My grandfather, Antranik, was around 10 years old when the Armenian Genocide began.
He was not a revolutionary, nor staging rebellion, the Turkish Government's justification for annihilating the Armenians. Neither were his nine younger siblings, parents, uncles, or aunts.
They lived harmoniously with the Turks in their city that he pronounced "Berechik", which was built inside the walls of a castle near the Euphrates River.
They were willing to change their names, religions and ethnic identities to stay alive in their community, on their indigenous lands where their ancestors had lived and thrived peacefully for centuries.
My grandfather survived the genocide. But most of his family did not. He witnessed the brutal bludgeoning of his father and the deaths of eight of his nine younger brothers and sisters and his mother's family, for no reason other than being born Armenian. Those children, all under the age of 10, one just an infant, my would-be great aunts and uncles, became nothing but a statistic, each part of the grim toll of 1.5 million Armenians who died at the hands of the Young Turk Government.
April 24 is the 106th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has the opportunity to stop enabling Turkey's big lie about the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the region, on whose ancient properties Turkey is built.
Perhaps our story will help dismantle that lie.
My grandfather's family lived in an integrated city of Turks and Armenians. They communed, worked and broke bread together with no ethnic or religious tensions.
Because of these relations, when the Turkish Government sent the decree to expel my family, the Turkish community leaders simply ignored it. They knew that "expulsion" was a euphemism, code for slaughter.
Told to "Turkify" for their survival, our family converted from traditional Armenian and
Christian names to Turkish, Islamic names: Garabed became Ibrahim, Antranik became
something akin to Nouruh. But it didn't help our family's survival. When challenged by the Young Turks, their Turkish community leaders pushed back, arguing, "Why should we expel them? They have no political affiliation. They have no weapons.. done nothing wrong. There is no reason to expel," recalled my grandfather.
The Government demanded they "find a reason" to expel the "infidels". the Armenians.
And still, the community leaders refused.
So the Young Turk Government sent soldiers who gathered the town's 15 Armenian families and crammed them on a boat. But even the soldiers who arrested my grandfather's family weren't completely persuaded. They warned my family to stay out of Deir Zor, the killing fields where 150,000 Armenians were slaughtered with axes, spades, hammers, saws, and traditional weapons, their bodies then thrown into the river. They suggested bribing their way into hiding in Raqqa.
"We wouldn't have survived if there weren't good people," recalled my grandfather.
In Raqqa, they hid in a barn. Each day my great-grandfather took my young grandfather to the riverbank to count bodies floating past. "We would count hundreds, 200, 300 bodies in the river in just one evening," he told me.
While no child should suffer the terror, brutality and grief of my grandfather, most Armenian children suffered much worse — drowned, hacked, bludgeoned, speared, or locked into buildings set ablaze, often after repeated rapes.
The genocide took everything: our loved ones, indigenous lands and homes, and left us deeply psychologically wounded. Armenians started over, with nothing, as minorities in foreign lands.
Wars, occupations and other untenable oppression drove many to flee again, starting over once more somewhere else, each move pushing us farther apart and farther from our homeland.
Those who survived scattered across the world, in my family's case, to Cyprus, Lebanon, France, England, Canada, the USA; and me, to New Zealand. Left with only rare moments of reuniting.
Many of us feel lost; uprooted; nomadic; frayed and alone; our once homeland seen only through screens. We are fragments of ourselves, scarred with unresolved transgenerational trauma and grief that marks us each differently.
Mine is a deep sense of dread and constant high alert, never safe, always ready to flee, a panic and terror that springs from "nowhere" to engulf my entire sense of reality, and an overwhelming heavy heart — persistent core-level grief.
Others feel underlying mistrust or intense anger, repressed but ready for release at sometimes inopportune times. Many of us are always preparing, working for a sense of safety for when "it happens again".
Recognising the genocide won't undo the past, but would offer a salve for our unresolved grief and trauma, which becomes more pronounced with each generation. An official acknowledgment by our Prime Minister of the truth, that the annihilation of our families and communities based on our ethnicity, the thing we could not change, was genocide, would offer a small symbol of healing to our scattered and battered nation.
Ardern speaks about the power of kindness and human rights, but New Zealand's
recognition of some genocides but not others contradicts this country's human rights goals. On April 24, we hope Ardern will call this what it was, a genocide.
Send a message to both Armenians and future genocidal regimes: we will not enable big genocidal lies; we will side with survivors to see that justice is done.
• Dr Maria Armoudian is a senior lecturer in politics and international relations in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Auckland.