Saturday, April 24, 2010 marks the 95th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. On April 24, 1915, in Constantinople, the Ottoman authorities arrested some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders. Thereafter, the Ottoman military uprooted Armenians from their homes and forced them to march for hundreds of miles, depriving them of food and water, to the desert of what is now Syria. Massacres were indiscriminate of age or gender, with rape and other sexual abuse commonplace.
A number of years ago I wrote a short story to commemorate the 80th anniversary. I reproduce it here.
Anoush can’t remember much these days.
The hurried packing of the household goods; the clatter of pots and tin cups as they were loaded into sacks. Dishes smashing as the Ottoman police forced them on. The squeak and crank of the cart as it grumbled over the rutted road.
She has can barely recall the river, where the guards tied together hundreds of them, attached rocks to their feet and watched them drown.
She has only hazy memories of the desert. The sun burning her face red ; the desperate need for water; the pounding of hooves of the Kurds on horseback as they poured down from the hills. The screams of the girls as they were set upon and raped.
She can’t remember now how her husband died or what became of her two girls. But she remembers the boy and the tree she felt might save his life.
” Leave him! ” she remembers her husband saying with tears in his eyes. ” Leave him or he will kill you and he will kill us!”
She remembers looking into his eyes one last time. His skin blanched and his cheeks swollen. She thought she saw him smile. And the fading sounds of his gurgles as the ragged convoy moved on.
As she stumbled on, she noticed the silhouette of two wolves on a nearby hill.
” Gone,” she mumbles, as she looks out now at the distant hills.” But the boy……….what happened to the boy?”
She rests back in her chair and wipes a veined, wrinkled hand across her brow.
” The wolves,” she smiles wanly as she rocks back and forth, ” I know the wolves are taking care of my son.”