Friday, April 24, 2015

The Armenian Genocide began on this day one hundred years ago

Zareh's prose poems— some composed as letters to various public officials during the 75th anniversary debate over recognition of the Armenian Genocide were widely published in the Armenian-Armerican and American press. They provoked many rhapsodizing responses which often included speculation about the nature of "Zareh's" real identity. One week after the publication of this letter, for example, the Armenian Reporter published an "Open Letter to Zareh" by noted author and newspaper contributor Hagop Touryantz. It began:

"Dear Zareh: Your Open Letter to Senator Robert Byrd—I read it once, I read it twice, I read it thrice and in admiration I saved it in my files side by side with the best of the best I have seldom come across in our papers. In the space of an open letter, its content is a lecture in history. In substance it is a course of logic, in spirit it is a lesson in morality, in style it is a beautiful literary piece..."

There was some speculation that Zareh was a secondary school student of the great martyred poet Daniel Varoujan in Sivas. Zareh would have been been ninety or near ninety. His real identity was never uncovered. 

This piece first appeared in the Armenian Reporter on March 8, 1990.

An Open Letter To Sen. Robert Byrd
By Zareh 

Dear Senator Byrd,

I stood at Musa Dagh and read the destiny of my people in the stars. I learned to wrestle through the night with the dark angel of despair and to wrest a blessing at the break of dawn. Unshod, I wondered with my people: I saw the lightnings and the clouds and heard the thunder roll around Ararat. I learned how to suffer and hunger; I was with my people fighting in Erzerum and by the waters of the Euphrates. I stood with my blinded people in their agony, and heard their wild cries of desperate courage. I was awed by the way they remained free, even in death, refusing to reject God by enslaving themselves to a Sultan. I learned of a God Whom Heaven, Heaven of Heavens, cannot contain, and Whose compassion extendeth to all, even to the stranger who cometh out of a far country.

I marched with my stronger brothers before they were massacred and shuddered at the wrath of their spirit as they lashed out against oppression and injustice, against false gods and gilded idols, against blind leaders and lying prophets. I marveled at their infinite compassion for the weak, the denied, and the wronged. From them I learned about our spirit and what a raging fire within one's heart an unfulfilled mandate of God may become.

I wondered with my more thoughtful brothers, my poets and writers, before the night of April 24. (Senator, this was the first night of genocide, the night hundreds of religious, political, and intellectual leaders were gathered up and shot. It was systematic, you see, not random, not incidental, as you have been claiming in the halls of Congress.) I wandered with them by the slow moving waters of Van and I heard their oaths of deathless loyalty. I entered their humble and improvised churches, and I discovered that prayer and devout study are beautiful, and as acceptable to God as the sacrifices of gold.

I, too, was captured, but was one of the few who did not die. I returned from captivity and stood with those who tried to rebuild our country. I learned how people can build upon ruins. I moved among the mountains of the Caucasus pulling down the heathen altars with the lionhearted sons of Armenia. But we were too few.

Into the long dark exile I wandered with my people, into many lands I walked with them the weary highways of the world. I was with them when they drank deep out of the bitter chalice of pain, humiliation and hate. But never did I fail to sense the stress of their imperious vision, their pride of a great past, their superb courage, their unflinching faith.

And then I saw the night lift and the dawn break and into a reborn world, drenched with a new light of freedom and justice I marched with them exultingly. We arrived in the harbors of New York and I heard the shackles fall from their limbs. I saw the radiance of their emancipated minds and hearts. I beheld them, mounting on an eagle's wing, rising to bless the world with matchless gifts of heart and mind in every field of human creation.

And into freedom our one and one half million dead followed us. We could not let them go. Could we ever part company with this immortal band? They had become too dear and precious to us. But now the night descends again on them, and into the dark and storm they are wandering forth once more. Shall I leave them now? Can I leave them now? The records of their very existence burn for 75 years and Senator you not only do nothing to rescue them, you consciously fan the flames. I cannot understand this. The urgency of their pilgrimage is now coursing through my blood. Their beckoning shrine is now also the shrine of my quest.
Washington, DC.

An Open Letter To Zareh
The Open Letter that Armenian Reporter contributor Hagop J. Touryantz has addressed to 'Zareh' was prompted by an Open Letter that Washington, DC resident had written to Senator Robert Byrd. As readers recall, Senator Byrd led the fight against Senate's endorsement of the Armenian Genocide resolution that was subsequently defeated. For personal reasons, the author of the original letter chooses to write under the assumed name of "Zareh," rather than his real name. His Open Letter to Sen. Byrd appeared in the March 8, 1990 issue of this paper.

Dear Zareh:

Your "Open Letter to Senator Robert Byrd," I read it once, I read it twice, I read it thrice, and in admiration I saved it in my files side by side with the best of the best (articles and open letters) I seldom come across in our papers. In the space of an open letter, its content is a lecture in history. In substance it is a course of logic. In spirit is a lesson in morality. In style it is a beautiful literary piece.

Senator Byrd, devoid of convincing arguments, came up with a filibuster. Referring to the dictionaries, a filibusterer is: "a freebooter or soldier of fortune who engages in unauthorized warfare against a foreign country with which his own country is at peace, in order to enrich himself." Or in parliamentary parlance: "a member of a minority group of a legislative body especially the Senate, who obstructs the passage of a bill, making long speeches, introducing irrelevant issues."

America with Armenia and the Armenian people is at peace. It has always been so. We have a name for such soldiers of fortune. We call them mercenaries. I can't tell how Senator Byrd and the rest of the Senators and Congressmen who have voted against the passage of Resolution SJ Res. 212, with the blessing of the Administration, which would have designated April 24th the anniversary of the Armenian Martyrs' Day, are enriching themselves in the service of Turkey?

If it is out of conviction that a genocide has never occurred, then theirs will be a blatant demonstration of ignorance. In both of these instances not worthy of their position in the U.S. Congress where the human rights issue is declared to be a sacrosanct question never to be ignored.

Senator Robert Byrd had a podium in the U.S. Congress to disrupt justice. Zareh, like the rest of us, reached out with his pen. Not much ammunition in terms of competitive power. Perhaps with our perseverance we shall overcome. Perhaps Sophocles was right when he said that: "The truth is always the strongest argument."

In conclusion may I suggest having Zareh's letter sent to all the Senators and Congressmen who voted against the passage of the Resolution; for the ignorant to be enlightened, for the deceitful to be shamed.

Hagop J. Touryantz 
Flushing, NY


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