Guest speaker Meline Toumani came to SCSU to discuss her book, “There Was and There Was Not” on the Armenian Genocide, which was one of many events that was hosted by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education (CHGE).
The director of CHGE, Daniel Wildeson was pleased to have the guest speaker come to SCSU to discuss the Armenian Genocide and her book. He said wanted people to get a view on what happened within the Armenian community and the acts that took place.
“There is a debate going on whether the word ‘genocide’ should be included in the tragedies that happened in Armenia,” Wildeson said.
Toumani writes for the New York Times on Turkey and Armenia. She also writes on music, dance, and film. Her work has appeared on numerous media outlets including, The Nation, Salon, and The Boston Globe. She works with the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria, and is a coordinator of the Russian-American Journalism Institute in Rostov-on-Don. Toumani was born in Iran, is ethnically Armenian and she also lives in New York City.
April 24, 2015, marks the 100th commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. From 1915 through 1923, acts of hardship took place involving the systematic deportation, and extermination of the minority Armenian population in Anatolia. The enforcers in these criminal acts involved the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), who was a political party that controlled the Ottoman Empire government.
There were two major violence acts, the Hamaidian massacres and the Adana massacre. The two events ended with over 300,000 Armenians being killed, and the execution of over 250 spiritual, cultural and intellectual leaders of the Armenian community in Constantinople.
The destruction continued for a little over eight years with CUP going through towns and villages, subjecting them to rape and robbery as well. Many suffered horrible conditions, including starvation resulting in even more deaths. The total amount of the death of Armenians was roughly 1.2 million.
Toumani read the introduction and some short passages from her book. In her introduction, she discussed the views she knows about the Turkey government and how they view the Armenian Genocide.
“The Turkey government believes that there were Armenians who died, but died due to war casualties and don’t think 1.5 million people dying to be considered a genocide,” Toumani stated.
Toumani decided to take a trip to Turkey to get a feel on the country and how she can incorporate anything into her book. One of the questions asked by an audience member was, “did you find it difficult to go to Turkey, were you scared to be there?”
“The process of publishing the book and bringing it out to the public was scarier,” Toumani explained.
She goes on to say how when she was in Turkey, she was anonymous and no one knew who she was or why she was there.
Another issue brought up in her interview consisted on the topic of the word genocide and why is it powerful. She explained how she’s now sure why some people find it hard to accept this word. She explained how the president addressed the day that marks the Armenian Genocide, but never actually says the word genocide.
Toumani continues to travel and do work regarding the Armenian Genocide, and brings awareness to people around the world. She wants people to buy her book to get a better perspective on the iusse.