The Armenian Genocide in Feature Films

( With the recent release on DVD of the major motion picture “The Promise,” greater numbers of people will be able to gain insights into aspects of the Armenian Genocide. The film, starring Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac, and Charlotte Le Bon, was directed by acclaimed filmmaker Terry George, who had been involved in the production of “Hotel Rwanda,” about the 1990s genocide in Africa.

“The Promise” was an unorthodox production in several ways: financing ($100 million provided by Armenian-American Kirk Krikorian); massive numbers of pre-film release reviews that were either extremely negative or highly praising; and significant challenges and even genocide denialist-imposed obstacles in distribution.

“The Promise” is the most recent in almost a century of efforts to portray in feature films the horrors of genocide. Most of these films have appeared in recent decades and all are attempts to “describe the indescribable.”

Among the more notable of the feature films that deal with the Armenian Genocide are “Ravished Armenia/Auction of Souls” (1919), “America, America” (1963), “Nahapet” (1977), “Forty Days of Musa Dagh” (1982), “Mayrig” (1991), “Ararat” (2002), “Lark Farm” (2007), “The Cut” (2014), “1915” (2015), and most recently “The Promise” (2016). Often, those films are based on survivor memoirs or historical novels.

What is little known publicly today is that a pioneering Hollywood film from the silent-film era dealt with the Armenian Genocide. “Ravished Armenia/Auction of Souls” is the biographical account of a young orphan girl, Arshaluys Mardigian (later renamed Aurora Mardiganian), who, having witnessed most of her family being killed, managed to flee the massacres and later immigrated as a teenager to the United States. Her biography, titled Ravished Armenia: The Story of Aurora Mardiganian: The Christian Girl Who Lived Through the Great Massacres, was first serialized in the Hearst newspapers and later published as a book in 1918. The memoir was then turned into a film.

The historical 85-minute movie was a silent film (with subtitles). It portrayed the mass deportations, rapes, and massacres of Armenians. It had Aurora Mardiganian herself as the lead character. Remarkably, the movie also featured in actual person Henry Morgenthau, the former US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. The film was shot in California in 1918 with a cast of thousands of extras. Initially titled “Ravished Armenia,” the movie was renamed “Auction of Souls.” It was, in all likelihood, the first major Hollywood picture to portray genocide. In a number of ways, it was a pioneering film. To cast a genocide survivor as the lead actress is rare. As a post-WWI film, it certainly challenged conventional mores regarding violence, rape, and nudity. It also raised the censorship issue, both morally and politically. Turkish opposition in later years reinforced the latter.

The U.S. film premieres took place in Los Angeles and New York in 1919. Although film screenings were initially numerous and well-attended, the frequency of airings diminished. Over time, copies of the film were lost or destroyed, or they deteriorated. No known remaining full copy exists today. The history books on the early silent film era have mostly ignored the movie “Ravished Armenia/Auction of Souls.” What had been an often seen and cited movie that helped to raise crucial humanitarian relief funds for Near East Relief was now mostly ignored either by accident, bias, or malevolent design.

The Armenian Genocide Museum in Yerevan has an important section of its exhibition devoted to Aurora Mardiganian, her memoirs, and the film. For some, Aurora Mardiganian is the “Anne Frank of the Armenian Genocide.”

Franz Viktor Werfel wrote the novel “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh,” which dealt with the siege of the villages of Musa Dagh during the Armenian Genocide. The novel tells the story of one of the few examples of armed resistance by the Armenians to the deportations and killings by the Young Turk regime. The episode is also one of the few historical examples of foreign power humanitarian assistance arriving in timely fashion. French naval ships in the Mediterranean saw the besieged civilians and escorted them to safety in British-controlled Egypt. Efforts by the major Hollywood studio MGM to make a film version of the novel between the 1930s and 1970s were all unsuccessful—largely as a consequence of significant foreign pressure and interference by the Turkish government, supported by the U.S. State Department. Decades later, a lower-budget version directed by Sarky Mouradian was filmed in 1982, but achieved very little distribution.

The Greek-American Elia Kazan penned an autobiographical book about the suffering of his extended family, along with fellow Greeks and Armenians, under Turkish rule. In 1963, he turned the book into the epic film “America, America.”

“Nahapet” (1977) (Patriarch, also released as “Love Triumphs” ) is a Soviet-era film based on a novel by Hrachya Kochar and describes how a genocide survivor (Nahapet) attempts to rebuild his life amid the rugged mountains of Soviet Armenia. One of the recurring scenes in the film directed by Henrik Malyan involves scores of red apples falling from a tree, rolling into a river, and floating en masse downstream. The scene is a painful symbolic reminder of the multitude of Armenian bodies thrown into the Euphrates by the Young Turk regime during the genocide.

“Mayrig” (Mother) is the title of a 1985 semiautobiographical French-language novel by Henri Verneuil (born Ashod Malakian,) a French-Armenian author and filmmaker. The story is about a multigenerational family’s efforts to survive post-genocide exile and is a powerful account of the lingering intergenerational effects of genocide, even decades later.

“Ararat” (2002) by Atom Egoyan is a multilayered, complex drama. Egoyan’s actual film portrays a fictional director making an historical drama about the heroic Armenian people’s resistance to the Turkish military siege of the city of Van in 1915. A young Armenian boy and his beloved mother endured dreadful conditions during the bombardment and siege. She later dies as a refugee, and the young boy eventually emigrates to the United States, changes his name, and becomes the prominent artist Arshile Gorky. His melancholy twin paintings “The Artist and His Mother” are iconic and play a key role in the film. “Ararat” dwells on these works of art to convey the anguish and grieving for a deceased mother and a fractured family life. Among the reoccurring threads woven into film are the enormous impact of genocide, intergenerational transmission of trauma, and the continuing pain of ongoing Turkish denial. The closing hymn “Oor es, mayr eem/Mother, where are you?” sung by international soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, is heart-breaking.

The novel “Skylark Farm” by Italian-Armenian writer Antonia Arslan was made into a film under the title “The Lark Farm” (Italian: “La masseria delle allodole“) (2007) by directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. A multi-country co-production, with a cast that included Arsinee Khanjian, the film describes intergenerational transmission of traumatic memories of the author’s extended family. It portrays a diaspora Armenian living in Italy who hopes to reunite with his Armenian family in Anatolia. But with the onset of WWI, the Young Turk dictatorship closed the border, with Ottoman Armenian civilians trapped inside to face mass deportations and slaughter. A great many perished, but some Armenian family members survived the long and perilous death marches into the Syrian Desert and eventually reached safety in Italy.

“The Cut” (2014) by Fatih Akin follows the painful odyssey of a young Armenian man who is conscripted, along with fellow Armenians, to do forced road labor, and barely survives the Turkish cutting of the throats of the unarmed Armenian workers. Now mute from the cut, this lonely survivor endures further hardship and danger and gives up hope that any in his family is still alive. He travels from one place of exile after another, eventually ending up in the United States, where to his surprise he reunites with part of his surviving family.

Garin Hovannisian’s and Alex Mouhibian’s film “1915” was released on the 100th memorial year of 2015, and the story is based on a director’s and his actress wife’s staging a play in Los Angeles about the Armenian Genocide. The historical play draws protest demonstrations outside and mysterious incidents and apparitions inside. The ghosts of the genocide from the past press powerfully onto the present in this hauntingly powerful film.

Terry George’s “The Promise” (2016) tells the story of an American reporter who befriends two young Armenians, and the three form a complex love triangle. With the onset of WWI and increasing dictatorial rule by the ultranationalist Young Turk military regime, the foreign journalist bears witness to the mass deportations and massacres of Armenians. Among the scenes portrayed is the self-defense resistance at Musa Dagh. Unlike the fate of most of their fellow Armenians, many of those inhabitants survive with the help and rescue of nearby French naval ships.

In this contemporary video-oriented era, feature films remain an important means to convey the deep and enduring impact of genocide. They can shed some light on an exceedingly dark era, but ultimately they are attempts to “describe the indescribable.”

Alan Whitehorn*

Photo: A still from Terry George’s “The Promise” (2016) (Photo: Survival Pictures)

Note: Portions of this article draw from several entries from Alan Whitehorn, ed., The Armenian Genocide: The Essential Reference Guide (Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO Press, 2015).

*Alan Whitehorn is an emeritus professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada and author of a several books on the Armenian Genocide, including “Just Poems: Reflections on the Armenian Genocide.” He is also the editor of “The Armenian Genocide: The Essential Reference Guide.”

Canadian Museum for Human Rights Produces Film about Armenian Genocide

( TORONTO, Ontario—In partnership with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), the Armenian National Committee of Canada co-organized the premiere of the museum’s new film about the Armenian Genocide, “Acts of Conscience: Armin T. Wegner and the Armenian Genocide” on October 13th, 2016.

Scene from “Acts of Conscience: Armin T. Wegner and the Armenian Genocide” (Photo: Armenian National Committee of Canada)
Scene from “Acts of Conscience: Armin T. Wegner and the Armenian Genocide” (Photo: Armenian National Committee of Canada)

The event took place at the Armenian Youth Centre of Toronto and attracted hundreds of community members and supporters of the ANCC and CMHR. The event was also attended by Peter Farenholtz, Consul General of Germany in Canada, MP Arnold Chan. Member of Parliament for Scarborough-Agincourt and Chair of the Canada-Armenia Parliamentary Friendship Group, Councilor Jim Karygiannis, Toronto City Councilor, TDSB Trustees and a large number of activists.

After the screening of the documentary, the event featured a discussion with renowned Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, who narrated the short documentary which will play in the Museum’s “Breaking the Silence” gallery.

Subsequently, remarks were delivered by CMHR president and CEO, John Young, MP Arnold Chan – who also read a statement from The Right Hon. Justin Trudeau – and Councilor Jim Karygiannis, Toronto city councilor. Closing remarks were delivered by ANCC president, Shahen Mirakian. In his remarks, Mirakian said that it is only through our concerted efforts that we can stay true to our commitment and carry on the legacy of Wegner by standing up against any forms of injustice towards humanity.

The film “Acts of Conscience” looks at the genocide through the lens of Armin T. Wegner, a German war medic who photographed and documented atrocities against the Armenian-Christian minority that were occurring around him in the Ottoman Empire during the first World War – including forced “death marches” through the desert. In the 1930s, Wegner also voiced his opposition to the anti-Semitic policies of the Nazis and authored an impassioned plea to Hitler on behalf of the Jews of Germany.

Compelled by his conscience to take action despite great personal risk, Wegner’s story epitomizes the importance of efforts to combat the denial and minimization that often surround gross human rights violations.

An exhibit at the CMHR explores the efforts for recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Wegner and others. In 2004, the Canadian Parliament voted to officially acknowledge and condemn the Armenian Genocide.

The ANCC is the largest and the most influential Canadian-Armenian grassroots human rights organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout Canada and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCC actively advances the concerns of the Canadian-Armenian community on a broad range of issues and works to eliminate abuses of human rights throughout Canada and the world.

Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute presents four new volumes

( The Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute has published the new monograph of Armen Kirakossian “The Armenian Genocide in Contemporary American Encyclopedias”. The edition was presented in English.

In this publication Dr. Arman Kirakossian studied and analyzed nearly forty specialized and thematic encyclopedias (Encyclopedia of War Crimes and Genocide, Encyclopedia of Genocide, etc.), dictionaries (Dictionary of Genocide, etc.), handbooks (The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies, etc.) and other directories published in the USA during the last fifteen years.

Based on the material gathered the author divided the book into chapters which are representing conceptual and factual aspects of the Armenian Genocide beginning from the origins of the Armenian Question.

The book consists of 16 chapters, list of encyclopedias, a bibliography of a literature related to the Armenian Genocide from different encyclopedias.

Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Hayk Demoyan said that the institute plans a release of two important volumes for the end of this year – Encyclopedia of the Armenian Genocide in Armenian and English.

Robert Tatoyan presented the monograph entitled “The question of Western Armenian population in 1878-1914.” According to him, this is one of the most controversial issues because Turkey’s modern historiography and authorities are denying the Armenian Genocide on the basis of the Ottoman Empire statistics, which claims 1,300,000 Armenians there.

“I tried to analyze the data by the two major bodies available – the Ottoman Empire and the Constantinople-based Armenian Patriarchate, which has a right to registration,” he said.

Before the Armenian Question was raised, the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire totaled 2.4m.

Mr Demoyan presented an English-language book entitled “The Armenian Genocide in Literature. Perceptions of Those Who Lived Through the Years of Calamity” by Rubina Peroomian, a research fellow at the University of California.

“The author addresses the second generation’s response to the Armenian Genocide in literature, which reflects people’s psychological approaches.”

The Most Up-To-Date Bibliography on the Armenian Genocide. Book Review by: Dr. Garabet K. Moumdjian

Eddie Yeghiayan, The Armenian Genocide: A Bibliography (Italy: Liberia Editrice Vaticana, 2015), 1122 pages.

( Eddie Yeghiayan’s recently published collection of works dealing with the Armenian Genocide surpasses all previous bibliographies on the subject in both scope and ambition. Encompassing various forms of media in a multitude of languages and stretching at over a thousand pages, it is massive, yet meticulously catalogued and comprehensive volume. The bibliography will aid experts working across many academic fields and disciplines in their study of the Armenian Genocide and will undoubtedly serve as the standard reference work in the years to come.

The Tome. A Project that Hits Close to Home:

Eddie Yeghiayan is the brother of Vartkes Yeghiayan, the Los Angeles-based attorney who in recent years has filed several lawsuits for Armenian Genocide restitution, and the son of Boghos Kevorkian-Yeghiayan (1905-1962) from Sparta, near Konia, and Aroussiag Terzian (1915-2003), both survivors of the Armenian Genocide who settled in Ethiopia. It was in this African Armenian diasporic community that Eddie and his brother Vartkes were born.

Eddie Yeghiayan was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on September 23, 1940. He began his secondary education at the American Academy in Larnaca, Cyprus, but was obliged to leave in 1956 in the middle of civil war while the island was still under British occupation. He relocated to California, where he received his high school diploma from Berkeley High school in 1959 and later received a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1963. He then continued his education at the San Francisco State University, where he received an MA Degree in 1967and completed a second Master’s Degree at UC Berkeley in Library Science (MLS) in 1977. By then he had already completed his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1974 from the University of California, Irvine.

After a two year stint as an instructor of philosophy and religion at San Mateo College from 1972 to 1974, he returned to UC Irvine to assume a position as a Librarian. He worked in that capacity from 1974 to 2004, when he retired. During his tenure at Irvine Yeghiayan put together the bibliographies of a number of leading contemporary intellectual luminaries and philosophers, including Edward Said, Wolfgang Iser, Judith Butler, Willard Van Orman Quine, and Jean-François Lyotard, to name just a few.

(One can learn more about the bibliographies he has put together by clicking on the following link:

The Tome. Contents:

Given his background, it perhaps should come as no surprise that Yeghiayan would have chosen to tackle on the subject as large in scope as the Armenian Genocide. The tome is divided into eight chapters, which are categorized thusly.

Chapter One is devoted to the bibliographic citation of books and articles published in periodicals and academic and specialized journals. It covers some 560 pages and contains 4312 entries.

Chapter Two is devoted to newspapers. It covers the period from 1833 to 2011. It consists of some 230 pages and covers all aspects of the Armenian question as part of the Eastern Question of the Ottoman Empire. The interesting thing about this chapter is that the entries are assorted chronologically. If we take the average number of entries as 18 per page, then this section contains 4,140 entries more or less, which makes it a huge repository on the subject matter.

Chapter Three includes items regarding the Armenian Genocide in journals and magazines. It covers the period from 1823 to 2011 and spans some 210 pages. Here again if we take the average number of entries per page we end up with approximately 1,890 entries.

Chapter Four is devoted to works of fiction, poetry, drama, and subject matter.

The fifth chapter consists not only of doctoral dissertations and masters’ theses, but also undergraduate senior theses relating to the massacres. There are approximately 145 such entries.

Chapter Six contains some 25 pages on audio-visual material. These include documentaries, movies, voice recordings, etc.

Chapter Seven is solely dedicated to archival sources. It is a complete list including collections that have microfilms or microfiches, as well as repositories where the physical presence is required to conduct research.

Finally, in Chapter Eight, Yeghiayan familiarizes us with electronic and internet resources available on the Armenian Genocide.

Some Remarks:

With this publication, Yeghiayan has presented to us the most complete reference work on the subject of the Armenian Genocide and the Armenian Question. It is an important tool that universities and libraries should be quick to stock up on.

It is significant to note that this bibliography was published by the Vatican and was, in fact, formally presented to Pope Francis I and to delegates attending the centenary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in Vatican City during the middle part of April. The bibliography is up to date to 2012, although there is talk of publishing a compendium volume that includes references to all works that have appeared until the middle part of this year. There is also word that a searchable PDF format of the book is being prepared on compact disc. This reviewer has been informed that attorney Vartkes Yeghiayan’s office has taken upon itself to update the compilation electronically on an annual basis and aided in the effort by Armen Manuk-Khaloyan, the law office historian. Continuing Eddie Yeghiayan’s work and bringing it in line with the digital age is a very important endeavor and his work is a welcome and timely contribution to the literature of the Armenian Genocide. Mr. Yeghiayan should be commended for his efforts…

Purchases of the book can be made from the Vatican Publishing House (Libreria Editrice Vaticana) website. For a direct link, visit:

Armenian Museum of Fresno Releases Eye-Witness Accounts of Genocide in New Book

( FRESNO—The Armenian Museum of Fresno is proud to release The Cry of the Tormented, a book comprised of more than 300 letters written by Armenians during 1915-1918 who were facing atrocities, starvation, deportation, murder, and annihilation. These letters were written to relatives and friends across the world, including those who settled in Fresno and across the United States. First published in Armenian in 1922, it is now available on-line in English and Russian. The project is ongoing and German, Turkish, and French editions are forthcoming with even more translations to follow.

On Thursday, May 21 at 7 PM, the book was officially presented at a special event held at the University of California Center in Fresno. Armenians and non-Armenians alike—were in attendance for the release and the panel discussion that followed. Bill McEwen Editorial Pages Editor of the Fresno Bee served as the Master of Ceremonies. Opening remarks were made by Varoujan Der Simonian, President of the Board of Directors of the Armenian Museum of Fresno; the panelists were Garo Khachigian, MD, Mary Ellen Hewsen, and Margit Hazarabedian, Ph.D.

( L-R) Top Row: Varoujan Der Simonian, Bill McEwen, Editorial Page Editor of the Fresno Bee, Dr. Garo Khachigian, Dr. Abraham Terian. Bottom Row: Mary Ellen Hewsen, Margit Hazarabedian, Ph.D.
( L-R) Top Row: Varoujan Der Simonian, Bill McEwen, Editorial Page Editor of the Fresno Bee, Dr. Garo Khachigian, Dr. Abraham Terian. Bottom Row: Mary Ellen Hewsen, Margit Hazarabedian, Ph.D.

The Cry of the Tormented is a large volume collected by Bedros Donabedian, a humanitarian worker for Armenian refugees. Although a century has passed since that dark period of Armenian—and, indeed, human—history, many voices of the victims of the Genocide remain unheard. Hundreds of those voices are contained in this book. Thus, the Armenian Museum of Fresno –upon the encouragement of Abraham Terian, Ph.D., who presented the Museum with a copy of the book—undertook a project to translate The Cry of the Tormented into as many languages as possible, to amplify these voices of truth against the suffocating silence of death and denial. In Dr. Terian’s words, “This is yet another centennial memorial by the Fresno Armenians for the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide.”

The letters that make up The Cry of the Tormented are preserved verbatim and edited only for formatting and accessibility to English readers. The rough, peasant vernacular of the original text is present with all of its linguistic and grammatical idiosyncrasies present to the best of the translators’ abilities. As with the original publication, the new translations of The Cry of the Tormented maintain all the experiential and emotional power of its contents by retaining its unedited, extemporaneous form.

The Cry of the Tormented brings the unimaginable horrors of the Armenian Genocide to life in a way that, in the words of the book’s German translator, Margit Hazarabedian, Ph.D., “became personal, became visceral. I was reading, but I saw with my own eyes.” That is the power of these letters. Their contents are so real that they take the discourse on and understanding of the Genocide from the lofty perch of analysis and intellect to an emotionally comprehensible level. Indeed, it is a necessary and important thing to be able to comprehend the incomprehensible in such a way that no one can shut it out, and, moreover, makes it accessible to as many of the world’s people as possible. As English editor, Mary Ellen Hewsen, remarked, “I always understood something of the Armenian Genocide intellectually, analytically, I studied it in school, but it took these letters to teach me emotionally what I missed intellectually.”

The veracity of the letters that make up this book is confirmed and enhanced by the book’s preface. It is “Neither Violets Nor Petals of a Rose”, the last column written for The Fresno Bee by the late Roger Tatarian, Former Vice President and Editor-In-Chief of United Press International and Professor of Journalism at CSU Fresno. Written three days before his passing, the piece reflects upon the letters sent to his father from Bitlis –in what is now Eastern Turkey—by his uncle Simon between 1912 and 1914, and how the contents of the letters described events in the region that foreshadowed the coming massacres and deportation of the Armenian people. Interspersed in those accounts are many messages of hope, wisdom, and faith for the Armenians of Bitlis and Van and for Roger Tatarian’s family struggling to survive in their new home in Fresno. The firsthand presentation of history and hope-against-hope is akin to those in The Cry of the Tormented and further validates them.

What The Cry of the Tormented shows is that the Armenian Genocide is more than just a tragedy; it is a crime against humanity. Through reading this collection of letters, one can see great inhumanity and not divorce oneself from it, and, instead, be engaged in demanding justice for all human beings and making this a world where atrocities against entire nations can no longer take place.

The Armenian Museum of Fresno would like to thank everyone who contributed to this extraordinary project. The first thanks goes to Dr. Abraham Terian who provided the Armenian Museum with original 1922 text and initiated the translation project. “Without him, this book would not have happened,” said Varoujan Der Simonian, Director of the Armenian Museum of Fresno. Next, the Museum acknowledges the time and dedication of the team of scholars who have and continue to put months of emotionally and intellectually taxing work into this project. These incredible volunteers from three generations include Dr. Garo Khachigian, Mary Ellen Hewsen –English edition; Alex McKinsey and Professor Irina Merzakhanian –Russian edition—and Margit Hazarabedian, Ph.D. into German.

In his opening remarks, Der Simonian extended special thanks to Dr. Khachigian and Mary Ellen Hewsen, who are, respectively, the translator and editor of the English edition of The Cry of the Tormented. “Dr. Khachigian is familiar with the complex dialects of Armenian that these letters are written in as it is akin to the language of his grandfather, thus he had the monumental challenge of literally translating the Armenian text that was often mixed with Turkish, Kurdish, and Arabic. Besides being a difficult task, it was also emotionally very demanding,” said Der Simonian. The Cry of the Tormented is more than just a memorial for the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide, “our goal is that after 100 years we want their voices to be heard by as many people as possible – it is a call to our collective responsibility to make this world a better place for all human beings to live and let live,” Der Simonian said.

Dr. Terian emphasized the significance of these letters by saying that they are written during the genocide – while the atrocities were actually taking place. He further commented that these letters are not recollections of memories that someone may argue of their validity, but they are the voices of the eyewitnesses, themselves, who are no longer with us.

Dr. Khachigian describes his integral role in this project in his own words, “I am not a translator, but my heart and brain worked as one to the task, with passion. I realized the importance of this task that Varoujan Der Simonian had initiated, and took the challenge to translate into English” Mary Ellen Hewsen, a scholar of political science, especially as it pertains to the study of the Middle East observed in the editing process that “Trying to remain clinical while working was the hardest part,” because of the great trauma depicted in the letters. However, in reflection on her role in the project, she says that “I am humbled, as an odar, to be among so many Armenians.”

The Armenian Museum extends additional thanks to The Fresno Bee. In particular, Executive Editor, Jim Boren and Editorial Pages Editor, Bill McEwen. They were responsible for providing and permitting the use of Roger Tatarian’s “Neither Violets Nor Petals from a Rose” collection of letters that Mr. Tatarian’s father had received from his uncle prior to WWI that were published two weeks before his death in his last column in the Fresno Bee. Mr. McEwen read some of these letters to the audience.

All profits from the sale of The Cry of the Tormented will go to a fund to have hard copies of the translation printed and distributed to schools, libraries, churches, and cultural centers around the United States, with Fresno County as the priority.

Book “Genocide after Genocide” Aims to Fight Cultural Genocide in Turkey

YEREVAN (ARMENPRESS)—The Foundation for Research on Armenian Architecture has published a new book, “Genocide after Genocide”, which it hopes will contribute to the struggle against cultural genocide in Turkey.

Samvel Karapetyan, head of the Foundation for Research on Armenian Architecture (Source: Armenpress)

Samvel Karapetyan, head of the Foundation for Research on Armenian Architecture, described the book as a weapon which can be used to stop the destruction of Armenian cultural monuments and artifacts in Turkey.

In a speech given during the book’s presentation, Karapetyan said that “the work, created by us, aims to inform Armenians and the people of the world about the genocide towards our own monuments in our historical homeland. We thus tear off the Turks’ mask or at least should try to do so by voicing the crimes committed.”

According to Karapetyan, the Minister of Urban Development of Armenia Narek Sargsyan, the Ministry of Culture, Monarch Capital, and the Hayastan Fund all contributed to the creation of the comprehensive volume.

32 of the monuments included in the book can be viewed in a mobile exhibition, which will stop in Yerevan and Brussels.

Remembering the Armenian Genocide 1915

Remembering the Armenian Genocide 1915
By Canon Patrick Thomas

Publication Date April 2015
Publisher: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst

( 2015 is the centenary of that Armenian Genocide. In this moving and powerful account of the suffering undergone by Armenians, Patrick Thomas draws on eye-witness material from a wide variety of sources. He shows why it remains profoundly important to acknowledge and remember this first major genocide of the twentieth century.

Author Biography:

Canon Patrick Thomas
Canon Patrick Thomas

Canon Patrick Thomas has spent much of the past ten years studying Armenian history, culture and religion. In 2013 he was designated ‘Honorary Pastor to Armenians in Wales’ by the Armenian Primate of Britain and Ireland. Dr Thomas is Vicar of Christ Church, Carmarthen, Canon Chancellor of St David’s Cathedral, Pembrokeshire, and a member of the Anglican Oriental Orthodox International Commission.

Resolution with Justice: Theriault Discusses Armenian Genocide Reparations Report

Special for the Armenian Weekly

by Rupen Janbazian

While recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the government of Turkey has been a priority for Armenian communities around the world, the notion of legal consequences that can emerge after recognition has generally been unaddressed or ignored.

Certainly, the question of reparations for losses suffered both by individual victims and the Armenian nation as a whole during the genocide has been studied by many scholars and academics over the years. However, the discourse was generally limited and included only abstract notions of territorial and monetary return. Although there have been several examples of valuable works treating the issue, none have approached the topic of reparations with a comprehensiveness and detailed analysis like that put forth by the Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group (AGRSG).

The AGRSG was assembled in 2007 by four experts in different areas of reparations theory and practice. In September 2014, the group completed its final report, “Resolution with Justice—Reparations for the Armenian Genocide,” a wide-ranging analysis of the legal, historical, political, and ethical dimensions of the question of reparations for the genocide. It also includes specific recommendations for the components of a complete reparations package.

According to the study group, its final report “will give Turkish and Armenian individuals as well as civil society and political institutions the information, analysis, and tools to engage the Armenian Genocide issue in a systematic manner that supports meaningful resolution.”

Funded initially by a grant from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), the members of the AGRSG are Alfred de Zayas, Jermaine O. McCalpin, Ara Papian, and Henry C. Theriault (chair). George Aghjayan serves as a special consultant.

I recently had a chance to talk with Theriault about the group’s final report. Below is the full text of our interview.


Rupen Janbazian: The AGRSG was formed in 2007 with the mission to produce an in-depth analysis of the reparations issue raised by the Armenian Genocide. Why and how was this project conceived?

Henry C. Theriault
Henry C. Theriault

Henry C. Theriault: My primary scholarly focus in the early 2000’s was genocide denial. In this connection, I had been researching and writing about Armenian-Turkish dialogue since about 2001. I was especially concerned about the encouragement of a negotiation to determine what the accepted history would be, by such initiatives as the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC). As I studied and analyzed dialogue issues more, my concerns expanded to include (1) the exclusion of long-term justice issues from most discussions about dialogue as well as concrete attempts to create dialogue between Armenians and Turks; and (2) the ignoring in the design of dialogue projects such as TARC, as well as proposals for other dialogue models, of the power differential (actually, asymmetrical domination relation) between Turks and Armenians within any dialogue context.

It became clear to me that, beyond simply ending denial, resolution of the Armenian Genocide issue requires real long-term justice in the form of reparations, including land. Only in this way can the outstanding harms, which remain devastating for many Armenians around the world, from the current vulnerability of dispersed Armenians in Syria to the poverty in rural areas of the Armenian Republic, be addressed. And, only in this way can the great power, wealth, and identity differential that resulted from the genocide be ameliorated.

I began specifically working on reparations for the genocide (and other cases of mass violence and oppression, such as the land expropriations that were central to the genocides of indigenous Americans) in 2005. In December of that year, I co-organized with famed South African human rights activist Dennis Brutus an international symposium on the global reparations movement. “Whose Debt? Whose Responsibility?” featured speakers from South Africa, Japan, and around the United States and covered reparations cases for African Americans, South African blacks, Native Americans, the Armenian Genocide, and Asian Comfort Women, as well as the question of debt relief as a form of reparation for colonialism in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Over the next year, reparations become the central concern of my scholarship, and I began to consider innovative ways to approach the Armenian case.

Jermaine McCalpin, at the time a Ph.D. student at Brown University, had given a tremendous paper on reparations at the 2005 conference, and I had thought at the time how great it would be to work together on a project. I had also become aware of Alfred de Zayas’ pioneering work on the Armenian case and soon learned of Ara Papian’s innovative engagement with the Treaty of Sèvres. I realized the potential of a team composed of this kind of range of experts to develop a proposal for long-term justice for the Armenian Genocide. Once I was able to get a small grant to support this work, I invited each of these exceptional thinkers to join with me in researching the issue, with an eye toward making a set of useful policy recommendations. They agreed and we began our work.

R.J.: The members of the AGRSG come from different academic backgrounds. What is the importance of having a variety of perspectives when assessing the topic of post-genocide reparations?

H.C.T.: This is a huge benefit of our group. From the beginning, we realized the value of being able to join concrete international law analyses with consideration of the ethical issues raised by the Armenian case. Too often, an international lawyer might produce a strong case on a human rights issue, but not be able to explain why his/her society or international organizations should act on the case, when ethical arguments can often motivate a broad range of individuals and even political leaders to take up an issue and turn legal possibility into reality. Just as often, in my field of philosophy, I have read compelling ethical arguments that remain academic exercises because they are disconnected from the legal and political realms in which the issues must be addressed if actual resolutions are to be enacted. Similarly, while general legal principles can be usefully applied to the genocide as a whole, the case for land return becomes that much more compelling when it is based on prior international arbitration and agreement.

Thus, Ambassador Papian’s contributions gave the legal arguments a powerful additional basis in the Wilsonian arbitral award of land to Armenians in the post-World War I period. Having a political theorist with a focus on transitional justice was just as indispensable. It is one thing to make a legal, historical, and ethical case for the rightness of reparations, but how can this rightness be made to matter in the political realities of Armenian-Turkish relations? My abstract concern with ethics and work on dialogue initiatives based on bad models had caused me to ignore this dimension of the issue; my view was that the case should be made on legal and political levels regardless of attitudes in Turkey. But this ignored a crucial potential lever in the reparations process, Turkish people themselves who wished to engage the genocide in a forthright manner with a goal of justice. As we have seen more and more Turks embrace this possibility in recent years, it would make no sense to ignore this development. Through Jermaine’s influence, the potential for Turkish transformation became an important element of the report.

I would also add that the geographic and cultural diversity of our group has been important as well. For instance, Dr. de Zayas has for decades been focused on human rights issues across the globe, and worked in the central institution trying to support them, the UN Human Rights Commission. Ambassador Papian has a deep understanding of regional political and security issues. And Jermaine brings to the table work on a number of truth commissions, particularly those in South Africa, Grenada, and Haiti, as well as the expertise gained through his writing of a 100-plus page proposal for a Jamaican Truth Commission. My own concerns about reparations for indigenous Americans, the Comfort Women, and other cases added further to the insights, historical information, and models available for our report. While the result is a report specifically focused on the Armenian case, it is informed by a host of cases across the globe.

R.J.: According to the report, the legal case for reparations is complicated and faces many obstacles. What are some of the biggest challenges that arise when analysing such a complex matter?

H.C.T.: This question could generate its own report, there are so many. Here, let me focus on two. First, any reparations scheme involving substantial material reparations, especially land, raises complex implementation questions. For instance, if land in the eastern areas of today’s Turkey is returned to Armenians, what will the status of its current inhabitants be? What about other groups who might also have claims to parts of the territory, such as Assyrians and Kurds? Is there a sufficient Armenian population to populate territory returned? And so forth. While these concerns are addressed by and, in fact, helped shape the specific proposal made in our report, this required complex analyses and adjustments.

Second, clearly the resistance by even well-intentioned Turks to any kind of material reparations, especially land, will be, at least initially, strong, while many people typically dismiss reparations for historical injustices as out of hand. The truth commission aspect of our proposal is meant to address the first problem here, while the broader question of whether the goal of reparations is just a pipe dream is addressed in the report as well. One important point to keep in mind is that ethics-based movements for political change have in fact dramatically impacted our world, as evidenced by the U.S. civil rights movement, India’s independence movement, and other such movements. The press for Armenian Genocide reparations, as part of the emerging global reparations movement, does have true potential for success, but getting people to see this takes some work.

R.J.: How does the AGRSG respond to those who believe that reparations, especially a return of land, are impractical and unlikely?

H.C.T.: Beyond what was discussed in response to your previous question, there are other ways the report addresses these challenges. For instance, we point out that the current system of international borders is based on the principle of “territorial integrity” in a way that discounts human rights and historical justice concerns. Those committed to the latter concerns should be willing to see territorial border changes. We also point out that the very notion of land in eastern Turkey being fundamentally “Turkish” land is itself an artefact of the genocide, when the land was depopulated of Armenians through mass expulsion and killing and thus Turkified. The land became “Turkish” through genocide, and maintaining an absolute view of the issue today—maintaining that the land is somehow in its very essence Turkish—is, in effect, supporting the genocidal ideology that led to this view of the land in the first place.

The report also allows for inventive alternatives. For instance, Ambassador Papian came up with an alternative model for land reparations, which would allow Turkey to retain formal title but turn historically Armenian lands into a demilitarized zone open to Armenians who wish to move to and develop economic opportunities there.

Ultimately, the strongest point in this regard is that history is filled with examples of popular movements that drove great political changes against strong powers and in an atmosphere of dismissal. Ethical rightness does matter and can be the basis of such change in the case of the Armenian Genocide, especially when it is supported by a strong legal and historical case and can be enacted by an innovative political process, as our report provides.

R.J.: Is the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Republic of Turkey necessary for the return of Armenian property confiscated or lost during the genocide?

H.C.T.: If we are talking about descendants filing lawsuits for individual property losses during the genocide, then recognition of the genocide is not required. As long as an expropriation of property can be shown to have violated law at the time or to have been done without proper legal support, then a lawsuit might proceed. It would succeed because the context of genocide is not essential to the case: The same laws would apply whether or not there was a genocide occurring, though of course it was the Armenian Genocide that caused the particular property losses we are discussing. Of course, there was legal cover given to expropriation of Armenians’ property, though the legality appears to have been challenged at the time and is called into question in some recent scholarship. More to the point, even if there is proper legal support for such cases, as we explain in the report, without political support, the cases are not likely to succeed. This is especially true of domestic cases in Turkey.

But, our report is specifically not concerned with individual reparations for specific lost property. It is concerned with group reparations for the genocide itself. The kinds of property confiscations interest us only insofar as they would be part of a general group reparations settlement. We use estimates from the genocide period to make a determination of the amount of compensation for such property losses—except for land, which is considered separately.

It would seem that a group reparations process for the genocide could occur only if either (1) outside powers compelled Turkey to make reparations; or (2) Turkey recognized the genocide. But there is a third possibility, that pressure for reparations could produce a truth process in Turkey that will spur recognition.

R.J.: The AGRSG supports a truth commission when dealing with the memory of the Armenian Genocide. How does this differ from the historical commission proposed by the failed Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission or the “joint historical commission” proposed as part of the 2009 diplomatic protocols signed between Turkey and Armenia?

H.C.T.: The “joint historical commission” issue is a bit complex in the protocols, as there seems to have been some backtracking on that by the Armenian president. For those who are interested in the detailed answer to this question, Part 7 of the report, which develops the Armenian Genocide Truth and Rectification Commission idea, explains specifically why it is fundamentally different from and superior to these other approaches. In short, our idea for a truth and rectification commission is not based on any notion that the facts of the Armenian Genocide are in question—they are not—but, following the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission model, aims to provide a highly public process through which the history of the Armenian Genocide can be engaged in depth, to at once educate the Turkish public about what occurred and provide Armenians an opportunity to bear public witness to this history. What is more, the issue of reparations is contained right in the title, in the word “rectification.” The ultimate function of this commission is to help develop a reparations plan for the Armenian Genocide. This was, by the way, supposed to be what happened in the case of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission—its final stage was supposed to be about reparations. But this final stage never occurred. Our approach builds reparations into the entire truth commission process.

R.J.: The final report of the AGRSG was published in September 2014. As the chair of the AGRSG, what purpose do you hope the report will serve?

H.C.T.: The goal is four-fold. First, I hope that the arguments and evidence presented in the report will be compelling to Armenians in the Republic and in the diaspora, and motivate them to pursue reparations as a crucial component of any resolution of the genocide. Similarly, I hope that the arguments, both the legal and ethical ones, will convince third-party supporters of genocide recognition as well as third-parties who are lukewarm at best to the issue that reparations are both right and reasonable. I am particularly concerned about the tendency to dismiss reparations not just in the Armenian case but in many others as well.

Third, the report provides legal, ethical, and political arguments and approaches that can be translated directly into legal and political initiatives by the Armenian Republic and Armenian institutions around the world. My goal is that these entities use this valuable report in this way. Finally, the report provides a mechanism—the truth and rectification commission—through which the Turkish public can engage the genocide in a meaningful way. The contents of the report offer compelling arguments for contemporary Turkish responsibility for reparations (which is not at all the same thing as blame for the genocide itself). I hope that Turkish readers will take these seriously, at once overcoming resistance to a proper sense of responsibility and at the same time embracing the truth commission model as a healthy and productive avenue for dealing with the genocide today.

Bedros: new book about the Armenian Genocide

(Horizon Weekly) Bedros, by Irene Vosbikian.
Bedros is the inspirational saga of a man who, his father butchered before his eyes, survives the Armenian Genocide – the first genocide of the 20th century. It is a true story of hope, perseverance and bravery. Bedros is an inspiration to the descendants of all the persecuted immigrants who dreamed and triumphed in the New World.

About the Author
Irene Vosbikian was born in South Philadelphia and is a second generation Italian American. Her father, Rudolf Di Fulvio, was killed in WW II one month before she was born. As such, history and its ramifications have always been an integral part of her life. She married Peter Vosbikian, a first generation Armenian American, and spent many hours listening in awe as her father-in-law recounted hundreds of stories of his life in his homeland. These vivid, first-hand accounts of the Armenian Genocide by the Turks led Irene to plunge further into detailed and documented reports of this horrendous part of history. The result is BEDROS.

‘Genocide Studies International’ Examines the Armenian Genocide, Geopolitics, and Denial

( The International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (A Division of the Zoryan Institute) recently announced the release of “Genocide Studies International” (GSI), volume 8, number 2, Fall 2014. This peer-reviewed journal, edited by the scholarly team of Maureen Hiebert, Herbert Hirsch, Roger W. Smith, and Henry Theriault, is interdisciplinary and comparative in nature. It welcomes submissions on individual case studies, thematic approaches, and policy analyses that relate to the history, causes, impact, aftermath, and all other aspects of genocide.

The new issue includes two articles of special interest to Armenians: “Genocide and Identity (Geo)Politics: Bridging State Reasoning and Diaspora Activism” by Khatchik DerGhougassian and “Anatomy of Denial: Manipulating Sources and Manufacturing Religion” by Dikran Kaligian.

DerGhougassian’s article looks at identity politics and state policy. Through the lens of international relations theory, he examines the divide between Armenia and the global Armenian Diaspora on the question of if and how to include the Armenian Genocide on Armenia’s foreign policy agenda. The Armenian government, eager to establish diplomatic relations with Turkey for trade and economic development, has insisted on “relations without preconditions” with Ankara. On the other hand, international recognition of the Armenian Genocide and reparations have been central to diaspora activism.

Khatchik DerGhougassian is a professor of international relations at the Universidad de San Andrés in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a visiting professor at the American University of Armenia in Yerevan. He has also served as an advisor to the assistant secretary for planning and logistics operations in the Ministry of Defense of Argentina since 2006.

Kaligian’s article examines the allegation of “Armenian rebellion” used by deniers of the Armenian Genocide as a means to justify the claims that the Ottoman Empire’s actions carried out against the Armenians were in self-defense. Kaligian currently teaches at Regis College in Worcester, Mass. He is the author of several articles on the Armenians in the late Ottoman Empire and a book titled Armenian Organization and Ideology under Ottoman Rule: 1908 – 1914. He is also the managing editor of “The Armenian Review.”

One particularly noteworthy feature of this issue is an interview from the field with Dr. Tom Catena, a courageous physician-surgeon working in the dangerous and volatile Nuba Mountains of Sudan. This interview is provided by special arrangement with Sam Totten, who traveled to the Nuba Mountains himself to bring food to the starving population and conducted the interview while there. Catena provides eye-witness information about the effects of government aerial bombings and forced famine on the civilians of the region. He reveals amazing truths about the dire situation in the Nuba Mountains, which the West continues to ignore.

The GSI issue also includes the following articles, which illustrate the breadth of coverage of this new journal: “The United Nations and Genocide Prevention: The Problem of Racial and Religious Bias” by Hannibal Travis; “Polluting the Waters: A Brief History of Anti-Communist Propaganda during the Indonesian Massacres,” by Adam Hughes Henry; and “The Role of the Netherlands in the European Framework for an International Response on Darfur during its Presidency in 2004-2005,” by Fred Grünfeld and Wessel N. Vermeulen.

Also included are two book reviews—of The Mark of Cain: Guilt and Denial in the Post-War Lives of Nazi Perpetrators, by Katharina von Kellenbach, and Overcoming Evil: Genocide, Violent Conflict, and Terrorism by Ervin Staub.

GSI’s spring issue, to be published in March 2015, will be dedicated to the Ottoman Genocides of the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek peoples, and marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in April 2015.

For information on subscribing to the journal, visit or contact the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies by e-mailing or calling (416) 250-9807.