I wish hundred thousand people could walk together in silence. I wish this march could be a tribute to the victims, not a loud parade of political slogans. It was closer to the latter, but still, I was happy to be just there, to experience this explosion of human energy, explosion of being alive. I tried to keep quiet myself. I tried to just be by myself in the crowd. Of course, a silent moment at the Memorial meant the most to me.
I hate crowd and I can go to the memorial any day. I made it to the end of the march, because the ones who want to raise awareness have to experience something to spread it further. I went there to write this article. To show you little images of it. That’s all I can do.
Why would anyone blog about a Genocide that happened a century ago? Why would anyone tweet about a Genocide that happened a century ago?
There is a reason. Take a read, I will tell you a story.
There are very few foreigners living in Armenia who don’t have Armenian roots. Even less foreigners in Armenia blog about their experience. Someone should be documenting it, and it seems that someone is me, just because I was blunt enough to start.
Moving to a relatively small, but definitely ancient country means a tough and thorough history course. You have to learn how to switch perspectives; you have to learn how to live with fruits of somebody else’s past. This rule applies to any place on earth, but you somehow feel it more, when you are in Armenia. Armenians are unbelievably rooted in the past. People here talk about battles their nation fought thousand years ago like they happened yesterday. Sometimes their words bring a great glory back, but there are also very dark tales, memories on unbelievable atrocities that happened exactly a century ago in ancestral homeland of many Armenians, my closest friends between them.
If you follow the media, you probably know that the 100th anniversary of Armenian Genocide was commemorated last week. The commemoration events got much more attention from Western media that I ever expected. Gatherings in honor of the victims had incredible turnout. There were 130 000 thousand people marching for justice in the streets of Los Angeles. Kim Kardashian, George Clooney, Amal Alamuddin, and Vladimir Putin visited Yerevan in one week. Press all around the world kept publishing pieces on Armenia, Armenians, and the Armenian Genocide. Everything is covered, but for some reason I feel like I should say something, too.
I won’t blog about the facts. I won’t try to describe what happened in Anatolian plains and Syrian deserts in 1915. There are historians and their books. Only last week articles on this subject were published everywhere from New York Times to Turkish Cumhuriyet.
I won’t blog about international events. This is politics, and there are enough political scientists to wrap it up for you.
I’m here to share my thoughts and photographs from commemoration events held in Yerevan. I know most of my readers would rather read about my winter holidays in Morocco. They will have to wait. They are also invited to march with me to the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan to place a carnation next to eternal flame.
In early April I shared this photo on my private Facebook profile. It was a part of a global grassroots campaign for raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide. The caption I added answers the question I asked (or I feared you might ask) in the beginning of this very post.
I might have no Armenian roots, but Armenia is my adopted country. My life partner and my closest friends are descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors. Their story is now part of my story, too. Why am I sharing this? Because I believe that for a brighter future we need our past to be recognized and respected.
I’m sharing it here to explain why this blog’s Facebook and Twitter were solely devoted to Armenia for a week. I know there are people in Western World who never heard of the Armenian Genocide. If at least one of them learns about it from this blog, I will feel accomplished. There is also something more. There are many nations that have to deal with dark, painful past. What makes the Armenian case ever more appalling is an active denial of everything they suffered in Ottoman Empire, in their ancestral lands. The wounds that aren’t recognized won’t heal. That’s why we shall keep talking.
I was happy and proud to be in Yerevan during the Centennial commemoration events. I was swamped with work, but there was no way I would let my job rob me off these moments. One might think it’s mostly a show, a play for international actors. I agree with it to some extent, but I also see it as a symbolic event. A moment when one should stand still, try to look back, try to think of lessons the centennial can teach him. Moreover, people need shows. I’m not less human than anyone when it comes to that.
April 24th was the rainiest day I’ve seen in Yerevan. The center never looked that empty either. There was no one but few confused tourists. It might sound pathetic, but it felt like the weather was joining us to commemorate the 1,5 million of people who perished during the Genocide. I was soaked before I even reached the memorial. I decided to go there in the afternoon to skip the morning’s speeches of international delegations. I didn’t want to hear new speech of politicians. It was only undisturbed presence that interested me. Remembering all the survivors stories I once memorized. Just remembering. That’s all we can do.
At 10 PM, I ventured to the center again, this time with my friend and fellow blogger Kami, my boyfriend, and around hundred thousand other people who joined a night torchlight march from Yerevan’s Republic Square to Tsitsernakaberd, the Genocide Memorial. It’s held every year, but it’s never been as big as last week. Some Diaspora Armenians and recognition activists flew to Yerevan for this walk. It has to mean something then. There are people who care about the cause and want another people to google learn history lesson.
On Monday, April 27th, I joined annual Flower Gathering, the most beautiful event of the week. Each year, following the days after April 24th, hundreds of thousands of flowers placed at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan were transported to trash cans and burned. Since 2010 these flowers are gathered and their stems are removed from the petals – compost is derived from the stems and the petals are used to make handmade recycled paper. Other parts are used as compost in the Memorial area. I love the idea and I love flower petals. I participated in the event last year and I knew I had to make it again. This way the commemoration ends with a tribute to life and the living, with a reminder that we shall live on and look towards the future rather than the past.
Thank you for walking all this way with me.