"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Armenians and Turks after the Genocide

As I noted last year and the year before, 2015 marks the centenary of the Armenian genocide, about which studies continue to pour forth from various publishers. I have a unit on Armenia which I cover every year in my course on Eastern Christian encounters with Islam, and we watch, inter alia, a documentary about the assassination of Hrant Dink, showing the power of traumatic memories even a century afterwards. A new study on those deadly memories has recently been published: Vicken Cheterian, Open Wounds: Armenians, Turks and a Century of Genocide (Oxford UP, 2015), 416pp.

About this book we are told:
The assassination of the author Hrant Dink in Istanbul in 2007, a high-profile advocate of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, reignited the debate in Turkey on the annihilation of the Ottoman Armenians. Many Turks soon re-awakened to their Armenian heritage, reflecting on how their grandparents were forcibly Islamised and Turkified, and the suffering their families endured to keep their stories secret. There was public debate around Armenian property confiscated by the Turkish state and the extermination of the minorities. At last the silence had been broken.
Open Wounds explains how, after the First World War, the new Turkish Republic forcibly erased the memory of the atrocities, and traces of Armenians, from their historic lands -- a process to which the international community turned a blind eye. The price for this amnesia was, Vicken Cheterian argues, "a century of genocide." Turkish intellectuals acknowledge the price society must pay collectively to forget such traumatic events, and that Turkey cannot solve its recurrent conflicts with its minorities -- like the Kurds today -- nor have an open and democratic society without addressing the original sin on which the state was founded: the Armenian Genocide.

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