The Sunday Magazine

Legacy of a genocide

As we approach the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, three artists - a filmmaker, a musician and a writer - explain how a hundred-year-old event continues to resonate for them personally and within the Armenian community.
The bodies of Armenians killed during the genocide, circa 1915 (Wikipedia Commons)

Last Sunday, Pope Francis affirmed what hundreds of independent scholars and government leaders have acknowledged -- that the slaughter of more than a million Armenians by Ottoman Turks was the first genocide of the 20th century. The Turkish government expressed outrage and recalled its ambassador to the Vatican. Turkey agrees there were deaths, but denies it was genocide. The government's version of history is taught in schools and remains popular wisdom in Turkey.

On April 24th, 1915, Turkish soldiers arrested and executed hundreds of Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople. Over the course of the following eight years, the Turkish government led a campaign to kill ethnic Armenians, the Christian minority. Able-bodied men were murdered, and women and children were deported, through forced death marches. This chapter of history has been shared not just through books and academic papers, but within families, from generation to generation. 

Michael speaks with three Armenians: a writer, a filmmaker and a musician.

Meline Toumani is a journalist who was born in Tehran to Iranian-Armenian parents. She immigrated to New Jersey at the age of two. Her family and her community helped to foster not just a love of her heritage, but the demonization of anyone or anything Turkish. She shocked her family and friends when she moved to Istanbul to explore the relationship between Turks and Armenians.  Her critically acclaimed book about that experience is called There Was and There Was Not: A Journey through Hate and Possibility in Turkey, Armenia and Beyond. Click here to learn more about Meline Toumani's work.

Nubar Alexanian is a filmmaker who grew up in a close-knit Armenian family in Worcester, Massachusetts. As a young adult, he shunned his heritage, until his daughter asked him to travel to Armenia with her. They made many trips together, which turned into a journey of discovery that changed their lives. Their documentary film, "The Scars of Silence", will be released in November.

Levon Ichkhanian was born in Beirut and moved to Canada with his family when he was 12. He is following in the footsteps of his father, uncle and cousin, who also turned their passion for music into prestigious careers. Click here to hear more of Levon Ichkhanian's music.


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