This book is about the events of the Armenian genocide in Turkey in the years 1915 to 1922 and the memories of those events passed down through families. The authors hope it will contribute to Armenian-Turkish reconciliation In Armenia, an Armenian-Turkish workshop was held in 2008 and the stories of the participants recorded. Given the sensitivity of the subject it was a major challenge to find potential interviewees from all walks of life willing to talk about the issue. Individuals were asked to speak about their family history. There had been a lot of silence over the issue, in Turkey there has been much denial of a genocide in the Soviet Union, nationalist issues were suppressed under Stalin and his successors. Many male survivors were reluctant to speak of their experiences feeing guilt and shame for what had happened. Each story is unique but there are some underlying themes. One Turkish interviewee recounts that during the First World War England, France and Russia provoked the Armenian s whilst Germany provoked the Turks: “These guys were decent and honest people. Only, crap came in between them, somebody derailed them, somebody indoctrinated them and the two people became enemies.”
The Armenian stories can make painful reading; tales of cruelty and massacre, of children abandoned on the road as the population are forced to flee their “Ergur“( native land), of ox carts driving over the many corpses strewn in the road, of “beautiful” women and girls abducted and incorporated into Muslim families to provide sexual services, labour and children. There are also horrific tales of some women incinerated in bread ovens and decapitations.
Breaking the public silence and denial about the past is seen as an important step towards mutual understanding between Turks and Armenians. In 1939, Hitler famously remarked “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
The book has a surprising number of spelling mistakes and at times read more like a university essay rather than a published book. The different voices are often conflicting, some Armenians see all Turks as cruel, whereas others have tales of help received from some Turks and Kurds in hiding Armenians from those bent on massacre.
My rating 4 out of 5