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Bend man reflects on Armenian genocide


This week is the 100th anniversary of what many historians acknowledge as the Armenian genocide – the Turkish massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians.

Born in Syria and now retired in Bend, Dr. Zohrab DerTorossian shared on Friday his family’s history during World War I. As an infant, his father survived the 1915 killings, saved by Scandinavian missionaries.

As he sits in his living room, DerTorossian explains Christian Armenians were targets for Ottoman Turks during World War I.

Armenians were gathered by Ottoman soldiers and sent on a death march, “from their homeland, from Eastern and Southern Turkey-present day Turkey – throughout the Syrian desert. They were in the desert, marching, dying, men, women and children.”

The killings are widely viewed by historians as genocide, but modern-day Turkey, the successor to the Ottoman Empire, rejects the charge.

A memorial service was held in Turkey and its prime minister said the country would “share the pain” of Armenians. But he reiterated Turkey’s stance that the killings were not genocide — the deliberate killing of many of the same ethnicity, sometimes called “ethnic cleansing.”

DerTorossian says by not admitting to the past, we can perpetually build a generation of hatred where no one can win.

“They are saying, ‘Yes, it was a tragic event that occurred during the war. We all admit it’s a tragic event. But such an event should not be overshadowed by international politics,'” DerTorossian said.

President Obama referred to it as “one of the worst atrocities of the 20th Century,” again without using the term genocide. DerTorossian said, “Admitting to the past also can be interpretative as a positive move, to look for the future generation.”

Today, DerTorrosian is a father of two and a grandfather of three. He hopes the significance of the 100th anniversary is to recognize the killings of 1915, “this event has occurred 100 years ago. And that my generation, as well as other future generations — including Turks — learn from the past.”

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