Ambassador Yeganian's address on the occasion of the 99th Anniversary of Armenian Genocide -
Honourable guests, compatriots and friends,
Another year has passed and we are commemorating already the 99th Anniversary of Armenian Genocide. 99 years ago today more than 300 Armenian intellectuals were arrested, tortured, murdered or set to be deported by the Young Turks of the fading Ottoman Empire. The Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century. It was a governmentally devised plan to annihilate an entire nation, a plan aimed at creation of a Pan-Turkic Empire. It was a tragedy that took lives of 1.5 million Armenians and was continued with persecution and genocides of other Christian nations living in the Ottoman Empire.
Medz Yeghern is not just a memory in the hearts of Armenians worldwide, it was the beginning of the practice of racial extermination that had its continuation in Holocaust, genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and other tragedies throughout the world.
The plan to exterminate Armenians was created and implemented by the Young Turks regime, but brutal slaughters of Armenians weren’t unheard of in the Ottoman Empire. Only the massacres of mid 1890s in Western Armenia took lives of more than 300.000 Armenians. It seems now, that the Ottoman Empire’s only way of dealing with its Christian population was through massacres, evidence to which are the genocides of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians, with total number of slaughtered passing over 3 million.
It is well known that after the World War II a Polish lawyer with Jewish heritage, Raphael Lemkin introduced the term “genocide” to the international community. In 1921 still a student of philology Raphael Lemkin asked his professor why the masterminds of the Armenian slaughters were not arrested, and the answer, that there was no law under which they could be arrested, was the reason he devoted his life to the studies of crimes against humanity. Lemkin’s input was tremendous in the drafting of the “Genocide Convention”, which was signed by the United Nations in 1948 in order to prevent the repetition of such atrocities in the future. History of the last six decades shows, though, that the international community was not successful in this endeavour and the ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide by the successor of its perpetrators has its impact on it. The international recognition of the Armenian Genocide is essential for the practice of the Convention, research and inclusion of the issue in educational systems worldwide is crucial.
Nowadays, more than 20 countries, 43 states of the USA, many international organizations have already recognized the Armenian Genocide. The independent legal analysis by the International Center for Transitional Justice in 2003 has also concluded that the “events… include all of the elements of the crime of genocide as defined in the (Genocide) Convention”. Moreover, the most renowned International Association of Genocide Scholars not only recognized and condemned Armenian Genocide, but also wrote an open letter to the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan calling upon Turkish government to “acknowledge the responsibility of a previous government for the Genocide of the Armenian people”.
We are everlastingly grateful to Canada for its recognition of the Armenian Genocide on legislative and executive levels, for its support to the cause of international recognition of the Genocide and for the wonderful relations our countries have established during the two decades of Armenia’s Independence. We are grateful to Canada for the establishment of very important institution such as Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, where Armenian Genocide will be at the permanent exhibition. We are grateful for standing firm despite all the blackmailing from the Turkish government.
Despite growing recognition of the Yeghern, the modern Turkish government presses on its policy of denial – spending millions of dollars on anti-propaganda against calling the slaughters a Genocide. Despite geopolitical or national interests, the members of the international community and the community as a whole should stand in the condemnation of genocide and work towards its prevention.
The campaign of the Turks against non-Turkic minorities at the beginning of the 20th century “solved” the Armenian Question in their favor, Armenians, Pontic Greeks, Assyrians were dispossessed of their ancestral homelands and the Turks proclaimed them their own.
Their ongoing policy of denial is outrageous; coming to terms with their history should be their own priority. Unfortunately I don’t see this coming anytime soon, an indication of which was Turkey’s recent blatant support to terrorist groups that attacked the peaceful Armenian town of Kessab in Syria. Three Armenian churches were desecrated and all Armenian homes looted.
Still there is hope: it’s several years now, that brave Turkish individuals join their Armenian compatriots in Istanbul and commemorate the tragic date with them, bright Turkish intelectuals speak out about the Genocide out loud – without fearing possible persecution. Just today they gathered at HaydarPasa, the train station from which Armenian intellectuals were sent into the Turkish interior 99 years ago and then had a memorial program in Taksim Square.
As President Sargsyan stated in his address “Today, we stand on the threshold of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. This can afford Turkey a good chance to repent and to set aside the historical stigma in case if they make efforts to set free their state’s future from this heavy burden.”
Next year we will commemorate the Centennial Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Special committees of Armenian communities around the world are preparing for this important landmark. It will not be a date that will extinguish the fires in our hearts, it will not make our sorrow disappear. On the contrary, it will be a date of a new beginning: the Armenian nation, once again standing tall, will demand justice and justice must be served.
April 24, 2014, Ottawa, Parliament Hill