System of a Down on Armenian Genocide: ‘The Denial Is a Spit in the Face of Us Every Year’
System of a Down have played "Souls" benefit shows in the past, but with this year marking the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide, the band has decided to expand their reach in taking the message around the world. On Wednesday (April 1), band members Serj Tankian and John Dolmayan joined with Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian, Congressman Adam Schiff and Turkish academic Taner Akcam to discuss the upcoming tour and its ties to pushing for the recognition of the Armenian genocide.
While the violence and elimination of large amounts of the Armenian generation took place a full century ago, it is something that is still felt today. Dolmayan recalled the stories that have been passed down about family members who were the victims of genocide, including his own grandfather who watched on as his father was killed. And many of those who did survive were moved from their homeland or left to grow up in orphanages. "We don't have much history beyond our great grandparents because everyone was put to death. We just don't have the history," says the drummer.
Tankian also shared stories of his family members and their life paths as the genocide was occurring and he remains upset that the Turkish government and other governments around the world have not officially recognized that it ever happened. "It is still with us and the denial is a spit in the face of us every year," says the singer. "It has to end for relations to improve among people, among nations and to correctly reflect what history has offered."
Over the years, System of a Down have staged "Souls" benefit shows to put a spotlight on the genocide. Dolmayan told Loudwire that the goal was not to be preachy about things, but to offer the information should people want to learn more. He adds, "One of the things that I've always told fans, especially from Turkey who have either Facebooked messaged me or gotten in touch in other ways either supporting or denying, is to seek out the truth for themselves. You don't necessarily have to depend on what we're saying or even what you're government is saying. You can seek it out for yourself. And that way they'll be more open to finding a range of different avenues to find the truth."
In his opening remarks, Hamparian revealed what the ultimate goal is: "First we want to see real peace between Turks and Armenians but that peace requires the foundation of truth and justice. We're not gonna see a reconciliation that ignores it or attempts to sweep the genocide under the rug." He added, "They need to deal honestly with their past. Germany has dealt honestly with the holocaust. America has taken steps to deal honestly with slavery and the treatment of Native Americans. It's time for Turkey to deal honestly with the Armenian genocide."
Schiff, meanwhile, spoke of representing a number of Armenian families over the years, listening to their stories about hearing large parts of their families being lost. He adds, "This is deeply personal and this, the 100th year, we need to make sure our president and our Congress do the right thing."
System of a Down's "Wake Up the Souls" tour will launch in the band's home base of Los Angeles at The Forum on April 6, and will follow by hitting a number of the different capitols in Europe that were part of World War I during the month of April. The run will conclude with the band's first ever show in Armenia, which the group intends on documenting, on April 23. See the dates here.
To learn how to get involved in bringing more attention to the Armenian genocide, visit the band's website and check out their "Take Action" and "Social" tabs. And check out marchtojustice.org for additional information.
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