The city of Syracuse will serve as home to a special exhibit in the coming days. And, history pays little if any attention to the cause. Bill Carey reports it's an effort to keep alive the memory of an atrocity that left 1.5 million people dead.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The day marks the sovereignty of their home land and celebrates the youngest generation, now living in the United States It is a day for Turks to gather in Syracuse.
"We are proud Turkish-Americans to be part of Syracuse culture here. And we're really doing our best to integrate those families into the community here," said Tim Saka, Turkish Cultural Center Executive Director.
But the celebration of culture and history tends not to touch on a dark episode in Turkey's past. What most groups, except the Turks, refer to as the Armenian Genocide.
The mere mention of the tragic days by Pope Francis, using the word "genocide" brought a sharp rebuke from the government in Istanbul.
It all began 100 years ago. In 1915.
The effort to eliminate the Armenian population of what was then the Ottoman Empire by use of ethnic violence and exile. In the end, the death toll stood at 1.5 million.
The Onondaga Historical Association is opening an exhibit remembering the tragedy and the flow of refugees into the U.S. and Central New York.
There were certainly ones who were coming to Syracuse because there were Armenian people here that they had connections with, some extended family members. So there was a distinct population that established itself in Syracuse," said Dennis Connors, OHA Curator of History.
The events of the early 20th century, often denied by the Turks, have been difficult for the Armenians to accept.
"My father, having remembered leaving Constantinople when he was a young boy, and all our properties were confiscated from his family and the same thing with my grandmother's family, my dad's mother," said Robert Koolakian, son of Armenian Refugee
Local Armenians were involved in efforts to put an end to the ethnic cleansing in their homeland. The efforts failed as attention turned to the broader toll of World War 1.
A century later, Turks in the U.S. say it is time to resolve the dispute.
"The Turkish community in Syracuse really feel bad about each side, they had to suffer through that process. We are trying to find a way to have interaction and dialog so we can kind of heal that process and go on and really go back to our common points. That we can really share out cultures together," said Saka.
Armenians said before there can be reconciliation, there needs to be an end to denial...an end to ignoring history.