08/23 Watertown Tab: One Watertown family remembers the Armenian Genocide

One Watertown family remembers the Armenian Genocide
Jillian Fennimore, Staff Writer
Thu Aug 23, 2007, 12:29 PM EDT

WATERTOWN, MA - Narini Badalian, 25, represents the next generation of Armenians and local residents who stand proud to speak out about their history and the reality of what they know as the Armenian Genocide.

Her parents, Tatoul and Varteni, are sure to stand by her side, their own lives representing a long history of pain and emotion.

Born and raised in Watertown, Narini said her community is in the middle of a historical moment as they break away from a “No Place for Hate” controversy.

Just one week ago, she took the podium moments before the town dissolved its “No Place for Hate” committee and severed ties with the program’s sponsor, the Anti-Defamation League, for the ADL stance on the mass deaths of Armenians from 1915-1923. Many historians agree it was a campaign of extermination waged against ethnic Armenians by the Ottoman government. As many as 1.5 million Armenians died.

The attention on the ADL’s stance was first sparked from a letter published in the TAB & Press. And now, ever since Watertown took a stand and claimed independence from the organization, many other communities are looking to follow.

Over the past week, the ADL fired Regional Director Andrew Tarsey after he publicly acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. Then the ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, issued a statement that the tragic events of more than 90 years ago were “tantamount to genocide.”

Narini said her community is heading in the right direction.

“I’m very proud with what has been happening in Watertown,” she said. “At a certain point, people have to say enough is enough.”

As residents of the East End, Narini and her parents, along with brother, Shirvan, live among close to 8,000 other Armenians in town. After leaving her home in Istanbul, Turkey, her mother, Varteni, came to the United States to “escape racism” and focus energies on her art as a painter.

Just on her maternal side, Varteni said more than 200 people perished in the Armenian Genocide. Her grandparents where exiled and “lucky to survive,” but their brothers were not so fortunate.

“[They died] only because they called themselves Armenians,” she said. “What pains me is that we were silenced in Turkey. I came to this country to breathe.”

Inside their Walnut Street home, photographs, books and artwork cover the walls and fill the shelves. Stirring a pot of strong, Armenian-style coffee, Varteni pours it into cups and waits for the last sip to read fortunes and predict people’s futures from the grinds.

Tatoul said the future is in their hands now. He came to this country from Iran “in search of liberty.”

“Here I am, in the strongest country in the world, a part of the world where we can do something about it,” he said about taking a stand against the ADL. “I’m the energy that makes it move.”

When the word “controversy” comes up, he says what’s happening now shouldn’t be classified as such.

“It’s been part of our struggle … a dialogue going on for years,” he said. “I’m now discovering why I’m here. You can actually feel it in this country … I can still feel it.”

In January, Varteni said she felt like she lost a relative when Armenian journalist and activist Hrant Dink was assassinated. Dink, 52, was shot outside his office on a busy Istanbul street, simply because he spoke out about the freedom of expression regarding the Armenian Genocide.

Now Varteni feels the need to fight and seek justice for human rights in his honor.

“This is something that is touching our life chord,” she said.

Narini said both tolerance and activism should continue in town. Regardless of the ADL coming out in apparent recognition of the genocide, the key is whether the ADL will support the Congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Foxman has come out with a statement saying that the legislation is a “counterproductive diversion” that may “put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States.”

“It’s not going to end here,” said Narini. “The denial is very real. It’s now.”

Hitler’s infamous invocation
Narini Badalian read the following infamous quote from Adolph Hitler during her presentation to Town Council on Aug. 14. Hitler was speaking to his generals on the eve of the invasion of Poland in 1939:

“I have issued the command — and I’ll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad — that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation in readiness — for the present only in the East — with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women and children of Polish derivation and language.

Only thus shall we gain the living space [Lebensraum] which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

Source: http://www.wickedlocal.com/watertown/homepage/x1359807993