By Nicole Callella (Guest Contributor)
While many wonder why I am so interested in the Armenian Genocide, I find myself wondering the contrary; how people cannot be interested in the Armenian Genocide. Growing up in a predominately Caucasian neighborhood, anything or anyone who was “different” immediately stood out. In my first grade class, I met an Armenian girl who I never realized would be my best friend and continue to be in my life for the next 18 years. She introduced me to a culture that I knew nothing about and it didn’t take long for me to learn “inch bes es”, have my first taste of lahmajun (Armenian pizza), spend a Friday afternoon at Armenian school, and attend huge family events. I instantly fell in love with the culture, but what intrigued me the most was the knowledge I gained about the Armenian Genocide, or as I quickly realized from the view of others, “What genocide?”
Throughout my education, not once did I learn, in any history class, about the Armenian Genocide. Not once did any teacher incorporate this part of history in a lesson, let alone merely mention it. After graduating high school and continuing my education, I was required to take a year of history classes. Although these classes discussed the Ottoman Empire all the way through our current war situation, perhaps only a brief mention in one lecture was made about the Armenian Genocide.
The first genocide of the 20th century, a planned extermination of an entire race, resulting in the death of 1.5 million people, was worthy of only a few minutes in an entire year of history classes.
Initially, the first thought through my mind was that this was supposed to be ‘higher education’. In order to further educate myself, my professor, and my peers, I immediately decided to conduct research and write about the sufferings of the Armenians during the genocide and the impact of Turkey’s continued failure to recognize it.
Currently, I am a doctoral student studying Clinical Psychology and as a future psychologist, my primary goal is to help guide individuals to make positive changes in their lives (whatever this may mean to them). It’s easy to assume that the only victims of the Armenian Genocide were those who suffered through it firsthand and that the new generation has no real connection to a crime that occurred almost a century ago. This assumption, however, is misleading.
The psychological implications Armenians have dealt with and continue to deal with are ongoing: emotional torment, loss of culture, search for identity, denial, and continued oppression. Research shows that the severe impact of the genocide has a transferrable effect, which is passed from generation to generation. Psychologist and author, Jack Danielian, explains this phenomena in his article titled A Century of Silence: Terror and the Armenian Genocide. “Genocidal trauma (and trauma in general) is contagious and the contagion is likely to be insidious. All who come in contact with it can come away marked, including victim, victim families and progeny, observers, advocates, researchers, and yes, perpetrators.” It is when you empathize and explore with Armenians their identity that you begin to understand the effects and lasting impact of a century worth of denial of such a sickening historical event. Multiple generations of Armenians still care about the genocide because they have inherited the scars that were inflicted on their ancestors, which are still vividly present on themselves today.
How can we not realize that by denying the genocide, we are perpetuating oppression when Armenians have already suffered enough? I am not Armenian but I strive to spread awareness about the Armenian Genocide and advocate for the Armenian community for the justice they deserve. I speak not as a psychologist, or friend of Armenians, but as a human being when I say that the Armenian Genocide needs to be recognized and accepted as just that; genocide. The Turkish Government can never repair the damage that has been done, but they can offer the Armenian people a chance to heal by taking the first step and accepting the Armenian Genocide.
Nicole Callella is a doctoral student studying Clinical Psychology, with an emphasis in Family, Child, and Couples.