Little Stories of a Big Genocide, Part IIBy My Opinion @ 4:00 PM April 20, 2012
From Dr. Rosemary Hartounian Cohen
Re “Little Stories of a Big Genocide”
[Editor’s Note: Tuesday will mark the 97th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a onesided murderous war that began on April 24, 1915 and ended in 1916. The memory of Armenian martyrs is observed worldwide on April 24 every year.]
Second of two parts
[Editor’s Note: Yesterday’s installation chronicled the author’s address to a Los Angeles group of formerly prominent Iranians, who emigrated here after the 1979 revolution. A speaker only identified as “Mr. Z, a famous Iranian artist and illustrator,” recalled a 50-year-old story, which is concluded below.]
“We were quiet and uncomfortable. But the man continued his ‘dinnertime’ story by telling us that at his suggestion, his friend finally pressed his finger down on the trigger and shot a bullet in the baby’s little mouth. The baby’s blood and flesh spread inside and out of the little brown basket in the dark, narrow alley.
“At these words, our friend’s father went into a deep silence as if he were absent from all of us for awhile. His eyes were fixed on the basket of bread. It was as if he still could see the baby in the basket. His face changed its color. It became very dark, like the narrow, dark alley in Turkey where he and his friend were rounding in order to keep it safe for their countrymen 50 years ago.”
“Around the table, we were all shocked. Our appetite had disappeared. No one touched the food. It was disappointing for our friend’s mother. She had worked so hard to prepare us the food all the day.
“I believe even our Turkish friend’s son never had heard this gloriously brave and heroic story of his father before.”
For another full moment after the story ended, the Mazandarani group and I remained silent in honor of the spirit of the innocent Armenian baby.
Grimly, Mr. Z broke the silence.
“Your book, ‘The Survivor,’ reminded me of this horror story. I have not forgotten it for over 50 years. I changed my profession, because I could not deal with a bloody mouth anymore.
“I became an artist instead.
“But I never have forgotten the father of my friend and the story he told. Often, I have asked myself the following questions over and over.
“I have not been able to find a convincing answer. I thought of sharing it with you. Maybe you have an answer.”
• “Why did our friend’s father tell us this story that night?
• “Why did he insist many times that he did not do anything, that his friend did it all?
• “Why did he tell us the story at the dinner table? Who says such stories when the food is on the table?”
Analyzing the Storyteller
This was my answer:
I am not sure why he did it since didn’t know him. What I can see is that probably the basket of bread on the table reminded him of the basket of the baby. He saw four happy young friends together. That reminded him of the time when he was at the same age.
May be he envied you deep in his heart. You were young, innocent, studying, laughing.
He was obliged to be a soldier when he was your age. He was obliged to brag that he had killed hundreds of innocent Armenians every night.
In his soul, was he actually proud of his actions? If he repeated over and over that he did not do anything, his friend did it all, this shows he has (hopefully) suffered for being a witness who had not been brave enough to react and protect an innocent, helpless baby.
Therefore he pays in silence for 50 years. At least if he was doing the act himself, he would strongly justified his actions. But he was a witness who did not help a helpless baby in a brown basket. I do not care how strong criminals are.
Everyone’s conscience wakes up one day. They hear the voices of their victims calling for justice. This is the gift that the criminals receive from their innocent victims. And they suffer in silence until the end of their lives. Sometimes they confess – like the father of your friend – to strangers. This makes them feel safer. It lightens their burden. Many times it has been said that prisoners have confessed their crimes to their jailmates or while they were sleeping.
I told Mr. Z that “by learning his sad story, as usual I am still hopeful. I can see a small light at the end of a dark tunnel. If your friend’s father had not forgotten the torture and the killing of a baby after 50 years, then I believe there is always a tiny molecule of God present even in a devil’s being that searches for light. That Ottoman soldier never will be able to undo the past. At least I think my grandparents and 1½ million other Armenian souls are in Heaven. Like many others still present on this earth, I will be satisfied to hear a word of apology from his countrymen and from their actual government.
Silence, the Worst Sin
Yes, it is the month of April, and we are remembering the Armenian Genocide.
Still, many countries (including the United States government) have not recognized the Armenian Genocide officially. Neither has the Turkish government shown any sign of remorse.
Until the day that the Turkish officials have admitted to the wrongdoings, and the entire world has condemned the acts of Genocide officially, we must be cautious.
By our passivity and silenc,e we encourage the oppressors. Silence means acceptance.
Therefore we show that we agree with their past and future actions. The worst result is that by silence we open new doors to the future fanatical nationalist dictators.
We are telling them that when the right time comes, it is okay to repeat the same atrocities.
Dr. Rosemary Hartounian Cohen, who lives in the Fairfax District, earned her Ph.D in sociology from the Sorbonne in Paris. She lived in two other countries before moving with her husband and children to Los Angeles in 1984. She has published four books in America. Since 1985, Dr. Cohen has operated Atelier de Paris, an international art business, on Robertson Boulevard. She may be contacted at email@example.com