Campus News / Features

A genocide’s century long shadow from the past to the present

By: Todd Evans – Copy Editor

Speaking with passion and eloquence Dr. Khatchig Mouradian enlightened students and professors at William Paterson University about the man-made calamity that nearly wiped out his people more than 100 years ago: the Armenian Genocide.

Mouradian, a visiting professor at Columbia University, came to WPU not to talk about the Armenian Genocide’s perpetrators but instead its victims, resisters and survivors.

“Every aggressive policy has some kind of avalanche,” Mouradian said. “The avalanche is going to get everything in its way and it’s going to destroy everything in its way and it’s going to be very difficult to resist it, but it doesn’t mean that there is not resistance. Every single pebble in its way, every single rock in its way is actually resisting because for every action there is some kind of reaction.”

The pebbles resisting the avalanche were the millions of deported Armenians from their lands within modern day Turkey into Northern Syria starting in 1915. Approximately 1.5 million Armenians would die in that deportation and massacres afterward according to The Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute.

The concept of resistance often conjures images of armed resistance with firearms and other weapons when actually resistance includes humanitarian acts that go against the will of the authorities. Mouradian calls this humanitarian resistance. An example is how the Aleppo, Syria Armenian community protected their fellow Armenians by supplying them with basic needs and saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

“It is humanitarianism under pressure, under stress, under persecution and therefore there is resistance in this,” Mouradian said. “It’s not just going and helping someone, it’s going and helping someone when there are bullets flying.”

Part of understanding how genocides can happen, Mouradian explained, is accepting that the perpetrators are “not people from out of this planet who are committing it. It’s not just monsters who show up and commit these horrendous acts.” The perpetrators are regular people with a warped rationale for committing or endorsing the mass violence.

The lecture was titled “The Long Shadow of Genocide” because as Mouradian said “genocide does not end when the shooting stops. Genocide does not end when the stabbing stops.” The survivors passed its memory down to the next generations as Mouradian experienced growing up in Lebanon and visiting a memorial every year on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.

The shared memory of the genocide among the Armenian people in recent years has created an informal humanitarian network due to the six-year-old Syrian Civil War. Many Armenian communities including those in the United States are descended from genocide survivors.

“A hundred years later with the horrors that are currently taking place in Syria the roles are reversed,” Mouradian said. “The entire Syrian population is facing horrendous challenges … including the Armenian community in Aleppo. The children and the grandchildren of the people who helped the survivors of the genocide and now it is the Armenian community in Aleppo that is in need of support and help.”

This lecture was organized by the WPU history department as part of a series of events examining World War 1 during the centennial of America’s entrance into the conflict.

WPU sophomore Shane Jackson’s takeaways from the lecture were how we don’t learn these things in school before college “I felt like it wasn’t even touched on, this is my first time really even hearing about it.”  Jackson also thinks that people today need to “just pay attention to it so it won’t ever happen here because it can happen anywhere.”

Mouradian is currently in the process of turning his dissertation “Genocide and Humanitarian Resistance in Ottoman Syria, 1915-1917” into a book.

Photo Courtesy of Khatchig Mouradian

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