By Ann-Margret “Maggie” Yonan
Turlock, Ca. 8/7/2017
On Monday, August 7th, 2017 Assyrians of Stanislaus County with the help of the coordinator, Carmen Mourad held an Assyrian Genocide Remembrance Day at CSU Stanislaus in the Mainstage Theater to commemorate the Assyrian genocide from 1914-1918.
The evening started at 6 pm with a reception of Assyrian appetizers in the main lobby, including an art exhibit at the gallery featuring Nahrin Malki, Jelbert Karami, Fadi Khiyo, and Ninos Chammo.
The president of the university, Ellen Junn gave a welcome speech and introduced the Middle East historian, Dr. Stacy Fahrenthold, who was recently appointed as the Director of Modern Assyrian Heritage Project funded by Francis Sarguis in 2015.
Bishop Mar Awa Royel’s invocation initiated the evening’s program followed by an epic poem written and recited by Rabee Yosip Bet-Yosip titled “The Assyrian Genocide of the 20th Century” in the Assyrian language. Rosie Malek Yonan’s short video “An Assyrian Exodus” was shown followed by a speech by Mona Malik, Special Projects Coordinator for the Assyrian Aid Society of America and the United Nations NGO representative to the Assyrian Aid Society-Iraq. Mona presented a perspective that reflects on three key issues around genocide:
1- Indicators (litmus test, gauge, a barometer that would alert us of an impending genocide. 2-Coping with Trauma inherited from the survivors of Genocide. Recent scientific research has indicated that descendants of survivors of genocide inherit the trauma thru DNA. 3-The Resistance taking place like no other time in our history. “The conditions that allow for a genocide to occur are a long, slow process of persecutions, human rights violations and a combination of triggering factors that enable an atrocity like genocide to occur. Triggering factors that are left unresolved, un-prosecuted and ignored, become dangerous breeding grounds for a genocide to take place.”
Dr. Stacy Fahrenthold spoke for a few minutes describing the Modern Assyrian Heritage Project at Stan State and its goals and missions, inviting all Assyrians to participate in contributing to the project’s growth and development through research, planning, and production of materials.
Many resolutions were presented to CSU Stanislaus president, Ellen Junn, through the office of Turlock Assembly member Heath Flora and the Modesto office of Congressman Jeff Denham for the university’s outstanding achievement in bringing attention to the Assyrian Genocide, and to Francis Sarguis for his generous fund to the university Assyrian Project.
The Keynote speaker was Mr. Sabri Atman, Director, and Founder of the Assyrian Genocide Center (SEYFO) who started his speech by asking the audience “Imagine your son or your daughter was killed and the murderers still roaming free. How many of you could rest and forget what happened? I guess none of you – right?”
Mr. Atman proceeded to skillfully outline the history of the Assyrian Genocide, which began in 1914 with programs, deportations, raids, and attacks on Christian population in the Ottoman Empire, murdering two-thirds of the Assyrian nation, and 1.2 million Armenians and displacing the rest by the end of 1918. In describing the details of the planning and organization of the genocide by the Turkish government, Mr. Atman gave specific examples of how Turkey achieved its goal of ethnically cleansing the Turkish Fatherland and homogenizing the Turkish population, eradicating the Christian communities which consisted of Assyrians, Armenians, and Greeks. “We talk about past genocides in order to prevent future genocides. For many of us, it is a moral obligation to ensure that past genocides are not forgotten. In addition to that, Assyrian genocide is an open wound because the perpetrator denies what they did against our people. We should keep in mind that in 1915 the perpetrator did not only kill our people; they did not only take our Diyarbekir, Hakkari, Urhoy, Urmiya, Tur Abdin and many other places from us! In 2014 they didn’t only take Mosel and Khabour from us. They did not only destroy our language, our national identity but they also destroyed our future to be a nation in our ancient homeland.”
Mr. Atman closed his presentation with another question: “Will you forget about all these atrocities, or will you hold them accountable for the crime they have committed and ask for justice? Please do not forget, denial is to be killed twice!”