Constantine (Dean) Argiris is a lifelong Orthodox Christian from the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago who has devoted his time to raising awareness of the 1915-1922 Asia Minor Genocide. His works on the Greek economic crisis have been published in international Greek diaspora news media outlets. Professionally, he works in the political scene as a Staff Assistant to a Chicago Alderman. Previously, he worked as a party-paid staffer for the Illinois Senate, a Regional Field Director for President Obama's "Organizing for America" and has run a number of federal and state level political campaigns as an independent consultant.
There are always two genocides. The first is the physical act and the second is the denial. One hundred years ago today, Turkish authorities, acting under the orders of the Turkish Minister of Interior, rounded up 250 Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople and moved them to detention centers in Ankara. Eventually, they would be joined by 2,200 others and led to their deaths in the camps that were built in Syria and Iraq. At the same time, at the other end of the country, the town of Van was under siege.
As noted by U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr., on April 20, 1915 an Armenian woman was seized and harassed by two Ottoman soldiers as she was trying to enter the city. The two Armenian men that came to her rescue were shot and killed. Their murders sparked unrest among those living in Van’s Armenian quarter. The Ottoman government responded by mounting an eleven-day siege. By the end of the genocide, nearly 1.5 million Armenians, roughly 750,000 Greeks, and 250,000 Assyrians would be killed, and Smyrna would be in flames.
One hundred years ago, the blueprint was drawn for the Jewish holocaust, but at some point, the similarities turned into differences. When we reach back into the pages of the past and see the black and white photos of helpless men in grey and white stripped clothes, yellow Stars of David stitched to their chests, we feel something that we don’t feel when we look back at those women strung up on crosses. That feeling is justice. There was Nüremberg, the Auschwitz Trials, the Dachau Trials, the Mauthausen-Gusen Trials, and so on. There are the Holocaust Museums and Holocaust Remembrance Day. We are reminded of the travesties inflicted upon the Jews of Europe and are told “Never Again.”
Yet, there are other pages of history that cry out to us. They ask us to feel the emptiness, the neglect, the unwilling commitment to a second death by refusal to acknowledge the injustice inflicted upon them. Without justice, the chapter on the Anatolian Genocide will always feel empty. We will see the victims, and through their sorrowful eyes, we will be asked “Why?” Each time Ankara threatens those who gather the courage to acknowledge the genocide, those voices will whisper “why?” As ISIS carries out their genocide by closely following the actions of the Ottoman Turks, one hundred years ago, the voices will ask us “why?” Their voices will grow from a faint whisper to a loud cry asking for justice, asking for closure.
The world of Realpolitik, which urges alliances based on strategic and economic reasons, must not always outweigh the moral obligation to seek and fulfill justice. As long as the Anatolian Genocide goes unacknowledged, there will always be two genocides. The only way to make sure that Never Again means Never Again is to acknowledge genocide, wherever it may exist and whenever it may have occurred.
May their memories be eternal.
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