Since 2011, violence in Syria has worsened the widespread displacement of people in the Middle East and destroyed several cities. The images of displaced Syrian families fleeing to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon broadcast around the world had a haunting resonance. Archival photographs of Armenian refugee camps in Aleppo from one hundred years ago are today echoed by images of Syrian refugee camps across the southern Turkish border. Bourj Hammoud is widely regarded as Beirut’s Armenian neighborhood, built by survivors of the Armenian genocide of 1915–1919. This densely populated city has seen ethnic cleansing, transnational migration, war and displacement. Sadly, the Syrian crisis is a new chapter. Yet Bourj Hammoud has again become a place where people regroup and reimagine home, advocate for their families and wonder whether they might ever be able to return home.
Each year in April, the municipality of Burj Hammoud, a densely populated residential and commercial city just east of Beirut, hosts a three-day festival called Badguer, the Armenian word for “image.” Free and open to the public, the event has variously been staged in an old concrete factory, a blocked-off street and other sites. In 2012, Badguer was held at La Maison Rose, a newly opened cultural center for Armenian artists and craftsmen. Like the annual celebration, La Maison Rose is part of a local effort to promote “our living Armenian cultural patrimony.”
Martin van Bruinessen’s response in MERIP Reports 127 (October 1984) contains innuendos and inaccuracies which make it an unacceptable last word on the Armenian question.
Van Bruinessen equates Armenian and Turkish views of the mass killings of Armenians under the heading of “dogmatized versions.” In so doing, he ignores many eyewitness accounts of the mass murders of Armenians beginning in 1894 and continuing through Atatürk’s conquest of Smyrna in 1922. These accounts are not limited to those of Armenian survivors. They were recorded by people as varied as missionaries, ambassadors, military attaches and advisers, journalists, teachers, travelers and businessmen.
To The Editors:
Thanks for your outstanding and timely issue, “State Terror in Turkey,” (MERIP Reports, #121, February 1984). We would like to clarify a few issues about Armenians that were raised in the article, “The Kurds in Turkey.” Martin van Bruinessen states there that “fears that the Armenians would prove to be a fifth column in an armed conflict with Russia led to their deportation and the massacre of hundreds of thousands of them.” Such a viewpoint is a tragic distortion of historical reality and closely resembles the official line of successive Turkish regimes to justify the pre-meditated genocide and mass expulsion of the Armenian people from their native homeland in eastern Anatolia.