NEW YORK, NY – Over one hundred community leaders and activists from across the New York metropolitan area gathered recently in the prestigious main hall of the New York City Bar Association for an open and interactive public forum on “Current Events and the Post Protocol Era.”
The discussion, hosted jointly by the Armenian National Committees of New York and New Jersey, featured remarks by the Editor of The Armenian Weekly and Doctoral Student in Genocide Studies at Clark University, Khatchig Mouradian; President of Haigazian University, Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian; and ANCA Executive Director, Aram Hamparian. The forum was moderated by ANCA Eastern Region Executive Director Garo Manjikian.
The main themes explored during the forum were Armenian and international efforts to secure a truthful and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government’s attempts to obstruct justice for this crime, and the ongoing impact of the complex and evolving dynamics surrounding this issue on the domestic and foreign policies of Armenia, Turkey, the United States, and other nations.
A common thread that ran through all three presentations was the issue of justice for the Armenian Genocide. The first panelist, Mouradian, began his discussion by first shining light on the massive scale of civic, social and individual involvement in the Genocide, and the far-reaching benefits that state and citizen stakeholders in Turkey have accrued in the past, and continue to reap for this unpunished crime. Drawing on his extensive first-hand knowledge of Turkish politics and present day Turkish civil society, Mouradian offered telling insights into how the Armenian Genocide is now dealt with in Turkey.
“For politicians it is always a strategy to ultimately not address the root causes of the problem, but rather just make aesthetic changes,” stated Mouradian. On the other hand, he continued, within Turkish civil society only talking about the Armenian Genocide and saying it is important to confront the past does not cut it anymore. He noted that although speaking about 1915 in Turkey has its merits and keeps the issue at the forefront, the problem with the discourse is that it is centered on emotions, not justice.
Haidostian discussed what he called the four interrelated arenas of interest to diasporan Armenians which include the deeply rooted memory of the genocide, the politics of recognition and justice, welfare for Armenian communities around the world, and the development and status of the Republic of Armenia. According to Haidostian, one of the most serious threats to the issues of justice for the Armenian Genocide is time. “Politics and timing are pragmatically related. For the victim, time stops abruptly when Genocide takes place. As long as the victim remembers, the moment of Genocide persists. For the victim, time is chronological, with its chronos and logos. So, when time stops, the meaning of time, the reason of time is annulled,” stated Haidostian. “For perpetrators, Genocide is part of time, and its impact passes with time. The longer the issue is kept untreated, the better the chances are for political/historical revising and reversing.”
In regards to third party involvement, he explained that time accompanies history with the values of convenience and political expediency, citing the Protocols as an example. He continued, stating that “With the signing of the protocols and the related waves of protest, we realized once more, that the conscience and spirit of the Armenian people do not follow the alphabet of convenience, but rather the historically-shaped, Genocidally-wounded, and justice oriented spirit that longs for life.”
Hamparian focused his talk on three issues: the vital distinction between crime and conflict, the crucial connection between truth and justice, and how both these issues came into play in the Turkey-Armenia Protocols. He explained that the Turkish government and its allies have long sought, including through the Protocols, to re-define the Armenian Genocide from a crime to a bilateral conflict. “When you think about our struggle for recognition and justice for the Genocide, at its core is not the question of whether it happened or not, for that is a matter of settled history. The fundamental question is whether this is a crime that requires justice or a conflict that requires dialogue, discussion, mediation, or arbitration? Ankara clearly has one answer, the wrong one. We have another: The Armenian Genocide is a crime, an unpunished transgression against a nation and the international community that must be resolved in a truthful and just manner. The perpetrator should be held accountable, and the victim made whole.” With regard to the Protocols, Hamparian noted that: “We showed, that at least as far as we are concerned, and to the extent that we have influence in this world, that the Armenian Genocide remains a crime requiring justice.”
The forum concluded with remarks by His Grace Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar of the Armenian Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Eastern United States), followed by a lively half-hour question and answer session.