Mexico’s Senate recognizes the Armenian Genocide, another step toward never forgetting | Opinion

Yet another April 24 is upon us. As Fresno Bee readers and Fresno community members know, during this time Armenians and non-Armenians in Fresno and worldwide commemorate one of the massive human atrocities in recent memory: the Armenian Genocide.

This year marks the 108th anniversary after that dark day in Armenian history. It was when Armenian leaders and intellectuals in the Ottoman Turkish capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul) were rounded up, arrested and ultimately killed. Later, in different locations throughout the empire, the same result ensued. Few individuals were able to escape, and 1.5 million Armenians were lost to the first genocide of the 20th century.

The policy was brutally effective; by the end of World War I, it had resulted in the destruction of virtually every Armenian community outside Constantinople, and the elimination of the Armenian people from territory in what is now modern Turkey.

As calls for official recognition of the Armenian Genocide worldwide continue, in a brave, enlightened, and statesmanlike act, the Mexican Senate became one of the most recent governmental bodies to recognize this planned atrocity as what it really was. According to an article by Dr. Carlos Antaramian in Mirror Spectator, some members of Mexico’s Armenian community gathered at the “Armenian Clock” in Mexico City “to pay tribute to the martyrs of 1915, and also give thanks for the recognition by the Senate of Mexico of this genocide.” Antaramian has also done some interesting research finding key Armenians in Mexico as highlighted in another article in the Mirror Spectator.

Along with this important and long overdue step by Mexico’s Legislature, perhaps one of the biggest victories for Mexico’s Armenian community came several years ago when it teamed up with human rights activists in asking that the statue of former Azerbaijani president and authoritarian leader Heydar Aliyev be removed from a park in Mexico. Azerbaijan has been paying countries to place statues like these in high-traffic areas. Aliyev’s son and daughter-in-law now are the president and vice president of Azerbaijan, respectively, and are being accused of continuing the Ottoman Empire’s plan of ethnic cleansing of Armenians.

Mexico’s Armenian diaspora is small, particularly when compared to the Armenian communities in the United States, Canada or even Argentina, the Latin American nation that is today home to the largest Armenian diaspora community. According to Antamarian’s research, the earliest known record in Mexico, from 1632, recorded the arrival of an Armenian national by the name of Francisco Martín. In 1723, another Armenian, Pedro de Zarate, arrived to Mexico on a Spanish galleon from the Philippines to Acapulco. In 1897, Mexican President Porfirio Díaz planned a project to establish an agricultural community with Armenian settlers in the border state of Tamaulipas (in northern Mexico); the project, however, never materialized.

Soon after the Armenian genocide, Armenians began to immigrate to the Americas. From 1921-28, Mexico had a generally open immigration policy for most foreigners. During that time, close to 300 Armenians immigrated to Mexico. Once in Mexico, most of the Armenian community decided to head north to the United States. Due to its relatively small size (today it numbers close to 500), the Armenian community in Mexico never established a school or community center, which in turn did allow for the community to assimilate quickly into the larger Mexican population, contributing to the ethnic composition of Mexico today and to the vitality of Mexican academia, entrepreneurship, the arts and entertainment, and politics and diplomacy.

Armenians will never forget the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Empire against our people. With sustained efforts by Ankara and its allies in the region to deny that the genocide ever took place, and while too much time has passed for the world to bring the perpetrators of the Armenian genocide to justice, there is no passage of time that limits our recognition of the truth of the criminal acts perpetrated against Armenians.

Our memory for those lost and for the tragedy and horror of the genocide — and our remembrance — is our way of seeking justice, of seeking accountability; it is our way of shouting to the world, never again and never forget!

Arturo Sarukhan is the former Mexican ambassador to the United States and currently a strategic consultant and public speaker based in Washington, D.C. Sevag Tateosian is a Clovis business owner and host and producer of San Joaquin Spotlight on CMAC TV and TalkRadio 1550 KXEX. Both are the grandsons of genocide survivors.