By Mike Jeknavorian
FLArmenians Lifestyle Contributor
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – The novel is called They Fell, and the title is appropriate. Drawing on Charles Aznavour’s “Ils Sont Tombes,” the author uses graphic imagery to convey the historically based horrors and is stretched over 35 character-experiences in the midst of the Armenian Genocide.
Author Stephen Stapanian of Tampa, FL sets the story in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. As it’s read, one is reminded that a story can allow a direct communion with another era, and ultimately, with the era’s deceased.
In a response to questions submitted via email from FLArmenians.com, Mr. Stapanian says that the novel “represents a gift to the Armenian people globally, and to send a message to all of those who suffered . . . that they were not alone as victims of genocide.”
Stapanian says that he was originally inspired to write the novel after watching genocide-themed TV miniseries’ in the 1980s, such as Roots, Holocaust, and Shogun. Over time Stapanian worked on his approach and finally published They Fell on August 1, 2015.
The novel uses a love-story conceit, along with excerpts of song lyrics and poems, to draw the reading into the larger context of Ottoman Armenian life in 1915. It was written to evoke a strong emotional response about the genocide, and, fundamentally, to elicit change, he says.
But what change could he bring? The Armenian Genocide is officially recognized by over 20 nations, such as Canada, France, Russia, Germany, Austria, Argentina, the Vatican, and others. At the same time, the Ottoman Empire’s successor, Turkey, refuses to accept it’s own history and continues a decades-long campaign of genocide denial.
Historians mark the beginning of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 1915, when the Ottoman Turkish government rounded up over 200 Armenian academics, doctors, businessmen, and religious and community leaders in Constantinople.
The lack of accountability or prosecution of the perpetrators makes recollection of the genocide sting that much more, for many, as it does Stapanian.
Historians estimate that over one million Armenians were ethnically cleansed in a systematic campaign orchestrated by the Ottoman Turkish government in what is widely considered the first genocide in modern times.
The majority of published works about the Armenian Genocide have been memoir or historical, whereas They Fell is fiction based on a historical event.
But given that the novel is predicated on something as gruesome as genocide, should the public only expect to experience a limited amount of entertainment from it?
Hopefully, readers will truly connect with the characters, and in so doing learn something from those who fell and perished in one of man’s darkest chapters.
On Saturday, March 14, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) hosted an Armenian Genocide symposium entitled “A Century of Genocide: The 1915 Armenian Genocide and Its Lasting Impact,” during the Assembly’s Annual Members Weekend in South Florida. Over 80 Assembly members, friends, and guests attended the educational presentations and lively question and answer session.
The symposium featured Dr. Rouben Adalian, Director of the Armenian National Institute (ANI) in Washington, DC, Dr. Rosanna Gatens, Director of the Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education (CHHRE) at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Boca Raton, Florida, and Hannibal Travis, Professor of Law at Florida International University (FIU) College of Law in Miami, Florida. The panel was moderated by Assembly Trustee and South Florida community leader Marta Batmasian.
Armenian Assembly of America Board of Trustees President Carolyn Mugar provided welcoming remarks and introduced Marta Batmasian. Batmasian introduced the panel to the audience and recognized members of the audience who have been researching and teaching about the Armenian Genocide in South Florida.
Batmasian introduced Dr. Adalian who presented the topic of “The Armenian Genocide as a Prototype of 20th Century Mass Killings,” detailing the primitive yet effective template of mass killing that was developed by the Ottoman Turkish government. He showed images from the digital exhibit “The First Deportation: The German Railway, the American Hospital, and the Armenian Genocide,” which took the audience back in time to a pivotal location of the deportations. Adalian brought to life the experiences and activities of Dr. Wilfred D. Post who administered the American hospital in Konya, a major station along the Berlin-Baghdad rail line which became the site of a large deportation camp. In defiance of the Ottoman ban on photography of deportees, Dr. Post captured what may have been some of the earliest pictures of deported Armenians.
Next, Batmasian introduced Dr. Gatens who discussed “The Impact of the Armenian Genocide on Holocaust Education.” She discussed how the CHHRE at FAU had been working for years to advance Armenian Genocide education on campus and throughout Palm Beach County. Gatens drew parallels between the Jewish and Armenian experiences and highlighted challenges faced in educating the general public about the crime of genocide.
Professor Hannibal Travis gave the final presentation on “The Armenian Genocide as a Political Act and International Crime.” He discussed the illegality of the crime of genocide under international law, including cases where the charge of genocide was applied retroactively. Travis gave an in depth account of crimes against humanity that have been heard in international courts and discussed avenues for Armenian efforts in this context.
Following the presentations, Batmasian opened the floor for questions. Several were asked of the panel leading to a lively and wide-ranging discussion. Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny gave closing remarks and announced the launch of an online petition calling on President Barack Obama to affirm the Armenian Genocide in his upcoming statement commemorating the 100th anniversary. After the symposium, guests were invited up to view a brand new exhibit entitled “Iconic Images of the Armenian Genocide,” that was on full display during and after the discussion.
“We were pleased to bring this expert panel together for the South Florida community,” stated Bryan Ardouny. “The Assembly is grateful to Dr. Adalian, Dr. Gatens, Professor Travis, and Mrs. Batmasian for their insight and compelling presentations,” Ardouny said.
Additional photographs from the Assembly’s Armenian Genocide Symposium in South Florida are available on the Assembly’s Facebook page here.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.
NR: # 2015-018
Photo Caption 1: (L-R) Dr. Rouben Adalian, Marta Batmasian, Hannibal Travis, Dr. Rosanna Gatens.
Photo Caption 2: Program speakers at the Assembly’s Armenian Genocide Symposium in South Florida.
(Photographs by Bedo Der-Bedrosian on behalf of the Armenian Assembly of America)
PINELLAS PARK, FL – On Friday, April 24, 2015, Gulf Coast Armenians centered in Tampa/St. Petersburg will join Armenians around the world in solemnly commemorating the Armenian Genocide.
Beginning in 1915, the Ottoman Turkish government launched a premeditated campaign of genocide against their Armenian citizens. Approximately 1.5 million Armenians—75% of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire—were killed. This was the first modern example of genocide in the 20th century. Indeed, the very word genocide (denoting the destruction of an entire people) was originally coined in 1944 to describe the policy of systematic extermination used by the Young Turks regime against the Armenian people, and that the Nazis subsequently waged on European Jews.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of this dark chapter in world history and a series of specially orchestrated events are taking place around the world. On the Gulf Coast of Florida Armenian Americans have planed a diverse program of religious, academic, and physical activities to commemorate the lives of those lost a century ago. Below is the listing of events in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area on and around April 24th:
“Stop Genocide” 5K Commemorative Walk/Run
Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 8:30AM
Ft. Desoto Park
3500 Pinellas Bayway South, St. Petersburg, FL 33715
All walkers and runners are invited to participate in Tampa’s first-ever 5K dedicated to the Armenian Genocide and towards raising awareness about all genocides. Interested participants can register on Active.com. Guests can also connect with other runners on the Stop Genocide 5K Facebook event page.
Orphans of the Genocide Screening & Director Q&A
Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 7:00PM
The Florida Holocaust Museum
55 5th Street South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Hear from South Florida film director Bared Maronian as he presents his documentary on the orphanages that housed the many orphans who lost parents and were separated from siblings during the Armenian Genocide.
Orphans of the Genocide & The Armenian Genocide Airing on WEDU+
Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 8:00PM, and 9:30PM on WEDU+
Orphans of the Genocide is a documentary by South Florida film director Bared Maronian showing the orphanages that housed thousands of orphans who lost their parents and were separated from siblings during the Armenian Genocide. Film starts at 8:00 PM (90 minutes).
The Armenian Genocide is the complete story of the first Genocide of the 20th century. It features interviews with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Samantha Power, and best-selling author Peter Balakian, and contains historical footage of the events.
Narrated by Julianna Margulies, it also includes narrations by Ed Harris, Natalie Portman and Laura Linney, among others. Film starts at 9:30PM (60 minutes).
“Rising from the Ashes of Tragedy” Lecture and Student Panel Discussion
Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 2:00PM
University of South Florida (USF)
Tampa, Main Library
4th Floor Grace Allen Room
The USF Libraries Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center host Armenian scholar Dr. Garabet Moumdjian for a presentation entitled “Rising from the Ashes of Tragedy – Armenia’s Triumph Over Its Genocide.” A panel discussion by USF students will follow the presentation.
FEATURED EVENT: An Evening of Remembrance
Friday, April 24, 2015 at 7:00PM
St. Hagop Armenian Church
7020 90th Avenue, Pinellas Park, FL 33782
Armenian heritage comes to life in gifted performances of song and prayer to remember those lost in the Armenian Genocide and to celebrate their ongoing legacy.
“Rising from the Ashes of Tragedy” Lecture and Q&A
Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 7:00PM
St. Hagop Armenian Church
7020 90th Avenue, Pinellas Park, FL 33782
Armenian scholar Dr. Garabet Moumdjian presents “Rising from the Ashes of Tragedy – Armenia’s Triumph Over Its Genocide,” followed by Q&A.
For a full listing of Armenian Genocide 100th anniversary commemorative events in Florida, please visit our Florida Armenians 2015 Page.