Genocide is Forever: The Armenian Genocide

Geno1I wrote this a year ago as a project for my human rights class. I interviewed two survivors of the Armenian Genocide about their experiences. On April 26, people will gather in Times Square to commemorate the 100th anniversary of this tragic event. You can view their event site on facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/756981021040455/

On August 22, 1939, shortly before the invasion of Poland, Adolph Hitler handed a document in German to Louis P. Lochner, explaining his rationale for the invasion. The last paragraph reads, “I have issued the command—and I’ll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by firing squad—that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness—for the present only in the east—with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
Hitler’s cynical view of the world’s blindness or otherwise ignorance of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 speaks volumes on how mass slaughter of specific (or even non-specific) groups of people can easily be duplicated so long as citizens of the world remain silent. This remains as true then as it does now.
The Armenian Genocide was conducted by the majority and predominantly Muslim Turks against the minority, mostly Christian, Armenians after the outbreak of World War I in the Ottoman Empire. An estimated one and a half million Armenians died between 1915 and 1923. Hundreds of thousands were slaughtered while many others died of starvation and disease.

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The Armenians had long been discriminated against and were victims of massacres before 1915. However, they were allowed a certain level of autonomy to practice their religion, although they paid higher taxes, had no legal protections, and were otherwise treated as second-class citizens in what would now perhaps be seen as an Apartheid or Jim Crow type state. When Armenians began demanding reforms, the government responded by massacring them in order to frighten their political organizations from pursuing aspirations of governmental representation and fair treatment. In addition, the decline of the Ottoman Empire during this time created political and economic turmoil, which would eventually be placed directly on the shoulders of the Armenian people. As a result, in 1909, the Young Turks seized power, paving the way for an eventual coup d’etat by the ultra-nationalistic Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) in 1913. The CUP wanted a Turkish state for Turks only.
After the outbreak of World War I, the CUP aligned itself with Germany and Austria-Hungary and suffered a string of defeats at the hands of Russia which was blamed on an elaborate conspiracy between the Armenians and the Russians. Using this as a pretext, many Armenians were killed by the Turks in battleground areas.
I visited the New York Armenian Home to speak with two survivors of the genocide Perouze Kalousdian, 105, and Azniv Guiragossian, 102. “The Armenian people are very good people. Very kind people,” Guiragossian said. “God made me because I help everybody.” I talked with her through a translator, but was very young back then and had a difficult time remembering details. However, when I brought up the deportations she was visibly upset and soon after told me she had told me everything she could remember. I found out later that she was kidnapped at one years old and lived with a Turkish family until she was 4. Later on, her father died and her mother gave birth to a child in the Syrian Desert. The child died, and then her mother two months later.

Kalousdian, however, remembered quite a bit. She was six years old at the time of the genocide.
“They came, they took them out, and they didn’t come back,” Kalousdian told me, referring to the deportations.
According to her testimony, her Grandparents had explained to her that the Turks hated the Armenians and wanted to kill them all.
“Wherever we could stay we stayed, and there were times when we didn’t have a place to stay. We were living in the street.
“They [the Turks] said it’s a war. That’s what they said to me. I was a young kid. I didn’t know much.”
Kalousdian and her mother hid in a barn until someone came and told them they could leave. I couldn’t get her to talk about it when I interviewed her, but I found out that she witnessed Armenian men being tied up and thrown into the Euphrates River.

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“Why did they have to do that. Why? What have we done to them to do that to us?” She asked me angrily. “They took everything from us so we were very poor. We started begging. That’s all I know.. I hate them. They had no right to do that to us. I always think about [the genocide] but I don’t like to talk about it. The people are working for their living. Do you know why?”
After the war, the only people left were her uncle, her father, and her mother. She lost the rest of her family. “They took everything we had. No one said anything.”
Genocide survivor testimonies are particularly powerful, and now I know why. Speaking to both of them was like having their anger, frustration, and utter sadness poured into me. Their eyes alone provided me with a visual window into the cruelty and injustice they had experienced first-hand.
The Turkish—almost without warning—had told the Armenians that they were to be deported and re-settled. This was a lie. They marched toward certain death for hundreds of miles in the Syrian desert. The convoys were attacked by government sponsored bandits, who murdered and raped the Armenians. They were denied food and water and many starved to death. As was the case of Guiragossian—some young girls and infants were abducted and sold to Turkish households. As a result of the deportations, the entire population of Armenian in Anatolia was completely destroyed.

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Over four hundred CUP members were accused of atrocities. Many, including the man who was primarily responsible, Interior Minister Talaat Pasha, escaped justice and went into hiding abroad. However, Talaat Pasha was assassinated by an Armenian, who told his captors that he was not the real murderer. The assassin was later acquitted in a German court. The genocide ended in 1923 when a new government came to power in Turkey.
To this day, Turkey denies that genocide ever took place. It is portrayed in their media that the Armenians are lying or exaggerating and excuse it by saying that it was war time. According to Gregory H. Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, there are 8 stages of genocide: classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, extermination and, finally, denial. If we take these steps to be literal, then a genocide is still being perpetrated by the Turkish government in its refusal to own up to its past. Even though Turkish intellectuals are attempting to change this, the government is still persecuting and censoring journalists and historians for trying to say what happened to the Armenians as genocide. Recently, a Turkish-Armenian journalist was murdered in broad daylight in the streets of Turkey for saying that it was genocide. President Obama, who previously came out and called it genocide, backed off because of Turkey’s importance as a strategic ally.
The purpose of this paper is to clearly demonstrate that genocide indeed did take place against the Armenians. This is because it is my opinion that the Turkish government’s denial is, in a sense, paving the way toward future genocides. As I mentioned in the opening of this paper, Adolph Hitler believed that nobody would pay attention to his genocidal intentions based on Turkey’s handling of the Armenian genocide. This was proven—obviously—to be incorrect through history and what we know now but, in the case of Turkey, their active denial has not allowed the survivors and descendants of those who died in the Syrian desert and everywhere else that those murders and atrocities took place, to heal from what had happened. This was clear through my interviews with the two survivors. There is still anger present in the voices of these survivors and—as the common activist mantra goes—without justice there can be no peace. In order for justice to be given, the Turkish people—who are an otherwise intelligent and good people—must delve into their painful past and admit to the wrong doing perpetrated by the evil their government committed, which was so radical that it is almost beyond human comprehension.
Genocide is taking place at this very moment. There is still not enough being done to prevent current and future genocides. While it is important to look toward the past to try as best we can to understand what has happened, we must not forget that there is still a lot more we can do. Although I cannot offer a specific platform for which to stop future genocides, I know that ignoring the problem does not make it go away—and history is a great ally of mine in making this point. This goes beyond government. In the end, if the world would like to know why genocide takes place or why nothing gets done, human beings only need look into a mirror. Genocide cannot happen without popular support or at least passive approval.
It is up to us—not a third party government or non-governmental organizational—to prevent genocides. Perhaps, in learning about past genocides, we will be able to have to the fortitude and knowledge to prevent the next one before it even starts.

Works Cited
1. Kevork B. Bardakjian, Hitler and the Armenian Genocide (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Zoryan Institute, 1985)
2. Rouben Paul Adalian, http://www.armenian-genocide.org/genocide.html
3. Gregory H. Stanton, The 8 Stages of Genocide, (http://www.genocidewatch.org/genocide/8stagesofgenocide.html)

Teachers and allies rally in Lynbrook, NY and across Long Island to protest against Governor Cuomo’s education policies

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LYNBROOK, NY–March 28th, 2015–Teachers and others rallied across Long Island on Merrick Road from Valley Stream to West Islip in attempt to draw attention to what they perceive as an attack on public education and teachers.

Cuomo’s plan would allow standardized test scores to account for 50% of a teacher’s evaluation while the other 50% will be based on school officials observations.

Lisa Zindman, a third grade teacher from West End, agrees. “We feel this is unfair,” she said. “Most teacher’s support common core, but it was rolled out the wrong way.”

Lisa Zindman, third grade teacher at West End Elementary School in Lynbrook, NY.

Lisa Zindman, third grade teacher at West End Elementary School in Lynbrook, NY.

The teacher’s also argued that a corporation called Pearson makes up the tests that they are evaluated on and that they have nothing to do with education. Many said that they believed that this was just about money. Some even suggested that this plan was made because Cuomo was not supported in his election by the teachers union, NYSUT..

Leah Brunski writes in her blog for the nation, “As a public-school teacher, I want to be evaluated. But there are much more effective ways to do it. The countries and states that consistently outperform New York on standardized assessments—Finland, Japan, Massachusetts, among others—have successful evaluation systems in place that could help shape New York’s. In these places, test-score gains play no role in a teacher’s evaluation. Instead, multiple measures are used to evaluate the efficacy of a teacher’s performance: principal and peer observations, student and family feedback, professional development. Why not borrow a page from corporate America’s playbook to provide teachers with a 360-degree view of their performance?”

http://www.thenation.com/blog/201441/why-gov-cuomos-education-proposals-are-bad-students-they-are-teachers

Dave Aiello, a 4th grade teacher in Lynbrook, assured me that they weren’t protesting against common core  but against Governor Cuomo’s policies. “This is to stop the attack on public education,” he said of the rally. He remarked that Cuomo’s plan was a ploy to implement charter schools. “That will kill democracy.”

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The New York State Legislature is set to vote on these proposed changes on April 1st.

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Free Barrett Brown

It is with incredible sadness and anger that I report Barrett Brown, a hero of mine who was found guilty of the crime of doing journalism, has been sentenced to 63 months in prison.

http://www.theverge.com/2015/1/22/7871317/barrett-brown-sentencing-anonymous-stratfor

This sentence is a declaration of war against all journalists, particularly the ones that do not fit the mainstream mold and tout official lines of the mainstream. It is a declaration of war against activists, bloggers, and truth tellers in America and is the official end of free speech in America as we know it.

I will not get into the specifics of this case, as there are many others more equipped at I who will surely do that. However, I want to express that the effect that this will have may indeed be ‘chilling’ but that it will also have unintended and unforeseen consequences for the United States government.

Unintended consequences include more journalists who possess the willingness and ability to pursue stories which will directly oppose the propagandist lines held by the mainstream media and the United States government. It is these consequences which will one day boil over and destroy what little remains of this unjust system, which has signed its own death warrant the minute it turned its powers against its own people and on those that would speak out against it. Make no mistake …Barrett Brown is in jail because he uncovered the truth of surveillance by private contractors. But the truth is still out there.

This government is a monster–a machine that seeks nothing more than to consolidate its own power. But what it does not know will hurt it. It will not pay attention until it gets bitten in the ass. There are a million more Barrett Brown’s out there and nobody knows who they are.

And they will not find out–until it is necessary. That day might already be here.

#freeBB

Patrick Lynch inciting an NYPD coup d’etat? Protests will “not be tolerated”?

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Patrolmen’s Benevolence Association President Patrick Lynch has turned the deaths of two police officers into an excuse to incite open rebellion in New York City and a crackdown of police brutality demonstrators in NYC.

The deaths of two police officers at the hand of a gunman who, on Saturday, December 20th is now a pretext for holding his enemies accountable. The video below speaks for itself.

“There’s blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest to try to dear down what new York city police officers did every day. We tried to warn. It must not go on. It cannot be tolerated. That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.”

The police officers deaths are tragic. But theyi are no less tragic then the deaths of Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Ramarley Graham, Kimani Gray, and countless other victims of police brutality.

‘Why are none of the protesters protesting this?’ will become the new argument line for those who seek to continue business as usual.  But the answer is the same reason why the NYPD will never ever prosecute Pantaleo for killing Eric Garner. It is the same reason that even when DA Robert McCulloch in Ferguson knew that Witness 40 was lying and still took his evidence as fact. It is because we have a community and country that is being torn apart because of these things, and everyone is being forced to take a side in some form or fashion. And now, the  systems of power and control which is every level, not just the police level, are showing their true colors in more and more obvious ways.With this latest remark, Lynch proclaims that he will not tolerate protest. That is fascism.

The deaths of these two police officers should be condemned but I can’t possibly condemn those killings without also condemning ALL victims of crime, be it on the police officers, on the protesters, on ordinary citizens. All Americans deserve equal treatment under the law. That is what the United States should stand for.

I have educated myself, and attempted to educate others, about innocent lives destroyed by violence committed by police, and justice delayed or never given. And the message that the People’s Democratic Republic of NYC want you to know is that police killings are legal and so is—actually—anything they do.

The chants of ‘all lives matter’ in New York City by protesters is sometimes a touchy subject in activist circles. Some activists feel that the chant ‘all lives matter’ shouldn’t be used because it is ‘white privilege’. I think that while that might be true in some cases, that this should be chanted because it is true. All lives do matter. And the sooner we begin to realize this, the sooner there will be peace.

What I saw at the #ThankYouNYPD Rally and Marches

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On December 19th, a small group of protesters rallied outside City Hall in support of the New York Police Department amid criticism of excessive force in the cases of Eric Garner and Akai Gurley.

Both sides showed the worst of themselves that day.

First of all, the NYPD’s handling of these two protests was extremely weird. They set up two barricades, one side for the anti-police demonstrators, and one for the pro-police.* In the middle was a kind of de-militarized zone where only the press and police were allowed to mingle. Yet, inexplicably, the police allowed protesters from the counter demonstration to slip into the middle and antagonize the pro-NYPD demonstrators.

I saw a woman who–to be fair–was doing nothing more than dancing and blowing a whistle, to be allowed to dance right in front of the pro-NYPD supporter for fifteen to twenty minutes without challenge. When the police finally did decide to ask her to leave, she left peacefully, dancing off into the distance. The only question is, why did they wait so long when the NYPD supporters were getting more and more agitated as time went on?

Eventually, things did boil over for a minute when a police brutality demonstrator managed somehow to get to the front of the freedom cage for the NYPD supporters, raising a sign that said “Watch the Watchers” She proceeded to chant anti-police slogans in their protest zone. One of them got so agitated that he violently grabbed the woman’s sign away from her. Whether she was justified or not in her view, she was obviously looking for a confrontation and she got what she wanted. The NYPD supporter, who took the sign from her, also grabbed a journalists camera for some reason. He then claimed that the journalist was “supporting criminals.” Both of these activists were feeding off each others dogmatic black and white view of the world.

The event was not all terrible though. Union leader Stan Williams and a man who may or may not have been a former police officer in East New York, had an intelligent conversation about police violence and income inequality. This was the one discussion between the two sides that did not end in tears.

Later on that night, I walked with the anti-police demonstrators somewhere near Wall Street. As the protesters chanted ‘No justice, no peace,’ he remarked out loud that the protesters probably didn’t know how to spell the word, “Justice.” I turned my camera on and asked, “How do you spell justice?”

His response was violence and anger.

If I were to have anything taken away from the things I’ve witnessed last night, it is that there needs to be more conversations and less yelling and screaming at each other. If we only speak our minds while refusing to listen, these problems can never be solved.

The anti-police demonstrators have justifiable grievances and they must be listened to. But I don’t agree with the antagonistic methods that were used. Violence should never be a resort towards questions that are uncomfortable or points of view that you don’t like. If our nation is no longer one of reason but dogma, we are in serious trouble.

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#MillionsMarchNYC attracts 50,000 plus protesters. Videos/Photos

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It all started with a single event page post by 23 year old Synead Nichols and turned into one of the largest protests against police brutality since the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who killed the unarmed 18 year old black man Michael Brown. Protesters marched in support of those killed by police in NYC such as Eric Garner and, more recently, Akai Gurley.

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The protests were largely peaceful with only one documented arrest. The police seemed to have taken a very hands off attitude towards the protesters, even in areas where there was no permitted march. Only time will tell whether this sort of organizing will translate into lasting change.

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Sonic Weapon Used on Protesters in NYC

A long ranged acoustic device, commonly referred to as an LRAD, was used at around 1 in the morning on December 5th against those protesting the decision of the Grand Jury in Staten Island not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was shown on video choking Eric Garner until he passed out and later died. It was used near Columbus Circle, at 57 East and Madison Avenue.

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/video-nypd-uses-military-grade-sonic-weapon-eric-garner-protesters

The LRAD is a sonic weapon which, according to the corporation that made it, can cause extreme pain to anyone within a hundred meters of the sound path. The LRAD 500X is the typical model carried by law enforcement. That particular model can be heard up to 650 feet away and is also capable of direct, short bursts of sound which can cause severe headaches and even permanent hearing loss. The video above seems to show this particular method being used, although that cannot be confirmed.

The LRAD has reportedly been used in the United States since 2009 when it was deployed against G20 protesters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There have also been some reports of it being used on Occupy protesters in Oakland and NYC in 2011 and, most recently, in Ferguson, Missouri.

(Source for above: http://gizmodo.com/what-is-the-lrad-sound-cannon-5860592)

It is wonderful that those in the media want to talk about the NYPD’s supposed ‘restraint’ when it came to policing these protests in Manhattan but, eventually, we as a country are going to have to have a discussion about whether or not it is right and/or moral to use sonic weapons against predominantly peaceful protesters in one of the most densely populated areas in the world. If you were on the receiving end of a sonic weapon such as the one used in the aforementioned video, you may think twice about taking to the streets. Perhaps that is what the NYPD has in mind.