A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
In memory of Vazgin Mansourian
The king hung you like a crucifix
From the neck of my city, Isfahan
With your cathedral and cobblestones
With your taverns and goldsmiths
And your blushing daughters.
The city remained apart from you
Lying beyond Zaiandeh River.
Only poets of midnight
Knocked at the door of your taverns
And hikers of early morning
Disturbed your trickling spring.
For hundreds of years
We grew apart
Until the canals of Zaiandeh River
Brought our hearts together
And the blood of Vazgin
Flowed into my veins.
Oh, little Armenia!
The tyrants wanted you as a crucifix
But you rose again
Like the crucified Christ.
Copyright 2021 Majid Naficy
Author’s note: My Armenian friend, Vazgin Mansourian was executed in July 1983 in Evin prison, Tehran. He is survived by his son, Narbeh. In this poem, “Little Armenia” refers to “Jolfa”, the Armenian neighborhood in Isfahan. Shah Abbas I (1571-1629) forced Armenians to migrate from their homeland to his capital, Isfahan, Iran.
Editor’s note: The Armenian Genocide was the systematic mass murder and ethnic cleansing of around one million ethnic Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and adjoining regions by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) during World War I.
During their invasion of Russian and Persian territory, Ottoman paramilitaries massacred local Armenians; massacres turned into genocide in the Ottoman territory itself following the catastrophic defeat in the Battle of Sarikamish (January 1915), a loss blamed on Armenian treachery. Ottoman leaders took isolated indications of Armenian resistance as evidence of a nonexistent widespread conspiracy. The deportations were intended as a “definitive solution to the Armenian Question” and to permanently forestall the possibility of Armenian autonomy or independence. Armenian soldiers in the Ottoman Army were disarmed pursuant to a February order, and were later killed. On 24 April 1915, the Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested, and deported hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders from Constantinople (now Istanbul).
At the orders of Talat Pasha, an estimated 800,000 to 1.2 million Armenian women, children, and elderly or infirm people were sent on death marches leading to the Syrian Desert in 1915 and 1916. Driven forward by paramilitary escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to robbery, rape, and massacre. In the Syrian Desert, they were dispersed into a series of concentration camps; in early 1916 another wave of massacres were ordered, leaving about 200,000 deportees alive by the end of 1916. Around 100,000 to 200,000 Armenian women and children were forcibly converted to Islam and integrated into Muslim households. Massacres and ethnic cleansing of Armenian survivors were carried out by the Turkish nationalist movement during the Turkish War of Independence after World War I.
The Armenian Genocide resulted in the destruction of more than two millennia of Armenian civilization in eastern Asia Minor. With the destruction and expulsion of Syriac and Greek Orthodox Christians, it enabled the creation of an ethno-national Turkish state. Before World War II, the Armenian Genocide was widely considered the greatest atrocity in history. As of 2021, 30 countries, including France, Germany, Russia and the United States, have recognized the events as genocide. Against the academic consensus, Turkey denies that the deportation of Armenians was a genocide or wrongful act.