Purpose and Vision

Keynote speaker and ARF Bureau member Aram Kaloustian delivered the following remarks at the Armenian Genocide Commemoration held at the Montebello Martyrs Monument on April 23, 2019.

We are gathered here today to commemorate the 104th Anniversary of the Genocide of the Armenians, perpetrated by the Young Turks, the beginning of which is marked by the date: April 24, 1915. The Young Turk government’s secret plan to exterminate the Armenians under the cover of World War I and systematically conduct what was referred to as, by the United States Ambassador there at the time—Henry Morgenthau, as a “campaign of race extermination the like of which the world has never before seen.”

This planned extermination of more than 1.5 million Armenians and the complete depopulation of the Armenian Highland and Cilicia occurred during the period of 1915 through 1923. This merciless slaughter, started under the guise of the first World War so that other nations would be less likely to intervene in one of the most tragic and deplorable times in the history of mankind, and continued long after the final surrender of World War I was signed. Even with the victorious Allied Powers looking on in the later years, Turkey was allowed to complete their insidious plans with the destruction of the Armenian population of Kars and Ardahan in 1920, and in Smyrna and Cilicia in 1922 and 1923. When we commemorate the Armenian Genocide, we commemorate all of these tragic events perpetrated against the Armenian nation.

We should not relive these events from the past to ask for anyone’s sorrow or pity, rather, to remind ourselves never to forget where our fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers have been, and how it is that the Armenian Nation has come forth. All Armenians, whether we choose to accept it or not, are linked to these events that began April 24, 1915. It is part of our existence, our commonality. As a nation, whether commemorated inside of Armenia or in any diasporan community, Armenians solemnly gather to remember this event and pay tribute to those who were murdered and those who survived this terrible time of our history. We remind ourselves that each and every family was affected by this heinous act of violence perpetrated against the Armenian people. We question why a civilized world allows their memory to be erased and why the nation that has continued to deny it, enjoys the benefits of that perpetrated crime – the real, personal, cultural and spiritual loss of thousands of Armenian churches, monasteries, schools and national institutions that have been stolen without any compensation, without repercussion. The land where Armenians constituted the longest single ethnic presence of any people in Asia Minor, where over 100 generations of Haig Nahabeds have thrived, the land of Kings Dikran, Arshak, Smpat and Levon, where those inspired Christians St. Gregory the Illuminator, Sahag, Nerses, Mesrob and others espoused the word of God, where Vartan made his last stand. ALL GONE.

And while I believe that all of this is important for Armenians worldwide to do during April 24 commemoration events such as this one, I also believe that it is imperative to point out that without education of those who have, and those who have not suffered genocide, without openly acknowledging that which has occurred, without educating the world about that which continues to occur, like in Darfur or Kosovo or Rwanda relatively recently, and in the Armenian case over 100 years ago, history can repeat itself. And as such, Armenians worldwide work tirelessly for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, to convince those who would dare to rewrite the history that they too will be complicit in the act of genocide, and without knowing, perpetuate the crime.

The most significant differences between the situation in Armenia today as compared to 1915 is that the Armenian nation now has a free and independent Republic of Armenia, and an extensive, influential and powerful diaspora. When considering the interests of the Armenian nation as a whole, framed in what I would call the Armenian national agenda, what is it that Armenians could want to achieve? Certainly, this must be a secure, viable, stable and prosperous independent Republic of Armenia, with a democratic political system, a thriving economy extending and accessible to all of its citizens, social and cultural freedoms and development, all governed by the democratic rule of law, so that Armenia can take its place among the nations of the world, as a country with hope for all future generations of Armenians and its citizenry, and as a country that is sustainable and prosperous in the long term. And certainly, this would include the continued development of the Armenian Diaspora, and integration of the diasporan communities with the independent homeland. Imagine how different 1915 may have been, had Armenia been such an independent country with an extensive diaspora?

It is therefore up to the Armenian nation as a whole, to stand firmly and prove that Armenians are one nation, one people, one culture in support of one cause, and to show how different 1915 could have and should have been.

When considering the eight stages of genocide, the eighth and final stage is denial. Therefore, the Armenian Genocide actually continues today, because the cycle is not yet completed, due to the fact that the current government of the Republic of Turkey goes to great lengths to deny the Armenian Genocide and that it ever occurred. It is therefore up to the Armenian nation as a whole, to stand firmly and prove that Armenians are one nation, one people, one culture in support of one cause, and to show how different 1915 could have and should have been.

I believe that approximately 50 years ago, in 1965, the 50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide marked a significant milestone, when Armenians worldwide resolved to shake off any and all stains of shame of second class citizenry born from the Genocide, resolved that their voices will be heard, and that the Armenian Genocide will be recognized by the nations of world.

Much has been accomplished to this end since that time. And if the 50th anniversary marked such a re-awakening, then the 100th anniversary should mark the transition from recognition to reparations and to the return of the Armenian homeland to its rightful owner. Dear guests, the Armenian Genocide was a crime against humanity, so profound, so extensive, so mercilessly executed, so egregious, that 100 years later, in Los Angeles, a place that is exactly on the opposite side of the world, over 166,000 people gathered to march over seven miles from Hollywood to the Wilshire District, to the Embassy that is operated by the current government of Turkey, the current government that continues to perpetrate the Armenian Genocide through denial, and let their voices and demands be clearly heard by the government of Turkey and by all, that the Armenians will never forget, will always demand their rights until this crime is properly recognized and adjudicated, with a just resolution.

It is time for the Armenian nation to demand from the Republic of Turkey, the proper recognition and acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide as a historic fact, and to make it clear that our demands will never stop until this is achieved. Quoting the words of the great Dr. Martin Luther King: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice.” Our message to Mr. Erdogan and the government of Turkey is very simple. The Armenian nation will never forget, truth will prevail, and the Armenian Cause will triumph.

For us here, as Armenian Americans, we must continue to call for proper recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United States of America. Through our political system, we must make it very clear to the President, to our representatives and senators, and to all elected officials, the dire importance for the United States to clearly establish its policy of recognizing the Armenian Genocide as fact, not to be complicit in the continued denial and implementation of the Armenian Genocide, and not to be pressured and duped by a foreign government. Our message is simple. Join all of the other nations in the world that have already done so by properly recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

the Republic of Armenia must make the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and the demand for the call for justice more than just rhetoric.

Further still, the Republic of Armenia must make the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and the demand for the call for justice more than just rhetoric. And while it is clear that the current Republic is flanked by hostile neighbors, it must not allow that hostility to cloud judgment with regard to the Armenian Cause, to the rights of Armenians in the Republic and worldwide as related to the Genocide. For the sake of security and long-term viability, the Republic of Armenia—the Armenian Diaspora—the entire Armenian nation, well understands the need for good relations with all of its geographically close and neighboring countries including Turkey, but not at the expense of compromising that very security and long-term viability.

As evidenced by this gathering and many others like it worldwide, as evidenced by the March for Justice here in southern California in recent years and as evidenced by the recent years of activism of Armenians worldwide, the Armenian nation is more united than ever. We stand here before this sacred monument –our giant symbol that connects us to our beloved martyrs and ancestors who perished, our Tzitzenagapert-West, and 104 years later, we solidify our resolve to continue to strengthen the unity of the Armenian nation, in its purpose and vision, to achieve its sacred quest for truth and justice.

Aram Kaloustian

Aram Kaloustian

Aram B. Kaloustian is a principal engineer at KCE Matrix, Inc. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering from Caltech and a Masters of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from Stanford University. Kaloustian has been involved in the Armenian community throughout his life (Homenetmen Scouts, AYF). In 1995, he joined the ranks of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and has held numerous leadership positions including serving as a member of the ARF-Western United States Central Committee. Aram has been an Advisor to the Armenian Youth Federation Central Executive for many years and has proudly served as an AYF Summer Camp Director for over 17 years. In January 2019, Aram was elected to the ARF Bureau where he hopes to further serve the Armenian cause through community organizing and bridging the Diaspora to the Homeland.
Aram Kaloustian

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