“Breaking the Silence”: “I want my children and grandchildren to live in a better world without genocide”

29/07/2015 16:32

“Breaking the Silence”: “I want my children and grandchildren to live in a better world without genocide”

In the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide Aysor.am presents a special project within which we shall consider cultural, scientific and social projects implementing these days. Today we talked to Canadian poet and scholar, professor of the Royal Military College of Canada (Kensingten) Alan Whitehorn.

He is the author of several books: “Fair poems. Remembering the Armenian Genocide”, “Ancestral Voices: Identity, national origin and remembering Genocide”, “Armenian Genocide: Collision to an inertia of indifference” and so on.

Note that his verses have been cited by the Canadian government, during the parliamentary debates dedicated to the Armenian Genocide. Alan Whitehorn was in Yerevan within the "Literary Ark 2015" annual international festival.

-Mr. Whitehorn, do you remember how you first listened about the Armenian Genocide?

- My mother is Armenian (smiling). My grandmother is genocide survivor. She has lived in a refugee camp for about 10 years and so she has never known her real name and age. After escaping she has appeared in Greece and has been adopted by the Armenian family. Later, my mother was born.

Frankly speaking, my mother almost has never told the stories she had heard about the Armenian Genocide. I have learned more from my aunt.

I remember 1980, when I began to study the Genocide I was doing it for me to understand how all this has happened. I remember mostly I found and read global and Canadian media, which were published in 1915.

- After starting the researches, which were the first discovery for you?

- There was such a revelation. I clearly remember that I was very surprised by the fact that the more they write about the Genocide was in 1915. For example, The New York Times, Toronto newspapers. I was surprised that the World was informed and was silent.

So I summoned all my studies in one package and sent it to the media. Thus began my career. They began invite me to press conferences, discussions. After that I published 5 books on the Armenian Genocide.

Three books are collections of poems and essays are included in the other two. My latest book on the Armenian Genocide is the first encyclopedia, which has more than 400 pages. It includes the Armenian Genocide eyewitness accounts, the 1915 documents, chronology, everything about the Genocide. It is also expected that in addition to printed version there will also be an electronic version of this encyclopedia.

So, I work, despite the fact that about 7 years ago, the Turkish government tried to silence me.

- How?

- A little hard to talk about it now. There is information that must not be public. Overall, it is more important, that in response to the attempt to silence me, I published a new book (smiling). It is a collection of poems on the Genocide and my point is that: no, I will not keep silent.

-You spoke about the effort they wanted to silence you. Have you ever met your Turkish colleagues: academic circles of people who do not deny what happened?

- I have worked with genocide experts from around the world, including the Turks. I know Taner Akcam very well. I have also communicated with Turkish civil society activists. I have thought at the summer school with many Turkish scholars. I’ve also worked with many young students, including Turks, who had a master or postgraduate degrees.

You know, it's hard to generalize their knowledge about the genocide. This issue was individual, some were very aware, some not so much. The main purpose of the two-week course was to inform about the Armenian Genocide, in global Genocides context.

- The Armenian genocide was the first genocide of 20th century and, unfortunately, not the last. It is often said if it has begun with the Armenians, they need to put a full stop. In the sense that the Armenians have a lot to do concerning not only to their own genocide, but in general terms to prevent genocide. What do you think about the Armenians should really take these so-called international judge role?

-Two things I would like to say. Firstly, the Armenian genocide should be considered not the first genocide of 20th century, but one of the firsts, because there has been other Genocide by Germany.

The Turks continue deny what they have done. And it is also genocide. Any nation that has survived the genocide, whether Armenia, Polish, Jewish, should be able to present the history of the country, and thereby prevent future genocides.

Armenia and Yerevan should play an important role in the prevention of genocide, human rights awareness. For example, there must be some courses where students will be informed about this. I have been asked to undertake such a course, but I was so busy with the creation of this encyclopedia that could not do it because of timeless. Maybe the 101 anniversary will further raise awareness about this issue.

-It is often said that the 100-year-old is a watershed. By this edge the pain must be turn to a real fight.

-You know, I think the pain, mourning will always be. But after this year we must continue to learn, to look for, to understand and also to teach others.

-In conclusion, speak about your new work.

-After 2015 I have promised my wife that I will relax a bit (laughing). But she also knows the fact that I'm still writing and teaching about the Armenian genocide. I say this as a father and grandfather. I want my children and grandchildren to live in a better world, a world without genocide. Therefore, I cannot remain silent and cannot relax. I will continue to work.

Author: Sona Martirosyan


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