Remember, Remind, and Reclaim: Guidelines for the Genocide Centennial

Armenian communities around the world are gearing up for the centennial of the genocide on April 24, 2015, by coordinating their commemorative plans at the local, regional, and international levels.

The poster of a genocide commemoration march in Beirut
The poster of a genocide commemoration march in Beirut

A Pan-Armenian Centennial Committee was established in Armenia two years ago, made up of the leadership of the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh (Karabagh), heads of religious denominations, and representatives of major Armenian political, charitable, and cultural organizations. Local committees have also been formed throughout the diaspora. As reported earlier, the international committee of Armenian Genocide experts met in Yerevan last month to recommend specific projects for adoption the Pan-Armenian Centennial Committee during its May 30 meeting.

On April 6, the Centennial Committees of eight Middle Eastern countries (Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran, represented by committees in Tehran, Esfahan, and Tabriz) met in Beirut to coordinate their plans on a regional basis. Also attending was Hayk Demoyan, the secretary of the Pan-Armenian Centennial Committee in Armenia.

His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia, presided over the meeting and gave a timely keynote address outlining the principles that should guide the regional committees in planning for the centennial. Aram Vehapar succinctly formulated the objectives in three key Armenian words: “Hishel, Hishetsnel, yev Bahanchel” (Remember, Remind, and Reclaim).

His Holiness went on to explain that “for 100 years, we stressed the remembrance of the genocide. We lit candles, organized commemorative evenings, and published books. These important activities will imbue our youth with the sacred testament and souls of our martyrs. Yet, we should not singly focus on this subject. For 100 years, we reminded people through demonstrations, lobbying, and raising our voices. We aim to continue these activities with different approaches. However, it is imperative that we stress our demands for restitution.”

The Vehapar reminded the attendees about the international conference organized by the Catholicosate of Cilicia a year ago, titled “From Recognition to Restitution,” with the participation of international legal experts. “We need legal experts in order to present, defend, and pursue our claims appropriately in international courts,” the Catholicos stated.

Aram I went on to suggest a division of labor between the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora: “We should work in unison. Our approaches and emphasis could be different from one another, and sometimes they must be different! Let’s not forget that Armenia is a state, and the diaspora is a diaspora. Neither the state nor the diaspora can speak on each other’s behalf. Each has its own unique voice and function. But, there should be intra-Armenian harmony and coordination. In other words, we should plan and work with a common purpose, holding on firmly to our demands for restitution.”

The Catholicos then urged Armenians to include the far-flung regions of Africa, the Far East, and South America within the scope of the centennial activities. Turning to the Middle East, Aram I made three important points:

(1) The pursuit of the Armenian Cause in the Islamic world requires a special approach, because Turkey is a Muslim state.

(2) Turkey’s ever-increasing and penetrating influence in the region is a serious problem. “In my meetings with leaders of countries in the region, I always tell them, ‘You have kept your doors very wide open in front of Turkey. The day will come when you will recognize your mistake. Turkey uses different masks.’ Therefore, we must be alert as the genocidaire is closely following our steps. We will not retreat and will not weaken in the face of Turkish meddling.”

(3) Genocide is not an event that belongs to the past. The diaspora is a consequence of the genocide, and in a sense, it is still continuing.

Catholicos Aram I concluded by categorizing the Armenian efforts for recognition and restitution into three dimensions: historical, political, and legal. “The time has come, without ignoring the first two, to place a clear priority on the legal aspect. In this regard, we have a massive amount of work to accomplish,” he said.

Significantly, Demoyan, also speaking at the regional meeting in Beirut, noted, “We know that we cannot undo some of the consequences of the Armenian Genocide, such as the lost lives and destroyed churches. Nevertheless, the major consequence is the loss of the territories!”

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Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the United Armenian Fund, a coalition of the seven largest Armenian-American organizations. He has been decorated by the president and prime minister of the Republic of Armenia, and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

4 Comments

  1. No!!! The major loss we sustained was the loss of 1.5 million souls!!!
    Mr. Demoyan does not follow what Turks say in this respect.Their top diplomats and generals have repeatedly said.¨Armenians want land? come and get it¨.Where was Mr. Demoyan or some pothers, when we CONVENED 3 MAJOR WORLD CONGRESS TWO IN PARIS ONE IN LAUSANNE.ALL THREE SIGNIFICANTLY ON THE 60TH ANNIVERSARIES,RESPECTIVLEY OF THE TREATY OF SEVRES, LAUSANNE AND <the third was our own again in Paris ,preparing to Lodge our claim.This has not been done,because our political parteis ,as well as individuals such as Mr. Demoyan again insist their wish or demand on return of territories…
    What this humble servant of the Armenian people-but also an activist – in said Congress and elected to Board by 380 pariticpating ea with proxy(s) of 30 compatriots from Armenian community countries. I have since then come to the conclusion that what we should claim first and FOREMOST,is FOR B L O O D shed.
    This has ^Precedent(The Jewish one from Gertmany) also a few individuals claims of Armenians whose Insurance companies ,namely the NY Life and AXA of France honoured and paid to survivors the money for their DEATHS.Deaths? what kind of deaths, peacefully passed on or by illness?.NO! they were murdered and the said Insurance companies KNOWLINGLY PAID FOR their lives.
    ONE MORE SUGGESTION. Demanding territories /lands from a Genocide State, that as yet has not come to terms as to its previous Governments CRIMES, is rather strange-they keep insisting that they are not culpable and unfortunately the Int´l community accepts that.Once we prove that they are to be held responsible for BLOOD SHED,we can receive cash,as the Jews did.Land issue is there and will stay there untill such time when great Turkey is made to accept that not only Churches and schools(recently imposed upomn them)were on those lands Armenian,but also residents, Farm lands etc.,etc. plus riches confiscated when our ancestors were EVICTED and put on DEATH MARCH to deserts,where their BLOOD WAS SHED……

  2. The comments of Aram I highlights the need for the diaspora and RoA to be well integrated in our objectives and tactics. This is a significant undertaking. The Catholicosate of Cilicia, free of the geo-political dynamics of Armenia, has taken on a much broader public role as it relates to the genocide and its resolution .Aram I , essentially is offering a perspective of the diaspora. Is this connected to The Mother See? Are we operating to one plan with each role defined. Perhaps naively, I hope this is the case. There is no doublt that each entity offers unique capability…. Holy Etchmiadzin is on Armenian soil…. The Great House of Cilicia has historic ties to historic Armenia and a significant portion of the diaspora…. The two Patriachates operate in important geographies. Together this is powerful, but disjointed we marginalized.
    I admire what I hear and see from Aram I , but honestly, I wonder how many Armenians hear and their only reaction is, “not my Catholicos”. If our church leaders made more public statements on this, it would facilitate a much needed enlightenment in many domains. I am not speaking of unity( apparently not on our radar), but real respect where our church at the highest levels can work together in public. We all hear that there are private meetings and cooperation. What our people need our public, visible and sustainable examples of how we work together on our common longer term issues. Not event driven cooperation. I pray for this as one of the outcomes of the 100th.

  3. Dear sirs, I was born Elyn Rose Alexanian. My mother Aroxie Siroonian Alexanian and father Kegham “Chummy” Alexanian. My father was a survivor of the genocide. Both my wonderful parents are no longer living. The taught my brother and I to be proud of our heritage and to know the facts. We in turn have taught our children the same way. I am writing to you because my brother and I want to gather our children and be a part of any and all commorative ceremonies in the Los Angeles area. We grew up in Montebello and are familiar with the monument there. I live in Hawaii, my brother is in La Mirada Ca. Our children are all over the country, but this is very important to us. Please, would you send me any information you have so we could start to make our travel arrangements. Thank you so much for your attention. Elyn

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