Armenian, Assyrian and Hellenic Genocide News

Americans were victims of genocide

Posted: Friday, July 20, 2001 at 11:57 PM CT

Community Commentary

I have been following the ongoing debates concerning the proposed construction of a memorial honoring the 1.5 million Armenians killed by the Turkish government during the Ottoman Empire. Until now, I have never written to a newspaper or any other type of publication. However, on this matter, I found it extremely important to convey and educate both Armenian Americans and Americans of other ethnic backgrounds on the American citizenry connection concerning the Armenian Genocide. I am a 38-year-old police officer who has served the Los Angeles-area community faithfully for the past 11 years. Prior to becoming a police officer, I honorably served my country for six years as an infantryman in the United States Marine Corps. Prior to being discharged from the Marine Corps, I trained numerous infantry Marines who undoubtedly went off to battle during Operation Desert Storm. I have no political ax to grind, just to inform and educate, and prove to those whose only disapproval of the erection of a memorial honoring the Armenian Genocide is their assertion that "Americans were not involved," or "the genocide was not here." Prior to the mass organized killings of the Armenians by the Turkish government, thousands of Armenians, mostly men who had been sponsored by American churches, had already immigrated to the United States. These men became American citizens, were resident aliens or in the process of becoming American citizens, and were living and working in the United States. They proudly lived and worked in places such as Worcester, Watertown and Whitinsville, Mass.; Troy, N.Y.; Providence, R.I.; and Fresno, Calif. During the period of 1917-19, the time of the mass organized killings, these newly arrived "Americans" still had their families in Armenia. Hearing of the killings, hundreds of these Armenian-American men left the United States and went back to their homeland to save their families. Most of these "Americans" were killed by the Turkish government. The following is an excerpt taken from a published article written this year about my 102-year-old grandmother. My grandmother is one of just a handful of Armenians still living who actually survived the Armenian Genocide. More important, she is probably the only Armenian American still living who can bear witness to the "American citizenry" connection during the Armenian Genocide. "Aggie (Azniv) was born in Armenia on Aug. 10, 1899. She lived in the town of Kigi with her mother and sister. Her father came to the United States to work in Troy, N.Y., to support the family. While there, he met Aggie's future father-in-law. They hadn't known each other before and didn't know that their children had met and became engaged. "From 1917 to 1919, the genocide occurred in Armenia with the invasion of the Turks. Aggie's sister was killed. Aggie, her mother and her fiance, Haigaz Shehanian, fled to Russia. Shortly after they arrived, Aggie and Haigaz married. "Meanwhile, due to the difficulty of communication, the two fathers [my great-grandfathers] living in New York didn't know their children had fled to safety and married. Hearing of the fighting in Armenia, both fathers returned to their country to try and save their families. Both were killed as part of the genocide. However, before their deaths, they did find out from family and friends that their children had fled the country and married. "A year later, Aggie's first child, Lillian [Shooshan], was born in Georgia, Russia. In September 1922, Aggie [Azniv], Haigaz and baby Lillian came to Ellis Island on the Greek ship Acropolis." After reading excerpts from the article, please honestly ask yourself: What do you believe the United States government would do in the 21st century if hundreds of its people who had legally immigrated, held jobs and paid taxes here, went back to their homelands to rescue their families and were slaughtered by a foreign government? As Glendale residents and the newly appointed [Citizens Memorial Advisory] committee members grapple in the ongoing investigation of whether or not to erect the Armenian Genocide memorial, let me assure those who think the Armenian Genocide was an "Armenian country problem" that they are dead wrong. The Armenian Genocide directlyinvolved the slaughter of American Armenians, as witnessed by my 102-year-old grandmother. If members of the genocide memorial committee wish to contact the only 102-year-old living witness I know to the slaughtering of American residents during the Armenian Genocide, and would like to speak with her 82-year-old baby girl Lillian, please contact me. In any case, please broaden the scope of your investigation to include those newly arrived Americans, such as both of my New Yorkgreat-grandfathers, who were slaughtered.

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