NEW YORK, NY—Not even the hovering grey clouds could dampen the spirit of the thousands gathered in Times Square to memorialize the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.
On April 28, 2019, elected officials and leaders in the Armenian community made relentless calls for recognition in the monumental event sponsored by the Knights and Daughters of Vartan.
“A genocide that is not properly defined and remembered will certainly lead to another,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who attends the Times Square commemoration every year and appreciates the Armenian immigrant experience in America. “The more Armenians we have in America, the better America will be,” he said.
Turning to legislation in the US, Senator Schumer expressed his disappointment that White House leaders have not stepped up to officially acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. He said he refuses to accept the excuse of politics and emphasized that in the face of denial, people should “stand together and remember the genocide, the 1.5 million victims and what the Armenians went through.” “We have a moral obligation to always remember one of the most evil undertakings in the history of mankind, and that is the horrible Medz Yeghern,” said Schumer.
Senator Schumer is a co-sponsor of Senate Resolution 150, which calls for the US to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance. “The three pashas are gone. The Ottoman Empire is gone. But the Armenian people live on and continue to inspire the world.”
Another advocate for the Armenian cause, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) also took a stand on Sunday. “Portraying the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians as nothing more than a consequence of World War I is a distortion of history at best and at worst a contrived excuse for an unthinkable crime against humanity,” said Sen. Menendez, who recently admonished US Ambassador to Turkey nominee David M. Satterfield for failing to refer to the 1915 atrocities as Genocide.
Countering the denialist history, Sen. Menendez stated that the Turkish authorities began a systematic campaign to exterminate the Armenian population through “killings, starvation, forced deportation and untold brutality” and remarked that “such intentional horrific violence targeted towards one people has a name and one name only and that name is genocide.”
He also spoke about how the Turkish government has “undermined the fundamental right of freedom of speech” and how the country’s leaders have initiated prosecutions, smear campaigns and even resorted to violence against historians and journalists who have studied the Turkish treatment of the Armenian community, remarking that “such actions are reprehensible and speak volumes both about the crime and the cover up.”
“We refuse to see the truth suppressed, the facts denied and history revised,” said Senator Menendez. “We will not rest until it becomes the official policy of the U.S. government to recognize the Armenian Genocide here and any place else in the world.”
Thirty countries and 49 US states now officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. “We will continue our efforts and demand that the Turkish government recognize the Armenian Genocide and pay reparations,” said Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who also called for ongoing support of the Republic of Armenia as well as Artsakh.
Also present was New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), a member of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues. “We must teach ourselves and our children the abuse of state power that allows these crimes to go unpunished,” said Congresswoman Maloney.
Headlining the event with a special cultural performance, Canadian-Armenian vocalist Elie Berberyan curated an artistic concert that included a rendition of “Ils Sont Tombes” (They Fell), by Charles Aznavour, the poetry of the Hovhannes Shiraz set to music “Intz Guh Moranam” (I Forget Myself) and “Dle Yaman” by Komitas. “Even though many years have passed since the Armenian Genocide, it does not stop me from remembering it and instead it gives me more drive,” said Berberyan. “We are paying tribute to the ultimate cause that concerns every Armenian in his or her heart.”
The vigor of the Armenian people was on full display as the program culminated in a symbolic shoorch bar while Berberyan performed the popular patriotic song “Kedashen” amid the backdrop of the overwhelming skyscrapers in one of the busiest and iconic cities in the world.
The Knights and Daughters of Vartan have sponsored the Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemoration since 1985. The invocation was made by Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Primate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Church of America. There were also performances by students from Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School of Bayside, NY and the Hovnanian Armenian Day School of New Milford, NJ. Astghikner Junior Ensemble of St. Gregory the Illuminator Mission Parish in Brooklyn performed the Star Spangled Banner and the Armenian national anthem, as well as the Hayr Mer, under the leadership of Maria Sahakyan.