I stood there that afternoon staring at the nearly 20-foot monument located inside the Masis Ararat Cemetery off Belmont and Hughes. What I was looking at was an eagle swopping down and grabbing a snake.
The monument, located near the middle of the cemetery, is dedicated to Soghomon Tehlirian. Tehlirian avenged the murder of his father, mother, three sisters, two brothers and a niece by shooting Talaat Pasha, one of the principal architects of the Armenian Genocide. A Berlin jury found Tehlirian not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. Most experts agree that Talaat had an active role in developing the plans to eliminate the Armenians.
My grandparents talked about Tehlirian. They also despised Talaat, a member of the Young Turks regime. Ironic that now, in their final resting place, they are steps away from this monument.
Like many others, commemorating the Genocide was important to my grandparents. I am certain they thought daily of those atrocities committed against the innocent civilian population. The truth is that for Armenians in America and around the world there is this heaviness that we feel when it comes to the Genocide, and this idea that so much was taken from us. For Tehlirian it was personal. His immediate family members were part of the 1.5 million killed.
Quantifying the loss is nearly impossible. My family, both sides, were landowners and wealthy. All of that was taken from them at the order of the Ottoman Turkish government. The part that bothers me the most is the spin by the present-day Turkish government that it was the Armenians fault. This is “victim blaming” at its highest degree.
This year as April 24th approaches, there will be no massive commemorations. No large protests in front of the Turkish embassies. No flags raised in front of Fresno’s City Hall and the cemetery. No noontime or evening gatherings at Fresno State.
Instead, families are left to commemorate in private, sheltering in place. Even though the coronavirus has erased the ability for public gatherings, I bet families will still commemorate. I ask those reading this to join my family in lighting a candle on the evening of April 24th and remembering those innocent lives that were lost. Since you are home, find a movie about the Genocide (“The Promise,” “Architects of Denial,” as well as others) to learn more. Although this occurred more than 100 years ago, it is still real and painful today.
As I began to drive off from the cemetery, I had many thoughts. I remembered a poem by Fresno’s own William Saroyan. His poem reads in part, “… Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.”
This year, just as commemorations will be different, there is a silver lining. The U.S. House and Senate passed resolutions recognizing the Genocide. It’s one more reason to celebrate and be proud of our country, the U.S.A. Armenian Americans have done really well in Fresno and the United States. They’ve led companies, been successful in business, construction, law, recycling, politics, food, health care, entertainment and much more.
As far as that pesky coronavirus that is shaking
up the world, an Armenian American is the co-founder and chairman of one
of the companies leading to create a much needed vaccine. As Saroyan so
eloquently put it, “…see if they will not create a New Armenia.”
Sevag Tateosian is
an analyst with the Fresno County Department of Public Health. He hosts
and produces The Central Valley Ledger on CMAC Comcast 93 and Att 99.
Read more here: https://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article242091886.html#storylink=cpy