Family of Shadows

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FP: How come the annihilation of the Armenians is not discussed in our media and higher culture?

Hovannisian: The two most dangerous things, explosive in combination: apathy and denial.

But at least the first is to be expected. The Armenian Genocide is by now almost a hundred years old. And that’s just about the statute of limitations on memory — unless, of course, memory is guarded and cherished and championed from the dust.

The second reason is more sinister. To this day, the Turkish government denies the reality of the Armenian Genocide, and its allies in the American government — under the influence of cowardice and politics — remain shamefully silent on the issue. And let me say that this silence is not so much a sin against the Armenian people as it is a sin against the American people. The fact is that the undeniable evidence of the Armenian Genocide was collected, in great part, by the American ambassadors, consuls, and missionaries who were stationed in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. It was Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. Ambassador to Constantinople, who saw first those massacres as “a campaign of race extermination” — the dictionary definition of “genocide.” The word itself hadn’t been coined yet, but when Raphael Lemkin, a Polish scholar of Jewish descent, did coin it in 1943, he himself applied it to the crime perpetrated by the Young Turk regime against the Armenian people.

FP: The reality of Armenia and post-Soviet “democracy”?

Hovannisian: My father moved to Armenia in 1989 with all the dream and faith and ambition in the world. But the truth is that he learned very soon that democracy would not grow so easily on soil tyrannized and communized for centuries. Today the Armenian government is ruled by “oligarchs” — a strange breed of businessman, thug, and politician — which are miniature versions of the same surrounding the Kremlin in Moscow. Elections are rigged. Corruption is rampant. And by now it is clear that Armenia has yet to overcome the shadow of Communism.

Of course my father is not the foreign minister anymore. He is the leader of the opposition Heritage Party in parliament.

FP: Share with us a bit about your writing past, how you got started.

Hovannisian: It began with sonnets to imaginary mistresses; that was in elementary school. Then, sometime in middle school, I got drawn into the dark and twisted netherworld of Edgar Allan Poe. In high school, I turned political. Frontpage, actually, was among the first magazines to publish my fury and resentment of the academic establishment: the chronic political correctness, the attack on intellectual diversity, the sabotage of academic freedom. With my friend Alec Mouhibian, whose dazzling essays you have also read on Frontpage, we put out a newsletter called “A Dose of Sense” and relished our newfound notoriety. Later at UCLA, I wrote a weekly column for The Daily Bruin, then moved out to start my own paper, The Bruin Standard — guardian of the counterculture.

I don’t write much politics anymore, but my inconsolable individualism is, I think, the evidence of those days of battle.

FP: Any feedback on the book that has surprised you?

And do you feel now, perhaps, that you have achieved some liberation with the book having been written and published? Has your relationship with the “haunt” changed? Has a bit of a weight been taken off of you?

Hovannisian: I am surprised by your interest, to be honest — and very grateful. The book has just been released to much excitement in the Armenian American communities, but it has yet to catch the attention of our national media. I get it. It does require a bit of imagination to pick up a book like mine, but I have to believe that those who invest some faith in Family of Shadows will be rewarded by it — not because its author has any special talents, but because the story itself is truly dramatic, deeply meaningful, and so relevant to our world.

As for the “haunt,” I must confess that I’ve only acquired new demons. Now I must live with the anxiety that I haven’t really done justice to my family story. You know, I realized that it’s an impossible thing to accomplish justice in words.

FP: Well, my friend, Family of Shadows is truly deeply meaningful and it’s written with a profound voice and message. I wish you healing and can only say that, in my view, your brilliant and moving book brings immeasurable justice to your family’s story. You should be proud, not only of your gigantic effort, but also of the magnanimity of heart and mind that shines through your words — and that clearly influenced you to take on this journey.

One feels after reading your book, and doing this interview with you, that one is in the company of a very special person — a person that has accomplished the justice he seeks on so many realms.

Thank you, Garin K. Hovannisian, for not allowing the truth to be buried, for bringing respect to the memory of the 1.5 Armenians who were murdered by the Turks, and for bringing to light the fascinating and profoundly meaningful narrative of your family.

It was an honor to speak with you and to be a witness of your family’s story that you have so elegantly and powerfully put into words.

To all our readers here at Frontpage, you cannot let this book elude your reading list.

Buy it!!!!!!

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  • FBastiat

    On denying the genocide of the Armenians (from here):

    I suppose that we should be somewhat thankful that in this case we at least get an unambiguous concession that the "policy of expulsion and resettlement" was not only real but even "ruthless." But that's all we get. Forget about the "annihilation of an entire people" — it seems quite uncertain whether Lipstadt really believes the "policy" killed any people. Our professor cites no sources for this rendition of history. Not that surprising, since it's a rendition shared by no one: not those who commanded the carnage nor those who actually witnessed it nor those who today truly "acknowledge [it] adequately." Enver Pasha, one of the Turkish triumvirate rulers, openly declared, "The Ottoman Empire should be cleaned up [!] of the Armenians and the Lebanese. We have destroyed the former by the sword, we shall destroy the latter through starvation." Talat Pasha, another Young Turk, was equally explicit: "Turkey is taking advantage of the war in order to thoroughly liquidate its internal foes, i.e., the indigenous Christians." The second group includes Mustafa Arif, Minister of Interior, who admitted that the "wartime leaders, imbued with a spirit of brigandage, carried out the law of deportation in a manner that could surpass the proclivities of the most bloodthirsty bandits. They decided to exterminate the Armenians, and they did exterminate them." Our ambassador, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., wired Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, calling the actions of the Young Turks an attempt at "racial extermination." In Ambassador Morgenthau's Story (1919), we read, "When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact." Finally, in 1994, Yossi Beilin, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, provided the proper memorial: "It was not war. It was most certainly massacre and genocide, something the world must remember … We will always reject any attempt to erase its record, even for some political advantage." Too obviously, denying the Holocaust parallel can be the effect of only one of two causes, neither charitable: an immense ignorance of this history — or a conscious "attempt to erase its record" precisely "for some political advantage."

  • Arius

    My father that survived the Turks genocide of the Armenian people told us "don't trust Muslims, they don't think like us". What did I know then, I was a kid then, but now I know that he is right. We in the West have inherited a Christian morality and ethics that good and evil are both within, both trying to influence us and we choose one or the other, and it is our choice that we will have to account for before God. Muslim morality and ethics is in another universe. In Islam in order to choose good you need only follow to the letter the rules written in the Koran and Hadith. Evil is all else that is outside of Islam. Muslims project all their evil onto the other, that is, non-Muslims. That is why they can practice deception (lies) and mass murder on us as sanctioned by the Koran, the Hadith, and the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence. To the Muslim how can it be evil to deceive or kill that which is evil?

    Don't trust Muslims! Don't trust their logic, their facts, or anything they say. When you argue with a Muslim keep in your mind at all times the mentality that you are arguing with.

    My father is no longer living to hear the delusional blockheads in the West say that Islam is a religion of peace. In 1915, and during the many earlier Muslims' mass murder of Armenians an Imam would be reading from the Koran while they ritualistically cut our throats.

  • tagalog

    God bless the Armenians! They were Christianized within 200 years after Christ died, and are among the earliest Christians of the Eastern Church. They survived war after war between the Persian Empire and the Russians, the Huns, the Mongols, the Kurds, the Islamic Arabs, and the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks. The genocidal murder of Armenians in the 1915 period was a two-fold genocide, not only as to their ethnicity but as to their religion. They've managed to hold on to both without intermingling with some conqueror, or betraying their vision of Christ. God bless 'em, I say. May they prosper and grow in numbers.

    If I may be bold, Armenian girls are among the most beautiful in the world.

  • Bess

    I agree with Arius. Islam is not a religion of peace. There may be some decent Muslims but I wouldn't even trust them. Greece won their Independence from the Turks in early 19th Century. For 400 hundred years the Greeks lived under oppressive Turkish rule. The Turks were brutal to Greek Christians. How many Greeks were told to convert to the Muslim faith or die? How many Greeks became Turks? Those Greeks who didn't become Muslims died horrible deaths: woman, children it didn't matter. Many who went to their deaths are now Saints. The plan was to exterminate the leaders thinking the Christians would fade away without their leaders.The Turks tortured thousands of holy Greek men and women and yes, children. As evil as this was the Turks were masters of deception. They would kidnap young Greek boys and raise them as Muslims. These Greek boys now men were called Jennasaurus (not sure of spelling). They committed horrible crimes against the Greeks, their own people. This is the Muslim mind set: devious and demonic. Muslims are infiltrating every country like locusts. They overcame the Greeks by their sheer numbers. Is history repeating itself?

  • Vivi Andersen

    It is so importent :

    " Don´t trust muslims ! Don´t trust their logic, their facts or anything they say.

    When You argue with a muslim KEEP IN YOUR MIND, at all times, THE MENTALITY

    If we don´t do that we will learn the truth at the hard way !

    In Europe we are now underway in this learning process!

  • Suzy

    Garin, this sounds to be a very interesting and fascinating story. I read your interviews in some other papers and look forward to reading your book. I am sure your family's
    story is something to be admired. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  • Jerry

    Islam is steeped in the 7th century view of its "enemies" and thus, the Koran reeks with hatred for the infidels. Until and when, the Koran is revised to reflect the more inclusive views of other religions, we must be very wary of the encroachment of Islamists in our pluralistic societies. Afterall, this notion is anathama to all Muslims who demand fidelity to Allah and Mohammad, and a theocracy. Sharia is the foundadtion of this faith and as such, totally the opposite of what we, in the west, consider our innate freedoms.

  • UCLA student

    Great Article! Thank you for supporing Garin in his journey! The Armenian community and Armenia owe a lot to the Hovannisian family.