Armenian Genocide: “We cannot forget”

Dr. Sergio La Porta, professor in the armenian studies program, concluded this years’ Fresno State Talks last night in the Satellite Student Union, with a lecture on the importance and relevance of the Armenian Genocide and how it shaped world civilization today.

Entitled “Who Cares? Genocide, Historical Memory, and Moral Responsibility,” La Porta’s lecture emerged from his own personal history with Armenian studies as a graduate of Harvard University.

Lucy Garayan, a senior psychology student,  joked that although La Porta’s last name did not end in a “ian” representative of the Armenian heritage, his expertise and love of the field and the people inspired his students through his lectures and knowledge to learn more about the culture.

“At the time, I thought Armenian role in history was minute,” Garayan said. “Armenia today is the size of Maryland, however, it was in Dr. La Porta’s class that I learned about a rich and powerful history. I felt it was my duty to learn about my own culture and history, but in fact it is the duty of all Armenians to study our history and language. It is through knowledge that we can keep our traditions alive.”

La Porta began his lecture with an introduction into the history of the Armenian Genocide, which began on April 24, 1915, when the Young Turk regime of the Ottoman Empire arrested 250 Armenian intellectuals who were soon murdered after their seizure.

In the next four months, La Porta said, the regime murdered 800,000 Armenian citizens of the empire, at a rate of 200,000 people a month, comparable to the Rwandan Genocide. By 1923, approximately 1.5 million people had been murdered by the Young Turk forces, and over 500,000 people displaced.

“Now, 100 years later, this crime against humanity, this genocide, remains unrecognized by the Republic of Turkey,” La Porta said.  It’s historical reality is consistently questioned, not only insulting the memory of millions of people, but also denying them historical justice and their inherent human dignity.”

La Porta spoke about local events commemorating the Armenian Genocide, including the memorial currently being built on campus set to be revealed on April 23 and coordinated with the Republic of Armenia.

Other local events include the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee, a philharmonic concert April 25, the current art exhibit at Fresno Art Museum, and a town hall meeting on March 16.

La Porta noted the similarity of the Armenian Genocide to that of the Holocaust during World War II. He explained that there was a specific organization employed for the mass extermination of Armenians, legalizing and putting into effect laws which authorized the deportation of Armenians and seizure of their property–millions of acres of land and possessions, which La Porta said led to part of the modern economic basis of Turkey today.

“We realize that this is not a random set of killings, but an organized attempt to eliminate a portion of the population,” La Porta said.

He spoke of the horrors of the genocide, in which modern technology such as telegraphs and railways were used. Armenians were transported in packed cars where they often suffocated to death.

“To add insult to injury they were often forced to buy their ticket first, then packed into these cars, and often the train would stop in the desert and have them taken out and murdered,” he said.

To this day, La Porta says, the Armenian Genocide fails to be recognized by the Republic of Turkey.

“The argument that they make was that many Turks died during World War I, as if this negates the atrocities that occurred,” La Porta said. “Yes, a lot of Turks did die in World War I, and a lot of Armenians died as well. The difference was a lot of Turks died fighting in World War I, a lot of Armenians died because they were executed.”

But La Porta said that from the destruction, there is still an opportunity to show a better side of human nature through the internationalization of the Armenian Genocide. Through American aid and relief, La Porta called this one of the greatest moments in american history.

“People often say that’s not that important, nobody remembers it, nobody knew about it. This is completely untrue. People knew about the Armenian Genocide very well. The New York Times had over 200 articles on the Armenian Genocide between 1915 and 1922.”

According to La Porta, between 1916 and 1930, The American Committee for Relief in the Near East (today known as the Near Eastern Relief Fund) raised 116 million dollars in relief aid for Armenians and others similarly affected, (equivalent to 1.5. billion dollars today.) La Porta said that this was the largest relief effort ever launched in the United States.

The effects of the Armenian Genocide, La Porta said, are still very alive and present today.

“It destroyed a vital sector of Armenia, also caused the Armenian diaspora, part of the economic basis for the economy of Turkey, and allowed the Republic of Turkey to form its modern capital. We see that this process of nationalism and of purity beginning with the Armenian Genocide. We can chart its progress in the early 20th century.”

He says that remembrance may be crucial in honoring those that were lost.

“Never again, Armenians will never again allow themselves to be executed in the way that happened in 1915. The Armenian Genocide continues to penetrate current political conflicts in the middle east.”

Amongst many stories of the survivors, La Porta says there is no debate about the reality of the Armenian genocide, and the reality of who was responsible.

“The genocide is a historical fact,” La Porta said. “It’s important to remember that they didn’t just disappear. They didn’t just die. They were killed by an agent, and that agent was the Ottoman Turkish regime of the Young Turks. This moral distancing is understandable because it’s uncomfortable to think that people could do this to one another. Yet we need to be honest about it. We need to say who did it. We need to be clear about who did it to overcome the trauma of the genocide itself.”

La Porta concluded his lecture by demonstrating the power of memory.

“Actually remembering is not stopping us from going forward,” he said. “It’s the catalyst that allows us to engage in acts of humanity.”

  • Ergun Kirlikovali


    You seem to ignore the three momentous events that caused the TERESET (TEmporary RESETtlement) order by the Ottoman Government came on May 31, 1915:

    1) By December 1914, Armenian revolutionaries and insurgents have already killed 120,000 Muslims, mostly Turkish. [1] This number represents 0.8% of the Ottoman population of 15 million at the time. Imagine 0.8% of the US population today, roughly 2.6 millio n Americans, being wiped out by Armenians (or others). What would America do?

    Considering the US launched a global war against a pretty much “invisible” enemy, where more than a million (mostly Muslims) were killed and 1.5 trillion dollars spent over a 13 years for 3,000 Americans lost on 9/11, can you even venture to guess what the US would do if 2.6 million Americans were killed by some “visible” insurgents?

    Would the US stop at TERESET like the Ottomans did in 1915, or would at least a Waco or even a Nagazaki be on the table? Be honest.

    2) Sarikamish defeat. It is no secret that volunteering Ottoman-Armenian scouts helped Russian armies invade North Eastern Anatolia while others took part in the
    Russian invasion. The Ottoman 3rd army lost anywhere between 30,000 to 75,000 (number in dispute) soldiers in that campaign and it halted Turkish advance into the Caucasus. Add this defeat to the massive casualty number given above. What do you get? And that sum does not even begin to describe the Turkish anxiety, disappointment, and , indeed, anger.

    3) Here comes the clincher. Armenian insurgents in the City of Van were preparing for this day for decades. [2] On April 19, 1915, Armenian revolted in Van and by 17 May, they have killed or forcibly removed about 80,000 Ottoman
    Muslims, destroying all of the Muslim quarters of the City of Van. They then presented the key to the city to the Russian commander of the invading Russian armies. [3] Supreme treason with 80,000 more Muslim victims!

    Adding 80,000 and 120,000, one gets 200,000, or 1.33 % of the Ottoman population in 1915. This would correspond to about 4.4 million Americans today; imagine this many Americans being killed by Armenians (or some other insurgents) in 2015. Reflect on that number for a while, before you quickly move on.

    Back to 1915; imagine 1.33% of the Ottoman population is being killed by some
    insurgents, obviously with some help from the Armenian community, and all the
    Ottoman government decides to do is TERESET. With its best young men already sent to countless fronts defending the tri-continental Ottoman empire, leaving the central government unable to control such a wide scale insurgency as in Van and the rest of Eastern Anatolia, much less separate the guilty from the innocent, the
    Ottoman government decides to temporarily relocate the whole community (minus those who work for the government, craftsmen, soldiers, doctors, nurses, as well as Armenians of Catholic or Protestant persuasion or those who live in Western cities like Istanbul, Izmir, Edirne, and so on. The Western parts of the empire was
    excluded from the TERESET order, because the Armenians there mostly stayed
    loyal to the Ottoman Empire. This, alone proves, that it was no genocide, as
    loyalists were left untouched.)

    Would the US stop at TERESET, i.e. moving insurgents from point A to point B in
    America, if those insurgents killed 4.4 million Americans?

    If we cannot be fair, think rationally, and engage in a reasoned debate, then all
    we have is an article like what I am responding to here which does little more
    than recirculation of the same old Armenian narrative with no new information, angle, or approach to even faintly suggest the inclusion of Armenian complicity in 1890-1915 period.

    Last but not least, I am the son of Turkish survivors from both paternal and
    maternal sides. My father was the sole survivor of the village of KIRLIKOVA—hence my family name—where the entire Turkish population of the village (along with four neighboring Turkish villages [4] ) were exterminated by Bulgarian and Greek irregulars, helped by Ottoman-Armenian cadets from the Armenian military academy nearby whom you can see if you click on here,
    [5], arrogantly brandishing their Russian-made Mosin rifles in the Armenian Military Academy of Bulgaria, as early as 1906.

    My mother’s family was also decimated but those who could escape the atrocities by marching with bare feet through freezing mud of the Balkans made it to safety
    in Istanbul and Bursa and Izmir and other places. Turks, because of their
    culture, grieve through their trauma silently and may not exactly scream in
    your face like Armenians. This dignified silence of the Turkish victims of
    Armenian atrocities, however, should not be interpreted as admission of guilt
    for crimes not committed.

    That said, where is my family’s pain, my pain, the pain of Turks, at the hands of
    Armenian revolutionaries, in the alleged Armenian narrative?

    And how can we forge peace and reach closure if my pain is “systematically” ignored?


    Son of Turkish survivors from both paternal and maternal sides



    [1] Pope, Stephen, Wheal Elizabeth-Anne, The MacMillan Dictionary of the First World War, MacMillan Reference Books, London, 1995, page 34.

    [2] Nalbandian, Louise, The Armenian Revolutionary Movement: The Development of Armenian , Political Parties through the 19th Century. Berkeley: Univ. of California, 1963.

    [3] McCarthy, Justin; Arslan, E., Taşkıran, C., and Turan, Ö., The Armenian
    Rebellion at Van. Salt Lake City, UT, University of Utah, 2006.

    [4] McCarthy, Justin, Death and Exile: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, 1821-1922, The Darwin Press, Princeton, 1995, page 140.

    [5] Houshamatyan of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Centennial,
    Album-Atlas, Volume I, Epic Battles, 1890-1914, The Next Day Color Printing,
    Inc., Glendale, CA, U.S.A., 2006, page 185.

  • RoseFlorida

    Today we see the murder and destruction of Armenians and other Christians living in Syria, many of whom are there, living in places such as Aleppo, because their families were forced out of Turkey during the genocide 100 years ago. Muslim fanatics today are killing those in Syria and Iraq who don’t abide by their interpretation of Islam or who belong to minorities such as Assyrians or Yezidis. Their killing fervor mimics the killing frenzy engaged in by so many Ottoman Turks a hundred years ago, a cover to grab whatever wealth they could from minorities living among them as well as a wish to obey Allah’s commands.

  • Dulnoi

    “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
    A. Hitler August 22, 1939

    “… as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
    B. Obama 2008