Turks Counter High School Genocide Classes


By Tom Vartabedian

Just when you think life has dealt you a pat hand, along comes a conniver to steal your pot.

For the past four years, members of our Armenian Genocide Education Committee of Merrimack Valley have filtered in and out of high schools north of Boston.

We have also expanded our reach to include schools around Greater Boston, like Newton South. Scores of children have benefited by our lessons. In most every case, instructors have been overwhelmed by the impact being made for they, too, come out learning a valuable lesson in history.

There hasn’t been one repercussion, not even a grunt from a naysayer — until now. A vile and vindictive article from a pro-Turkish website (www.historyoftruth.com) enraged me, bearing the headline: “Armenians Spreading Their Lies at High Schools.”

The gutless piece failed to carry a by-line, thus making it more intolerable. What’s more, a photograph of Wilmington High students holding samples of postage stamps they had designed carried the inscription: “Their Lies Reached Schools.”

The group photo also had the two presenters that day — myself and Albert S. Movsesian. The event was to generate ideas for a postage stamp to be sent to the Postmaster General of the United States in an effort to get a commemorative stamp for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 2015.

A completely harmless project meant to both elucidate and arouse our younger non- Armenian population was slurred with malice.

The rebuttal was generated in response to an all-encompassing piece written by Chairman Dro Kanayan, giving readers a fairly detailed account of the progress made in schools this year. How effective has it been?

While attending a grand-niece’s Chelmsford High graduation party the week before, I approached a table occupied by students who had been addressed during a genocide class taught by Jennifer Doak.

“Hey, you look familiar. Aren’t you the guy who spoke to us about the Armenian Genocide?” a co-ed remarked.

“Yes, that’s me,” I replied. “What do you remember most about the class?” “How difficult it was for your race to be slaughtered like that,” she replied. “We loved the story about the Calvin Coolidge Orphan Rug and how it found its way to the White House.”

The article goes go to say that the “Armenian Diaspora is spreading its lies by telling them at high schools.”

The next paragraph quoted Kanayan’s story:

“Armenian researcher Dro Kanayan said for those people who feel that our elders and the youth cannot work together, don’t worry.

“Kanayan and both of his peers, Albert Movsesian and Tom Vartabedian, have been working together to have the so-called Armenian Genocide included in the high school curriculum on Human Rights in the Merrimack Valley.

“They are teaching students about the so- called Armenian Genocide and Armenian culture.”

The story goes on to say how we have “poisoned” the students in over 10 high schools, providing individual classroom presentation on comparative genocides over the past 100 years The account proceeded to implement other high schools including a deaf student we had encountered at Newton South who learned about the Genocide through American Sign Language.

Adding more insult to injury, a second photo was used of Dro Kanayan holding a picture of his famous grandfather General Dro, who led the siege at Bash Abaran during World War I.

I should be fuming over such poppycock. Instead, I hold no regret over those who are ill-informed and continue to show their absurdity. The more Turkey refutes histori- cal fact, the more scornful it becomes. The more truth will prevail and people will see how superficial the Turkish government continues to remain.

I recall once how vandals had climbed to the top of a billboard in Watertown and defaced a Genocide sign that had been sponsored by activist/artist Daniel Varoujan Hejinian. For years, Hejinian has been putting up these notices to draw attention during April 24.

For the most part, the Armenian papers have publicized the act, but nothing ever caught the attention of the American press, which matters more.

The fact that some screwball scaled a building at night to commit an act of degradation suddenly became media hype. It appeared in newspapers and television networks, giving the Armenian Genocide more exposure than normal.

During a commemoration that week in Merrimack Valley, a local priest approached the podium and remarked about the insanity.

“If that’s the way our genocide is going to catch the outside public’s eye, then let the billboards be vandalized,” he lashed out. “And let those responsible find guilt in the process.”

Armenians spreading their lies in our high schools? Students being misinformed? Human rights not being violated?

We must be living in a Utopia.

(Tom Vartabedian is a former photographer journalist for The Haverhill Gazette and a frequent contributor to the Mirror-Spectator.)