Armenia Photo Essay Essay Notebook Nicholas Sparks
In Ras al-Ain, we stayed in the back room of an Armenian home as people started coming by to see who I was.
“She is a Canadian Armenian looking for family roots,” the head of the family told them.
I knew about the Armenian Genocide, of course, but as a third generation Armenian American (on my father’s side), my grandparents didn’t want us to think about these terrible things.
They wanted us to be truly American, free of the sorrows of the old country, like many Americans who have fled starvation, war, genocide, dictatorship, and economic insecurity from all over the world.
At that time I heard from a trusted source that Syria had given its original official, contemporaneous documents on the genocide to Turkey.
The Turks maintained that since Syria was under Ottoman control in 1915, that the documents belonged to Turkey.
After we returned to Aleppo, we shopped in the souk and photographed a genocide memorial, but I made plans to fly immediately to Paris from Aleppo—and not through Damascus, as originally planned.My family always spoke of what happened to the Armenians. Simply say you are there to photograph Armenian culture.Do not check in with the authorities.” Syria has a proud record of having helped the Armenian refugees during and after the genocide.In Aleppo, Der Zor, and Margadeh, there were a lot of other people around.How could a woman in a church with a camera be a threat?At the time I photographed the Ras al-Ain site, the mass grave area was rented to local farmers by the Syrian Wakf (Islamic Trust), adjacent to a Muslim graveyard.The people in this region of Syria would not eat the produce grown on the mass grave and had to sell it far afield.I was hoping the photos I brought back would—besides being evidence—encourage the Armenian church in Syria to try and buy the Armenian mass grave land of Ras al-Ain from the Syrian Waqf (Islamic Trust), in order to protect it from total destruction.The erasure and/or denial of physical remains and documented history is a continuation and final act in genocide. In 2005, it was dangerous to go poking around the subject of the Armenian Genocide in Bashar al Assad’s Syria.But the genocide sites at the time of my 2005 trip were being compromised: A waterworks project complete with bulldozers was atop the Marghedah grave; Shadadeh was closed off as it is in an oil field.The mass grave at Ras al-Ain was being demolished by farmers.