For Immediate Release
Contact: Armen Sahakyan
Annual Armenian Flag Raising Ceremony Held at Fort Lee Borough Hall
Mayor Mark J. Sokolich Presents Proclamation to Wounded Artsakh Soldier
FORT LEE, NJ – Over 150 Armenian American community members gathered at the Fort Lee Municipal building on Saturday, April 21st, 2018 to pay tribute with an honorary flag raising and proclamation dedication in remembrance of the 1.5 million Armenians who perished during the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Mayor Mark J. Sokolich, along with Fort Lee council members, firefighters, policemen, and several participating Armenian organizations including the Armenian Relief Society, Armenian Youth Federation, Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society, and the Nareg Armenian Saturday School were in attendance reported the Armenian National Committee of New Jersey.
Mayor Mark J. Sokolich, Esq. spoke on behalf of the town of Fort Lee. Issuing a proclamation naming April 2018 as Genocide Prevention and Awareness month, he reflected on the need to remember and advocate against all mass atrocities. The proclamation was presented to national hero Major Sargis Stepanyan who was in attendance. Major Sargis Stepanyan, an Artsakh war veteran lost both his legs and right arm during a rescue mission in Artsakh in 2014. Since then, he has become an advocate for providing counseling to wounded soldiers and is the World Champion in the International Paralympic Arm-Wrestling Competition clenching two gold medals in 75kg and 80kg weight categories, and a silver medal among heavyweight athletes.
Following the event, Sokolich commented: “As the Mayor of a community as diverse as the Borough of Fort Lee, it is my duty to ensure that our entire community never forgets our past to ensure a better, safer and compassionate future. It is for this very reason that the atrocities committed against the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians never be forgotten. History does not discriminate….it includes everything from mankind’s very worst to its very best; the Armenian genocide is an example of the very worst and those who honor the victims of genocide through events of remembrance and education is an example of the very best that society has to offer. Fort Lee is proud to have hosted the annual Armenian flag raising ceremony and is committed to doing so in the future.”
The ceremony included a prayer and flag blessing from Rev. Father Hovnan Bozoian of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church in Ridgefield, NJ; remarks from Hasmig Aprahamian, signing from the Nareg Saturday School, poetry reading by Aram Karakoulian, Karin Dechoian playing Oror by Aram Khatchardourian on the violin, and remarks from community leaders Arev Dinkjian and James Sahagian. The Homenetmen Scouts led the raising and salute of the Armenian flag, flying just below the American flag flying half-staff in memory of former First Lady Barbara Bush who passed away earlier that week.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Mayor and the Fort Lee borough for supporting this event and allowing the Armenian flag to fly alongside the American flag in remembrance of what happened to those that perished 103 years ago,” commented Hasmig Aprhamaian, co-chair of the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society Eastern Region. “The Armenian American residents of Fort Lee and all throughout the state of New Jersey are proud to see how supportive our elected officials are in recognizing and educating those on what happened,” she continued.
Arev Dinkjian, a Fort Lee resident and president of the AYF NJ Arsen Chapter spoke on behalf of the ANC of New Jersey painting reflecting upon the memories of her great grandma and building roots in her Fort Lee home and the need to fight for justice not only for ourselves but future generations. The program concluded with the singing of Sardarabad, which is patriotic Armenian song signifying Armenian’s freedom and independence.
The full text of the Proclamation reads:
WHEREAS, From 1915-1923 during the Armenian Genocide, one and one-half million ethnic Armenian men, women and children as well as over one million Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Pontians, Syriacs, and others were massacred as part of the planned complete eradication of these Christian indigenous communities by the Ottoman Turkish Empire during the first modern genocide that still requires justice; and
WHEREAS, Near East Relief’s efforts, with the active participation of the Garden State, resulted in delivering 117 million dollars of assistance between 1915 and 1930, that directly resulted in the salvation of the Christian Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian survivors from being completely annihilated by the Genocide; and
WHEREAS, Prior to the implementation of the Holocaust, in order to garner support from his followers, Adolf Hitler asked “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”; and
WHEREAS, The genocide has been recognized by forty-eight of the United States and nearly thirty countries, including: Canada, France, Switzerland, Germany, the Vatican, and Argentina; and
WHEREAS, the Republic of Armenia is now a free, independent, democratic state and a strategic ally of the United States; and
WHEREAS, as a continuation of genocidal policies, in the lead up to the collapse of the Soviet Union and declaration of independence of Artsakh Republic, ethnic Armenians were brutally killed in Sumgait (February 1988), Kirovabad (November 1988) and Baku (January 1990), and the entire Armenian minority of Azerbaijan, numbering over 350,000 people, was forcibly deported from the country; and
WHEREAS, In July of 1988, within months of the Sumgait tragedy, the United States Senate unanimously passed Amendment 2690 to the Fiscal Year 1989 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (H.R. 4782), concerning the Karabakh conflict and calling on the Soviet government to “respect the legitimate aspirations of the Armenian people …” and noted that “dozens of Armenians have been killed and hundreds injured during the recent unrests …”; and
WHEREAS, In 1989, the Unites States Senate condemned the anti-Armenian Pogroms in Azerbaijan and called upon the Soviet government that “those responsible for the killing and bloodshed be identified and prosecuted”; and
WHEREAS, On December 10th of 1991, despite continued violence against the people of Artsakh, a popular referendum proclaiming the republic took place in Artsakh during the process of the Soviet Union disintegration; and
WHEREAS, The United States House of Representatives has adopted H.Con.Res. 75, declaring the atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide; and
WHEREAS, By recognizing, remembering, and educating those about the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, and all cases of past and ongoing genocide we help protect historic memory, ensure that similar atrocities do not occur again, and remain vigilant against hatred, persecution, and tyranny; and
WHEREAS, on April 21, 2018, the Borough of Fort Lee raised the Armenian Flag in recognition of the atrocities suffered as a result of the Armenian Genocide and also in recognition of the importance of preserving the memory of its victims.
Now, therefore, I, Mark J. Sokolich, Mayor of the Borough of Fort Lee, New Jersey, do hereby proclaim April 2018 as Genocide Awareness and Prevention month in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust and all other genocides in honor of all the survivors as well as the rescuers and liberators.
Photo credit Diran Jebejian