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Assyrians in Armenia
By Dr. Marina Mkhitaryan
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Young Assyrians village church choir members. Palm Sunday, 2015.
The latest developments in the Middle East recalled the memories from 2015 when the Armenians were marking the 1915 Genocide and I was doing my documentary photography project on the three genocides -- Armenian, Greek and Assyrian.

Can we quantify suffering? The only quantitative expression of suffering is time passed after the Armenian Genocide and the number of victims. Suffering is not subject to a quantitative frame. If somebody x-rays our soul, he/she will see the fingerprints of our ancestors suffering during the Armenian Genocide.

Being a grandchild of the 1915 Armenian Genocide survivor, I keep alive memories from childhood when my Armenian grandfather was telling his story of survival: " 8-year old boy from Mush finds refuge in Armenia with a group of other orphans... The ancestral mountains inspire consolation ('mkhitarutun' in Armenian)....Such was the blessing bestowed upon the family of Mkhitaryans...."

My documentary photography project is dedicated to the three genocides: Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian. I documented the families' narratives of exile and survival, including the survivors and their descendants. People willingly shared their families' archival photos. Even in a few decades the descendants were feeling the pain of their ancestors-refugees who lost their homes forever.

Time can't heal the souls' wounds. I remember the second generation survivor from Margara village, adjacent to the Armenian-Turkish state border, who reconstructed the family tree. It was an action of 'returning home'.

Being of Greek origin as well, I was an active participant of all commemoration events taken place on 19 May when the Greek Community representatives visited the Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Memorial in Yerevan. What do you feel when you see children at the commemoration events? Our children have to live in a peaceful world, in a world without genocides. That is why we have to teach them keeping memory. Can memory trigger any genocide prevention? It goes without saying, memory can play a certain role.

It was fairly noted by Lela Gilberd in her article published in 2015: "The Christian world -- Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant -- must persist in memorialising the Armenians and others who perished. And we must insist on recounting the brutality suffered by today's Christians, in the Middle East and beyond, who also face expulsion and extermination. With God's help, we will never forget. Nor will we be silent."

Leonid Badalov at the Assyrian Genocide Memorial, Yerevan, Armenia.2015

The Assyrians are introduced in the photo project under the title "Proud to be a Christian". I photographed the children baptised in the Assyrian church, joined the Assyrians for the celebration of the Palm Sunday in the village of Verin Dvin, Armenia.

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