NEW YORK, NY—On Sunday, April 22nd, the Armenian National Committee of America-Eastern Region (ANCA-ER) joined the Knights and Daughters of Vartan as well as several community organizations including the Eastern Prelacy and Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Roman Catholic Armenian Church to commemorate the 97th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. While the venue has traditionally been New York’s Times Square, the inclement weather forced the event to move to the Eastern Diocese’s Kavookjian Hall which, in spite of the rain, was filled to capacity.
“While we must continue to raise awareness about and educate successive generations about the Armenian Genocide, we also must push forward to ensure that there is justice for the victims and their descendants. The ANCA remains at the forefront of this effort and we welcome the opportunity to join with our friends and fellow organizations at this solemn commemoration event which has a strong tradition in our community,” said George Aghjayan, Chairman of the ANCA-ER.
Dr. Mary Papazian, President of Southern Connecticut State University, opened the event with a moment of silence for the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Public officials participating in the event included U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and New York City Comptroller John Liu. They were joined by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a long-time supporter of Congressional Armenian Genocide affirmation. Menendez, along with U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), recently authored S.Res.399, the Armenian Genocide resolution in the U.S. Senate in the current, 112th Congress.
During his remarks, Menendez noted that S.Res.399 references the 1951 written statement submitted to the International Court of Justice in which the United States Government clearly stated that “… the Turkish massacres of Armenians, the extermination of millions of Jews and Poles by the Nazis are outstanding examples of the crime of genocide.”
Menendez continued to say, “to recognize the Genocide, therefore, is not a new policy of the United States and it is not, as some American policy makers have recently suggested, a subject for debate among historical scholars. We must pledge to ourselves today that we will not and cannot make it the policy of the United States to engage in genocide denial or bury our heads in the sand to suit an ill-defined political purpose. Any such political argument, any nuanced approach, serves only to empower those around the world today who would use genocide as a weapon of war, to find their way to cover up their horrific actions in a shroud of convenient denial.”
Continuing on the theme of justice, Aghjayan remarked, “Armenians are told of Turkey’s trauma over a lost vast empire and that Armenian demands for justice only reinforce this fear. We are told that Armenia is weak and its sustainability is in question. Finally, we are told Turkey should not be pressured from the outside – outside pressure is not the most constructive way to have dialogue. As if we would even be at the table today without the tremendous amount of work done over the past 50 years. These negative messages are repeatedly thrust at us to weaken our resolve and dismiss our successes.”
Referencing recent reported efforts by the Turkish government to once again distract recognition and justice efforts through outreach to vulnerable members of the Armenian community world-wide, Aghjayan told those gathered that, “While superficial Turkish Armenian dialogue is the carrot, aggressive anti-Armenian messaging is the stick. You have witnessed it here yourself in New York City with the aggressive ad campaign aimed at mischaracterizing the war in Artsakh. We have also seen the manifestation of aggression through lawsuits. Finally, there are always willing participants in Turkey available to scream, “You are all Armenians… you are all bastards” and other threatening slogans.”
The event featured several community leaders, both Armenian and non-Armenian, as well as cultural song performances. The event was streamed live, online by the Armenian Radio Hour of New Jersey.
Chapters of the Armenian National Committee of America-Eastern Region hosted and participated in dozens of community commemoration events this April as well as working through local and state governments to secure annual reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide. Activists can continue to urge their Members of Congress to co-sponsor the Armenian Genocide resolutions in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.Res.306 and the U.S. Senate, S.Res.399.
This past March, U.S. Senators Scott Brown (R-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Mark Kirk (R-IL) also introduced S.Res. 392. The resolution calls on the Republic of Turkey to respect religious freedom as well as return church properties to their rightful owners and communities. Individuals can help secure more co-sponsors to the resolution by contacting their U.S. Senators.
To find out if your Member of Congress is a co-sponsor and how to contact them regarding these resolutions can be found at www.anca.org.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Eastern Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Eastern United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Eastern United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-ER advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.
FULL TEXT OF MR. GEORGE AGHJAYAN’S REMARKS:
For over 95 years, we have been waging a war for justice.
Justice for the over one and a half million Armenians murdered at the orders of the Ottoman Turkish government.
Justice for the thousands of Armenian cultural monuments destroyed by the governments of Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Justice for the hundreds of thousands of survivors whose lives were never the same after the horrors they witnessed and endured.
Justice so that future generations of Armenians can grow up without fear of persecution and Armenia can truly be free, independent, and united.
Today, we have entered the final battle of that war. This battle will not end today, but it surely has already begun. The Turkish government understands this well. As with any war, the final stage is marked with extreme aggression and tactics born of desperation.
Recently, another dialogue initiative took place in Washington DC where Ömer Ta?p?nar spoke of Turkey’s other more important issues and how Armenians must accept this reality.
Armenians are told of Turkey’s trauma over a lost vast empire and that Armenian demands for justice only reinforce this fear.
It is inconceivable to me that such perverse logic is taken as reasonable. The perpetrator of a crime is being requested by the victim group (and others) to partially atone for the crime and the resultant prejudice is seen as reasonable. Once again, Armenians are placed in the position of emasculating themselves in order to achieve the crumbs of human rights that everybody else considers basic.
In addition, we are told that Armenia is weak and its sustainability is in question.
Finally, we are told Turkey should not be pressured from the outside – outside pressure is not the most constructive way to have dialogue.
As if we would even be at the table today without the tremendous amount of work done over the past 50 years. These negative messages are repeatedly thrust at us to weaken our resolve and dismiss our successes.
Increasingly, Turkish Armenian dialogue is being framed solely from the agenda of Turkey and the Turkish people without any consideration for the victims and their descendents. The victims are instead being criminalized and that is the final insult to us all.
While dialogue is the carrot, aggressive anti-Armenian messaging is the stick. You have witnessed it here yourself in New York City with the aggressive ad campaign aimed at mischaracterizing the war in Artsakh. We have also seen the manifestation of aggression through lawsuits. Finally, there are always willing participants in Turkey available to scream, “You are all Armenians … you are all bastards” and other threatening slogans.
It has been openly stated that the blockade of Armenia by Turkey is meant to create poverty of such a level so as to encourage immigration and, thus, create an Armenia empty of Armenians. In addition, the struggle over Artsakh cannot be viewed separately from the continuing nature of the Armenian Genocide. Armenia without Armenians has always been the objective and the current Turkish government is just as culpable as that which ruled a century ago.
While the descendents of the remnants of the Armenian nation fortunate enough to have come to the United States may have reached some level of affluence and rarely fear ethnic based prejudice, that does not necessarily hold for all Diasporan Armenians nor even Armenians in Armenia. Restitution of land and reparations could meaningfully assist in the perpetuation of the Armenian nation – the destruction of which was the stated objective of the crime. To view restitution of land and reparations solely in the context of the individual is the height of selfishness.
As we speak here today, there is a young woman speaking in Worcester, Massachusetts of asking her nana, a survivor of the genocide, what she remembered. Her response was “it’s not what you remember, it’s the things you can’t forget.”
This is not the time for us to blink and most definitely is not the time to capitulate on our demands.