Watertown TAB & Press, MA
April 30 2004
‘You are proud to remember’
By Brian Johnson / Correspondent
Young and old commemorate the Armenian Genocide
While it is doubtful that even their grandparents were alive in 1915,
young people well represented them last weekend, during commemoration
services for the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
>From the 40 or so members of Scout Troop 290, who led a processional
into Hovanian Hall at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center,
to the members of the Armenian Youth Federation who organized a
candlelight vigil on Saturday night, the younger generations of
Armenian-Americans seem to have their priorities in order.
“We are happy to be here,” said Tamar Kanarian, 21, a junior at
Bentley College in Waltham. “It’s a nice day, but it’s more important
to be here to commemorate.”
For 15-year-old Garineh Ashjian of Belmont, paying homage to her
ancestors was something “you are taught to remember, you want to
remember and you are proud to remember.”
The event Sunday, sponsored by Greater Boston Armenian Genocide
Commemoration Committee, was one of eight major events held
throughout greater Boston to honor the victims of the Armenian
Genocide of 1915-1923 by the Ottoman Turkish government. This year
marks the 89th anniversary of the start of that genocide.
Each April 24, commemorations are held by members of the Armenian
community to recognize the death of 1.5 million and deportation of
600,000 Armenians that started with the arrest of 250 intellectuals
by Ottoman authorities in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul,
However, while France, Switzerland and most recently, Canada (which
passed a motion in Parliament April 21) recognize the events of 89
years ago as genocide, the United States government still does not.
Congressman Barney Frank, D-4th, touched on the reasons for this snub
during his remarks at the service.
Calling it a bipartisan failure, Frank blamed both Republicans and
Democrats alike of giving in to the wishes of Turkey, a key U.S ally
in the Middle East, as a reason for not recognizing the genocide.
However, said Frank, we are doing it for the wrong reasons.
“I believe there is a strong common interest for Turkey to fight
fanaticism and radical fundamentalism, because it’s in their
neighborhood,” said Frank. “We shouldn’t be asked to pay for that, to
sacrifice our principles over it.
“Your determination as a people to keep the fight alive is important,
not only to Armenians, but to the world as a whole,” said Frank, who
kept his remarks brief but received a standing ovation.
Armenian Women’s Welfare Association president Janet Jeghelian
introduced the speakers, who included keynote speaker Gerard
Chaliand, a political scientist and strategist from France.
According to Ara Basoumian, chapter head for Homenetem Boston,
attendance was significantly lower this year – there were about 200
to 300 people present.
However, according to Basoumian, 42, the candlelight vigil held
Saturday night was a resounding success. Basoumian said the event was
broadcast via the Internet and viewed throughout the world.
Keeping the youth involved was key for Basoumian.
“We are trying to do these things to encourage the youth to not to
forget their history,” he said.
Basoumian added that the inability to recognize the Armenian Genocide
was one of the motivating factors for Adolph Hitler to follow through
on his “final solution” in Europe during the 1940s.
“Hitler said to Himmler, ‘Who remembers the Armenian Genocide?'” said
Basoumian. “‘No one speaks of it.'”
According to preventgenocide.org, April also marks other nefarious
anniversaries, such as the 29th anniversary of the Khmer Rouge
‘Killing Fields’ in Cambodia, and the 10th anniversary of the
genocide in Rwanda.