Boston Globe: Armenians to commemorate genocide

Armenians to commemorate genocide
Events in region culminate April 24
By Rhonda Stewart, Globe Staff, 4/11/2004

As the world marks the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, members of
Watertown’s Armenian community prepare to commemorate the eight-year
genocide that devastated their native country.

Beginning Tuesday, events will be held throughout the area leading up to a
program at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center in Watertown on
April 24. On that date in 1915, the Ottoman Turkish government began a
campaign of genocide in which more than 1 million Armenians were killed.

Last week, ceremonies were held around the world to remember the 100 days of
killing in Rwanda during which an estimated 800,000 people were murdered.
But the United States does not officially recognize the eight-year period of
killings in Armenia as genocide. In Congress, Democratic Representatives
Barney Frank and Stephen Lynch are among a bipartisan group of lawmakers who
have signed a letter encouraging President Bush to characterize the murders
as genocide.

The Turkish government’s position is that the killings do not constitute
genocide, and officials also dispute the number of Armenians killed.

Henry C. Theriault, a professor at Worcester State College, said that
despite growing public acknowledgment of genocides such as those in Rwanda
or the Holocaust in World War II, it is still common for mass killings to be
covered up or denied.

Theriault, who is also the coordinator of the college’s Center for the Study
of Human Rights, will give a talk at Boston College Tuesday night called
”The Challenge of Denial: The Armenian Genocide and Beyond.”

”Denial isn’t just about past genocides,” he said. ”This is a real ongoing
problem. There’s a long history of genocide. It’s continuing today and part
of it is really confronting the full history and the full problem in the

Half of the 120,000 Armenians in Massachusetts live in Greater Boston,
according to the Washington-based Armenian National Committee of America. On
April 24, French author and political scientist Gerard Chaliand will deliver
a keynote address at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center. The
Greater Boston Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee is sponsoring
programs in Watertown, Newton, Arlington, and Belmont to mark the genocide

Joyce L. Barsam, a founding director of the National Center for Genocide
Studies, said the Armenian diaspora exists largely because so many people
left their native country to escape the genocide. This was true for Barsam’s
late mother, who was born as her family was fleeing to safety.

”I think almost everyone in the diaspora has a blood relationship to
someone who was a victim or a survivor of the genocide,” she said. ”Each of
us feels it very personally. It’s not a theoretical historical issue, it’s a
living fact.”

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