Ambassador Yeganian’s address on the occasion of the 99th Anniversary
of Armenian Genocide
May 1, 2014
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
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