WASHINGTON—Over 300 Armenian Americans gathered at the Turkish Embassy on Easter Sunday holding a silent vigil in memory of 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide and calling attention to Turkey’s ongoing denial of that crime against humanity.
The annual observance, organized by the Washington Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) “Ani” Chapter, took place after Sunday services held at the local Soorp Khatch and St. Mary’s Armenian churches, where parishioners participated in “Resurrection and Redemption: National Day of Prayer,” in memory of the victims of the genocide and celebration of Easter.
In a statement issued in the weeks prior to the April 24th protest, the AYF explained its call for a silent vigil. “Our silence on April 24th will speak volumes—calling attention to Turkey’s gag-rule on genocide affirmation, while sending a powerful message that the Armenian people will remain vigilant until Turkey recognizes the Armenian Genocide and makes reparations to the Armenian nation.”
Vigil participants wore red tape over their mouths—a scene made particularly poignant given President Barack Obama’s “Armenian Remembrance Day” statement issued one day earlier, where he once again succumbed to Turkey’s threats and pressure, refraining from properly characterizing the Armenian massacres as genocide.
The Armenian American observance was met with pro-genocide denial protesters, who blasted Turkish music, yelled obscenities, and made gestures reminiscent of Turkey’s ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves Party in a shameful celebration of the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians.
Gleeful protesters held up signs thanking the U.S. government for its complicity in genocide denial. A video of the pro-Ankara protesters can be viewed below.
Police monitoring the counter-protesters stopped several cars donning Turkish and Azerbaijani flags, including one car where protesters with an Azerbaijani flag had brought a baseball bat with them. The exchange with police was caught on video and can be viewed here:
Following their disgraceful performance, Turkish protesters were welcomed into the Turkish Embassy compound. The Washington Turkish scene came in stark contrast to images from Istanbul, Turkey, where a growing number of scholars held solemn vigil commemorating the Armenian Genocide and calling for justice for the crime.
“Seeing the pro-Ankara protesters shamelessly celebrating the murder of 1.5 million Armenians on April 24th only strengthens our community resolve to secure justice for this crime against all humanity,” said AYF “Ani” Chapter president Arpa Vartanian. “By kowtowing to Turkish government pressure and failing to honor his pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide, President Obama is emboldening denial while undermining efforts by human rights activists in Turkey who risk their lives to speak truthfully about this issue.”
Following the demonstration, Armenian Americans gathered at the Armenian Embassy to hold a Requiem Service in memory of the genocide victims, presided by Rev. Fr. Sarkis Aktavoukian of Soorp Khatch Armenian Church and Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan of St. Mary Armenian Church. Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia Tatoul Markarian and Nagorno Karabagh Representative Robert Avetisyan offered remarks, as Washington Homenetmen Scouts stood at attention. Following the service, attendees gathered at Soorp Khatch for an expanded Requiem Service and Madagh, prepared by the Soorp Khatch Armenian Church Ladies Guild.