked to Berlin protests against Genocide Bill

Armenian students participate in Microsoft Imagine 2018 world finals

Despite an encouraging visit to Armenia, Chancellor Merkel didn’t say Genocide.

Exploring Armenian Identity in Turkey Today.

The Nobility of Henry Morgenthau.

In Memorian of Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan

If not us then who?

100 years after genocide, Armenians in Turkey revive their identity.

A Selection of Political Commentary Cartoons collected by Hampartzoum

Sara Chitjian continued her father’s tradition of collecting these political commentary cartoons after he passed away.

Political Commentary Cartoon #1

Political Commentary Cartoon #2

Political Commentary Cartoon #3

Political Commentary Cartoon #4

Political Commentary Cartoon #5

Stanford University Turkish Students Deny The Armenian Genocide

Sara adds her commentary to the article with notes written in pencil. (Hampartzoum, Ovsanna and Zaruhy Chitjian were all present with the assistance of the Armenian community at large for the removal of Stanford Shaw from the UCLA faculty.)

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A Long open Letter to Turks

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70 Years After WWI Holocaust : Armenians Celebrate Heritage, Survival

October 20, 1986|MARK HENRY | Times Staff Writer

Harry Chitjian, an 85-year-old survivor of the Armenian holocaust, wished that his father could have seen the “glory” as he watched hundreds of his people celebrate their culture and heritage on Sunday afternoon at a Hollywood park.

“He wants his father to know that they didn’t perish,” said Chitjian’s daughter, Zaruhy. “He would like his father to know that he is free and alive in the United States.”

For the Record Armenian Group Does Not Endorse Terrorism

Los Angeles Times Sunday October 26, 1986 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 1 Metro Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction

In its editions of Oct. 20, The Times incorrectly reported that the Armenian Revolutionary Federation endorses terrorism. To The Times’ knowledge, the federation does not endorse terrorism.

The elderly man’s father, mother, three sisters and a brother were among the estimated 1.5 million Armenians who were systematically massacred by Turkish troops between 1915 and the end of World War I.

Chitjian, who immigrated to Mexico in 1923 and came to Los Angeles 12 years later, said he lives every day with the memory of the genocide. Tears welled in his eyes as he recalled seeing his beaten and tortured father for the last time in 1915.

Then, trying to compose himself, he turned to his daughter.

“He lives with the sure hope that one day there will be a free and independent Armenia,” Zaruhy said. “He believes that the children will fulfill that dream.”

On Sunday afternoon, Chitjian and his daughter were among the estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people, mostly Armenians of all ages, who came to the first Armenian Cultural Festival at Barnsdall Park. The event was sponsored by the Los Angeles City Department of Cultural Affairs and Councilman Michael Woo, whose district includes East Hollywood, an area heavily populated with Armenians.

Tamar Poladian, a field representative for Woo and the organizer of the festival, said the goals were “to celebrate Armenian culture and heritage and the contributions that Armenians have made to Los Angeles . . . (and) to bring together as many or all of the different facets of the Armenian community.”

Poladian said at least 11 Armenian community and cultural organizations participated, putting aside longstanding political and factional differences to promote their common heritage.

Sunday’s gathering provided a glimpse of the “Old World.” The traditional homeland included eastern Turkey, the southern Soviet Union and northern Iran.

Each of the organizations sponsored booths featuring Armenian pastries and traditional foods.

At one booth, the aroma of ground lamb and bell peppers clashed with the sweet smells of honey and crushed almonds. At others, artists displayed lace work, bronze sculptures, oil paintings and traditional Armenian musical instruments, including the guitarlike oud.

Barnsdall Park is in a section of East Hollywood known as “Little Armenia,” a community of about 45,000 Armenian immigrants. The community is located roughly between Vermont Avenue west to Vine Street and from Santa Monica Boulevard north to Franklin Avenue and Los Feliz Boulevard.

Community Divided

After becoming established, most immigrants relocate to other areas, particularly Glendale–which has an Armenian mayor–as well as Pasadena, Montebello and more recently Sherman Oaks and Encino in the San Fernando Valley. Poladian said about 150,000 to 200,000 Armenians are now living in Los Angeles County, making it the major Armenian center in the United States.

The Armenian community today is a divided one, with two major political parties and numerous smaller factions. Each has its own idea on how to advance the goal of a free and independent Armenia.

One party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, for example, has endorsed terrorism. But other Armenian political groups have condemned violence and say the political process is the best way to press Turkey to admit the extent of the genocide, to provide a homeland and to pay reparations to victims.

Genocide Not Stressed

On Sunday, however, there were no political speeches and no flag waving. The genocide, while on people’s minds, was not stressed.

Stepan Partamian, 24, a Lebanese Armenian who immigrated five years ago, said he saw Sunday’s festival as a way for Armenians to “present their culture in a way that will promote our cause to the American public.”

Others said they came simply for the music, food and companionship.

Poladian, who was born in Egypt but grew up in Little Armenia, said many Armenians, while demanding that Turkey admit the extent of the genocide and pay reparations, also are interested in seeing the Armenian community recognized for its progress in American society.

“We see ourselves as a Phoenix rising from the ashes,” he said. “Here we are 70 years later. We have a governor (California’s George Deukmejian), we have schools, we have churches and we have various organizations.

“Let’s not forget the past but let’s not lament our losses. We should look forward to the future.”

Deukmejian and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, rivals in November’s gubernatorial election, were both invited, but they had previous commitments, Poladian said.


Written by Carlos Antaramián


Out of Armenia, back to Kurdistan?

Carlos Antaramián*

Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores

en Antropología Social

The city of Tunceli (25,041 inhabitants) is the capital of the province of the same name (82,100 inhabitants). Before 1936, this region was called Dersim, and the Kurds and Zazas living in this eastern area of modern-day Turkey still use this name. The area has been a bulwark of Kurdish-Alevi identity since the Turkish Republic’s consolidation in 1923, and it still is. During the Ottoman period, Dersim was a district (sanyak) of the province of Mamuret-ul-Aziz, or Harput (1879-1923). Before the Armenian genocide (1915-1923), over half the population of the southern part of this district, which was then independent and called Charsanyak, was Armenian, while the number of Muslims and Christians fluctuated from town-to-town. Perri, for example, was 79 per cent Christian, while Pertek was 84 per cent Muslim.[1] This basically rural area was marked by a symbiosis that emerged among nomadic Kurds who pastured animals in the highlands, Dersim itself, and Armenian farmers settled in the lower reaches of Charsanyak, though antagonisms and disputes were surely far from absent.[2] Once most of the Christians had been deported or exterminated, the few survivors –mostly women and children– were diversely assimilated into a kind of battleground between Turkish and Armenian political elites who vied to “appropriate” or “recover”, as the case may be, those small malleable minds.[3] Many orphans were taken in by Kurdish families; a fact attested to by many testimonies written or narrated by Armenians who managed to escape, or chose to become refugees beyond the Ottoman Empire’s borders. Others, too numerous to count, either had no chance to escape or opted not to. They stayed on, evidently converted to Islam and assimilated their new Turkish, Kurdish or Alevi identity. As Üngör wrote (2015), some women turned to prostitution, a few of them becoming quite wealthy and famous, like Madame Fexo in Diyarbakir. Others kept their identity secret, awaiting more propitious times when they could tell the story of their Armenian past to their children and grandchildren[4]. This secrecy spawned the existence of crypto-Armenians (hidden Armenians), some of whom later chose to salvage their ancient stigmatized identity.

Some orphans created by genocide managed to escape and reach the refugee camps set up for them in Syria or Lebanon. Though they later dispersed far and wide, some wrote memoirs or presented other kinds of accounts, all of which emphasized the fury with which many Kurds had participated in the massacres. But other Armenians, especially those from Dersim, affirm that had it not been for the help of Kurdish families who took them in during the most savage moments of the genocide and its aftermath, they simply would have perished.[5] Two faces of the same coin.

In 2015, a kind of pilgrimage mixed with academic curiosity led me to Dersim, in what is now Turkish Kurdistan; the town from which my grandfather had fled 100 years ago, never to return. In fact, no member of my family ever managed to return until my trip. This article presents reflections on my encounters with people living there today, the search for my “grandfather’s house”, and the transformations that my concept of “return” underwent. My grandfather never wrote, and hardly ever spoke of his life before coming to Mexico in 1923; a definitive impediment caused by the experience of a trauma so great that he had lain a heavy shroud over his life as a survivor of genocide. But he did recount small, unconnected vignettes, a fragmented version of his life before, during and after the massacre of his family in Hoshé, a hamlet across the river from Perri, a small town in the Charsanyak district in 1915, but now part of Dersim (Tunyeli).

View of Karşikonak (Hoshe) from Akpazar (Perri)”, photo by Carlos Antaramián, 2015.


After a short period of fieldwork in Istanbul, where I arrived on April 24, 2015, to describe the centennial commemoration of the beginning of the Armenian genocide, I traveled with a Turkish friend who was also interested in the Dersim region. Lisa wanted to interview militants of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi, or HDP) to complete her vision of the phenomenon the party was generating in the build-up to legislative elections scheduled in less than a month, on June 7, 2015.[6] The HDP was led by two Presidents: Selahattin Demirtaş, a Kurdish leader of Zaza origin who is currently in prison, accused of “terrorism”;[7] and the socialist Figen Yüksekdağ. In addition to upholding the principle of women’s equality, the HDP supports minority rights (one especially active member is a congressman of Armenian origin, Garo Paylán). In fact, 10 per cent of its quotas for congressmen are destined for the LGBT community; a rather remarkable –even vanguard– fact in a conservative country like Turkey.

Though Lisa is from a conservative family that doubts the veracity of the Armenian genocide, she had a liberal education and is in contact with Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian human rights groups inside and outside Turkey. Thus, like 30 per cent of all Turks (including the HDP), she recognizes that the process of exterminating the Christian population that began in 1915 was, without doubt, genocide. She had kindly scheduled our itinerary and contacted people in towns that we both were anxious to visit.

In Tunyeli, she was in touch with Mihrán, founder of The Union of Armenians of Dersim, but he was out of his office when we arrived. While waiting, we sat for a cup of tea in one of the, always packed, cafés. Lisa’s conversation with other customers revolved around my obviously foreign appearance and the reasons for our journey to a place so far off the tourism trail. She explained that I was born in Mexico but that my grandfather was from Dersim, had survived the massacres and been exiled. She told them I wanted to visit my grandfather’s hometown and try to locate the house where he had lived. Just then, a young man of perhaps 24 approached from a corner of the café, a mixed expression of sorrow combined with thanks to Allah on his face. He said, “I help you”, in broken English, and then said that he bore a heavy burden… horrible, he went on… “bad karma”. He explained that he knew that his forebears had killed Armenians and said it weighed heavily upon him and his family. He said he regretted it and wished to atone by helping me. Other customers also admitted that their parents or grandparents recalled the massacres of Armenians.[8]

Once informed as to the purpose of our trip, Ukber asked us to wait. He returned shortly with his car, and for the next three days served as our guide and driver, as we talked incessantly. He never let us pay for meals or gas, but drove us to his hometown in the nearby mountains and explained his origins. My ancestors, he said, “… left Babylon when Cyrus invaded, fled to the Caspian, then arrived here, a long, long time ago; we’re Kurds, but speak another language, distinct, called Zazaki”. The mythical origin of the Zazas is actually the fall of Babylon (539 A.C.). According to linguists, groups (like the Gorani) still exist quite close to the Zazaki in Gilán province in northern Iran. But Zaza identity is complex and not well-defined. Some call themselves Kurds-Alevis, others Alevis, still others, Dimilis. Most live as shepherds or farmers in rural areas; a society strongly tribal in nature, with powerful clan leaders. One factor that unites Zazas and Kurds in this part of Turkey is that as members of the Aleví religion (considered by some a branch of Shi’ism), they have been persecuted throughout their history by the Sunnis; from the harsh repression that began in the 15th century to recent attacks, especially after the establishment of the military dictatorship in 1980.[9] For several years, the Zazas themselves, and scholars who study them, have been piecing together a clearer identity, a process of the never-ending imagined construction of a nation. Ukber, I must say, had this identity clearly engrained.

While we were on our third cup of tea, courtesy of some other customers –manifestation of the ritual of giving that is so widespread in the “East”– Mihrán arrived and quickly organized a series of trips for the coming days to introduce us to other “hidden Armenians”. He also contacted folks in Perri, my main destination. Our dialogue with Mihrán was somewhat stilted due to our modest knowledge of Armenian. Both of us were studying it at the time, never having had the opportunity to learn it under distinct circumstances; me, because I grew up in a small Armenian community with no educational structure; he, because he lived in a State that had exterminated, assimilated and banned the language, while stigmatizing all things remotely Armenian. Kurdish by birth, Mihrán knew from a young age that his grandparents were Armenians and, when older, decided to publicly manifest his hidden identity. Ever since, he has devoted his time and energies to identifying vestiges of Armenian architecture in the area and searching out hidden Armenians, whom he urges to learn Armenian using the glossaries he publishes. He and other ex-crypto-Armenians organized The Union, and he travels constantly to the Armenian Republic searching for clues to his origin. His activism is admirable, especially in a State that deems such ‘deviations’ affronts to “Turkish identity”.[10] He could be arrested and tried under Article 301 of the Turkish criminal code, which penalizes: “attacks against ‘Turkishness’”. But in Dersim, the Alevi, Zaza, Kurd and crypto-Armenian populations have battled ‘Turkishness’ and all attempts to achieve a uniform, Turkish identity, at least since Turkey began its campaign of forced ‘Turkification’.

“Photograph of the leader Seyid Reza in Dersim (ca. 1936)”, Seyid_Riza#/media/File:Sey%C3%AEd_


The repression that Kurds and Alevis in Dersim recall most clearly occurred in 1937-1938. At one point, Mihrán’s planned explorations took us to Hozat, an ancient, predominantly Armenian town today inhabited almost exclusively by Kurds-Alevíes, like the rest of that province. On walls along the main street near the town hall we saw a photographic exposition on the Zaza revolt against the Turks. Angered by the proposal to change the town’s name from Dersim to Tunyeli in 1936, a group of notables wrote a letter to the local governor to manifest their opposition to the change; but the emissaries who delivered that message were summarily executed. The leader of one local clan, Seyid Reza, united several other clans in a rebellion against the Turkish government. The response from Atatürk was swift: it deployed 25,000 soldiers to stamp out the uprising, supported by bombardments. Those troops included Turkey’s first woman combat pilot; the adopted daughter of Atatürk and Armenian orphan, Sabiha Gökçen.[11] During peace negotiations, Seyid Reza was arrested and hanged in Elazig (the ancient capital of Harput). Repression continued, finally costing 40,000 lives.[12]It was genocide, just as [the killing] of the Armenians was genocide”, Mihrán told me. In one of my interviews in another town in Dersim, I heard an anecdote that an Armenian had narrated before leaving in 1919; “We [the Armenians] were the Turks’ lunch; now you [the Kurds] will be their supper”. Guided by Mihrán, Lisa, Ukber and I visited several other towns, saw their crumbling churches, and met other hidden Armenians. I was surprised to find that whenever we asked about a particular Armenian, everyone seemed to know which family she/he was from and which individuals were Armenians. It thus seemed that their concealment was hardly effective, perhaps not even necessary. Close to Hozat, Mihrán showed us the Kayışoğlu cliffs, where many Armenians from the region were thrown to their death in 1915, as were numerous Zazas later, during the 1938 rebellion. In recent years, this is the place where Mihrán and other Armenians of The Union commemorate the dates of April 24th and May 4th; the latter for the 1937-1938 uprising. It has thus been resignified as a site to honor the memory of the martyrs of both massacres.


After visiting Perri (today, Akpazar) we came to Hoshé, the cradle of my family and the starting point of an odyssey charged with deep suffering. In his History of Charsanyak, Yerevanian describes this town in detail; its more than thirty springs, its fertile soils and beautiful willow trees, its church and, to one side, the school for 60 students built in 1909 with remittances from migrants in the U.S., and the K’arin Vray, an unfinished, 500-meter long wall that surrounded part of the town. Inside that wall, I learned from this author –not from my family, for they did not know– was the orchard of one Antranig Antaramián, my great-grandfather. In 1915, the town had 219 inhabitants, all Armenians, including Antaramians (35 members), Hovsepians (30), and Zurnajians (25), plus 11 other families.

In 1915, Hoshé had 28 houses, but today there are only twenty modern homes. Still standing are a similar number of Armenian homes, but they are all abandoned and, truth be told, barely vestiges, for their roofs, windows and doors have disappeared, though their walls still watch over the evidence of a criminal episode. Today’s Alevi residents decided to conserve those ruins as a sign of respect, though, as they said, “those houses are accursed, so we don’t live in them”. Instead, they built new dwellings. One resident, Kaya, invited us to talk in his garden. While this sixtyish farmer set tea and fruit on the table, he began to tell me his story… his livelihood, chatting about the weather, and the bridge that once connected the town with Perri, but that vanished in 1926. We could not see its ruins because the government had later constructed a dam (the Keban Dam, 1975)[13] to control the river’s course. Today, it looks more like a small lake.

I asked Kaya if he knew whether any of those houses, abandoned before 1915, belonged to Armenians. After listening closely to Lisa’s Turkish translation, he answered in a melodic, almost poetic, voice: “not just the houses… but also the trees, rocks, the river, everything there was Armenian, we arrived long after, my father and family. We were Alevíes. The town had been abandoned for a long time, we knew they had been killed and that’s why we don’t live in their homes, [rather] we built new ones, but we did occupy and cultivate their fields”. He explained that the Turkish government moved his family to this town from the east, near Van,[14] to re-populate those devastated lands. In the 1920s and, especially, 1930s, which brought the resettlement law of 1934, the Kemalist regime effectuated large-scale movements of whole population groups –Turks, Kurds, Circassians– to occupy the homes left behind by massacred Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians. The goals were not only to wipe out all traces of their presence and reactivate local economies, but also to ‘Turquify’[15] the recently-arrived immigrants. Relocation, it was hoped, would weaken their attachment to their places of origin, while intermixing with other Muslim ethnicities would force them to use the Turkish language to communicate, leading to the elimination of their “foreign tongues” which, by then, had been prohibited. By that year, a famous phrase was coined: “¡Ne mutlu Türküm diyene!”[16], which meant that the Kurds ceased to be Kurds and became “mountain Turks”. All references to Kurdistan were prohibited.

Kaya recounted how his father had succeeded in reactivating the fields, even reviving the old “Armenian” vineyards that he still cultivates. This comment by our host provided the opportunity to tell him that my grandfather was born in that town. As if he had anticipated what was coming, he opened his eyes, nodded his head, and then spoke slowly. His sincere words came to me through our translator. At first, I was consternated… then petrified, for he said: “I was expecting… well… maybe not you specifically, but I knew that someday a descendant of the Armenians who lived in those houses would return… Welcome!”. He arose from the small bench where he was sitting, shuffled forward and embraced me…

Everyone gasped, and exclamations charged with emotion and surprise rang out to accompany that incredible instant, a tiny universe with an Armenian-Mexican whose forefathers were from that very place, a Zaza, an Aleví, a Turk, and an elderly crypto-Armenian… together… sharing a spellbinding moment of transgenerational reconciliation.

But the chat/interview proceeded in ever more unexpected directions: “Come back” –Kaya said– “we’ll see the mayor and have the house put in your name. If your grandfather was from Dersim, then you, too, are from Dersim; come back to Kurdistan”. His words and the moment I was living left me in shock; had I in truth received a genuine invitation to return to my family’s place of origin, the one I had for so long imagined through family narrations, reinforced by a collective memory that idealized that place? The yerkir, the usurped Motherland whose recovery was, and still is, impossible, for it is occupied by an abject government. Suddenly, unexpectedly, Kaya’s voice had opened the window to a return long dreamt of by two generations of Armenians; a remote possibility to be sure, but one nevertheless real; at least, that was what went through my stunned mind at that moment. For this was no small thing; somehow, the possibility of an actual return had emerged in the form of an invitation from the man who held the land that my grandfather had called “home”.

That instant changed many of my ideas and reflections on what “return” means deep down, for the idea of going back, standing again in one’s place of origin, is one of the most important elements in the mindset of all human groups that have lived diasporas.

Perhaps the most widely-studied of these phenomena, due to the enormous number of people and different historical periods involved, is the Aliya; that is, the return of the Jewish people form diaspora to the State of Israel. This term captures a voluntary migration motivated by emotional, practical or ideological factors. Without doubt, it is also closely intertwined with the concept of pilgrimage. For many religious Jews, the return to Zion is an obligation with which they must comply, and even when not fulfilled completely, there exists a kind of real commitment to supporting those Jews who need to return because of harsh economic conditions or imminent peril. In fact, almost all such waves of immigration responded to periods in which distinct diaspora communities faced serious hardships; for example, the Holocaust, anti-Semitism in many Arab countries and Iran or France, and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, which generated large flows of returnees. For certain Jewish thinkers, Aliya means the end of the diaspora, especially among some ultraorthodox Jews who consider that the diaspora must continue until the reappearance of the Messiah.[17] Despite this, over 3 million diaspora Jews have returned since 1948 with the material aid of Jewish diaspora organizations and the State of Israel. Other groups, including descendants of displaced Africans, have elaborated a similar political idea of return, or repatriation, to the African continent in distinct periods and with differing ideological constructions. This began with the forced returns organized by colonial powers –as in Sierra Leone in 1787– whose underlying goal was to “get rid of” the “Negroes” that England no longer wanted on its island territory. Later, voluntary returns and other actions organized by pan-African movements took place: one to Liberia led by Marcus Garvey, and the messianic movement built around (and supported by) the figure of Haile Selassie, which aimed to bring the Rastafari home to Shashamane (Zion) in Ethiopia.[18]

But in contrast to those returns, the Armenians had been expelled from their ancestral home, some of the survivors carrying Ottoman passports bearing the legend: “With no possible return”. But we must also emphasize the fact that Turkey has never recognized any right for Armenians to return to their hometowns, though the ten per cent of historical Armenians that escaped extermination and destruction to witness the birth of the Republic of Armenia –originally autonomous, later part of the Soviet Union– did succeed in generating among the victims of diaspora the idea that a return was feasible, nourished in certain moments by the Soviet State and some diaspora organizations. The Nerkakht movement, as this great repatriation is known, arose between 1946 and 1949 to propitiate the “return” of Armenians to Armenia from the diaspora. I use quotation marks because all those Armenians were born in the Armenian provinces of the Ottoman Empire, for as we saw in the cases of the Jews and descendants of dispersed Africans, constructing the idea of return may center on a mythical place, not necessarily the site where one’s direct ancestors were born. Clearly, places like Jerusalem and Africa became vague, diffuse ideas 1500 or 300 years after being abandoned, but the concept of them is still a key element in the discourse among people who live such dispersions. The case of the Armenian return in the 1940s is distinct, for only 30 years had passed since their exile, so images of the yerkir, the homeland from which they had been forcibly expelled, were still very much alive. But at that time Eastern –Soviet– Armenia was the only place they could call Armenia, and it opened its doors wide.

Although Nerkakht was in many regards a trick and proved to be a great disappointment for the “westernized” returnees,[19] the dream of returning to Armenia lived on, though diluted, little-by-little, because Armenia was on the other side of the “Iron Curtain”. But after 1991 and the emergence of an independent Armenia, the idea of returning was revived,[20] and the resulting waves of migrants increasingly came to resemble those of Aliya, as people reacted to crises in nations with Armenian communities, to the war with Azerbaijan and the flow of Armenians to Bakú (1988), and to the war in Syria and the influx of Armenians into Aleppo (2014). Unfortunately, the harsh economic and political conditions in Armenia have tended rather to expel people than attract them.

But many Armenians, not only exiles and their children, but also the third generation, especially in the 1960s and 70s, held that the “true return” would be to “Western Armenia”, the territories from which their forebears had been expelled. To a degree, this return was a kind of myth that would have to await some type of liberating event, perhaps the disintegration of the Turkish State and the recovery of the Armenian territories. Others believed in the emergence of some sort of federation that would succeed in transforming the Turkish government’s policies towards its minorities, offer Armenians some type of compensation, and free them to pursue repatriation. Both scenarios were remote possibilities given the political posture of Turkish governments, both then and now, but the myth remains latent. Today, few believe it would be possible to abandon their lives in the West and go to live in a place in central Anatolia; thus, I understood that Kaya’s offer was symbolic in nature, as if he were saying: ‘I know it would be hard for you to return, but you can do it’. At that moment he reached for a bottle of wine, “This comes from the vineyards here, perhaps they belonged to your family, take it to your father”. I drank of that wine to his health, our health, to this space we shared.

(photo) “View of the Perri River from Hoshe”, photograph by “Lisa”, 2015.

Our chat came to an end, and as darkness descended upon the landscape I walked towards the river. My companions had left me alone, for it was clear that I wanted a moment of solitude in this place. The view of Perri and the slopes of Mount Arkaj were illuminated by the faint glow of electric lights, while the clouds, in contrast, reflected the lasts rays of sunlight.

Yerevanian’s history, mentioned earlier, says that 150 of the 219 inhabitants of Hoshé in 1915 were exterminated in that year, many of them drowned in that very river; 68 per cent of the population assassinated in just a few days! Many others died when deported or in subsequent years. According to Yerevanián, only 35 (15%) survived, mostly boys and girls who took refuge with Kurdish families in northern Dersim. One of the few stories I heard about my grandfather recounted how his mother, unable to bear the slaughter of her family, chose to kill herself in that river, taking her small children with her. My grandfather was left behind… an orphan. Of the 35 Antaramians living in Hoshé in 1915, maybe 5 survived; of the 30 Hovsepians, perhaps 3, though others might have been assimilated and now consider themselves Kurds or Zazas. I have tried to follow the path of the Armenian survivors of Hoshé in a kind of microhistory of the townsfolk who were sent into exile. After living momentarily as Kurds, some managed to reach Aleppo, and we have photos –documents of primary importance for arranging reencounters– sent to let others know that some family members or friends had somehow survived. In a sort of solidarity among countrymen, some of the 35 survivors of Hoshé undertook trajectories together. We know that 10 came to Mexico, most with the intention of migrating to the U.S. once quotas increased. But a few remained in México City, where they established a small Armenian community.

Places of memory are fundamentally communitarian, often sites of massacres, like Majdanek, Auschwitz, Birkenau, or Deir Ez-Zor, and, in the case of Armenia, the cliffs near Hozat. But there are also more intimate places of memory, sites where a people or several families were exterminated. As I neared the river, I tried to understand the moment that the Armenians of the town had lived in 1915, the end of a world… their world, probably unaware that this same catastrophe was occurring in all Armenian towns in the Empire. For 100 years, these million-and-a-half Armenians have been remembered as martyrs, but just a few days before April 24th, 2015, the Catholicos Karekin II, leader of the Apostolic Armenian Church, canonized them to make them Saints. At that moment, I found myself standing before not only a site of martyrdom, but now also one of pilgrimage where people would come to remember the –perhaps– 184 Saints of Hoshé, including some “Saints” from my own family.

The sound of the stream that fed the Perri River accompanied the noise of a bird squawking as it fished. I drank from the river… all the while recalling my grandfather, his silence, remembering that the word nostalgia comes from nostos-return and álgos-pain; though in Armenian people say karot, a profound saudade. My tears fell softly into the torrent and I came to understand what my grandfather must have felt for this place, to which he could never return.

* Professor/Researcher, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS-CDMX), where his research topic is, “Commemorating the Armenian Genocide in Diaspora”.

[1] Kevork S. Yerevanian, A History of the Armenians of Charsanyak [in Armenian], Beirut, G. Donigian Printers, published by Pan-Charsandjak Union Central Board, Fresno, 1956.

[2] Arnold Toynbee, “A Summary of Armenian History up to and Including the Year 1915,” in Great Britain, Parliament, Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire: Documents Presented to Viscount Bryce, Sir Joseph Causton & Sons, London, 1916.

[3] Ugur Ümit Üngör, “Huérfanos, conversos y prostitutas: Consecuencias sociales de la guerra y persecución en el Imperio Otomano, 1914-1923”, Istor. Revista de Historia Internacional, Year XV, no. 62, Autumn 2015.

[4] For an account of this moment and its consequences, see Fethiye Çetin (2008), My Grandmother. An Armenian-Turkish Memoir, Verso, London.

[5] These memoirs include, Aram Haigaz (1972), Four Years in the Mountains of Kurdistan (1915-1919), Maiden Lane Press, New York, 2014; and, especially, Hampartzoum Mardiros Chitjian, A hair´s breadth from death: The Memoirs Of Hampartzoum Mardiros Chitjian. Memoirs of a Survivor of the Armenian Genocide, Taderon Press, London, 2004. For testimonies on Dersim, see Stepan Zakar Stepanian or Hakob Manouk Holobikian in Verjiné Svazlian, The Armenian Genocide. Testimonies of the Eyewitness Survivors, Gitoutyoun Publishing House, Ereván, 2011; and Yerevanian (1956), who wrote, “If the people of Dersim could not play the role of redeemers or fight to defend ourselves during the Armenian massacres, at least during and after [them], they gave food and shelter to the Armenians that escaped from the Armenian provinces and took refuge in Dersim. From 1915 to 1918, over 20,000 Armenians from Dersim were saved”.

[6] In that election, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), known as the pro-Kurdish party, surpassed, for the first time in its history, the 10 per cent threshold by receiving 13.07 per cent of the vote, which translated into 79 seats: 75 of them occupied by Kurds (70 Alevis, 2 Yezidis and 1 Romas). Also, the HDP, CHP and the governing party, AKP, proposed representatives from the Armenian community. Since the assassination of the 13 Armenian congressmen in the Ottoman Parliament in 1915, there have been very few Armenian representatives in Turkey, and they were totally excluded from 1961 until this election. Because the governing party failed to win an absolute majority, and could not establish alliances quickly, the election had to be repeated on November 1st, 2015. The HDP lost ground –10.76 per cent of the vote, 59 seats– and the AKP recouped its majority.


[8] It is important to note that, despite the Turkish State’s denials, this genocide is widely recalled by Kurds, Turks and Zazas, especially in the eastern provinces (cfr. Üngör 2014 apud Annika Törne “On the Grounds Where They Will Talk in a Hundred Years’ Time”- Struggling with the Heritage of Violent Past in Post-genocidal Tunceli”, European Journal of Turkish Studies, 20, 2015.

[9] James Minahan, Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: S-Z, Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport, 2002. Beginning in 1980, a large migration of Zazas to Europe occurred and, as with the Kurds, the role of diaspora has generated a rebirth of their identitary consciousness. Some Zaza intellectuals have even proposed a separatist movement to form Zazaistan, apart from Kurdistan. Indeed, this region has seen a small movement that seeks an independent Alevi-Zaza State that would be called, precisely, “Dersim”.

[10] “Any person who publicly denigrates the Turkish nation, the State of the Turkish Republic or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and the State’s judicial institutions, shall be condemned to prison for six months to two years” (cfr.

[11] Targets for destruction during the bombardments to eliminate all vestiges of Armenia’s architectural past in Dersim included the Surp Garabed Monastery in the town of Vank, which was hit by Gökçen (op. cit. Törne, 2015:4).

[12] David McDowall, A Modern History of Kurds, I.B. Tauris, 2002. The Turkish government says the number was around 13,000.

[13] On the repercussions of dam construction for submerged Armenian ruins, and the government’s disinterest in preserving them, in contrast to mosques that were moved and meticulously reconstructed, and on later discussions, see Törne (op. cit. 2015).

[14] In the summer of 1930, a revolt broke out in the Kurdish province around Van and Mount Ararat and other regions. The “pacification” process was brutal. The Kurdish population was exterminated or displaced. Some said the events were part of an Armenian-Kurdish plot that sought full implementation of the Treaty of Sèvres (1920), which contemplated creating an independent Armenia and Kurdistan. That treaty was never ratified, but the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which delimited the Turkish borders pretty much as we know them today, was.

[15] In August 1930, while inaugurating the Sivas railroad, Turkish Prime Minister, Ismet Pasha, pronounced words that reflect this policy: “The Revolution, revived by foreign intrigues in our eastern provinces, has gone on for five years, but today has lost strength. Only the Turkish nation has the right to vindicate ethnic and national rights in this country. No other element has this right”. In Milliyet, no. 1655, 31 August 1930, cited by Kendal “Kurdistan in Turkey”, in Gerard Chaliand (ed.), A People without a Country. The Kurds and Kurdistan, Zed Press, London, 1993.

[16] “How happy is one who can say I am Turkish”; slogan of the Turkish Republic first pronounced on the 10th anniversary of the Republic (October 1933) by Kemal Ataturk.

[17] Described by Santiago Kovadloff in, La Extinción de la Diáspora judía, Emecé, Buenos Aires, 2013, pp. 40.

[18] Horace Campbell, Rasta and Resistance: From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney, Africa World Press, Inc., Trenton, NJ, 1987.

[19] Hazel Antaramian Hofman, “Repatriación y engaño. Armenia soviética después de la Segunda Guerra”, Istor. Revista de Historia Internacional, Year XV, no. 62, Autumn 2015.

[20] For an analysis of the transformations that this return has brought about, see Vartán Matiossián, Pasado sin retorno, futuro que espera,. Los armenios en la Argentina, ayer y hoy, Ediciones ASCUA, Montevideo, 2011.

America’s Descent Into Madness

by Henry Giroux

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

— John le Carré

America is descending into madness. The stories it now tells are filled with cruelty, deceit, lies, and legitimate all manner of corruption and mayhem.  The mainstream media spins stories that are largely racist, violent, and irresponsible —stories that celebrate power and demonize victims, all the while camouflaging its pedagogical influence under the cheap veneer of entertainment. Unethical grammars of violence now offer the only currency with any enduring value for mediating relationships, addressing problems, and offering instant pleasure. A predatory culture celebrates a narcissistic hyper-individualism that radiates a near sociopathic lack of interest in or compassion and responsibility for others. Anti-public intellectuals dominate the screen and aural cultures urging us to shop more, indulge more, and make a virtue out of the pursuit of personal gain, all the while promoting a depoliticizing culture of consumerism. Undermining life-affirming social solidarities and any viable notion of the public good, right-wing politicians trade in forms of idiocy and superstition that mesmerize the illiterate and render the thoughtful cynical and disengaged.   Military forces armed with the latest weapons from Afghanistan play out their hyper-militarized fantasies on the home front by forming robo SWAT teams who willfully beat youthful protesters and raid neighborhood poker games.  Congressional lobbyists for the big corporations and defense contractors create conditions in which war zones abroad can be recreated at home in order to provide endless consumer products, such as high tech weapons and surveillance tools for gated communities and for prisons alike.

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