Skip to comments.Michigan Armenians mark genocide by Turks
Posted on 04/22/2004 8:51:58 AM PDT by Dan from Michigan
Michigan Armenians mark genocide by Turks
The Associated Press
4/22/2004, 8:47 a.m. ET
DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) Armenian Americans are preparing to mark the 89th anniversary of a mass murder that helped mark the 1900s as the century of genocide.
Before the Nazi slaughtered 6 million Jews, before the Khmer Rouge killed 1.7 million of their fellow Cambodians, before Rwandan Hutus killed 800,000 ethnic Tutsis, the Armenians of Turkey endured mass slaughter at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.
Armenians say they lost 1.5 million people in 1915-23, during and after World War I, as Turkish authorities forced them out of eastern Turkey. Turkey says the death count is inflated and that the deaths were a result of civil unrest.
But Adolf Hitler cited the killing of the Armenians as a precedent for his own slaughter of the Jews two decades later.
"Kill without mercy!" the Nazi leader told his military on the eve of the Holocaust. "Who today remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?"
Southeastern Michigan is home to about 40,000 Armenian-Americans. On Friday, they start a series of events marking the 89th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., are pushing for a commemoration of the genocide. He Levin has signed a letter to President Bush urging him to officially call the deaths a genocide.
The Rev. Daron Stepanian of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church in Dearborn recalled the story of what Talat Pashah had declared when the killing started.
Pashah was the leader of the Young Turks, a group of military officers who in 1908 staged a coup to overthrow the sultan who ruled the Ottoman Empire.
"He said they would keep one Armenian in a museum so future generations would know what an Armenian looked like," Stepanian told The Detroit News.
Each year, April 24 is marked as "Martyrs Day" because 400 Armenian intellectuals were rounded up and killed in Istanbul on April 24, 1915.
The Ottoman Turks, who were allied with Germany and an enemy of czarist Russia in World War I, announced during the war that Armenians had been, for their own safety, evacuated to strategic hamlets so they would not be caught between Turkey and Russia.
In reality, hundreds of thousands of Armenians were marched into the Syrian desert to die of thirst, exposure, starvation and disease.
"The world should care," Stepanian said. "Hitler himself said, `Who remembers the Armenians?' Acknowledgement must come."
"Righteous people have a moral imperative not to let the (Armenian) Genocide or the Holocaust go unremembered and unmourned," University of Michigan-Dearborn historian Dennis R. Papazian wrote in an opinion column in the Detroit Free Press. "To do so would be to make us less human and to encourage the repetition of evil."
While I was looking around for something to identify the place, a tour group came in. The tour director was pointing out things, in a language I didn't know. One of the group came over to me and asked if I spoke English. He asked me somthing, which I told him, then I asked, "what is this place?" He said it was an Armenian Catholic Church. The group left after a few minutes, and I figured I'd stick around and see if there was a Mass. People started filtering in and taking seats. Right at 11 o'clock, the priest came out and said Mass.
The thing that struck me the most was not that there were still some Armenians around, but that they practically had to hide themselves and their church. There was never any overt anti-Christian feeling that I could detect in Istanbul, but all the Christian churches still in operation were hidden behind high walls. In one case I could see a church well back in the middle of a block. I walked around the entire block without finding a way to get back to it. Evidently you had to know how. No casual passerby would ever find the entrance.
I think that's how they survived. During the genocide, there were a few Muslim Turks who ignored what their government and their imams were telling them to do, and they helped the Armenians. Ever since, the Armenians and other Christians have kept a low profile, almost like they're still hiding from what happened in 1915.
The merchant class of Ottoman Turkey were mostly Armenian and Greek Christians. I think it was because sharia forbids "usury" (e.g. according to the strictest interpretation, any form of modern banking).