Guest opinion: Thank you, America, from Armenian survivors

Stephan Garo Isberian

For as long as I can remember, I have been writing a letter to the editor on April 24 giving a brief history about the Genocide of the Armenian nation at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

I am a first-generation American-born Armenian and a descendant of genocide survivors.

This year is very different, for it is the 100th year commemoration of that horrific, unthinkable act. The official order of the minister of the Interior, Mehmet Talat Pasha, was “You have already been informed that the government … has decided to destroy all the indicated persons (Armenians) living in Turkey.”

Talat cables his prefect in Aleppo in the north of Syria on Sept. 15: “Their existence must be terminated, however tragic the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either age or sex, or to any scruples of conscience.”

On this the centennial year, we see a fresh awakening. Individuals, groups, governments and even the pope, as leader of over 1 billion Catholics, officially recognize that this was a true genocide. They all call on the Turkish government to recognize and accept the terminology of genocide. We demand that they admit that they perpetrated this genocide.

Almost every city in the world will be actively recognizing this day of remembrance. In Fresno, California, the Armenian community will hold a moment of silence at 7:15 p.m. today to pay respect to the Armenian martyrs and to all those who have suffered as a result of ethnic cleansing. I urge all of you to join in that moment.

There was a discovery recently of the Ghazir Orphanage rug, a donation made to President Grover Cleveland in 1925. The rug was created to thank the U.S. for its help in saving the orphans of the genocide. This rug was woven through the efforts of the Near East Relief Society, an organization that raised more than $100 million between 1916 and 1929 to set up orphanages to rescue, feed, clothe, educate and train more than 200,000 children. They saved them from extinction.

The rug was buried in the basement of the White House for decades as a result of the strong Turkish lobby and its attempt to keep it hidden. Several months ago, this rug was finally displayed in the White House. This opened the floodgates, and many artifacts, letters and photos have come to light since.

This rug exhibition made it possible to acknowledge the existence of hundreds of orphanages that opened in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Greece and other countries that could accept the surviving children. “Remember the starving Armenians” was the phrase in use for decades during and after the genocide.

Most of the Armenians of today are the descendants of those 200,000 orphans. America opened its arms to them at Ellis Island, New York. We Armenians have assimilated into society, learned the language and the ways of America to become a very important pillar in the framework of this country.

Armenians are thankful for the opportunity afforded us in this and every other country that accepted the diaspora Armenians. We are proud people and especially proud to be American.

Stephan Garo Isberian owns Isberian Rug Company of Aspen and Basalt.

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