President Obama is meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on December 7, 2009.
This is a copy of my letter to President Obama:
November 12, 2009
Dear President Obama,
Thank you for your leadership and the vision you are putting forth for America. I actually cried with tears of happiness when I voted for you.
My late father always celebrated the anniversary of the day he arrived in America and saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time. He called May 15th, “God Bless America Day.” It was more important to him to celebrate that day, than it was to celebrate his own birthday.
President Obama, I am an Armenian-American. I am writing to you today because I understand you will be meeting with the Prime Minister of Turkey, again, before the end of this year. I am speaking up now on behalf of the memory of my mother’s parents and grandparents, who suffered unthinkable personal tragedies at the hands of the Ottoman Turks during the Armenian Genocide. I still believe you intend to keep your campaign promise to call the systematic mass murder and deportation of Armenians, Greeks and other non-Muslims a “Genocide.”
I truly believe you are the right person to find a way to work through this issue because the world respects you. If a man of your principles and moral courage does not speak up to the Turkish Government, who will? Allowing Turkey to perpetuate a denial campaign, so as not to disturb our national interests, is no different than befriending the playground bully and then not speaking up to his assertions that he never abused anyone. In this comparison, the bully would actually make claims that it was he who was assaulted, and he was merely defending himself.
My grandfather’s family did not assault the Turkish government. In fact, my great great grandfather, Dr. Aboujhon Kuzujian, was a prominent medical doctor from Aintab who migrated to Marash. The family name was officially changed from Kuzujian to Kalpakleoglou or Karnoug (in Armenian) when my great great grandfather received a Kalpak (Persian lamb hat) as an honor from the Sultan of Turkey. Dr. Kuzujian was recognized as a hero for saving the lives of children during an epidemic in Marash that took the lives of many children.
My grandfather was Karnig Kalpakian (Dr. John Karnig) and his father was Dr. Janik Kalpakian. In 1920, they escaped the killings in Marash, Turkey, that claimed the lives of my great grandmother Mary Mesrobian, as well as the lives of my great aunts Anais and Armenouhi. During the Ottoman Turks’ mass deportation of the Armenians, Mary Mesrobian’s entire family, with the exception of her brother Kevork, were deported “to the deserts of Arabia” (this is what my grandfather wrote in his letter to our family, but it was most likely Der Zor).
My grandfather and great grandfather were among the ‘lucky’ victims of the Ottoman Turks. Leaving everything behind, they survived. Starting off in a horse-drawn carriage to Aintab, Janik and Karnig set out on their journey to safer shores in America. From Aintab they traveled to Aleppo (Syria); then to Beirut (Lebanon), then on to Jerusalem, and finally to Alexandria, Egypt, where they waited to immigrate to America. In 1923, Karnig, together with his father, new stepmother and a new baby brother, finally arrived at Ellis Island in New York.
Mr. President, in my heart I believe this issue has broader importance than simply serving as a domestic political gesture to a small constituency. The world community is watching and waiting for our leadership regarding genocide. My mother asked why would I want to get involved in documenting the Armenian Genocide as a response to the recent Armenian-Turkish Protocols, when my efforts won’t change anything. But as Henri Frederic Amiel said, “Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence.”
Please take my letter under your personal consideration. It would be an honor to share more of my grandfather’s family history, as well as his achievements in, and contributions to, our great country.
Sheri Sona Jordan
My blog address is, https://armeniangenocideblog.wordpress.com