Saturday, April 23, 2011

Turkish Children's Day vs Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day...

This morning, a Facebook friend posted a cheery declaration that today, April 23, is Children's Day in Turkey.  I commented that tomorrow is Genocide Memorial Day in Armenia.  She responded angrily to my comment... like I just rained on her parade.  I'm not sure she thought about her response before she reacted, but to me, the irony is pretty obvious.

Today is Children's Day in Turkey.  Tomorrow is Genocide Remembrance Day in Armenia. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were slaughtered by the Turks during the Genocide, which is thought to have begun on April 24, 1915.  That's thousands of people-- men, women, and children.  The Turks want to celebrate their own children and children around the world, and yet they refuse to acknowledge their part in killing thousands of Armenian children.  And the Turks set their day to celebrate children just before the day that Armenia mourns its lost children.

I didn't bother to explain this to my Facebook friend.  I'm sure she was just trying to be positive and she more than likely doesn't have personal experience with Armenians.  I lived in Armenia for two years.  On April 24, 1996, I watched as thousands of Armenians from around the country stood in a long line to visit the memorial and leave flowers for the people who were killed.  I visited the memorial myself on that day and I saw firsthand the way Armenians still grieve.

My second year in country, I lived right across the street from the Armenian Genocide Memorial.  On April 24, 1997, I watched from my apartment window as the same huge crowd of people came to pay their respects, whole families, old people, young people, men, women, and children.  All day long, people descended upon the memorial to remember the dead, climbing the steep hill to reach the austere monument with its eternal flame.  More than a couple of people passed out, due to the heat and the stress of reaching the memorial.  In those days, Armenia was dealing with a fuel shortage.  The eternal flame was only turned on for Genocide Remembrance Day, so people could leave flowers and pay their respects.

And so... while I'm not at all offended that the Turks want to celebrate children, I do wonder why they choose to do it on April 23, the day before Genocide Remembrance Day, especially since so many other countries choose to celebrate Children's Day on June 1.  Is it because they would prefer the world to forget what happened in the early 20th century?  The Turks already put political pressure on other countries to deny the Armenian Genocide.  I guess a nice Turkish Children's Day celebration before Armenia's Genocide Remembrance Day is one way to take the focus off the pain...


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