August 2008 was the month when I flew to my homeland, Armenia, for the very first time. Not only was I excited about going there, but I was also overflowing with fear of what to expect, and whether 21 years of my life that I've spent abroad would make it difficult for me to fit in with my own people.
As the plane was flying above Armenia 14,000 ft above my homeland a few minutes before the landing; I was sitting in my seat observing, my eyes found its way to Mount Ararat. It was the most beautiful sight my eyes have ever laid on. Its seemed quiet small from where I was seated, but as my gaze kept fixating itself to that beautiful mountain second by second, I realised that it was not small at all. That was the moment when I started to see the white soft beautiful snow settled on top of the mountain. That was when I understood why I would mistake the white snow for clouds.
Soon after that beautiful sight, the plane landed. That was when I took my first steps and took in my first breath of air on the land that I belong to. For a few brief moments, it all just seemed surreal because of how beautiful this place seemed to me. Moments later, our family friends arrived to the airport to pick us up and take us to the hotel. And awhile after getting there, my eyes started to find its way to paintings I have never seen before. Eventually I realised that these paintings are of that same beautiful mountain I've seen from the plane. I couldn't stay long enough to observe these paintings as my family and I where exhausted from our trip and needed to get some rest. Soon after we did so and settled down, our family friends decided to take us around and show us around. We've been to restaurants, Church, Art galleries and the Sunday market. Through out this trip that we took to explore the country, paintings, statues and even simple things like the background picture have been haunting me carrying the image of Mount Ararat. This trip triggered my curiosity to an extent that I just could not keep it in me any longer. That was when I decided to interview my father's friends to ask them questions about this mountain hoping to learn more.
As I sat there with one of my father's friends asking him what these pictures and statues represented, he looked at me with disappointment for not knowing the history of my own homeland. After a few moments of silence, he sighed and only uttered a few words and said, 'That is Mount Ararat. It 'used to be' the pride of our country'. The words 'used to be' and 'Pride of our country' wouldn't stop echoing in my head.
Soon after that I had to go back to the land I grew up in, Dubai. As I went back to my daily life, I still carried my father's friend's words and the image of the beautiful mountain with me. My curiosity has gone beyond a level I have ever imagined. That was when I decided to research more to learn more about what 'used to be' the 'pride' of my country.
According to my research I've learnt that Mount Ararat is a volcanic mountain. This mountain is located in Eastern Turkey on the borders of Iran, Armenia and Nakchivan. It is the highest spot in the ancient region. Mount Ararat rises 16,945 feet high, which is far above the plains that fly at 2,300-3,000 feet high. Ararat was the newer Armenian name for Urartu from the Hebrew Torah written by Moses [c. 1400 BC.] (Noah's Ark Search 2007).
To my surprise I came to learn that this ancient mountain has a religious story behind it. This story links Noah's Ark to this beautiful mountain. An early church historian Philostorgius's account just about A.D. 425 stated that Noah's Ark landed on Mount Ararat (Noah's Ark Search).
Going more through my research on the responses I got from my father's friends, I began to understand their disappointment and what brought about the terms 'it used to be' the pride of our country'. Apparently Mount Ararat was located in Armenia and was every Armenian's source of pride until it was taken away by Turkey during the war that was taking place for 6 years between Armenia and Turkey.
The war declared on Armenia by the Ottoman Empire [Turkey] took place during World War One. It started in 1915 and ended a year after the 1st world war, 1921. The Turks started off attacking the Armenian citizens, arresting and deporting them from their Mother land.
On a Sunday evening, which was the last week, and the last day of the month, 28th February 2010; I was watching a show on the CBS news called 60 minutes. To my surprise, the story of that night was the Turkish-Armenian war (CBS News 2010). I couldn't believe what my eyes we're seeing. I slowly picked up the remote control and increased the volume. Soon after i did that, it was as if my body was listening too. It was as if my eyes forgot to blink, my ears could here nothing else, my brain forgot all about what was surrounding me, my body could focus on nothing else but that story. It was as if my heart synchronised its beats to every word related to my homeland and the genocide it has witnessed.
In those 60 minutes, I felt my blood rush to my head, as my rage increased minute by minute. The total of Armenians that died over those 6 years was 1.5 million. 450,000 Armenians of that 1.5 million, died in DEIR EZ-ZOR. It is a desert which used to be part of the Ottoman Empire at the time. Now it is known to be a part of the Syrian Land.
I felt my body go numb as my eyes examined the video of the skeletons found in that desert, the remaining that was found not too far under the sand. I felt my heart cry in agony, as I thought of the people that those skeletons belonged to. No one knew who they were, where they came from, no name, no sex, no age, and no identifications that would help the families that have been waiting for them to come and claim them. "This is no way for any human to die" I remember thinking to my self, all alone, in a land far away from your own, away from your family away from anything you would know.
Soon after staring at those remaining, I realised that it wasn't only my heart that was crying. I could feel a flood of tears flowing down across my cheeks, as my head was filled with memories of my grandfather and the stories he had passed on to me.
''I am so glad i had the chance to get my father and my sisters out of there on time" he would always say. It was only now that i realised that what he meant to say was 'before they killed them all....'
Soon after the Otto-Turks went around Armenia arresting and deporting the citizens, they started killing the Armenians that did not succeed in escaping. Many Armenians escaped seeking refuge in neighbouring countries such as Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Iran and the USA. My grandfather was one of the citizens that escaped to Iran, in search for a land in which he could bring his family to and keep them safe. The problem was, all of the refugees that were found by the Otto-Turks were taken back to Armenia against their will, only to experience not only an evil, but a horrifying and inhumane death. All of the refugees that were caught would be sent to walk on their feet, all the way back to Armenia. Once they reached their homeland, they were all taken and pushed into a large deep hole where they were later on joined by the rest of the prisoners. Soon after that, the Otto-Turks would stand in a large group right over that hole, and shoot all of those prisoners to death. Men, women, children, it did not matter to them. All that mattered to them was that every Armenian in this world disappears.
Many of those prisoners were citizens that escaped and went back into Armenia to help their families escape. Not all of them made it, only a few did. Some where nowhere to be found, with no traces left behind. My grandfather and his family was one of the few Armenians that made it out of there safely. In the first escape, my grandfather managed to take his sisters along with him to Iran. He made sure that they were safe there and found a way to live until he was back. Soon after he did that, he want back in search of his father and he successfully managed to escape with him and meet along with the rest of the family in Iran.
With no other choice, my grandfather and his family started to think of Iran as their homeland. They had nowhere else to go to. Although he was the youngest one in the family, he started from scratch and he successfully managed to create a new life in a safer environment for him and his family.
Till this day, the Turks refuse to admit to their hateful crimes. All of the Armenians around the world insist on it the genocide being the Turks fault. The Turks still deny all strings tying them to the genocide. All of the lives they have taken away. They claimed that the war was from both sides, they denied that the fight ever happened and claimed that the event that took place in Armenia was not genocide. If that really wasn't genocide, then what else would they call it? When the war started, collecting money and land was on the bottom of their list. Not too long after the killings, the Otto-Turks started to feel powerful. Out of hate, he Otto-Turks started practicing more cruel and brutal ways to hurt the Armenians. They started to take parts of the land, my mother-land, claiming it was their own.
Mount Ararat was a part of that land that was taken away. Till this day, they claim it as their own. But i say no more, i say its time to claim back our land, the pride of my mother-land. Time to stand up straight with our heads up high and say 'This is Mount Ararat, and it IS the pride of our land".