10/20 MetroWest: One family scarred by genocide

One family scarred by genocide

By Peter Reuell, Daily News staff

Sat Oct 20, 2007, 11:52 PM EDT


For Kevork Norian, the question of whether the mass killing of Armenians after 1915 should be acknowledged as a genocide isn't one of righting the historical record, or musty academic debate.

For Norian, the genocide was frighteningly personal.

Norian, 89, and born at the end of World War I, was one of thousands of Armenians whose families were caught up in what would later be called the Armenian genocide, in which more than 1.5 million Armenians were killed and thousands more forced from their homes.

"My name is Kervork Norian and I am a survivor of two genocides," the Arlington resident said this week, from a couch in his living room.

"How did I survive? My father was in manufacturing clothing. When the Turks entered the war (World War I) they drafted two million soldiers, and they need clothing, so they took my father...and the families of those draftees were exempt from deportation. So that's why we survived."

Though recognized by most scholars and historians as meeting the traditional definition of genocide, the killings have returned to the headlines in recent months.

Earlier this year, Watertown officials pulled out of an Anti-Defamation League program due to the organization's refusal to recognize the killings as a genocide. Watertown has a large Armenian population.

The question of whether to recognize the genocide has in recent weeks erupted into an international controversy, as Democrats push ahead with a bill to recognize the genocide, while Turkish officials threaten to withdraw their support for the U.S. military in the region if the bill passes.

For Norian, though, the killings remain intensely personal.

At the end of World War I, the Turkish government began the forced deportation of thousands of Armenians to the desert of Syria, where they lived in what essentially was a refugee camp.

"So we settled in Syria, and lived a refugee life, that was (the) second genocide," he said of the forced relocation of Armenians to the Syrian desert.

Norian's entire family - seven people - was forced to live in a small, one-room shack, in an area where there was one toilet for every few hundred people.

The conditions were so bad, he said, his grandmother was killed by cholera which was spread through the water.

"But somehow we survived," he said. "I was five years old when we moved to Syria, and we remained there until 1964, and then we came to the United States.

"We were welcomed in the United States, we were accepted. We were treated with respect and dignity. I say, 'Thank You, USA for saving us from this hell."'

To see the killings again go unrecognized, Norian said, is as if they are being committed all over again.

"This is another genocide," he said. "They are not recognizing what happened. Americans say they are for justice and human rights, but when it comes to recognizing it, they are denying it.

"We suffered so much, and our wounds will not be healed until the world recognizes it. We are not asking more than that."

(Peter Reuell can be reached at 508-626-4428, or at preuell@cnc.com.)

Source: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/x2130892946