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Margaret Bagdigian

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Margaret Bagdigian is a Genocide survivor and social activist.

Bagdigian was 5 years old when she saw Ottoman Turks round up her grandparents for deportation from her Armenian homeland. It was the last she saw of them.

"They were killed along with just about everyone else they knew," said Bagdigian.

In 1915, most of the Armenians who were rounded up like Bagdigian's grandparents died during grueling marches to concentration camps that had been set up thousands of miles away in what is now Syria. The killings and deportations continued on and off until 1923. At the time, the Ottoman Empire claimed the Armenians were being relocated because of their allegiance to the Russian Empire.

After she moved to America, Bagdigian always made sure she took her children to Armenia to get a sense of what was lost.

Her personal story is so powerful that it was recorded and stored in a manuscript that is kept at the Farmington Public Library, Connecticut.

Bagdigian is not silent as well.

From her home in Farmington, by 2007 94-year-old Bagdigian, commenting refusal of US government to declare the mass killings of Armenians as Genocide, echoed the sentiments of many Armenian immigrants living in Connecticut and across the rest of the country.

"It absolutely was genocide, and the government shouldn't be afraid to say so," she said.

In 2007 the U.S. government, for several months has been debating a motion to recognize the deaths of about 1.5 million Armenians as genocide.

Bagdigian and other Armenian Americans say the government should hold modern day Turkey accountable for the atrocity, but the Bush administration and the State Department say such recognition could severely damage the nation's strategically critical relationship with Turkey.

In 2007 House Foreign Relations Committee voted to approve the measure. U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy, D-5th District, was a co-sponsor of the measure. Despite the vote, it was not expected to clear a vote in the full House because of opposition from the White House. And a motion to formally recognize the massacre as genocide was stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2007.

The administration's opposition to the motion has left many Armenians in Connecticut feeling bitter.

State Rep. John Geragosian, D-New Britain, has been a vocal supporter of recognizing the incident as genocide. He said the voices of survivors such as Bagdigian will eventually fall silent.

"We're running out of time, and then when there's no longer anyone who can say, 'I was there,' who knows how it will be portrayed?" he said.

Geragosian points out that the strong Armenian communities that once thrived in Connecticut cities such asNew Britain are now dwindling.

Of the four Armenian Orthodox churches in the state, two are in New Britain, he said.

"I think each church is down to something like 100 families now," he said. "Like everyone else, they're all moving to the suburbs, blending in with everyone else. We need this to happen before the voices are all lost."

Geragosian said the Turkish government, which maintains that the Armenian deaths were not the result of a systematic plan, should no longer be afraid to come to grips with the past.

"They need to come clean to move on," he said. "If they are such strong allies of ours, then this recognition should not be something that gets in the way of our relationship."

"It's the truth, it happened," Bagdigian says.


  • Armenian Community Frustrated Over White House Opposition To Genocide

Bill, By Matt Burgard | Courant Staff Writer, November 26,2007,0,7771642.story