For Armenians, Scars of Genocide Remain Visible
EDITOR’S NOTE: April, 2005, marked the 90th anniversary of what the Armenian community says is the first genocide of the 20th century. On a trip to Istanbul, I had the opportunity to learn about it from an antiques dealer in the Grand Bazaar. The article that follows first appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer on April 24, 2005, the anniversary date.
Osman sits behind his desk in the tiny antique shop he owns tucked into one of the labyrinthine streets of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. “Yes, it happened,” he says. “To my father and my grandparents near Erzincan in what was then eastern Anatolia.”
Osman speaks slowly and clearly, a British inflection threading through his perfect English. “My father was 6 and his brother was 4. When the soldiers came for my grandparents, two families of Alevi Turks — who follow the tradition of Shia Islam — hid my father and his brother. The soldiers gathered the people of the village and brought them to the fields in the shadow of the mountains, and slit their throats. For three years, the Alevis hid my father and his brother in the chimneys of their baking hearths. To protect the boys, they changed their Armenian Christian names to Muslim names.”
His son arrives with small cups of coffee, and then shuts the door. The air grows warm and stuffy, but Osman doesn’t seem to notice. “When my father and his brother were freed, they became separated. For the rest of his life, my father looked for him, visiting every town no matter how small, hoping that his brother would appear on the street or in a coffee house. When I was 12, my father died of a broken heart, I’m sure. But there is irony in my story, because the government had a special program for orphaned boys. They sent me to one of the best schools in Turkey.”
In that school, Osman met Nuri, a Muslim, who owns a carpet shop nearby. “All these years, Osman and I have been friends.” says Nuri, “brothers really, but we’ve never talked of this subject. He knows it happened. I know it happened. Why make problems between us?”
Nuri and Osman spoke these words, well aware that on April 24 many Western countries mark Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, the beginning of massacres and deportation of Armenians from a land where they had lived for more than 3,000 years.
Five years ago, most Turks wouldn’t speak openly about what they say is a “so-called genocide,” but with Turkey’s bid to enter the European Union, friends who once were afraid to voice their opinions about an event deleted from their history books are beginning to talk.
The Turkish government, at odds with many of its citizens, denies that systematic deportations and killings of Armenians occurred. Yet, if you travel to the eastern border of Turkey, you will find abandoned churches. And in travel posters and ads in most tourist offices, you will see a lone red brick church sitting on an island called Akdamar in the center of a lake called Van, named for a once-thriving metropolis of Armenian farmers, craftsmen, businessmen, and traders.
You begin to wonder: If a well-photographed Armenian church sits on an island — and in the nearby abandoned city of Ani sit hundreds more churches — where did the Armenians go?
Until the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was known for tolerance of its Christian minorities, but things changed when the Empire went into decline. In July 1908, a group of Turkish nationalists known as the Young Turks — junior officers in the Turkish Army — forced the Sultan to allow a constitutional government guaranteeing basic rights to Turkey’s citizens.
But in 1913, three leaders of the Young Turks seized control of the government, planning to expand the borders of Turkey into Central Asia, creating a new empire called Turan with one language and one religion.
Armed roundups of Armenians — who, encouraged by the European powers and Russia, had considered establishing their own state — began on the evening of April 24, 1915. Three hundred Armenian political leaders, educators, writers, and clergy in Istanbul were jailed, tortured, then hanged or shot.
In the following three years, somewhere between 700,000 to more than 1 million Armenians were killed or died of starvation, thirst and disease, and deported to camps in the Syrian desert.
Ninety years later, the Turkish Parliament has launched an offensive saying that no genocide took place during what they claim was a war. Meanwhile, in the United States, Armenians are lobbying for formal recognition that the first genocide of the 20th century took place in Turkey.
Osman finishes his coffee, gently setting the cup in its saucer. “You ask me what to call the murders of my family?” he says. “What good is a name if we can’t openly admit it happened?”
In 2006, Joy E. Stocke founded Wild River Review with Kimberly Nagy, an outgrowth of the literary magazine, The Bucks County Writer, of which Stocke was Editor in Chief. In 2009, as their editorial practice grew, Stocke and Nagy founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC.
With more than twenty-five years experience as a writer and journalist, Stocke works with many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.
In addition, Stocke has shepherded numerous writers into print. She has interviewed Nobel Prize winners Orhan Pamuk and Muhammud Yunus, Pulitzer Prizewinner Paul Muldoon, Paul Holdengraber, host of LIVE from the NYPL; Roshi Joan Halifax, founder of Upaya Zen Center; anthropologist and expert on end of life care, Mary Catherine Bateson; Ivonne Baki, President of the Andean Parliament; and Templeton Prizewinner Freeman Dyson among others.
In 2006, along with Nagy, Stocke interviewed scientists and artists including former Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman and Dean of Faculty, David P. Dobkin for the documentary Quark Park, chronicling the creation of an award-winning park built on a vacant lot in the heart of Princeton, New Jersey; a park that united art, science and community.
She is president of the Board of Directors at the Cabo Pulmo Learning Center, Cabo Pulmo, Baja Sur, Mexico; and is a member of the Turkish Women’s International Network.
In addition, Stocke has written extensively about her travels in Greece and Turkey. Her memoir, Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses & Saints, based on more than ten years of travel through Turkey, co-written with Angie Brenner was published in March 2012. Her cookbook, Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking will be published in March, 2017 by Quarto Books under the Burgess Lea Press imprint . Stocke and Brenner are currently testing recipes for a companion book, which will feature Anatolian-inspired mezes from around the world.
Stocke’s essay “Turkish American Food” appears in the 2nd edition of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America (OUP, 2013). The volume won both International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) for Beverage/Reference/Technical category, 2014; and the Gourmand Award for the Best Food Book of the Year, 2014.
She is the author of a bi-lingual book of poems, Cave of the Bear, translated into Greek by Lili Bita based on her travels in Western Crete, and is currently researching a book about the only hard-finger coral reef in Mexico on the Baja Sur Peninsula. She has been writing about environmental issues there since 2011.
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism from the Agriculture Journalism School where she also received a minor of Food Science, she participated in the Lindisfarne Symposium on The Evolution of Consciousness with cultural philosopher, poet and historian, William Irwin Thompson. In 2009, she became a Lindisfarne Fellow.
Works by Joy E. Stocke in this Edition
AIRMAIL – LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
AIRMAIL – VOICE FROM SYRIA
ARTS – ART
COLUMNS – THE MYSTIC PEN
FOOD & DRINK – ANATOLIAN KITCHEN
FREYMAN & PETERSON- Your Life is a Book: How to Craft and Publish Your Memoir
LITERATURE – BOOK REVIEWS
LITERATURE – ESSAYS
LITERATURE – MEMOIR
LITERATURE – POETRY
LIVE FROM THE NYPL
The Euphoria of Ignorance: Being Jewish, Becoming Jewish, The Paradox of Being Carlo Ginzburg
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
Paul Holdengraber – The Afterlife of Conversation
2013 – Three Questions: Festival Director Jakab Orsos talks about Art, Bravery, and Sonia Sotomayor
Critical Minds, Social Revolution: Egyptian Activist Nawal El Saadawi
INTERVIEW – Laszlo Jakab Orsos: Written on Water
Tonight We Rest Here: An Interview with Poet Saadi Youssef
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
On the High Line: Diamonds on the Soles of Our Shoes
Car Bombs on the West Side, Journalists Uptown
New York City – Parade of Illuminations: Behind the Scenes with Festival Director Jakab Orsos
The Pen Cabaret 2008: Bowery Ballroom — Featuring..
Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses and Saints
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library Composing a Further Life: with Mary Catherine Bateson
WRR@LARGE: From the Editors – UP THE CREEK
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 1
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 2.5
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 3.3
Up the Creek: Number 4.4
Up the Creek: Beautiful Solutions
Up the Creek: Blind Faith, July 2009
Up the Creek: Create Dangerously
Up the Creek: What Price Choice?
Up the Creek: Before and After: September 11, 2001
Up the Creek: Candle in a Long Street
Up the Creek: Crossing Cultures: Transcending History
Up the Creek: Man in the Mirror; A Map of the World
Up the Creek: Stories and the Shape of Time
Up the Creek: The Divine Road To Istanbul
Up the Creek: What It Means to Yearn
WRR@LARGE – WILD COVERAGE
UNESCO World Heritage Site Under Threat of Mega-Devlopment Sparks International Protests
The Other Side Of Abu Ghraib — Part One: The Detainees’ Quest For Justice
The Other Side of Abu Ghraib – Part Two: The Yoga Teacher Goes to Istanbul