News: Screaming About Genocide

Recognizing and speaking out against atrocities from 100 years ago up to Darfur

Oct 9, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Maya Releasing

Serj Tankian (right) with U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)

Cincinnatians will have the opportunity to become "screamers" when the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Ohio hosts the local premiere of a documentary film on genocide Oct. 10-11.

Screamers is an award-winning film that uses archival footage, interviews and live music from the Rock band System of a Down to explain the 1915 Armenian genocide and how denials of the atrocity informed a later cycle of genocide, including the Holocaust and the present-day disaster in Darfur, Sudan.

"We want to honor those who have who have perished and stop this from happening again," says the ANC's David Krikorian.

Genocide is the systematic killing of people based on their religion, ethnicity or nationality. The first cycle of genocide in the 20th century happened when 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Turkish government in 1915.

The cycle continues now with the genocide in Darfur.

"It's not front page news," Krikorian says. "We respond to Britney Spears more than we respond to Darfur."

He believes more people would join the fight against the genocide if they knew about it from the mainstream media, but raising awareness has become a grassroots effort. These local documentary screenings are a small example.

When people finally do hear about the Darfur genocide, Krikorian says, they often don't consider helping the fight against it.

"One of the first reactions is that it's too crazy to believe," he says. "You can't put it (disbelief) aside. You have to let your voice be heard."

Krikorian is the grandson of survivors of the Armenian genocide, and he's lobbying to have the U.S. government commemorate the 1915 slaughter. Currently, the Turkish government denies that an organized genocide occurred.

Krikorian says that Armenian people don't hate Turkish people but simply want to correct history. Ignoring what happened to the Armenian people is akin to the U.S. denying slavery happened, he says, adding that he wonders how far along this country would be regarding racial issues if such a denial had occurred.

Saying he knows the fight against genocide doesn't resonate with everyone, Krikorian asks people to understand that acts of genocide destroy and exterminate a group of people. Innocent women and children are slaughtered.

Picture yourself, he suggests, stuffed in a boxcar with every single member of your family, neighbors and friends. Imagine smelling the stench and feeling the feces under your feet as you're approaching a concentration camp.

"If you can do that, then you can understand," he says. "We have to protect those who can't protect themselves."

Krikorian suggests that genocide can happen anywhere, including inside the U.S. It could be based on any characteristic such as race, sex or age.

"If they came to your front door," he says, "wouldn't you want someone to help you?"

People who want join the fight against genocide or become screamers can help in many different ways. One is to contact U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) and Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township) at their Washington, D.C. offices and urge them to support congressional resolutions to stop the genocide in Darfur and to acknowledge the genocide that happened to the Armenian people.

"We want to raise awareness that Congress should be doing more to help," Krikorian says. "People should not be shy about contacting their Congressperson or Senator. These people are there to serve you."

Krikorian suggests that people educate themselves about current and previous genocides by reading books like A Problem from Hell by Samantha Powers or The Diary of Anne Frank. Become knowledgeable about genocide, he says, and be able to explain it to others who might not be aware.

In other words, become a "screamer" — a person who speaks out against governments that try to keep genocides under wraps.

The Screamers documentary is the centerpiece of Krikorian's drive to teach people about the cycle of genocide. It's an in-your-face look at genocide through the perspective of System of the Down's lead singer, Serj Tankian, whose grandfather was a survivor of the Armenian genocide in Turkey.

"It's a sexier way to discuss a troubling situation," Krikorian says.

The first screening of Screamers is 6 p.m. Oct. 10 at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center downtown. There's a suggested donation of $25 to benefit Not On Our Watch, a humanitarian organization providing aid to victims of Darfur. A reception featuring Nick Clooney and other guest speakers follows the screening.

There will be additional screenings of Screamers Oct. 11 at the University of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University and the Esquire Theatre.

"We need to recognize where and when genocide happens and do something about it," Krikorian says. "We should not be enablers to people who want to rewrite history."

The PREMIERE OF SCREAMERS Oct. 10 at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is available via pre-registration only. To RSVP, call 877-869-8105.