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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Not Only A Promise, But A Song As Well

Not Only A Promise, But A Song As Well
Vahe H. Apelian

 
The title might be ambigious. Let me state beforehand that it is about my take of the film “The Promise”. I saw it twice. I have often seen the movies I liked more than once. Among such movies at this very moment I recall Topol’s “Fiddler On The Roof”, Henry Fonda’s “War and Peace”, Marlon Brando’s “Mutiny and the Bounty”, Ben Kingsley’s “Ghandi” and many others. I have always enjoyed seeing the same film over again. Nuances in the film that I missed the first time become evident to me. I may not be an exception and that many others may also like to see the movies they liked for a second time. After all instinctively we all like to relive enjoyable experiences. It is often because of the brevity of the leisure time we have at our hands that we give preference seeing another movie instead of the same.
The film was aired all over the world. I came across commentaries about the film from Lebanon, Syria, Europe and the Americas. Some had liked the movie. Others had found the move to be a sanitized version of the Armenian experience and not a true reflection of it. Some had found that the move rightfully depicted the cosmopolitan Constantinople at the time; others had found the intimate scenes out of place for the times. Some found that that spending such an amount of money was a waste and that it could have put to better use, others argued against it in favor of Kirk Kerkorian spending his money as he saw fit.
It is natural that we will be making contradicting comments about the film. We, as post genocide Diaspora Armenians, have beome hyphenated Armenians. For the past century we have been living among larger societies and have naturally absorbed the norms and values of the greater society and at times its language as well to the exclusion of our own. We view things from own overall cultural and social experiences.
The thing that seemed to be missing in such comments was the realization that the film is born out of Armenian-American experience. I do not know whether Kirk kerkorian made the funds available to make the film and henceforth completley disassociated himself from the theme of the movie or if he had his own views known as to how the theme of the movie should be best sturctured. I am inclined to believe that he had his say, drawn form his and his parental family’s experiences.
The film encompassed a period of twenty five years, from the onset of the first great war in 1914/1915 to the onset of the second great war in 1938/1939. America formally entered the WWII on December 7, 1941. But the war had stated in 1939 and had caught the American society across the Atlantic no less in a heightened mood. During these twenty-years, the film amply made evident that survivors of the Armenian genocide lost all their worldy possessions if not their dignity as well, but largely overcame it as the concluding upper middle class scene in Watertown, MA depicted. Where else such a concluding scene could have been depicted with a degree of historical accuracy?
I understand that the Untied States of America during those years was a far different country. The survivors of the Armenain genocide indeed found on its hospitable shores a fullfillment of a promise for a better life in ways they might not envisioned possible in their wildest dreams. In a mere twenty five years Mikael had become a practicing physican and had carved for himelf a life that not only had the trappings of a comfortable upper middle class; he seemed also to have integrated himself in the greater society with ease having found acceptance. He celebrated his adopted daughter marrying not an ethnic Armenian but an American, surely of good character. The children of the survivors were now serving in the armed forces of the country their parents had made their own.



It has been my impression that the survivors of the Armenian felt particulary indepted to their adopted country. George Mardigian pennned his appreciation of the United States of America in his book he titled “Song of Ameircan”. The book was translated in Armenian and in my teenage years I had a copy of the book altough I do not have a recollection of having read it. For that matter, I also do not have a recollection of having not read it. Decades ago when we were visiting Disney’s Epcot Center I saw a passage from the book depicted in a section devoted to American history.

Kirk Kerkorian, by his own admission, was not literarry inclined and avoided the limelight even though he was insturmental in creaiting the city, Las Vegas, that thrives on limelight. The country that his parents had adopted their own, gave him the opportunity to realize his ambitions in spectacular ways.  There seemed to have been more to name the name the film “The Promise” than the promise Mikael made to his fiancee. It would not surprise that the film was also Kirk Kerkorian’s tribute to the promise of the United States to Kirk Kerkorian family. I am inclined to believe that the film was a also Kirk Kerkorian’s “song of America”.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Ձառք Ձառա Ուտունք (Let Us Extend Helping Hand)

Ձառք Ձառա Ուտունք (Let Us Extend Helping Hand)
Father Hamazasp Kechichian
            
Գերոնքը էմըն տարա, (The spring every year)
Աշխէրհէս ըրվան, (All over the world)
Հայաթ կը բիրի։ (Heralds life)
Ծաղկօծ ծառիրը, (Trees flowering)
Էվչող չըտտիրը, (Birds chirping)
Կանաչ լառռօնքը, (Mountains greened)
էնօշ ծաղկօնքը, (Sweet flowers)
Սիերտիդ կը բենուն, (Invigorate the heart)
Նուր գուվօդ կու տուն։ (Give new resolve)

Gangar, an edible plant grows in the wild in Kessab early spring
Ըմմը մի հեմօր, (However, with us,)
Ըղով ըրք տարա, (It has been three years,)
Միր աչուեն չըտըսնեն (Our eyes do not see)
Էնուշութենը գերընքվին. (The sweatness of the spring)
Չումքի մաճիրէն ըրք էմսըվին (Because with the three months of homelessness,)
Թէսըրը հա էվըլնու ուրթիլուօն։ (Misfortunes pile as time goes by)
Շուօտ մուօրդ անցով գընուօց, (Many people came by and left)
Վըրբ իթուօղ, տուօնը տէտէն, պէպկուօն (Leaving the ancesteral home orphaned)
Հընտանա, դուօր դըռացա չըմընուօց։ (Relative, next-door neighbor, did not remain)
Կանաչ Ծառիրը չարցուն, (The green trees dried up)
Պախչընէն օրման դարձուն։ (The orchards went wild)
Նա ին նա ճին հա գըտնէս, (Not a being, not a soul, do you find)
Կը խընտուօս թի թուօղը մուօրդ տըսնէս։ (You rejoice should you see a person in the neighberhood)


Ընծաս մինք եո՞ հարթունք, (Where are we heading this way?)
դըքըր ե՞րբ պըր դիմենունք։ (How long will we be able to endure?)
Սապըր հա ինինք, ըմմը հիշտ չի (We are being patient, but that is not easy
Մեվսըմը ծախիս գէն չունա, (Nothing for sale fetches income)
Պըր դետես բուն չըգըտնըվա։ (You want to work, but can’t find work)
Ճահիլնէն դուրիցի գեցեն, (The young went away)
էսքերլըքէն, իհդիադէն խելըսիլը, կարդիլը, (Either enlisted or avoiding the reserves, or for education)
եա բուն բեթվիլը, դետըլը հեմուօր։(Either looking for a job, for working)
Միրիրը տետիրը չըդիմեցուն (The mothers and the fathers could not cope)
Իրինց չուճուգնէն հառռօ մընիլիէն, (With their children being away)
Ճամբոյ իլուն իրինց իդիդիէն։ (They hit the road, after them.)
Գեցողը հայուրթու, մընեցողը հա մընու, (Those for going, leave; those for staying, stay)
Աստուօծ ալըննէն հիտ թըղ ըննու, (Let God be with them all.)
Հայ էսինք, քէչ մըլի սապըր, աղուր պըր ըննու։ (We say to ourselves, let us stay put a bit longer, things will be fine)
Աստուօծ լըսսի, ալէք բուն թըղ աղուրնու, (May God hear and let everythig be fine)
Ուվ կառնու թըղ եիտ դառնու. (Whoever can, let them return)
Չումքի առունց շըննըք առունց կենճիր, (Because without people, without the young)
Չուօց Քեսուօպը պըր պիհինք ըղիր։(How are we to keep Kessab?)
Ումուօտ կ՚ունենք, պըր ուղուրդա (We have hope that it will be alright)
Հառռունց զայիվ լօյս հա տըսնըվա։ (We see a dim light in the far)
Գուվուօդ սաղլըք քեսպըցիցը քեսպու, (Endurance, good health to the Kessabtis in Kessab)

Kessab Apple molasses, Maran "Everything Homemade" Kessab product launched recently 
Իրինց սայէն Քեսուօպ դառ մի հա մընու (Because of them, Kessab is remaining)
Պիտա ալէյիս բուն մը ինինք, (We should all do something)
Զօրթ մը իրինց եարտըմինք։ (And assist them a bit)
«Քէսուօպ Ղուրպուն ըննում քի» (“Kessab, I long for your”)
էսիլը իսուօր ալ հիրէք չի։ (Saying is not enough, anymore)
Պիտա տուշմըշըննունք, հուգ ինինք, (We should empathize, we should care)
Քի պարապուօր ձառ ըրկենցընինք։ (To extend an equal hand)
Քեսպըցէք կ՚ունէնք աշխուօրքիս միէկ (We have Kessabtsis all over the world)
Ըտնենք միէկըզմէկ, ճուղուտվենք, (Let us find each other, let us come together)
Ֆըրանսա, Պօրըթ, Ամիրքա (France, Beirut, America)
Իմարաթ, Աւըսթրալիա, Ͻանատա (Emirates, Australia, Canada)
Հայաստան, դըքըր Չինաստան։ (Armenia, all the way to China)
Ձառ ձառա ուտունք լելօկ, աղբար, (Let us give hands, brother, sister)
Քեսօպ հա դարկըվա (Kessab is being depopulate)
Վուօղը էնգուն կ՚ըննու, (Tomorrow will be late)
փուշմանիլը չէ ֆայտա։ (Regretting does not help)
Հեսնենք հընտենուօցը, քեսպըցիցը միր, (Let us reach out to our Kessabtsi relatives)
Եարտըմինք, սիէրտ ուտունք, (Let us assist, let us give them heart)
Եօլ գըտնենք, բուն բենունք, (Let us find a way, let us start work)
Իշինք չուօց իրինց կռնուօկ ըննունք։ (Let us see how can we back them)
Քեսօպը միր պէպկըննիրէն մարաս ի քի, (Kessab of our grandfathers is a legacy)
Ընծի, միր էվլատնէն, (To us and to our children)
Միր վըզզէն պուօրտքն ի տիէր ըննիլ (It’s our our obligation to assume ownership)
Միր լիզվէն իլան ատաթնէն, (Of our language and our customs)
Հեսցընինք զիրինք միր թոռըննէն։ (Pass them on to our grandchildren)

Translated: Vahe H. Apelian



Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Armenian Islamic Tribe–Part II

The Armenian Islamic Tribe–Part II
Kevork George Apelian
Translated and abridged by Vahe H. Apelian


Mohammad Mahmood
- Akh George, you did not ask me about my wife’, reminds me Mohammad Mahmood. She is also an Armenian daughter.
In Kurdish attire and manners, Emena extends unexpected welcoming warmth to us. She is a Muslim woman, wearing scarf. She sits next to me and allows herself the liberty to speak freely, to narrate and to laugh. I instinctively rest my arm over her shoulder while being pictured. She does not object neither does she distance herself from me. Aren’t we long lost bosom relatives?
-‘Emena, who was your father?’ I ask

-‘My father is there’, she says, and points to picture hanging on the wall. ‘My father was also Moushetsi, Yeghia Sessoyan. Later his name became Mohammad Issa Mahamed. He was two years old during the massacres.’

At that moment Emena’s brother enters. He is a lawyer and his name is Abdel Rahan Mohammad Essa Mahamed. He is a middle-aged man. Sister and brother tell us about their father who passed away in 2008. The Sessoyan family numbered forty members. Yeghia or Mohammad Mahamed settled in a village named Bsis that is 30 Km from Ras al Ein. In 1948 he married an Arab woman named Abta. They have 2 boys and 5 girls. Yeghia married another woman as well. They have seven daughters and one son. Yeghia’s wives are alive and live in the same village. Emena also has relatives from his father’s side who speak Kurdish or Turkish. Some of her relatives do not like to tell their family stories. Emena also tells that her father Yeghia had a sister named Sosse who threw herself into river least she be taken as the wife of Turk or a Kurd. Emena repeatedly tells that she likes to associate with Armenians and that our meeting has made her very happy.

-‘Mehran (Mohammad)’ I ask, ‘how is that your father was Kurdified while your nephew Dr. Garo has remained Armenian?’

-‘His father remained within the Armenian community. However, he speaks only Kurdish. Garo studied in Armenia’, explains Mohammad.

-‘How is that you found each other?’ I inquire.

-‘In 1972 I used to work for a sheikh’, says Mohammad. ‘One day, while in the city, I came across a store whose sign bore the name Antranig Hekimian. I suspected that we are relatives, but I wanted to assure myself before meeting him. I inquired with the church in Ras al Ein and was able to ascertain that we are related after which I approached the owner. He was hesitant at the beginning at the site of a Kurd claiming family relation, but later he warmed towards me and became emotional. I invited him and his family to our house. We slaughtered lambs to celebrate the occasion. It was my dream to find out my father’s relatives. My dream has now become a reality.’

-‘How do you get along with your newly found relations?’ I inquire

-‘Very well’, responds Mohamad. ‘I am a Kurd and a Muslim. They are Armenians and Christians. However, it’s the same blood that flows through our veins. You can tell that Garo feels very comfortable in our house.’

At that moment I saw Dr. Garo in the kitchen preparing a hookah for his leisurely smoking.

-‘Do you have a community?’ I inquire

-‘Of course we do’, responds Mohammad. ‘We have our own tribe, ashiret. Let me show you our member list’. He produces a document and I read page after page Kurdish names with their official registration numbers, their addresses and the signatures of the family’s patriarchs. There are 10 to 11 such records on each page.

-‘Our ashiret has its bylaws’, elaborates Mohammad. ‘We are especially attentive that the members of our tribe do not marry outside the tribe. If one wants to marry outside the tribe, then he or she has to take permission from the sheikh of our tribe, Elie Hovagimian. All able bodied males between the ages of 15 to 70 pay membership dues. From this coffer the tribe attends to the needs of the members, such as if one has an accident or kills someone, the compensation comes from the tribe’s coffer.’

-‘Why have you organized this tribe?’ I ask.

-‘Very simple, explains Mohammad. In this part of the world the prevailing social order is the system of tribes-ashiret. Every one has the support of a tribe. If you do not belong to a tribe, you are no one. You cannot protect your rights.’

-‘When was your tribe organized?’ I inquire

-‘Our tribe was organized in 1998’, explains Mohammad. ‘We conducted a census and we organized the tribe. We have 25,000 members. Our tribe is known as the ARMENIAN ISLAMIC TRIBE. We are Muslims but we are Armenians. Not all Islamized Armenians in the region are members of our tribe. There is a big number of them who are not members.’

At this point Mohammad’s brother-in-law intercepts and says that the lawyers of the tribe have their own organization and present themselves as Muslim Armenians.

On this May afternoon I remain dumbfounded. Here, the sons and daughters of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide not only honor and perpetuate the memory of their parents or grandparents but also have organized themselves into a distinct community of which we had not known before in spite of modern communication. They are Muslims, and they are Armenians!

Mehran arranges for his sons to take us for a sightseeing trip. We head towards Khabour River, the main tributary of the Euphrates River. There was a time when many Armenians on forced marches were drowned in the raging water of this river. We approach the river but remain standstill and astonished. The river is completely dry. The dams in Turkey threaten to starve Syria and Iraq of water. ‘Khabour River’ I say to myself, ‘is it the curse of those who drowned in your waters that has brought you to this state?’

We enter an abandoned mansion. The canal next to the mansion runs dry. There are abandoned water pumps rusting along the riverbank. We are told that there was a time when water from here flew hundreds of kilometers for irrigation.

There is a sadness that permeates all around, rusting water pumps, an abandoned mansion and the memory of the many who walked by the riverbank or were drowned in it. We leave the area and head to Mreykez to meet the rest of Mohammad Mahmood’s family in their parental house.

We arrive the village by dusk. We meet Mohammad’s four brothers and one sister. All are very happy that we have paid them a visit. Momentarily Mohammad takes leave of us and enters a room to pay his respects to his mother, Hovhannes Hekimian’s widow, who is on her deathbed. In the courtyard I meet two other Armenians. It is noteworthy that most of the lands of the village and its surrounding belong to five Armenian families. The chieftain of the village is named Garabed. This meeting in the twilight of the dusk in this remote area, far from the rest of the world but otherwise in an Armenian enclave of sorts fills me up with emotion……

Just prior to our departing, Mehran wears his kafiyeh and igal and teasingly asks me if I will put a copy of his picture in Bedouin attire on the cover of my upcoming book much like I did for Salmon Drbo.


Salman Drbo, was not even in his early teens when he was forcefully separated from his mother. Over the decades he had assumed that his mother had died along with the rest of the Armenians. However, serendipitously, he discovered that his mother was alive along many of his compatriots. Mother and son met for the very first time when both had entered different phases of their lives. Young Aram Keklikian had grown up to become Salman Dro, the chief of his tribe. His mother had remarried and raised another family and had her first grandson named after her first husband who was taken away and she never saw him again . Upon meeting they had a picture taken together sitting next to each other. That picture graces the cover of my first book.

I did not answer Mohammad but I wondered instead, ‘how many book covers will we need to place the pictures of such Islamized Armenians?’

Note: We met Mehran Hekimian or Mohammad Mahamed through his nephew Dr. Garo in Mohammad’s house in Ras al Ein on May 20, 2009.