April 25, 2007


(Editors Note: The following article authored by a group calling itself RAHAGEETS, first appeared in the Armenian press some 25 years ago. Some of our readers will remember the events and developments taking place at that time, most notably the emergence of Armenian political violence, which created a deep division with the Armenian community. Since those tumultuous years much has changed in both the Armenian reality and psyche. However, we believe that the issues raised in the article regarding the 1915 Genocide and its aftermath, remain for the most part valid today and thus deserving reexamination. We agree with the article's primary argument that the Armenian pursuit of Genocide Recognition , as presently constituted, fails to address the real meaning and import of the events of 1915.)

Genocide, Eviction, and Exile

Too often, the overpowering effect of the fact of the near extermination of our people in their ancestral lands submerges our presently evermore important and continuing collective experience - forced exile. Armenians as a group no longer face the danger of physical annihilation. 1915 is behind us. Although alive in the eyes of our grandparents, 1915 is history and while we must strive to counter those revisionists who would rewrite history to justify the status-quo, it is a mistake to accord 1915 the centrality which it now enjoys in Armenian self-definition. Focus on the past has overshadowed most perception of the great and more pressing injustice of today, when the American-armed Turkish army, much of it stationed in occupied Armenia, obstructs our return.

The Turkish policy of 1915 was to tear the Armenians from their land such that Armenia without Armenians be incorporated into an expanded Turkish homeland. But the crime did not end with the last massacre of an Armenian village or the last human convoy to set out on the death march to Deir ez-Zor. The crime continues still today for it is, in essence, the disassociation, the eviction, of the Armenian from the land. Massacre and deportation formerly served as instruments of that crime. Today, it is the prohibition against our return which functions as the final stage in its implementation. If, over time with the assimilation into the life of their countries of exile, Armenians give up all claims of their right of return, the crime will be complete since then Armenians will have been completely disassociated from their lands: their eviction, final and unchallenged.

The media understandably finds it awkward and difficult to relate the attempted genocide of 1915 with the assassinations and bombings today and so it often attributes actions by ASALA and others to motives of revenge or retaliation. References in newspaper editorials to "innocent Turkish diplomats not even alive during the massacres" illustrates the failure of Armenians to properly project their grievances. If the crime addressed by the Armenians was the attempted genocide of 1915 and that alone, then of course the present Turkish government and its diplomats are innocent or at least guilty of nothing more than distortion of history. If such were the case, a journalist might rightly consider Armenian attacks after the passage of so many years astonishing, inexcusable, and racist. But the crime is eviction of a people from their homeland, and, by seeking to ensure our continued exile, the present Turkish Government, along with its tanks and diplomats, is a party to that which began in 1915 and continues to this day.

When we Armenians perfunctorily look to April 24 activities as central to our struggle or when one of our well-intentioned Armenian underground groups refers to itself as "Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide", we tend only to reinforce impressions that Armenians protest against or seek revenge for events which occurred over 60 years ago. The Genocide is the how and why of our exile and enhances our moral right of return, but it is our forced exile, then and now, which must serve as the substantive basis of our claims to the occupied territories.

Palestinians suffered eviction from their homeland in 1948 and again in 1967, but despite the passage of over 30 years, the media would never suggest that the motivational underpinnings of Palestinian military activity rest in vengeance for deaths and orphans of the past. Journalists depict Palestinian actions as part of their struggle for self-determination and an end to their exile. However, instead of likening the struggle of the Armenian seeking to return to Van with that of the Palestinian seeking to return to Jaffa, the media likens Armenian attacks on Turkish targets to what would be today - were they to take place - senseless attacks by Jews on German targets.

But if journalists are confused on this point, perhaps it is because so many Armenians, dazed by the enormity of the horror that was the Genocide, have themselves failed to develop a perspective and orientation that looks beyond 1915. A people cannot struggle against an historical event. We no longer struggle against the prospect of physical annihilation and once our presentation to outsiders centers upon our exile of today and not events of the past, then there can be no more talk in the media of innocent Turkish diplomats, the passage of so many years, race hatred, vendetta, and the desire for revenge.


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