FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.–Amid security concerns and ongoing Turkish death-threats, author Margaret Ajemian Ahnert led the Fort Lauderdale book reading of her Armenian Genocide family memoir, "The Knock at the Door," reported the Armenian National Committee of South Florida. Over 80 people attended the event hosted by the Broward County Main Library, sponsored by the Florida Center for the Book.
The subject of the book, a skillful retelling of her mother’s traumatic battle to survive as a young girl during the Armenian Genocide, comes at a crucial time when the United States House of Representatives is set to vote on H.Res. 106, calling upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide.
Among the audience were the influential members of the Writers Network, and civic leaders from South Florida. Despite a high turnout, "I was uncomfortable from the threats I received from angry Turks," said Ahnert. To assure the safety of the public, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department provided security for the night.
"Turkish death threats to Ms. Ahnert are an insult to American values upon which our country was founded. The threats demonstrate the incompatibility of Turkish nationalism and the first amendment of the US constitution; the freedom of speech and to assemble," said Albert Mazmanian, chairman of the ANC of South Florida.
Threats to proponents of genocide affirmation are not unprecedented. Last January, Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist, was assassinated by a 17-year old nationalist for speaking about the Armenian Genocide. Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code outlaws criticism of Turkish identity, and academicians have been victims of such laws. On the state level, Turkey threatened to cut-off supplies to US troops in Iraq in response to the House Foreign Affairs Committee vote on H.Res 106. "Turkey’s threats against U.S. interests are outrageous and must not be tolerated. I applaud the House Foreign Affairs Committee for adopting the Genocide resolution and look to House Members to show the same courage and principles," said Sandra Lalaian, an activist and resident of Key Biscayne, Florida.
During the Q&A session, a Turkish-American from the audience asked Ahnert, "if you want to remember something, why do you remember the bad things," citing Seljuk liberation of the Armenian Church from the Byzantines. Ahnert rebutted that fifteen of the sixteen chapters of her book are "happy memories," and only one chapter is a "bad memory."