I am reposting this article and book review, originally published in January 2014, to commemorate the 100th anniversary, 24 April 2015, of this tragic event — as Pope Francis has called it, “the first genocide of the 20th Century.” The failure of the world to recognize this atrocity empowered Hitler to condemn to death millions in Europe. Stalin also had no compunction in slaughtering eleven million Russians.
Cymru/Wales was (and is) the only nation of the four countries of the United Kingdom to have acknowledged the Ottoman-Turk slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915. The Armenian Genocide Memorial was dedicated in 2007. Armenians are still waiting for the world to end the denial of this event. Turkey may wish to forget and call the genocidal actions a lie, but the evidence against the Ottoman Caliphate is clear.
How would the world react if Germany denied the slaughter of six million Roma, Jewish and disabled Europeans? How would the world react if the United States denied slavery or its treatment of Native Americans or the existence of Japanese internment camps? Rwandan Genocide, Radical Islam, U.S. S. Liberty: these are only a few of the misdeeds that were, and are, empowered by denial.
Admitting misdeeds is the first step to reconciliation.
Subtitle: A Welsh Discovery of Armenia
Canon Patrick Thomas, Chancellor of St. David’s Cathedral and Vicar of Christ Church in Caerfyrddin, gave this book to me while we waited for the bride to arrive for a Christmastide wedding. I’ve always been interested in Armenia since so many of my school friends were from this country. What makes this book even more valuable to me is that Canon Patrick has discovered historical connections and similarities between Cymru (Wales) and Armenia that illuminate the strengths and sufferings of both small countries.
While Cymru did not suffer genocide at the hands of its neighbor (on April 24, 1915, the Turkish government and army began a campaign to slaughter 1.5 million Armenians in one of the most shameful acts in human history and the first act of genocide of the 20thC), the effort to destroy its culture and language has been continuous over the centuries. Hitler, on the eve of war in 1939, planning to put to death men, women and children of Polish derivation and language, said “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
The Senedd (the Welsh government) is one of only a few countries which has recognized and commemorated the atrocities inflicted on the Armenians by the Turks.
The Welsh and Armenian cultures and languages share similar struggles for survival against the onslaught of neighboring countries. As the first Armenian novelist, Khachatur Abovian, remarked, “The guardian of a nation is its language and faith. And if we were to lose them, woe unto us!”
Despite the hardships both countries have faced over many centuries, both Cymru and Armenia have a similar call to courage: “Er gwaethaf pawb a phopeth, ry’n ni yma o hyd!” (From one of Dafydd Iawn’s most famous songs, Yma O Hyd.) “In spite of everyone and everything, we are still here.”
From Carmarthen to Karabagh: a Welsh discovery of Armenia is available on Amazon.