Organized by the Association for Trauma Outreach and Prevention (ATOP), the event was titled “Toward Preventing Genocide, Nations Acknowledging their Dark History: Psychosocial, Economic and Cultural Perspectives.” Following the screening of Dr. J. Michael Hagopian’s documentary “The River Ran Red,” the attendees heard remarks from filmmaker Carla Garapedian, Dr. Dennis Papazian, Prof. Ervin Staub, and Garen Nazarian, Armenia’s UN ambassador.
Encouraged by Turkey’s 2007 success in obstructing a reference to the Armenian Genocide in a UN exhibit on Rwanda, the Turkish ambassador tried to force the UN to cancel last week’s Armenian Genocide symposium. Fortunately, Armenia’s UN Mission, the official sponsor of the event, stood its ground and the symposium took place as planned, albeit with some minor disturbances.
At the start of the event, two Turkish diplomats entered the meeting room without an invitation, and repeatedly attempted to disrupt the proceedings. They kept on shouting, accusing the speakers of defaming Turkey, and refused to comply with the organizer’s request to submit all comments and questions in writing. As the commotion continued, UN security officers were called in, and the two undiplomatic Turkish diplomats left the hall, inanely shouting, “We are the security, we own the security, and we pay for the security!”
In his introductory remarks, Amb. Nazarian observed that “97 years ago, a state-devised plan unleashed a crime whose magnitude and consequences were unparalleled not only in the history of the Armenian nation but also in the history of the world. The plan of extermination of the Armenians was implemented by the Ottoman Empire’s state machine through all its structures and carried out with exact instructions.”
Prof. Papazian’s remarks were titled “Sovereignty, Nationalism, Racism vs. Humanism and Intellectual Freedom: The Causes and Cures of Genocide.” He expressed his discontent “that the Armenian Genocide is not recognized by the present-day Turkish government as a crime committed by its predecessor government under the dictatorship of the Committee for Union and Progress”; “that the people of Turkey are denied free access to accurate sources because of Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code, which makes it a crime to insult Turkishness”; and “that such [Ottoman] collections as the confiscated properties archives and the military archives are not open to inspection by objective scholars.”
Prof. Staub spoke about “Overcoming Evil: Preventing Genocide and Creating Peaceful Societies.” He stated that “acknowledgement by perpetrators, bystanders, and the world in general of a group’s suffering has great value for both healing and reconciliation.” However, “perpetrators rarely, and only with great difficulty, acknowledge their acts and show regret,” because of “their profound devaluation of the victims, their ideology, and their unacknowledged shame.”
Garapedian explored the “Economic Consequences of Acknowledging the Genocide.” She related that Hagopian had recorded the testimonies of genocide survivors so that their voices would be heard someday at an international tribunal deciding what restitution Turkey would have to pay to heirs of the victims.
Not counting the value of the properties, lands, and other assets confiscated from Armenian victims of the genocide, Garapedian assessed as $15 billion the restitution value of the 1.5 million Armenians who had perished. Her estimate is based on Germany’s $60 billion restitution payment since 1952 for the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Garapedian concluded by suggesting that no state should profit from violating the law and unjustly enrich itself, and asserted that a criminal state should not be allowed to keep the fruits of its crime.
This week, Dr. Ani Kalayjian, the president of ATOP, sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon complaining about the “disruptive, unprofessional, and arrogant behavior” of the two Turkish diplomats. She wondered how the UN could bring peace to the world when it cannot establish order at an event held at its own headquarters.