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Urgent Appeal from Women in Armenia

 

Police and Barbed Wire Blockade in Yerevan, 7/16

Police and Barbed Wire Blockade in Yerevan (Photo by  Babken Der Grigorian, 7/30/16)

 

I received the below appeal from a friend in Armenia. The stand-off between the police and the “Daredevils of Sassoun” who have occupied the Erebuni police station has drawn crowds of civil society activists into the streets. For background on the situation read this article from Open Democracy. For an account of Friday night’s events, read this from The Guardian.

 

The anger and despair in Armenia about the oligarchs (also known as gangster capitalists) who are running the country are at flood levels. While many disagree with the methods of the men currently blockaded in the police station, there is a widespread disgust with state violence used against civil society activists and the unchecked corruption and venality of the current government. The women signatories of the below message are calling for action and support from Armenians in the Diaspora, as well as from global citizens.

 

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Dear Friends,

Please take into consideration and disseminate this call from the women signatories based in Armenia to the Diaspora.

 

PLEASE DISSEMINATE THIS MESSAGE NOW!

 

Yesterday, on July 29 2016, an act of State terror was organized in Erebuni (Yerevan) where people have been protesting for the last twelve days. The local media documented numerous incidents of torture and ill treatment by the Police of RA and its special units, including kidnappings, unlawful detentions, enforced disappearances, setting people’s houses on fire, intimidation and violence against children and elderly. The police also stormed into random people’s homes, terrorizing and beating them and their family members, severely brutalized injured people who were seeking help in hospitals, and beat hundreds of people held in police stations.

 

To adequately address these acts of police brutality and mass violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, we, civil society members in Armenia, NEED the following SUPPORT from the ARMENIAN DIASPORA:

 

  • We need PUBLIC FIGURES to COME TO ARMENIA to raise awareness and to stop the violence unleashed by the regime against the peaceful citizens of Armenia (we are specifically calling on Loris Tjeknavorian, Rakel Dink, Serj Tankian, Cher, Margaret Ajemian Ahnert, Garry Kasparov, Atom Egoyan, Patrick Devedjian, David Barsamian, and other influential Armenians and non-Armenians);

 

  • Sensitize the Armenian diasporan media and demand that the media TELL THE TRUTH, covering what is actually happening in Armenia NOW to effectively stops state violence;

 

  • SENSITIZE THE INTERNATIONAL MEDIA to start covering the state terror in Armenia;

 

  • Organize RALLIES in front of ARMENIAN EMBASSIES, block the events with the participation of Armenian officials, do other actions to delegitimize everything done by Armenian officials;

 

  • Organize RALLIES in front of INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS, notably the UN;

 

  • Put pressure on all Diasporan entities, including individuals to cut funding for the Armenian government or government-backed projects;

 

  • Put pressure on international institutions that fund the government through loans and grants;

 

Any other support by which the Diaspora can help to deprive the current regime of authority and reputation, funding resources and the psychological and authoritative support of institutions, states, etc.

 

WE NEED YOUR PRESENCE!

 

Gayane Abrahamyan

Anahit Simonyan

Lara Aharonian

Gayane Hambardzumyan

Anna Shahnazaryan

Lusine Talalyan

Arpi Adamyan

Shushan Avagyan

Zaruhi Hovhannisyan

Maro Matosyan

Nvard Manasyan

Arpine Galfayan

 

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UPDATE: On the night of 31 July 2016, the “Daredevils of Sassoun” surrendered to police, ending the 15-day standoff. All 20 were arrested. One of them said, “We have done our part, now it’s the people’s turn to ensure fundamental change in Armenia.”

On August 1st, 2016 Human Right Watch issued a report on the Armenian police’s use of excessive force at the July 29th protest.

 

Nancy Kricorian

New York City


Midsummer Update

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In the past few weeks, the world has witnessed a series of murderous attacks, ranging from the U.S. “mistakenly” killing more than 70 civilians in Syria, and suicide assaults in France and Afghanistan, as well as a failed coup in Turkey, which has now resulted in a purge against suspected plotters as well as a witch hunt against journalists and academics. The presidential election pageant, which seems to be stretching into infinity, would be hilarious if it weren’t so terrifying. My mood was buoyed by watching from afar as my CODEPINK friends and colleagues disrupted the proceedings at both conventions.

 

This Friday my spouse James Schamus’s directorial debut will be opening in New York City and Los Angeles, rolling out in other markets in the following weeks. There was a fine profile of James in this past Sunday’s New York Times Arts section. Billboard Magazine ran a piece about the 1950’s pop song James and composer Jay Wadley wrote for the film. So far most of the reviews have been great, with many more to post in the next days and weeks. I particularly liked this one from Deadline: “As for Schamus, whose previous screenplays have largely been collaborations with Ang Lee, he turns in an extremely accomplished directorial debut proving there is great life beyond the executive suites in Hollywood.” And I must share the Rolling Stone review by Peter Travers: “Schamus reveals his gifts as a filmmaker who respect the words and the space between them in equal measure.”

 

In literary news, my review of Atef Abu Saif’s The Drone Eats with Me: A Gaza Diary was published in the July issue of IN THESE TIMES Magazine. I thought this article about “The Subtle Art of Translating Foreign Fiction” was worth sharing—and it has a few paragraphs for those still recovering from #FerranteFever. Also, there is a new (non-fiction) Ferrante book being published by Europa Editions in the fall—Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey. Another fascinating glimpse into the writing life is this thoughtful piece by Viet Thanh Nguyen, entitled “Winning the Pulitzer changed the value of my book and myself.”

 

And finally I wanted to share this beautiful essay and accompanying photograph by Antoine Agoudjian in which he pays tribute to Armenian resilience in the face of terrible loss.

 

 

 

Nancy Kricorian

 

 


The Birds of Beirut

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Mar Mikhael steps, Beirut

I arrived in Beirut on Friday night, and on Saturday my hosts drove me to the Armenian village of Anjar in the Bekaa Valley, close to the Syrian border. The women of the ABC Book Club had set up a large television set and thirty chairs on a spacious home patio. Members of the book club made short speeches about the history of their group, an introduction to my work, and a brief reading from my second novel, DREAMS OF BREAD AND FIRE, which they had read and discussed. Then I presented my “Armenian Diaspora Quartet” slideshow, weaving in two poems, “The Angel” and “Homage to Bourj Hammoud.” After the presentation, we ate homemade Armenian and Lebanese desserts in the garden. My favorite was a fruitcake called kumba, a specialty of Anjar (made from a recipe the Armenians of Musa Ler had brought with them in the late 30’s). My hosts insisted that I take home the entire platter of kumba. When I asked, “What will I do with all this?” I was told, “It has no eggs or butter; it keeps forever. Eat what you like, and at the end of the week you can put it in your suitcase.” (Believe me, I did it.)

The next evening was April 24th, and I went with friends to the Armenian Genocide vigil in Martyrs’ Square in downtown Beirut. After listening to the speeches for a while, we walked around the soulless ghost town that is the Solidere reconstruction of the old Souk area. The following day when I ventured out on my own—trying to get to the Sursock Museum to see the Assadour show—I got horribly lost. When I had showed the receptionist at the hotel a map, and asked for directions from the hotel to the museum, she looked at the map as though she had little idea of what it was, let alone how to read it. People in Beirut don’t use maps, and the available ones are pretty terrible, so for a person such as myself with absolutely no sense of direction, navigating the city was a challenge. A soldier at an intersection noticed my confusion, asked me where I was going, told me that I was very far from my destination (I had walked for fifteen minutes in the opposite direction), and explained that the only way for me to get there was by taxi.

The rest of the week, volunteer guides—old friends, new friends, and an aspiring fiction writer who is a student at Haigazian University—accompanied me. They were all locals who negotiated the maze of streets without maps. After the first afternoon of walking around in Bourj Hammoud, I despaired of ever being able to properly situate my characters in the space. But by the final day of my trip, I had determined the street where the Serinossians resided, the church they attended, the school where the children were enrolled, the father’s occupation, and his place of work. For later reference, I took photos of old wooden houses, mid-century apartment buildings with balconies and awnings, Armenian schools, Armenian churches, streets signs, and old doors. I also identified a few common birds: laughing dove, house sparrow, rock dove, and white wagtail. In Bourj Hammoud and Nor Hadjin I saw canaries in wire cages and zebra finches in wooden ones.

Equally importantly, I heard stories of the war years—the kinds of anecdotes that provide me with the small details I need to create the narrative world of the novel. Here is one line I heard that opened up a universe of feeling: “Sundays were sad days—because the ships took them to Cyprus, and from there they flew away.”

 

Nancy Kricorian

New York City


Raise Your Pen For Freedom

My contribution to the #RaiseYourPenForFreedom social media campaign

My contribution to the #RaiseYourPenForFreedom social media campaign

 

Last year at this time I was in Istanbul for Armenian Genocide Centennial commemorative events. It was a sad milestone, but it was also a time that was full of hope. Our Project 2015 organizing team and almost two hundred participants had flown in from New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Yerevan, Beirut, and other cities. My experiences in Istanbul that week were so inspiring that I was fully planning to return the following year, thinking that I would even go to Diarbakir, the de facto capital of Turkey’s Kurdish region, for the 101st anniversary of the genocide on April 24, 2016.

Last April my friends in Istanbul—Turks, Armenians, Kurds, and ex-pat Americans—were excited about the prospects for the upcoming elections in June 2015. They were supporting HDP (the People’s Democratic Party, a left-wing and anti-nationalist coalition), many of them electioneering for the party and all of them hoping that it would cross the 10% threshold for entering the Turkish parliament. There was jubilation when they succeeded.

Fast-forward to a year later and the situation in Turkey is worse than I could have imagined possible. Erdogan’s failure to win the super majority he needed to change the constitution and to consolidate his presidential power led him to reignite the war against the Kurds. Kurdish towns and cities were placed under military sieges with round-the-clock curfews lasting for weeks and months. The district of Sur in Diyarbakir, where the recently restored Sourp Giragos Armenian Church is located and where I visited in June 2014, is now a blasted-out war zone under threat of an “urban renewal” project that is a combination of a construction boondoggle for Erdogan’s cronies and a “cleansing” program aimed at the PPK (The Kurdistan Workers Party), but also at poor and working class Kurds. The church itself has been slated for expropriation by the government.

Turkish nationalists inside and outside the government whipped up anti-Kurdish sentiment, accusing anyone who criticized the war on Kurdish cities and towns of supporting terrorism. Once again rumors spread purporting that members of the PKK were actually Armenians, those perennial traitors to the Turkish state.

Added to all this, there have been a number of bombing attacks, two claimed by ISIS in Istanbul tourist districts, one in Suruc, and one in Ankara attributed to an offshoot of the PKK. The Turkish government continues to play a double game with regard to the Syrian war, seeing the Kurdish YPG militants in Northern Syria who are fighting ISIS under U.S. protection as a bigger threat than ISIS itself. (Admittedly all the political actors involved in the Syrian Civil War are playing double and even triple games.)

In January academics in Turkey signed and circulated a peace petition entitled “We Will Not Be Party to This Crime,” denouncing the renewed state violence in the Kurdish southeast. Within days, a witch-hunt had started against the professors and graduate students who had signed the letter, with twenty-seven of them temporarily detained, and dozens suspended and fired from their jobs. International professional associations and many academic institutions sent letters and petitions to the Turkish government decrying this crackdown on academic freedom and free speech. But in March three professors were arrested and charged with “Propagandizing for a Terrorist Organization.” This week the arrested academics will go on trial in Istanbul, and a call for a social media solidarity campaign has gone out under the hashtag #RaiseYourPenForFreedom.

I decided I wouldn’t be going back to Istanbul or Diyarbakir this April; instead I’m heading to Beirut on a research trip for my current fiction project. Turkey’s democracy has been on a downward trajectory this year—sad for me from afar, but devastating for the Kurdish communities that have been subjected to brutal military siege, and frightening for the academics and journalists who are threatened and harassed for their dissent. As HDP’s co-chair Selahattan Demirtas put it in his New York Times op-ed last week, “By ending the peace process with the P.K.K., by creating a repressive security state, by shelving the rule of law and by cracking down on free speech, he is drowning what is left of Turkey’s democracy — making this country more susceptible to radicalism and internal conflict than ever.”

 

Nancy Kricorian

New York City


Homage to Bourj Hammoud

Have you heard a thrush sing while its nest burns in the wind? —Khalil Gibran

Bourj Hammoud, Lebanon, 1930's

Bourj Hammoud, Lebanon, 1930’s

Listen. In the morning you can hear the bright strike of hammers and the rasp of saws. Children carry sand from the riverbanks in their school satchels. First they build the church, then the school, and finally a house for each family according to its means. The tents and shacks are taken down one by one. Each family plants a mulberry tree and tends its garden.

The remnants of Marash create a new Marash. And so also Nor Sis, Nor Adana, Nor Giligia, and Nor Hadjin are made. You can hear the sounds of the trades learned in the orphanage workshops: carpenter’s plane, sewing machine and cobbler’s bench. The sharp smell of the tannery is in the air and in their clothes. All Beirut wears their shoes.

Look at the children outside the church in their freshly pressed clothes, and the girls have ribbons in their hair. Look at the food spread on the luncheon table and the hands that pass the platters. Someone has told a joke and there is laughter. Someone pulls an instrument from its case.

Speak of those times, or don’t, when the parties take up arms against each other. How the women of one church throw boiling water out the window on the men with guns. When all Beirut stops fighting, for how many more weeks do the Armenian men continue to shed each other’s blood?

Speak then of the flowering: the neighborhood children grow tall. Among them are musicians, actors, painters and poets. In this world their parents have rebuilt from ashes, they now believe anything is possible, and everything is new.

Remember this: when the Civil War comes, neutrality is no amulet against the bullets and the bombs. Jewelers flee the downtown souk for Bourj Hammoud, where the militiamen patrol the night and then also the day. So many boats leave the port. Carrying leather suitcases to the airports, so many are exiled again.

Remember Nor Adana, Nor Marash, Nor Sis. Men still play backgammon and grill meat on braziers on the sidewalk. Remember the narrow alleys and wooden houses of Sanjak Camp, razed for a shopping plaza. Oh people of long memory, listen, look, speak, remember: your stories are a homeland.

*

“Homage to Bourj Hammoud” appeared in the 2015 PEN World Voices Online Anthology

http://www.pen.org/flash/two-pieces-nancy-kricorian

Nancy Kricorian

New York City


Journey to Hope and Back

 

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Diyarbakir’s Sur District after several months of military siege

 

In the space of eighteen months I traveled to Turkey three times—in June 2014 on an Armenian Heritage Trip throughout the country that I wrote about for Guernica; in September 2014 to Istanbul as part of Columbia University’s Women Mobilizing Memory Workshop; and again in April 2015 to Istanbul for events commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide.

For an Armenian in the post-genocide Diaspora, several generations removed from ancestral home places and collective trauma, going to Turkey was a fraught experience, but I forged important bonds in the land where my grandparents were born. Among other inspiring and moving experiences, I visited their hometowns, and I went to Sunday services at the newly restored Sour Giragos Armenian church in Kurdish Diyarbakir’s Sur District. While in mainstream society and the media I observed denial about exactly what happened to the Armenians in 1915, as well as a disturbing current of anti-Armenian “racism” (for want of a better word), I became friends with progressive Turkish and Kurdish artists and intellectuals. We talked openly about the Armenian Genocide, and I learned more about Turkey’s complicated internal politics and history. When I left Istanbul at the end of April 2015, I fully expected that I would return in 2016 to continue the relationships and work we had begun, and even imagined that I would be in Diyarbakir to commemorate the one-hundred-and-first anniversary of the genocide.

Many of my new friends campaigned for HDP (People’s Democratic Party), a progressive, multicultural and pro-Kurdish party, in the lead-up to the June 2015 elections. When HDP crossed the required 11% threshold for entrance to the parliament—and even surpassed it by taking 13% of the vote—there was much jubilation. This was for a short time a season of hope.

When Turkish President Erdogan and his AKP party did not achieve a parliamentary super-majority that would allow them to rewrite the Turkish constitution, the government reignited its war against the Kurds in the summer of 2015 and forced another round of elections in November. It is beyond the scope of this post to discuss the many dismal events since July 2015, or the complicated internal and external politics involving the civil war in Syria, a massive refugee crisis, and the double and triple games being playing by all political actors in the region. But brutal, months-long military sieges have reduced many Kurdish neighborhoods and towns in Turkey’s southeast to rubble. Several suicide bombings have strewn dozens of bodies across the streets of Ankara, Suruc, and Istanbul. Erdogan’s renewed war on the Kurds has turned into a war against a thousand academics who signed a peace petition. Things have now devolved so far that freedom of the press, academic freedom, and freedom of speech are under threat in Turkey.

My Turkish and Kurdish academic friends who signed the peace petition are awaiting arrest and fear an imminent travel ban. And the neighborhood where Sourp Giragos is situated—where I had hoped to be on 24 April 2016—has become a bombed-out war zone.

In this dire situation, I look back on last year’s hopeful connections and realize that now, more than ever, the work of commemorating and recognizing the Armenian Genocide of 100 years ago is and must be intimately bound up with the ongoing struggle for justice for the Kurds and the fight for civil and human rights for all who live in Turkey.

 

UPDATE: The day after I wrote this, there was a deadly bombing attack on Istanbul’s popular Istiklal Avenue pedestrian shopping district. This is the same street on which we gathered with thousands of people in front of the French Consulate on 24 April 2015 for a solemn commemoration of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. (19 March 2016)

Nancy Kricorian

New York, NY


An Armenian-American Translated Into Arabic

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This week, because of the interest and good offices of my friend poet and editor Najwan Darwish, Al Araby in London published an interview I did with Elise Aghazarian. I met Elise and her family in Jerusalem and Ramallah during the 2010 Palestine Festival of Literature. Elise also translated my short prose piece “Homage to Bourj Hammoud.” (The English version can be found here.) I wish that I could read Arabic, but I have heard from friends that Elise did a beautiful job with both the interview and the translation. I love the photo of children playing in Sanjak Camp that she chose to illustrate the Bourj Hammoud piece.

Nancy Kricorian

New York City


Deeply, Madly, Incontrovertibly

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Some years ago at a regional film festival, a member of the festival’s board (who was also the wife of a media executive) approached me and said, “Congratulations!” I was puzzled. Had she somehow heard about the sale of my new novel? When she added, “You must be so proud of James,” I realized she was congratulating me on the fact that my husband was being awarded the festival’s screenwriting prize. When these kinds of felicitations for my spouse’s successes came my way again I was no longer confused, but I was mildly annoyed. I had my own accomplishments and didn’t feel it necessary to take credit for his, although I was indeed proud of him. But when INDIGNATION premiered at Sundance last month, I was more than ready to accept the congratulations. I had been involved with James’s directorial debut every step of the way, and had made every kind of investment—literal and figurative—that one could make. I also love and admire the film—deeply, madly, and incontrovertibly. (And I’m a tough critic, having once told my elder daughter that she was the second-best actor in the 4th grade production of Romeo and Juliet.)

The world premiere screening of INDIGNATION at the Sundance Film Festival sold out and the film won over the audience. It was delightful when everyone broke into spontaneous applause at the end of my favorite scene in the film. The Hollywood Reporter gave the film an intelligent RAVE and did a short video interview with James, and actors Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, and Tracey Letts. Lionsgate bought the North American distribution rights hours after the screening, which means the film will be coming to a theater near you later this year at a yet-to-be-determined date. And FilmNation has sold distribution rights around the globe—tell your overseas friends to look out for it. INDIGNATION’S European premiere is scheduled for February 14 at the Berlin Film Festival. I call that the best Valentine’s Day gift ever.

 

Nancy Kricorian

New York City


Turkey’s Renewed War on the Kurds

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Diyarbakir’s Sur District during curfew

 

Since Erdoğan’s AKP lost its super-majority in the June 2015 elections, when the progressive, pro-Kurdish HDP party crossed the 10% threshold to be seated in Parliament, the situation in Turkey’s Kurdish region has deteriorated. The peace process that had been initiated in 2013 is now in shambles. Noam Chomsky described it thus: ‘The responsibility for the present self-inflicted crisis in the country must lie squarely with Erdoğan, who perceives the Kurds—whether it is the HDP [the pro-Kurdish, left-leaning party which gained 81 seats at the last election], the PYD in Syria or the PKK [the separatist Kurdish Workers’ Party]—as obstacles to his plan to establish supreme rule for the Turkish presidency.’

 

It is beyond my expertise and the scope of this post to analyze the complicated underlying political maneuvering that gave rise to the new round of violence—with many of the involved political actors playing double and triple games. My focus here is on the way that the Turkish government’s renewed war against the PKK has had a terrible impact on civilians in the Kurdish regions of Turkey.

 

The Turkish government has mobilized its war machine in Kurdish cities, towns and villages, resulting in great suffering in the civilian population in these places. They have also arrested a number of local HDP officials and parliamentarians, accusing them of being members of the once-again demonized PKK.

 

A Turkish friend sent this update last week:

 

We receive the news of civilians, politicians, children, elderly people dying under horrifying attacks and tortures (not to mention the armed people who are involved in the fight). More than half of the country prefers to ignore, or to believe in the news reports that are provided by the government. Some want to believe that the armed forces of the state would only commit such violence to protect the unity of the country. The rest of the people are suppressed, and begin to feel almost helpless. We keep signing petitions, posting things on social media, and the ones who support the peace loudly, get arrested, tortured, or just like the human rights defender, Kurdish lawyer and the chairman of Diyarbakır Bar Association Tahir Elci, get killed.  

 

There’s a systematic and organized killing of a particular group, the Kurdish people, right in front of our eyes, and we see hundreds of them being forcibly displaced by the state. We hear that they cannot collect the dead bodies of their mothers, or their children from the street, while they lie there for ten days, rotting right before their eyes, in front of their windows. They cannot go out to retrieve the dead bodies due to the bombardment and the snipers. We hear of a grandfather getting killed on the way to the hospital, while carrying a white flag in one hand and in the other hand a three-month old baby who was hit when their house was shelled. We hear about a father seeing his son’s eye carved out when he finds him at the mortuary. It has become a horror story, and I am afraid, we are not well organized enough to come together, understand what is happening and stop this crime. Most people are helplessly waiting for it to end by itself. An artist friend in Diyarbakir, with whom I am in correspondence every day, said, ‘Everything will become ‘normal’ again, once there are enough people who have been killed.’

 

The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey recently issued a fact sheet outlining the devastating effects of recently imposed curfews, with accompanying military actions. The report states:

 

Since 16 August 2015, there have been 58 officially confirmed, open-ended and round-the-clock curfews in at least 19 districts of 7 cities (primarily Diyarbakır, Şırnak, Mardin and Hakkâri) where approximately 1 million 377 thousand people reside (according to the 2014 population census). During these officially declared curfews, fundamental rights of people such as Right to Life and Right to Health have been violated and 162 civilians (29 women, 32 children, 24 people over the age 60) lost their lives according to the data of HRFT Documentation Center.

 

In response to the violence and to the suffering of Kurdish civilians, a group of Turkish academics initiated a petition entitled “We Will Not Be Party to this Crime.” The text, which you can read in full here, summarizes what the authors see as Turkey’s human rights violations against its citizens in the Kurdish region. (The petition web site has been hacked by right-wing Turkish nationalists multiple times; if you cannot access it at the link above try this one.)

 

The Turkish state has effectively condemned its citizens in Sur, Silvan, Nusaybin, Cizre, Silopi, and many other towns and neighborhoods in the Kurdish provinces to hunger through its use of curfews that have been ongoing for weeks. It has attacked these settlements with heavy weapons and equipment that would only be mobilized in wartime. As a result, the right to life, liberty, and security, and in particular the prohibition of torture and ill treatment protected by the constitution and international conventions have been violated. 

 

The petition concludes:

 

We, as academics and researchers working on and/or in Turkey, declare that we will not be a party to this massacre by remaining silent and demand an immediate end to the violence perpetrated by the state. We will continue advocacy with political parties, the parliament, and international public opinion until our demands are met.

 

In response to the petition, which has garnered over 1,400 signatures, including the names of many international academic celebrities including Noam Chomsky and Judith Butler, Erdoğan has called the signers in Turkey “traitors,” saying, ““You are either on the side of the state or of the terror organization and terrorists.” The Turkish Council of Education has suggested it might take legal action against the professors who have signed the petition, and the inflammatory rhetoric dropped to a new low when a notorious gangster threatened violence against academics calling for peace negotiations.

 

In the face of this brutality and repression, it is important that the international community spread awareness about what is happening in the Kurdish region and in Turkey. If you would like to take action, you can sign this petition from Amnesty calling for an end to Turkey’s arbitrary restrictions on movement. If you are an academic or a graduate student, you can add your name to “We Will Not Be Party to This Crime” by sending an email with your name and institutional affiliation to info@barisicinakademisyenler.net. Journalists, writers, and students in Turkey have issued statements in support of the scholars, and you can find these and other updates on the Bianet site.

 

There is an old Kurdish proverb that says “Kurds have no friends but the mountains.” Now is a good time to show that people who care about justice care about the Kurds.

 

Update: The day after this was posted, 21 academics in Turkey who had signed the petition “We Will Not Be Party to This Crime” were detained by Turkish police. 

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Kurdish children playing on rooftop in Diyarbakir’s Sur District. (Photo by Nancy Kricorian)

 

Nancy Kricorian

New York City

 


Among The Hedgehogs

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On January 12 at the Tenement Museum, I introduced a book launch event for my friend Dawn Anahid MacKeen. Below are my brief words of introduction.

 

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” This fragment of verse by the Greek poet Archilochus was famously explored by Isaiah Berlin in his celebrated essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay About Tolstoy’s View of History.” Berlin divided thinkers into two categories—the hedgehogs and the foxes—and attempted to argue that Tolstoy was a hedgehog with foxlike tendencies. Berlin later said, “I never meant it very seriously. I meant it as a kind of an enjoyable intellectual game, but it was taken seriously.” And so without taking too seriously either the Archilochus fragment or the Berlin essay, I would like to suggest to you that Dawn and I are hedgehogs. (I have a hunch that Raffi has hedgehog-like tendencies as well, but I don’t know his work broadly enough to make that claim.) When I say that Dawn and I are literary hedgehogs, this is because each of us spent ten years researching and writing our recent books. While the foxes of the writing world were happily producing books at regular, frequent intervals, we were digging into our respective very deep holes, burrowing so deeply, in fact, that at times we even doubted that we’d be able to find our way to the surface again.

In Dawn’s case, these efforts have resulted in the book we are here to celebrate tonight. The Hundred-Year Walk is a meticulously researched, beautifully written, and thoughtful work in which Dawn has woven together memoir, travel chronicle, family lore, and political history. It is a deeply personal story, but as the subtitle indicates—An Armenian Odyssey—it is also part of a community and a communal project.

One hundred years ago, Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were the victims of a horrific crime—the mass annihilation of hundreds of thousands of people, and the near complete erasure of Armenians from the lands where they had lived for many centuries, if not from the beginning of recorded history.  In the face of these devastating losses, most of those who survived were dispersed around the world where they fashioned new families and communities. These communities were bound together by religious institutions, by language, and by shared history. They were also knit together, I would argue, by the stories that they told—stories about the towns and villages that were lost, about the people who died and those who survived, and about their lives in these new lands. These stories were passed from parent to child, and more frequently from grandparent to grandchild.

But these narratives are also produced by the modern-day equivalent of the Armenian ashough or troubadours. In memoirs, novels, histories and poems, post-genocide Armenian writers—many in the Diaspora, and often using the languages of their adopted countries—have created new geographies of connection and belonging—geographies that are not simply stories of return, but stories with motion of their own, that take us to places both grounded in history and unmoored in imagination.

What Dawn has given us in The Hundred-Year Walk is a multi-generational story of resilience and survival. She and Raffi are going to talk to us now about the process of writing the book, as well as about the ways the past, the present, and the future inform and create each other. And after we hear more about Dawn’s and her grandfather’s journeys, I exhort you to buy at least two copies of her book—one for home and one for the road.

 

Nancy Kricorian

New York City