Coming Out of the Fog

1915, World War I, The massacre of the Armenian populations in Turkey, an encampment of Armenian refugees on the deck of a French cruiser that rescued them. (Photo by Photo12/UIG/Getty Images)


Team Keghart Editorial, 20 January 2010

Described as “shell-shocked” during the First and Second World Wars, soldiers, who experienced severe emotional turbulence, are nowadays described as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But PTSD isn’t an experience confined to individuals—nations and civilizations can also suffer from it.

As a nation, Armenians are ideal candidates for PTSD.

Even a cursory look to our history demonstrates a nation which, for nearly three millennia, has been tested again and again. Our country has been a frequent battle ground for expansionist empires from near and far; it has been divided between Persia and Greece; split between Persia and Rome; sliced by Byzantium, Persia, and Arab “vosdigan” rule. Crusaders from half-a-dozen European countries have betrayed the welcoming Armenians and played havoc with Cilicia. Then it was the turn of nomadic Central Asian marauders, particularly the Turkish Seljuk and Ottoman tribes, to lay waste to Armenia. In the past 600 years the occupation of our country continued under the yoke of Persian and Turkish, and later Russian Empires. These depredations have been accompanied by the mass killings, slavery, and the abduction of countless Armenians and the repeated destruction of our homes, churches, schools…

Then came the 19th century persecutions of Armenians living under Ottoman rule. After several major ethnic cleansing campaigns, Turkey culminated its bloody plot against Armenians with the Genocide of 1915, and the deportation of nearly a million from our homeland. Those who stayed in their homeland were turkified forcibly to survive. Meanwhile, historic Armenia kept shrinking to its present postage-stamp size—about a tenth of historic Armenia.

And how can one forget the torment of Genocide survivors, the orphans and their descendents, scattered around the globe … trying to establish a modicum of “normal” life far away from Ararat, and often prone to the vagaries of local politics, discrimination, and even war?

Is it any wonder then that we feel like a punch-drunk boxer? How many hits can an individual—or a nation—absorb before throwing the towel? How many degrees are there between PTSD and catatonia?

As part of their healing process, victims of shell-shock or of PTSD find succor in the medical community’s and the public’s recognition of their illness. That their illness is validated by medical experts and not dismissed as cowardice (as was often the case during the First World War) helps the PTSD sufferer find closure and to start life anew.

Armenians are still waiting for the Great Powers, not to mention Turkey, to recognize the Genocide of Armenians as an uncontested fact. And as long as the Genocide of Armenians is cited in quotes or is preceded by “so-called”, “alleged”, or” Armenians claim”, our trauma persists.

This open wound, the hypocrisy of the Great Powers, Turkey’s inane obduracy drives us—in street parlance—to the wall. We get impatient, short-tempered, petulant, combative, and even paranoid when the horrendous events of 1915 to 1922 are questioned or ignored.

But “coming from an angry place” is no way to present “Our Case” (Hye Tadd). We have been patient for millennia. Despite the overwhelming odds, despite the yataghans, despite the forced assimilation we have survived through patience, through love of our nation and through our pride in being Armenian.

Let’s maintain our cool a bit longer. Let’s rise above the struggle, and continue to fight in an intelligent manner—with circumspection, unity, and diplomacy. We have come a long way since 1375 (when our last king was deposed) and from 1915.

The Protocols have galvanized Armenians the way the 50th commemoration of the Genocide focused us on our priorities. Turkey is changing: optimists in Turkey and elsewhere believe the new generation in Turkey will eventually force Ankara to acknowledge the crimes of Abdul Hamid II, Tala’at and Co. The descendants of turkified Armenians are coming forth and demanding the opening of the books. Ankara realizes that it can’t stonewall forever, without losing credibility and prestige. Diaspora Armenians are demanding that their political leaders present a new blueprint for our future as a nation. And just like Turkey, the government of Armenia should realize that authoritarian rule and “let’s play pretend-democracy” won’t do.

Qualified and committed groups are forming in at least four Armenian centers to give a big legal push for the recognition of the rights of Western Armenians. The desire for a new day is palpable. With our track record of perseverance, with our pride in our identity, with our conviction in the justice of our cause, we may soon come out of the fog—the fog of the world’s longest-lasting post-traumatic stress disorder.

  1. We Must Fight To Survive
    Coming   Out  of  the Fog 

    It’s an excellent  article  and  the best  description of  Armenians’  grievous history.
    Despite all  this stormy data our nation has  faith  in survival.
  2. We must fight to survive.
    Dr. Babjanian’s comments remind me self- appointed critic Ara Baliozian’s comment on our endurance and longevity in the world history. Some time ago I had given my opinion about the same and his answer was that " cockroaches also survive  as long"….Well you draw your conclusions from this  self-proclaimed pessimist.

  3. We have met the enemy and it is us
    Or rather, the leadership of Armenia. Already the US media – which often as not referred to the Genocide as "the genocide" has tacitly decided that if Armenians are willing to make peace with the Turks without demanding recognition of the Genocide then there must be something to Turkish claims that it was an internal matter, a civil war, "both sides did it," etc. Want proof: A recent article in The Christian Science Monitor discussing the Protocols referred to the "100 year old dispute." Progressive Turks will no longer have to press for recognition of the Genocide. No one will speak of the Armenians. It never happened. Hitler would have been proven right in the end. 

    The Jews know this, which is why they never, ever let the world forget about the Holocaust and they fight any and all attempts to minimize it or trivialize it. Imagine the course of history had the newly formed Israel made peace with Germany. The Geneva Conventions (1949) and Nuremberg Principles (1950) would not have been written and enacted. And certainly, Israel would have not gotten a Reparations Agreement with West Germany in 1952.  

  4. Coming out of the fog

    Dear Compatriots;

    I don’t know why the present Turkish government is protecting the Ottoman actions and committed Genocide against the Armenia nation; in fact they are the ones who toppled the Ottoman Empire. Normally, when a change in the regime occurs in any country, specially from monarchy to Republic, the new regime will change the flag of that country, as it is done in Iran.

    In Turkey nothing is changed since Mustafa Kemal took the control of the country. It is the same flag, the same army, and most damaging is the thinking of the officers of Turkish army’s hierarchy which has remained the same, Influenced by the past.

    The Ottoman mentality still exists in the mind of many army officers and government personnel.    

    Hagop Karlozian

  5. Coming Out of the Fog
    This is a good start. I expect from you – I am sure you can – to be more specific by giving numbers, statistics, quotes, data, short analytical articles.

    Good job and I congratulate you.

    Minas Kojayan

  6. Never Give Up
    Thank you for writing such a heartfelt and poignant article.  I feel it is the duty of every Armenian to continue doing all they can to eventually get the Turkish government to admit to their role in the Armenian Genocide in 1915.  The facts will not disappear.  History cannot be altered.  Turkey will advance themselves in the eyes of the world by leaps and bounds if they take responsibility in admitting what happened 95 years ago. 

  7. Good start!
    Thank you editors, for articulating concerns shared by your brethren around the world. We must stay strong and empower our institutions to stay strong so that Armenia will live in coming "nor serounts" no matter where they live in the world. Something in this editorial needs to be fleshed out. Is "patience" really all that’s required of us now? No strategy? If and when a Western Armenian National Congress is established, its primary job must be securing Western Armenian land return, along with restitution, reparation, restoration. That will require strategic thinking and action. While we are indeed still deeply traumatized, this should not prevent us from remaining active on the political stage, no matter how severely we feel hurt, insulted, paralyzed. The Turkish government needs no encouragement to marginalize righteous Armenian demands by bleating to anyone who will listen that Armenians instead suffer from mental illnesses and alleged genocide complexes. If it were left up to the likes of Jemal Pasha’s grandson, Armenians would be force-fed a diet of twisted logic and one-upmanship. In one big therapeutic session to achieve universal brotherhood, Armenians would be called on to quell their demands and instead sit down and dialogue with Turks — to hear of the devastating pain Turks feel about losing their grand Ottoman empire — an empire, need we be reminded, that was built on rape, abduction, slavery and genocide of native populations such as ours and the pillage, theft, and confiscation of our beloved homeland usurped by the Turks themselves!

    1. Fog
      To Ghazaros. I think the "Out of the Fog" editorial mentioned that we are witnessing new vigour, new ideas, and new groups to address our goals. In no way, to my understanding, did the piece advocate idle patience. WAN-Congress is one such new group which seems to have a new approach to obtain justice for the Armenian people.

  8. Recognition, meaning reparation
    My elementary, primary and part of the secondary education took place at St. Nshan Armenian School in Beirut where many of my teachers would tell us that we as students, or our children may not see the realization of our national aspirations in our lifetimes, but they were surely to come. Those were the pre 1965 years when the Armenian Genocide was more an indoor lamentation than a public commemoration. The fact of the matter is that I never expected then to experience in my lifetime what transpired and has been transpiring since then, especially the last two decades. The Armenian Genocide is widely recognized now, albeit still alleged by some. Armenia is a free and independent country now, who would have guessed that then? My maternal and paternal grandparents were orphaned survivors of the Armenian Genocide and they avoided the subject. In hindsight, I realize now that they were traumatized. I, as their firstborn grandchild and a grandfather as well, feel burdened to rectify the historical injustice to the extent that it is ever possible to rectify. We have come a long, long way and there is no reason that in time we will not achieve recognition, meaning reparation.

  9. Este Revelou editorial

    Este Revelou editorial excelente, com absoluta precisão, a Arménia "alma". Nossa sofrida, a dolorida Alma. Extranho, Extraordinário fenômeno, uma Atingir cada um de nós, Estejamos onde quer que, em toda Diáspora. Tratado um tema que merece. E a cura para esse mal da alma? Qual será? Quando virá? Ou será essa uma cruz que teremos de carregar eternamente?  

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