In Southern California, There are Many Words for Genocide

Did you know April was genocide month? That's more or less what I found out when a Long Beach councilman sent me an email about his proposal to declare April as "Genocide Awareness Month." He detailed how the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, and the Cambodian genocide all had their beginnings in one way or another in the month of April.

There are a lot of Jews, Armenians, and Cambodian who either lived through these genocides or whose ancestors died in the various killing fields. How do the youth of these communities learn about the genocide? I produced three radio stories trying to answer the question.

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During the reporting I was able to sit among these youth as they heard the stories for the fist time, for the upteenth time, as they sobbed, as they wondered why their parents and grandparents didn't talk about the killings, as they seethed in anger against the perpetrators, and as they heard the shame of survivors describing the perpetrator as another person of the same nationality.

At a rare remembrance event at Long Beach City College, Cambodian Americans in their twenties told me they didn't know the Cambodian word for genocide. Their parents and grandparents, when the subject came up in bits and pieces, talked about the targeted killing in the 1970s of anyone perceived of being educated as "the time of Pol Pot." Having a word is significant. Having more than one word is important. The genocide is the reason there are so many Cambodians in Southern California. Many survivors don't want to talk about what they saw, what they did to stay alive. They want to forget. That's not how the mind works. A psychologist at the event talked about genocide survivors passing on post traumatic stress disorder symptoms to their U.S. born children.

I drove up to Adat Ariel, a private Jewish elementary school in the San Fernando Valley on April 19. That day and the night before Jewish synagogues observed Yom HaShoa. Shoa means total destruction, holocaust, in Hebrew. An instructor with the Jewish education group BJE talked to a room full of 4th and 5th graders. He asked them where their ancestors were from; Poland, Germany, Israel, Australia, and Mexico were some of the answers. He then projected pictures of a pilgrimage he took to a Nazi death camp and he told the story a survivor had told him about how he saw his brother hanged by the Nazis. All the kids eyes were wide open. There was no time wasted denouncing the Nazis for their effort to exterminate all European Jews during World War Two. The remembrance is focused on the souls of the individuals killed and the extinguishing of a precious life, during the war and after.

In Glendale I sat in the cavernous Glendale High School auditorium as Armenian American kids sang nationalistic Armenian songs of war, sacrifice, and the mother land, as the high school's choir sang the Star Spangled Banner, and the Armenian national anthem, and as a student recited a poem by Paruyr Sevak, Armenia's best known chronicler, in verse, of the 1915 killing of more than a million Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish Empire. In the auditorium lobby, a few of the high school students began, unprompted, a vigorous argument for the United States and the current Turkish government to officially recognize the killings as genocide. Their debate quiver is full of historically-based arguments and counter arguments that they learn at home and in after-school Armenian clubs. Armenians believe they wouldn't be in the United States, in Lebanon, in Iran, or Argentina if it wasn't for the genocide, therefore Armenian identity is woven into the same fabric as the effort to win recognition for the genocide.

That's what I saw, the ways in which hundreds of thousands of the people -- the ones we work with, stand in line behind, watch Lakers games next to, and sit in traffic with -- carry the genocide of their ancestors.

Poet and KPCC Reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez writes his column Movie Miento every week on KCET's SoCal Focus blog. It is a poetic exploration of Los Angeles history, Latino culture and the overall sense of place, darting across LA's physical and psychic borders.

About the Author

Adolfo’s been a reporter at NPR affiliate KPCC since 2000. He’s reported on three L.A. mayors, four L.A. Unified superintendents, and covered the LAPD batons and rubber bullets flying at the May, 2007 MacArthur Park immigrant marc...
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People who sincerely want to condemn genocides should pay attention to that the claims of Armenian genocide is political instead of historical. Because, many Reputable Scholars Challenge The Conventional, One-Sided Anti-Turkish Narrative And / Or Refrain From Alleging The Crime Of Genocide

These Are Their Words

Background – War And Imperial Collapse

The collapse of the Ottoman Empire dramatically rearranged the map of a vast region. What was once a sprawling, multi-ethnic empire splintered into more than two-dozen new nations, from the Balkans to the Caucasus to the Arabian peninsula. Across the surface of these lands unfolded a profound human tragedy. Nearly incessant war crippled the Ottoman economy. It left towns devoid of men to care for households or to tend crops. Military requisitions drained the countryside of livestock and many of the labor-saving implements of daily life. Disease ran rampant and famine struck many.

Vast Population Movements

As new states coalesced, large population masses streamed across the landscape, some fleeing the path of war, some seeking new lives among ethnic brethren or co-religionists, some having suffered expulsion, and some obeying negotiated population exchanges. Two such major movements were (a) the flight of Muslim refugees from newly-established Christian states in Balkans and the Caucasus into what would become modern Turkey during the period roughly between 1821 and 1922, and (b) the relocation of much of the Ottoman Armenian population from the war zone of eastern Anatolia into Ottoman domains in Syria, mainly in 1915-16.

A Genuine Historic Controversy

History records the enormous human suffering from both of these events: Perhaps 5.5 million Muslims, mostly Turks, died as refugees or were killed in the years immediately preceding and during World War I, as well as through the formative years of the Republic of Turkey. And certainly hundreds of thousands of Armenians died during the Armenian Revolt and the relocations consequently ordered by the Ottoman government. Scholars on the Ottoman Empire continue to examine the details and causes of these twin tragedies. What they have uncovered is not a singular tale of Christian woe, but rather a complex story that, if presented as evidence, would make it highly unlikely that a genocide charge could be sustained against the Ottoman government or its successor before a neutral arbiter.

Thus, whether the tragic suffering of the Ottoman Armenians meets the definition of the crime of genocide as provided by the . . .See Appendix 1 . . . United Nations Genocide Convention . . . Appendix 1 remains a genuine historic controversy. Moreover, the notion that the one-sided Armenian narrative is settled history must be utterly rejected so that researchers will feel free to delve into the details of these contested events.

Questions Considered

Among the work of the scholars below, many of whom are Ottoman history experts, are considerations of the following questions:

* Is the genocide label, which is so vigorously promoted by Armenian advocacy organizations appropriate?

* Did the Ottoman government during World War I possess the requisite intent described by the U.N. Genocide Convention, to destroy the Armenians?

* What was the Armenian * Revolt. . . See Appendix 2 . . . Armenian Revolt . . .Appendix 2 and how did it impact the Ottoman government’s decision to relocate Armenian civilians from eastern Anatolia?

* What was the ultimate toll upon the Armenian population? And how many deaths could be attributed to the various causes: intercommunal warfare, starvation, exposure, massacre, disease, etc.?

* What was the ultimate toll upon the Ottoman Muslim population embroiled in these same events? And how many deaths can be attributed to the same causes?

Their work establishes a better basis upon which to address historic grievances than the one-sided narrative most often provided in media accounts and by Armenian lobbyists and their advocates. In effect, these scholars provide the oft-ignored historical context, which is critical to any explanation of the shared past of the Turkish and Armenian peoples.

At a minimum, the list below demonstrates that in fact, there exists no common agreement that the genocide label is appropriate and that, contrary to assertions made by Armenian lobby groups, the details of the historic narrative remain open to further study and interpretation.

The Impact Of Physical And Academic Intimidation

Sadly, this list likely under-represents the number of scholars who would challenge the conventional wisdom on the Armenian tragedy. Those who write from a contra-genocide perspective have had to do so under extraordinary risk. Merely because of something he wrote, the home Prof. Stanford Shaw of U.C.L.A. was firebombed. Death threats have been received by Justin McCarthy and his family. The university press that published Guenter Lewy’s latest work was harassed by two Armenian scholars. (See, . . . Appendix 3: Ethnic Cleansing or Genocide . . . ? Appendix 3, by Masaki Kakiszaki, Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1, 85–92, Spring 2007.) The University of Southern California in 2006 buckled to the vociferous protest of an Armenian pressure group and canceled a symposium by two former Turkish diplomats. Meanwhile, foreign nations such as France and Switzerland have rendered it against the law even to hold the contra-genocide viewpoint. Princeton University’s Bernard Lewis was famously fined by a French court in 1995 for such an “offense.” And, the Armenian terrorist organizations ASALA and JCAG carried out no fewer than 73 acts of terrorism in North America alone, killing 16 people. Around the world, Armenian terrorists killed at least 50 more people, mostly Turkish diplomat murdered in planned assassinations and injured over 500, all in the name of “genocide recognition.” In short, the chilling effect this has had on free discussion and open debate on the history of the late Ottoman Empire has been genuine and severe, lowering a curtain of fear over the consideration of this important era of world history.

Additions And Subtractions

Our aim is to evaluate as closely as possible each name on the list based on the published statements or writings of each scholar that are readily available. We welcome visitor suggestions for additions to the list. And likewise, if you believe that a particular name ought not be on the list, please let us know. Our goal is to continue to openly discuss and debate the details of history and the genocide allegation. For feedback, please contact info at

Whether the tragic suffering of the Ottoman Armenians meets the definition of the crime of genocide as provided by the United Nations Genocide Convention [web] remains a genuine historic controversy. The notion that the one-sided Armenian narrative is settled history does not reflect the truth and must be utterly rejected.

The work of the following scholars demonstrates that there exists no common agreement that the genocide label is appropriate and that, contrary to assertions made by Armenian lobby groups, the historic narrative of this painful period in Ottoman-Armenian relations remains open to further study and interpretation. Furthermore, the work by the leading historians on the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East provides the oft-ignored historical context without which any explanation of the shared past of the Turkish and Armenian peoples is simply impossible.

Our aim is to evaluate as closely as possible each name on the list based on the published statements or writings of each scholar that are readily available. Our goal is to continue to openly discuss and debate the details of history and the genocide allegation. For feedback, please contact info at


* Arend Jan Boekestijn
* Mary Schaeffer Conroy
* Youssef Courbage
* Paul Dumont
* Bertil Duner
* Gwynne Dyer
* Edward J. Erickson
* Philippe Fargues
* Michael M. Gunter
* Paul Henze
* Eberhard Jäckel
* Firuz Kazemzadeh
* Yitzchak Kerem
* William L. Langer
* Bernard Lewis
* Guenter Lewy
* Heath W. Lowry
* Andrew Mango
* Robert Mantran
* Michael E. Meeker
* Justin McCarthy
* Hikmet Ozdemir
* Stephen Pope
* Michael Radu
* Jeremy Salt
* Stanford Shaw
* Norman Stone
* Hew Strachan
* Elizabeth-Anne Wheal
* Brian G. Williams
* Gilles Veinstein
* Malcolm Yapp
* Thierry Zarcone
* Robert F. Zeidner
* 69 US Academicians To House of Representatives, Petition 1985
*Appel De Blois (English)