For this session, we decided to speak on the Armenian genocide. An event that is sometimes considered to be the first genocide of the 20th century, has been systematically erased from memory. Our first challenge was to make the students familiar with Armenia: a country they did not know exists. After a brief introduction to the Ottoman Empire and their inhuman policies, we showed them a series of photographs taken by Kathryn Cook (from “Memory Denied: Turkey and the Armenian Genocide” included in the Human Rights Defenders module).
We asked the students to add one-word responses to the photographs, putting them in the context of genocide and displacement. Most of them were able to identify what these photographs convey. For example, there is a photograph that captures the shadow of a train in motion. It did strike a chord with them and almost all the students associated it with eviction. “It reminds me of the freight trains that transported Jews in Germany”- responded a student.
Before calling it a day, we screened a couple of testimonies given by a few survivors of the genocide (this and this). We ended the session with a short discussion on the importance of memory and how it still affects the lives of survivors, all of whom are above hundred years old.