When I was little, I heard snippets of accounts of atrocities against Armenians and my grandparents’ generation. I said to my father that I thought war was wrong. “It’s not that simple,” he had said. As I grew a little older and realized during grueling history classes that wars were fought for land between kingdoms and countries, between the haves and have not’s, I said to my father that I thought war was wrong. “Were I Queen of the World, I’d make war an act against the law,” I had said. “Wish it were that simple,” he had said. By the time I was in high school in England, my thoughts of war being wrongs of history past were shattered as war raged in Ireland. I couldn’t understand how life could go on normally in other parts of the British Isle while bombs were blasting in Ireland with such geographic proximity. I still thought war was wrong. “How can you justify war when peace is the answer?” I had said. “Sometimes, you have to fight for peace,” said my father. Later, I found myself in the midst of a war in Lebanon. It was then that I understood how life could be lived in a country while her people and neighbors were at war. Rockets blasting from different quarters of the cities, gunfire ripping the air through street combat between various factions, and car bombs all took their toll. It was war. Yet, what actually stole my innocence were the intentional massacres triggered by fear and deep rooted hatred, massacres that targeted people of Palestine and Lebanese Shiites. Slowly, the stories I had heard, when I was little, of massacres and exile and genocide against the Armenians began to take shape and form roots in the folds of my mind. But the most horrific awakening was the thought that these crimes, these long term atrocities were being inflicted by human beings much like me. Example: The Sabra-Shatilla massacre of 1982 in Lebanon was facilitated by a man who once was a child with whom I had played. We were next door neighbors sharing a narrow stairwell to our apartments where our tricycles and toys were stacked and kept. We were friends who laughed together, ate together, celebrated Christmas together and ran up and down stairs together, often skipping and jumping two by two.
I have been raised by victims of genocide who have spiraled through the chaos of its labyrinth, persecuted and exiled. They were once children who grew up with harsh realities of trauma and hardship that come with the responsibility of a culture trying to survive with the “baggage” of its history.Realities of horrific experiences and destructive violence, loss of homes, separation from parents, being forced to flee, witnessing death and atrocities, and eventually harboring non-reconciliatory resentment.
War is wrong. Defensive or offensive, it leads to killing human beings. War is violence and its outcome unpredictable. Can anyone tell me how any one side will benefit from war when its true victims are the children…the future of humanity? Life and teachings of all Holy books are intended to move humankind forward, evolve, and create. It is not intended to halt our journey and meet our demise in a hail of bullets or shrapnel.
It is appalling to know that during the 20th century, more than 50 million people perished under the guise of war in genocidal campaigns around the world — from the Armenians in Anatolia to the Jews in Germany to the victims of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, to the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, and Bosnian Muslims in the former Yugoslavia, to the persecution of the Kurds in the Middle East, and most recently, the persecutions in Syria, and currently the intentional persecution of Christians and Armenians from Kessab.
I abhor war. But now I understand that we live in a world where the forces that seek to divide us are stronger than those that unite us. We must do more than stand in silence next to each other. “Sometimes, you simply have to give up who you are in order to be who you are,” had said my father. I didn’t understand him then, but now, I, who abhors war, say, “Sometimes, we must go to war to make the grandest statement about who we truly are.”
The month of April has been declared Genocide Prevention Month since the Armenian Genocide, Holocaust, Rwandan, Bosnian, and Cambodian genocides are commemorated during this time. The commemoration combines genocide remembrance with prevention and awareness.
It was in April 1915 that the Ottoman government began rounding up and murdering leading Armenian politicians, businessmen, and intellectuals, leading to the extermination of one and a half million.
In April 1933, the Nazis issued a decree paving the way for the annihilation of 6 million Jews of Europe.
In April 1975, the Khmer Rouge entered Cambodia’s capital city and launched a four-year wave of violence, killing 2 million people.
In April 1992, the siege of Sarajevo began in Bosnia. More than 10,000 people perished.
In April 1994, the plane carrying the president of Rwanda crashed and triggered the beginning of a genocide that killed more than 800,000 people in 100 days.
In April 2003, innocent civilians in Sudan’s Darfur region were attacked; 400,000 have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in a genocide that continues today.
It is April 2014, and the Syrian government continues to raze cities at an alarming rate with over 130,000 dead. Genocide Watch warns that massacres and mass atrocities against pro-democracy protesters and the civilian population are being committed by Syrian security forces under the command of the al-Assad government.
“April is the cruelest month. We must ensure that the list of April’s genocides grows no longer.” (Ellen Kennedy, Executive Director, World Without Genocide.)