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Joumana Haddad

My 24 April 1915

Joumana Haddad recounts her family's trauma from the Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Genocide

“I love your sorrow, which is mine as well/My grief of grieves, all other woes above; I love your shattered breast, where still your love/sings on and on – a skylark wild with love.” – Daniel Varoujian

 

My grandmother survived the Armenian Genocide.

 

Well, almost.

 

She was born in 1912 in Antep (also known as Aintab or Gaziantep), situated in southeastern Turkey, the fifth child of the Markarian family, one of many families forming the city’s large Armenian community back then.

 

On that ominous day of April 1915, Ottoman soldiers killed her father in front of her eyes. They forced her family and thousands of other Armenians to abandon their homes and go to Aleppo. They all marched through the deserts, without food or water, and were harassed, tortured, and massacred. Millions died. On the road, my grandmother also lost her own mother and three brothers.

 

She, her older sister Lucine, and a younger brother, born in 1913, were the only survivors, thanks to the help of a family who took them along, watched over them, shared with them whatever food they were managing to find, and carried the two babies most of the way.

 

They all grew up in an orphanage in Aleppo, where my grandmother later met my grandfather Efraim, who was a Syriac Catholic from Mardin. Efraim’s family had also been driven out of their hometown by the Turks during the massacres, which included Christian minorities alongside the Armenians. A few years after their marriage, they moved to Beirut.

 

Grandma never spoke to us about any of this. I understand why. So I often close my eyes and try to imagine what she went through on that gloomy day when the genocide started, when she was merely a three-year-old child. I put myself in her shoes, and start talking:

 

“I am afraid. I am afraid and hungry and thirsty. Why did we leave dad behind? Why is my mom not answering me and not moving? Is she asleep? Why are my brothers not teasing me or picking flowers for me like they used to?

 

I am walking on people, and I hate it. But they are everywhere; the road is made of motionless bodies. Is this a game they are playing? But if it’s a game, why is everybody else crying? Walking on people is not a fun game. Come on, stand up, all of you. Enough playing already.

 

I see soldiers with rifles. Everywhere. They are angry. They hate us. Why do they hate us? What did we do to them? Why are they shooting at us? Why are they ripping women’s clothes and asking them to lie down on the ground? The women are screaming, but the soldiers don’t seem to mind. Is this a game too? When are we going back home?

 

Today I ate grass. It’s not good. It was covered with dust and I think there was a dead insect too. I miss mom’s food. I miss mom’s kisses, mom’s lap, mom’s smile. Why did we leave her behind? Is it because of me? Did I do something bad? Is she with dad now?

 

It is so hot. I am tired. I am tired and afraid. I am hungry and thirsty. I think I will sleep a little.

 

Lucine, wake me up when mom comes back.”

 

***

 

My grandmother committed suicide in Beirut in 1978. She was sixty-six; I was seven. She drank rat poison. I saw her lying on the kitchen floor, white foam coming out of her mouth. Every time I think about her, that is how I see her: not holding me in her arms; not telling me a story; not stroking my hair or giving me a thousand kisses, the way a grandparent should be remembered. No, I just see her lying on the ground, dead, and screaming all her unsaid, painful words in my head.

 

So, you see, my grandmother did not really survive the Armenian Genocide. Like many other sufferers, she was killed, only with a bit of delay: a time bomb was planted in her heart and soul on that sinister day of April 1915, and it exploded decades afterwards.

 

Here I am, here we are – the innumerable children and grandchildren of the victims – 99 years later, still waiting for justice; still waiting for the murderer to say, “I am sorry”.

 

Let it be known we won’t quit waiting anytime soon. Whether we will forgive him or not when he apologizes is another story.

 
Joumana Haddad is author of many books, among them “I Killed Scheherazade.” Her latest book, “Superman is an Arab – On God, marriage, macho men and other disastrous inventions” (Westbourne Press, London, 2012) is now available in Lebanese bookshops and on Amazon. Follow her on Twitter @joumana333

The remains of the dead. (Image courtesy of Dailystormer.com)

"Grandma never spoke to us about any of this."

  • moonz

    beautifully sad ... thank you

    April 24, 2015

  • W Fairhart

    You are my champ girl... and will always be... Luv U...

    April 28, 2014

  • Demetra, Athens

    excellent and magnificent, it is without reason the armenian and pontiac greek genocide, from where the terms derives, from greek languange, due to the systemic extermination of populations that had never between them any differences or were not indigenous, may the memory be eternal and grace and mercy on the deceased....

    April 28, 2014

  • tsogh

    This was such a beautiful blog, thank you for writing it. I am sorry your grandmother died the way she died. Many others who survived refused to speak about what they went through and later in life, they couldn't escape it in their dreams, or in their hallucinations. Although RTP is right to some extent, it doesn't mean we should be silent and not fight for justice. Capitalists are in power everywhere but if enough people speak out we can win the fight because we have truth and justice on our side. If the turks in turkey begin to learn the truth and stand up, they can bring down Erdogan and bring justice for the Genocide. I hope they begin to open their hearts and minds and begin to question why their barbaric leaders want to keep a lid on its history.

    April 28, 2014

  • rtp

    sorry to rain on your parade and memories but this isn't the first or last genocide that the world has decided to turn a blind eye on. Genocide of the american indians etc... every war in the world had thousands of innocent people getting killed for no military reason... you can look a little closer with the war in 2006 with isreal where a lot of lebanese died for no military reason, do you find lebanese people asking isreal for compensation or something... NO!!! is it fair NO!!! this is the world we live in, its simple politics... you have to learn two things. Be realistic in most cases you are but am dissapointed you let your emotions carry you like a sheep, following a hopeless political cause so blindly. Two you have to let go of the past and move forward in life. Do you really want to hear the word "sorry" seriously thats it? Do you want to take back the land? do you think they will give it back without an invasion? Do you really think they will admit it? and for God's sake, if you want to advertise about the genocite in lebanon you are advertising in the wrong country. Its not lebanon that are going to accept the genocide but turkey, so marketing 101 , know your audience! So you most likely think am an unhuman lebanese who has no sympathy to armenian. I'm lebanese because I'm my environment and the land i was raised in is lebanon (saddly), both of my parents are armenian so that makes my origin from armenia... you should look at the war in africa where children where forced to rape their mothers etc... you seriously think armenians are the only people who got it bad, what about jews etc... stop playing the pity us card, one has learn to accept reality and move forward into life and if you like armenia so much, please move there and nag on the border with turkey at least you would be closer to your right audience.... as robert frost puts it "life goes on"

    April 27, 2014

  • Patriot60

    Poor RTP. (...). Obviously, we must wait until you graduate from kindergarden to understand what Joumana Haddad wrote. Lebanon, the Republic of Hamir, to quote deputy Dory Chamoun...

    April 28, 2014

  • lenlen

    thank you Joumana

    April 27, 2014

  • wsamad119

    Sadly impressed by your sorrow,and by painful,yet beautiful narration (Wajib Abdel Samad)

    April 27, 2014