Yesterday on the program, we looked at how the Microsoft Corporation is under fire because its Encarta encyclopedia calls the death of at least 600,000 Armenians during the last days of the Ottoman Empire the first genocide of the 20th Century. As we said on the show yesterday this is certainly not a radical assertion. Most historians agree with that characterization. But after the Turkish government objected, Microsoft’s Encarta reportedly told so me of its authors to consider the so-called other side of the story. The authors say they were told by Microsoft that if they did not agree to certain revisions the company would publish it with Microsoft’s revisions and without their names. [includes rush transcript]
Well, Microsoft’s Encarta Editor Gary Alt did come on the show yesterday, but only on the condition that he did not have to be on with our other guests.
- Ronald Suny, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. He authored the piece for the Encarta encyclopedia on the Armenian genocide.
- Peter Balakian, author of the memoir Black Dog of Fate: An American Son Uncovers his Armenian Past. He is Donald and Constance Rebar Professor of the Humanities at Colgate University in New York.
- Thea Halo, author of the book Not Even My Name.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday on the program, we looked at how the Microsoft Corporation is under fire because its Encarta encyclopedia calls the death of at least 600,000 Armenians during the last days of the Ottoman Empire the first genocide of the twentieth century. As we said on the show yesterday, this is certainly not a radical assertion. Most historians agree with that characterization. But after the Turkish government objected, Microsoft’s Encarta reportedly told several of its authors to consider the so-called "other side of the story." The authors say they were told by Microsoft that if they did not agree to certain revisions, the company would publish it with Microsoft’s revisions and without their names.
Well, Microsoft’s Encarta editor, Gary Alt, did come on the show yesterday, but only on the condition that he not be on with other guests, like Ronald Suny, who joined us yesterday and joins us again today, professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, who authored the piece for Encarta on the Armenian Genocide.
Just a reprise of what Gary Alt said yesterday, the Microsoft Encarta editor, he talked about the process that the encyclopedia’s editors went through when they got a letter from the Turkish ambassador to the United States, calling into question the Armenian Genocide. We’re just going to replay a bit of what Gary Alt had to say after they started to do research on that question, following the letter.
GARY ALT: The researcher went to the University of Washington libraries, looked up a lot of primary source documents, went out on the internet and did searches, but, most importantly, she contacted current scholars. In fact, Dr. Suny was one of the people that she talked to during the course of putting together the research. And I had specifically asked her to try and contact some of the people who had signed this 1985 petition, so that we would have that perspective, as well.
When I got the research report and went through it, it seemed to me that there was a legitimate controversy in the academic community, not over the facts of what had happened. Nobody is denying that hundreds of thousands or upwards of a million Armenians were killed during this period, and no one is denying that the Ottoman Army was responsible. But what seemed to be at question was whether this was a centrally planned genocide. So, based on the research that I had in front of me, I made a decision that, yes, this looks like there is a legitimate scholarly debate on this issue and that, in the interest of objectivity and fairness, we should recognize that in our coverage. This is what we do: we try to be balanced. We’re not going to put in any... fade out
AMY GOODMAN: That is what Gary Alt had to say yesterday on Democracy Now!, Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia editor. Ronald Suny is on with us now, the professor of Political Science who wrote the piece that, for a few years at least, was not questioned in Encarta, until the Turkish ambassador wrote the letter to Encarta complaining.
Ronald Suny, your response about what Gary Alt calls a "legitimate debate" on the issue of the genocide?
RONALD SUNY: Well, those remarks, that it was a legitimate controversy, a legitimate scholarly debate, were the most distressing to me. That is, what’s actually happened is, because of the resistance, because of the denial by the Turkish government and some academics in this country, most of whom are, have been systematically attacked by more serious scholars, the Turkish government has succeeded in rendering events, which were not particularly controversial, that had been accepted as horrible events and eventually called a genocide, has rendered those events a controversy. That’s a kind of success.
And so, Armenian scholars, after that, have had to backtrack and basically play, or debate, on the Turkish ground. That is, instead of doing serious scholarship about the genocide itself, many people have dedicated their careers to attempting to attack this denial campaign, which is quite systematic.
Now, in fact, there can be debates and controversies in scholarship which are very unbalanced. That is, even the Holocaust, there are people who deny the Holocaust. Fortunately, for the Holocaust, those people are considered crackpots, even though recently there was a court case against David Irving which cost millions of dollars for the woman who was contending with him, but that’s not considered particularly controversial.
Let me tell you something that happened at Microsoft. After they contacted Helen Fein and they asked her to change her article, they wrote — the text they wanted her to use was, "There are scholars who debate the Armenian genocide, it’s a controversy," etc. The very next sentence said, "However, there is no such controversy over the Holocaust." Well, this is a particularly damning sentence, because what it does is it legitimized the Holocaust — fair enough, a horrible, terrible event, everyone recognized that — but render the Armenian genocide, a parallel event, illegitimate, in a way, controversial. And, of course, Dr. Fein refused to do that, appropriately so.
Now, the outcome of all of this was eventually that Microsoft understood that they can’t do this kind of revision. They can’t both hire people to do scholarly work for them, and then seriously question, in a sense, their credentials, their legitimacy, their knowledge, etc. So eventually they backed down. But in the meantime, this idea that, "Well, maybe this event is questionable, maybe in fact the killing of hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million, people shouldn’t be called genocide," that’s going out into the public. And I’ve heard even people in universities say, "Well, what’s going on here?" They ask me, "Isn’t this, in fact, a controversial event?" And we have to start all over from the beginning.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Ronald Suny, political science teacher at the University of Chicago, authored the piece for the Encarta encyclopedia on the Armenian Genocide. Just for listeners who didn’t hear yesterday the program, in the end you did change the wording somewhat of the piece, after Microsoft, well, you say, told you that if you didn’t change it, they could take your name off the piece and put out whatever they wanted, change it.
RONALD SUNY: That’s right. I was surprised that Mr. Alt also denied that that happened. You know, that he must not be privy — and he, in fact, sort of admitted in his own remarks that, in fact, they could do that, but they generally don’t do that. But I was — I said — you know, I specifically asked the editor, I said, "What if I don’t agree to this?" And then he said, "Well, then we remove your name, and we publish it as we want," which I saw as a kind of threat: me losing control of my own words.
What I actually wrote eventually was something like this — I won’t read you the whole entry, but just a bit of it: "The worst atrocities against Armenians occurred in the Ottoman Empire during World War I, when widespread deportations and massacres eliminated 90% of the Armenians in Anatolia (present-day Asian Turkey). Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were uprooted from their homeland in Anatolia and exiled to the deserts of present-day Syria. Many Armenians perished from starvation and disease or were killed by soldiers or civilians during the forced marches. By the time World War I ended, more than 800,000 Armenians had died. According to most historians, the Ottoman treatment of its Armenian subjects constituted the first great genocide of the 20th century. However, the present-day government of Turkey disputes the characterization of these events as genocide, arguing that the deaths were the result of a civil war, disease, and famine."
There, I was trying to convey that among most historians, most people who look at this event, there’s no question about what the event is, but then there is this campaign of denial, and some people have participated — some "scholars" — I put always "scholars" in quotation marks — have participated in this kind of cover-up of the real essence of this event.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read an article, really from — oh, I think it was ten years ago in the Hartford Courant, March 25, 1990, which takes the Armenian Genocide and basically puts it into the year 2000 presidential election context. It’s a piece by a professor at the University of Connecticut, Hartford — the University of Hartford — called "Lieberman’s Shame: To Remember One Holocaust But Forget Another," again, written by Harold Abramson, professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut.
And it says, "US Senator Joseph Lieberman has helped to destroy the Senate resolution that would have designated April 24th as a national day of remembrance of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923. He justified his behavior by saying that 'the passage of the resolution would not change what happened decades ago.'"
Abramson goes on to write in his editorial, "The senator is shameless. Some of the criticism he has already received considers him amoral or charges him with Vaslav Havel’s phrase, 'reprehensible passivity.' The amorality accusation suggests that he does not know the difference between right and wrong, between what is just and unjust. Does the senator know and recognize his hypocrisy? Does he understand what is just and right? The fact that he can trample on the pain and memory of survivors and their children by saying 'passage of the resolution would not change what happened decades ago' suggests strongly that the charge of amorality is on the mark.
"The charge of passivity is just as interesting, given the revolutionary changes in the world today that Havel’s election as President of Czechoslovakia represents. But Lieberman hasn’t always been passive. In fact, in his first Senate year, he’s been quite active and authored or supported a number of Senate resolutions. For example, there was a resolution commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the United States Jewish Appeal on May 2, 1989. It was good that the senator did not reject the memory of the victims of Nazism even if the resolution could not undo the Holocaust. Then there was his vote for the resolution that would designate the week of May 7, ’89 as Jewish Heritage Week. That was another just decision, because of the American recognition of an ancient religion and civilization. This resolution obviously could not change anything, but it could honor a heritage, with all of its components: the survival and the sorrow."
And he goes on from there. What about that, Professor Ronald Suny?
RONALD SUNY: Well, that is a very strong and very powerful statement there, and it’s clear that even very well-meaning politicians who take moral stands, you know, on calumnious behavior, let’s say, as Lieberman did, or the Holocaust and so forth, somehow manage to trim their moral stance when it comes to this event because of the cost. Basically what we’re talking about here is the United States government has a very strong ally in the Republic of Turkey, a member of NATO, a republic that was important in the Gulf War, that was important in the Cold War actions against the Soviet Union. And they don’t want to compromise that relationship.
And when they do even hint that they might change their views on the Armenian Genocide and officially declare that this event occurred and was a genocide, the Turks react with vehemence and anger. So this is realpolitik, on one hand, against the kind of moral stance on the other. And clearly, Lieberman, who’s made some very nice statements, very powerful statements recognizing the Armenian Genocide in the Senate, will not take that last step and vote for this resolution, at least in 1990 that seems to have been the case.
Let me mention something else, while we’re talking about this event, because politics, you know, has this unfortunate habit of shifting and changing, and the reality of the world changes, too. And we’re in a moment now, in which the conditions in Turkey, Turkey’s attitude toward the rest of the world, is also shifting. I would say this is a moment of political opening, that Armenians, Turks, and politicians, like Lieberman and Gore and others, will have to face. What’s happening in Turkey now is a new president has been elected; the Kurdish war at the moment is at a standstill; Turkey is very interested in getting into Europe; and many Turkish intellectuals at this point want to reevaluate some of the harsh and obviously distorted stands on history that their government has forced them to take.
Recently, in March, at the University of Chicago, we organized a conference. I think it was — I’m sure it was the first ever in history, in which we brought distinguished Armenian, Turkish and other scholars together to discuss the end of the Ottoman Empire and the Armenian Genocide. This event was so controversial that some of the most distinguished Armenian scholars of the genocide refused to come. And, of course, some Turks, too, decided very quietly that they would not come. But we gathered a group of people. We had three days of incredibly interesting and scholarly objective discussion, and at the end, four out of five of the Turkish scholars from Turkey itself freely used the word "genocide." So, for them, there was no controversy.
They were appalled by their government’s stand. They were ready to engage in a dialogue with Armenians and others about these events, if it was done as a real scholarly dialogue, not as a kind of polemical, you know, crossfire. So it seems to me that we are really at a moment where things are changing, that Armenians and Turks don’t have to sit and spin in their wheels now for yet another generation over about who did what and why. Now we can begin to discuss this as scholars and find out the facts from both sides, because it’s the Turkish scholars who will have the greater access, ease of entry, into their own archives and who can add to our understanding of what happened in 1915.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Ronald Suny of the University of Chicago, author of the piece in the Encarta encyclopedia on the Armenian Genocide. I think it’s very important to bring the story, or how the Armenian Genocide is dealt with in today’s history books and writings, to bring it up today and see how Turkey is dealt with and how it deals with the Kurds. I mean, just hours before Al Gore gave his acceptance speech on the floor of the Democratic National Convention, the US and British planes bombed Iraq. On that same day, Turkey bombed northern Iraq, bombed the Kurds, and yet there is almost no mention of this, and Turkey’s overall treatment of the Kurds, the killing of, what, in the last decade or six years, something like 46,000 Kurds, is rarely raised, perhaps because Turkey is an ally of the United States.
RONALD SUNY: That’s right. Turkey is at the moment a very unsavory ally. But it’s one which the United States is quite intimately tied. And so, issues like the Armenian Genocide, the complaints of the Greeks toward Turkey’s actions towards Cyprus, the treatment of Kurds, all of these things are swept under the rug.
I remember some years ago I was at a Republican senator’s gathering and was trying to explain to a very senior American senator, Republican senator, the complexities of the Kurdish question and how duplicitous has been American action in the area. That is, on one side of the border, we protect the Iraqi Kurds against the atrocities of Saddam Hussein. On the other side, we allow the Turks free reign — indeed, use of our own weapons —- against their own Kurds. Of course, all of these things -—
AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, the Iraqi Kurds were not protected by the United States, ultimately. Certainly, George Bush abandoned them.
RONALD SUNY: At one point. But we have a kind of protection at the moment. We don’t allow Saddam Hussein to fly over Kurdistan, and so forth, at the moment.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, many would argue in that case it has nothing to do with the Kurds, but just continually pummeling Saddam Hussein.
RONALD SUNY: That’s probably right. Again, realpolitik takes place over morality. From the Armenian side, from the side of a historian and the political scientist, what’s important is that these issues be somehow decoupled from state policy, so that they can be examined in their historical complexity. That is not allowed to happen. The Turkish government won’t let that happen; indeed, the American government, because of its refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide, itself allows this event to go on, to fester, as if it were a legitimate controversy, rather than something that, for most historians, has been settled.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Ronald Suny, I want to thank you for being with us, professor of Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.
RONALD SUNY: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: When we return — thank you — we are going to talk to two survivors of that genocide, or survivors of family members who either survived, or did not, what happened in World War I. You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. Again, I wanted to go back to Joseph Lieberman, a senator in 1990s, comments, when he, as Professor Abramson put it, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut-Hartford said Lieberman helped to destroy the Senate resolution that would have designated April 24 as a national day of remembrance of the seventh-fifth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923. He justified his behavior by saying that the "passage of the resolution would not change what happened decades ago."
Professor Abramson goes on to say, at the end of his piece in the Hartford Courant, "Lieberman is insensible to the kinship of pain. He owes an apology and more to the Armenian community and the people of Connecticut. In his public statement he explained that 'our efforts to memorialize the Armenian people and their suffering do not take place in a vacuum.' Of course, neither justice nor evil occurs in a vacuum," Abramson writes, "and there are always expedient arguments for the pursuit of evil and the denial of justice."
We’re joined now by Thea Halo, who’s author of the book Not Even My Name: From a Death March in Turkey to a New Home in America, a Young Girl’s True Story of Genocide and Survival, as well as Peter Balakian, author of the memoir, Black Dog of Fate: An American Son Uncovers his Armenian Past. He is professor of Humanities at Colgate University in New York.
Peter Balakian, your response?
PETER BALAKIAN: Well, you know, I think that the issue of historical memory is very much a part of the legacy, and in the tragic case of the Turkish government’s denial, of the legacy of genocide, because as genocide scholars universally underscore, the denial of genocide is the final stage of genocide, and it seeks to demonize the victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators. And, of course, it sends the message that genocide doesn’t matter, that it demands no moral response. I think the whole issue of denial, in some sense, does a kind of enormous continuance of the genocidal process in that it strives — the perpetrator culture and its legacy strive to create a counterfeit universe for everyone. And that counterfeit universe particularly robs the survivor culture, at least attempts to rob the survivor culture of their moral universe, of their moral order.
AMY GOODMAN: The estimates, again, of how many Armenians died in that period, 1915 to ’23?
PETER BALAKIAN: I think the best estimates take us to about 1.2 to 1.3 million. The lowest estimates are a little below a million; the highest, a little over 1.5 million. Most genocide historians come in at 1.2 to 1.3 million.
AMY GOODMAN: The subtitle of your book, An American Son Uncovers His Armenian Past, how did you uncover it?
PETER BALAKIAN: Well, my journey — and my memoir really deals with, at once, a kid growing up in the suburban, affluent world of 1950s, 1960s northern New Jersey, Teaneck and Tenafly, New Jersey, and coming from a family that couldn’t speak openly about the Armenian Genocide past, because it had so traumatized them, and yet, even though they couldn’t speak openly, there was constant leakage, and so I would receive, as a kid, what I came to think of and call "encoded traumas," encoded messages about this horrible, tragic experience that had preceded me. And then, in my adult life, I came to read history and learned the narrative that my family could never tell me.
One of the most important texts for me in discovering the Armenian Genocide was the memoir by Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, the American Jew who was the ambassador to Turkey between 1913 and 1916, the years during which the genocide happened. And Morgenthau has several extraordinary chapters in his memoir, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story. This was published in the United States by Doubleday in 1918. His chapter, "The Murder of a Nation" is one of the most powerful accounts of the Armenian Genocide.
And I want to emphasize that the genocide in its day, in the teens, was the largest international human rights issue in the world. It was the first major international human rights campaign for the United States to get involved in. And the US got involved in the Armenian Genocide issue as far back as 1894, when the Sultan Abdul Hamid II began his waves of massacre that took the lives of almost 300,000 Armenians, so that the Armenian bloodshed begins in the nineties, and Americans are immersed in it.
And Morgenthau is one of the great men of conscience in American history, and his memoir, of course, is based on the thousands and thousands of pages of eyewitness reporting from his consular staff in the interior of Turkey, men like Leslie Davis in Harput and Jesse Jackson in Aleppo, Oscar Heizer in Trebizond, Edward Nathan in Mersina, and so on. I mean, these men are giving Morgenthau almost weekly dispatches on what is so obvious from the start. as a systematic, planned, government-organized campaign for race extermination.
AMY GOODMAN: I don’t know if you have a US ambassador to Turkey today doing any kind of exposés, like we saw then, around the modern-day Kurds.
PETER BALAKIAN: I don’t think we would. And I think as Americans we want to look back at these men with enormous admiration for their courage, for their ethics and for their very good prose. When you read these accounts, you know, it’s very moving.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Balakian, I wanted to bring Thea Halo into the conversation. Her book, Not Even My Name : From a Death March in Turkey to a New Home in America, a Young Girl’s True Story of Genocide and Survival. Thea Halo, this is the story of your mother, and it expands the Armenian Genocide to other groups of people. Can you explain?
THEA HALO: Yes. My mother was a Pontic Greek from Turkey also, and the Greeks were in Turkey for — or rather in Asia Minor for over 3,000 years. There were three groups of Greeks in Turkey. That was the Pontians, who lived along the northern coast — or the southern coast of the Black Sea and the Pontic Mountains; the Ionian Greeks, who lived along the western shores, where Smyrna is; and the Cappadocian Greeks, who lived in central Turkey.
My father was an Assyrian, and no one every mentions that the Assyrians and the Greeks of Turkey were also both slaughtered. The Assyrian people, like the Armenian people, mainly lived along the eastern coast of Turkey and the southern part of — portion of Turkey. And the campaign against the Christians — the Assyrians are also a traditionally Christian people that go back as far back as the other Christians began to adopt Christianity in the early part of the — I think the third century. They were also slaughtered wholesale. I think they claim that there were 750,000 Assyrians killed during that period.
My mother was marched in 1920 from the Pontic Mountains of the north all the way through the desert lands of the south. Obviously, they were heading them to the Syrian Desert, as they had the Armenians and the Assyrians before them. Below Diyarbakir, my mother’s family finally escaped from the Turkish soldiers, and they went back to a place called Karabag, which was south of Diyarbakir, but their money by that time was gone, and they were really destitute. My mother was then — finally, to save her life, her mother gave her away to a small — a woman in a very, very small village.
AMY GOODMAN: When your mother — when her mother and she were on a death march.
THEA HALO: Yes. They marched for something like seven to eight months. And when we think that they were close to the borders of the Black Sea, they could have been transported. If it was a question of transporting Greeks out of the area, they could have transported them from the coast. Instead, they marched them. There were some documents from the German and Austrian ambassadors saying that these death marches, when they talk about exile, that exile was synonymous with genocide, because whoever wasn’t slaughtered on the way died of disease and starvation and exposure. And they knew perfectly well that that was going to happen.
There’s also archival information in my book, Not Even My Name, beginning with from 1909 from the German ambassador in Athens, Wangenheim to Chancellor Bulow, quoting the Turkish Prime Minister Sefker Pasha: "The Turks have decided upon a war of extermination against their Christian subjects." That was in 1909. Oftentimes we hear that the Turkish government or apologists for the Turkish government say that this was just a consequence of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, but obviously this was all very, very planned, much before even the war.
AMY GOODMAN: Peter Balakian mentioned the encoded messages he got when he was growing up, never the real story, narrative, of the Armenian Genocide. What about you? Did you understand what happened, when you were a little girl, to your family, to your mother and others?
THEA HALO: Well, fortunately for us, my mother — of course, as a child, she told us sort of general things. We knew that they had been on a death march. We knew that she lost everyone. We knew that her little sister, who was three years old at the time, actually died in her arms, and she didn’t realize what was happening. We knew some of those things, but we really didn’t know all the details. But my mother said that she made a point of remembering, because she wanted — she didn’t want her people to die.
And so, fortunately for me, in 1989, I took her back to Turkey to see if she could find her home seventy years after her exile, and I memorialize this in the book. And it was then that I stood on her land, that I finally felt connected to my heritage. Before that, it was her story and her people. When I stood on that land, they became, for the first time in my life, my people. And then I began to ask her very specifically what happened, and I began to take down her story.
AMY GOODMAN: The point where her mother leaves her in order to save her, could you read that from your book? We’re talking to Thea Halo. Her book is Not Even My Name: From a Death March in Turkey to a New Home in America, a Young Girl’s True Story of Genocide and Survival.
THEA HALO: When they knocked on one of the doors in the little mud village, the woman said, "This one, she’s so pretty. Why don’t you just give this one to me, and I’ll take care of her?" And at first her mother said, "No, I can’t do that, because she doesn’t belong to me." And my mother asked, "Why did you say that?" And she said, "Because I couldn’t bear to let you go." And I’ll start reading from there.
“_Then she stopped walking and looked into my face. Tears crept into her eyes, and she threw her arms around me and held me to her breast. I could hear: 'I couldn't bear to give you away,’ she said. She held me tightly for some moments before letting me go. I could feel her chest heaving uncontrollably. She held my face against her breast so I couldn’t see her tears, but they fell on my head and cheek like crystallized drops of desert rain._
“_When the sun was low in the sky, Mother sat down on the stone and spread her apron to reveal the food she had gathered for the day. It was barely enough for two, let alone six. She stared down at it for a long time, as if willing it to multiply. Then she closed her eyes and began to sob. 'Maybe you should go stay with that woman for a while,' she said. ’She’ll feed you, and then you’ll be safe. And I can come back to see you.’ 'All right,' I said. I don’t remember a time when I said no to my mother._
“_’Have you decided to leave her then?’ the woman asked in Turkish when she opened the door. 'Yes,' Mother said, 'if you promise to take good care of her.' 'Of course,' the woman said. Mother turned to me. 'I will visit you,' she said. 'You must remember how much I love you. how much I love all of you.' She wrapped her arms around me and pulled me close, tucking my head between her breasts and kissing me on top of my head over and over again. She held me so tightly I could barely take a breath, but I melted into her until I couldn’t tell where she ended and I began._
"When she let go, she took the belt she had woven from around her own waist and wrapped it around mine. Again, she pulled me to her breast and held me tight, imprinting my own image onto her body. Again, she let go and this time walked away without looking back. I stood with the woman in the doorway of her home, watching my mother walk away. Even when the woman went into her home, I still stood there, watching my mother grow smaller and smaller, until she was no more than a tiny line on the horizon that turned to vapor and disappeared in the waves of heat rising from the ground."
AMY GOODMAN: And that little girl was your mother.
THEA HALO: Was my mother, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And what happened after that?
THEA HALO: Well, the woman had promised to take good care of my mother, but she became very cruel, and when she heard that my mother’s mother, my grandmother, had died soon after, she then changed her name. She said she could never pronounce her name, and so she changed her name from Thimia, which was a Greek name, to Sano, which was a Kurdish name. And that really robbed my mother of the last vestige of her history and her connection to her people.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, she ran away.
THEA HALO: She stayed with that woman for about two years. She was only ten when my mother was left. And she stayed with her. She tried to run away a few times. Once, her brother, the woman’s brother, brought her back. But when she was twelve, she ran away for good. And she ran all the way to Diyarbakir and not knowing where she would go. She had met a woman, once, in that woman’s house, and she went to look for her.
AMY GOODMAN: And ultimately came to the United States and had her family.
THEA HALO: From my father, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And that’s how you got her name, the name of your book, Not Even My Name.
THEA HALO: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us, as we continue this discussion of stories untold throughout the world. Not Even My Name: From a Death March in Turkey to a New Home in America, a Young Girl’s True Story of Genocide and Survival is published by Picador Press. And Peter Balakian’s book, Black Dog of Fate: An American Son Uncovers his Armenian Past. I want to thank you both for being with us and also encourage people to call in to tell their stories.
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