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‘There Is a Word Missing in the History of the Armenian Genocide: Justice’

Aleppo January 1920: Armenian refugees at the American Relief eye hospital, photo by University of Michigan Expedition, George R. Swain, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Public domain.

Aleppo January 1920: Armenian refugees at the American Relief eye hospital, photo by University of Michigan Expedition, George R. Swain, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Public domain.

Friday, April 24 marked the 100th anniversary of the extermination of 1.5 million people by Turkish authorities. Almost a third of the Armenian population living in the Ottoman Empire at the time perished through massacre, mass deportation and famine.

Of the 22 countries that have officially recognized the Armenian genocide, five are in Latin America: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The largest concentration of the Armenian diaspora in Latin America—and the third biggest in the world—happens to be in Argentina and is estimated to be between 70,000 and 135,000 people; among them, the family of Argentine journalist Lala Toutonian (@LalaKarenina).

The story of @LalaKarenina‘s grandparents resonates even today: this was the #ArmenianGenocide

Toutonian recently recounted the story of her grandparents to Infojus Noticias, a publication of Argentina's Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, describing how they travelled to the other side of the world to escape the slaughter and begin a new life:

Contaba mi abuela Nazlé, la paterna, que no sintió el balazo en su brazo. Estaba fuertemente aferrada a su hermano menor cuando notó una sangre marrón, espesa, bañando su mano y la de su hermanito. Mientras relataba esto, mostraba su cicatriz, con el ceño fruncido, la mirada grave, la voz firme…

My paternal grandmother Nazlé said she never even felt the bullet wound in her arm. She was holding on tight to her younger brother when she noticed thick, brown blood covering her hand and that of her sibling. As she recounted this, she showed the scar, frowning, her gaze steady, her voice firm…

Contaba mi abuelo Vartevar, el materno, que mataron frente a sus ojos— unos turquesas, brillantes hasta el último de sus días a los 99 años—, a su esposa y a su bebé. Que él sobrevivió en el desierto escondiéndose bajo la arena cuando pasaban arrasando los turcos, bebiendo del orín de una mula moribunda, que sus compañeros en la marcha de la muerte caían como hojas secas. …

My maternal grandfather Vartevar tells of how his wife and baby were killed before his very eyes—turquoise and bright until the day he died at the age of 99—and of how he survived in the desert hiding beneath the sand when the Turks passed through, drinking the urine of a dying mule, while his companions on the march of death fell like dried leaves…

The Turkish government denies that an actual genocide took place. It does accept that during World War I many Armenians were killed, but it asserts that many Turks were too, arguing that massacres were committed by both sides as a result of ethnic and factional violence that erupted during the conflict.

Toutonian continues in her piece:

Estas son las consecuencias de un Genocidio: odios, rencores, dolores, resentimientos, nacionalismos exacerbados, chauvinismos baratos, y todo horriblemente sustentado. También el afán de mantener viva una cultura, una lengua, una religión, una memoria que se quiso tapar, matar, silenciar.

These are the consequences of a genocide: hatred, bitterness, pain, resentment, exacerbated nationalism, facile chauvinism, continually feeding off itself. But also the desire to keep a culture, a language, a religion, a memory alive, one that people tried to crush, to wipe out, to silence.

Porque cada una de las imágenes expuestas, cada niño moribundo, cada mujer violada, cada abuelo tatuado, cada hombre degollado, nos recuerda que tenemos porqué vivir.

Because with every one of the images, every dying child, every woman who is raped, every tattooed grandparent, every man whose throat is slit, we are reminded of why we must go on living.

Porque falta una palabra en la historia del Genocidio armenio: justicia.

Because there is a word missing in the history of the Armenian genocide: justice.

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