NEW YORK — It’s a remarkable Armenian village somewhere in Iraq with about 200 to 500 people. And it is surviving through courage, faith, fortitude and about 22 dedicated men against the massive force of the Islamic State. Its name, Havresc, translates to big revenge, and its history dates back to 1915, when survivors of the Genocide constructed it.
On Thursday, December 8, the Zohrab Information Center hosted David Ritter, who has spent months in the village, who presented his documentary titled, “Havresc, Stand on Courage,” to a large audience, detailing the daily struggles of Armenian and Assyrian Christian Iraqis and the village they have built on the edge of ISIS-controlled territory.
Ritter was introduced by the Zohrab Center’s executive director, the Very Rev. Daniel Findikyan, who related that this issue “transcends ethnic interests. One doesn’t have to be Armenian to care about others.”
Before showing the film, Ritter who is not Armenian, commented that he was “filled with rage at the plight of the Christians, not about ethnicity,” he said, and praised the leader of the 22 soldiers, Murad Vartanian, whom he called “one of the most amazing men I have ever met, a man of conviction, courage, tenacity, and also a poet and an artist, a natural born leader.”
The documentary detailed the history of the Genocide with disturbing graphic images of death and destruction. It was a group of survivors from that tragedy that went to Iraq and built villages, including the mostly agricultural village of Havresc. In time, other persecuted Christians — Assyrians and Yezidis — also settled there. In 1975, many Christian villages were destroyed, including Havresc, with the villagers fleeing. One of the only buildings that remained were the ruins of the original school.
In 2006, many of the people of Havresc returned, and decided to rebuild their homes, churches and schools. Armenians also came from abroad and helped in the construction. Vartanian, who was originally born in the village, led the effort, and with other villagers created a communal system where goods are shared. They also erected a monument to the victims of the Genocide.