WATERTOWN, Mass.– The Armenian National Committee of America-Eastern Region (ANCA-ER) hosted a live virtual commemoration The Cycle of Genocide: A Century of Pan-Turkic Atrocities on its Facebook page honoring the victims of the Armenian Genocide on Friday, April 24 at 8 pm EDT.
The evening’s program featured speakers from the ANCA-ER and ANCA National Board, as well as leaders and activists from local ANCs including the ANC of Eastern Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Maine, New York and Pennsylvania who stressed the importance of advocacy as the Armenian nation witnesses the continuation of genocide in light of the 2020 Artsakh War. The event also included special messages from US Senator Robert Menendez (NJ) and US Representative Jim Langevin (RI).
In her opening remarks, ANCA-ER board member Lara Nercessian welcomed viewers and drew parallels between the 2020 Artsakh War and the Armenia Genocide of 1915. “The international community has refused to hold Turkey accountable for its genocidal actions for 106 years. And now continues to turn a blind eye to Azerbaijan who began a war amidst a global pandemic,” said Nercessian. “Through the political protection of Turkey, Azerbaijan has become an apt pupil denying any wrongdoing in their war against Armenians. And despite all the advances humanity has made, the cycle of genocide continues. And 106 years later, Armenians are still fighting for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and worse yet fighting for our lives and to retain and regain our ancestral lands,” she concluded.
A grassroots organization at its core, the region’s activists and leaders showcased the initiatives they’ve taken alongside their fellow activists beginning with ANC of Maine co-chair Marty Zartarian, who underscored the need for humanitarian aid for Artsakh and Armenia and specifically noted his local community’s strong relationships with US Senators Angus King and Susan Collins as well as Representative Chellie Pingree. “Since the war last year, we’ve been focused on furthering the cause of our brothers and sisters in Armenia by providing a historical perspective of the genocide and massacre of the indigenous Armenians in our ancestral homeland for more than a century. Our meetings confirmed that these offices were not aware of the degree of the breadth of persecution, bigotry and murder. The degree to which Armenians have suffered at the hands of Turkey and Azerbaijan, as one Senator stated, is just heartbreaking,” Zartarian said.
ANC of Maryland chair Tsoghig Hekimian, for her part, outlined the litany of human rights violations that Azerbaijan and Turkey committed against the Armenians of Artsakh. Hekimian spoke about her involvement and community’s congressional outreach implemented to educate and engage with members of Congress in Maryland and the surrounding areas. She also spoke about the gross human rights violations and the efforts being done by human rights attorneys on behalf of the POWs in the European Court of Human Rights. “The only way to secure the return of these POWs is through political pressure by the international community, including the government of the United States. This is a call to action to all of us, take action and insist that the US government pressure the Administration to release the Armenian POWs by visiting anca.org/prisoners. This is what you can do to bring these hostages home to their families,” said Hekimian before introducing Senator Menendez.
“Remembering the Armenian Genocide is painful, but necessary. It’s necessary not only to honor those we lost, but also to prevent similar atrocities from happening again. I applaud President Biden’s historic decision to join Congress in speaking the truth of this tragedy. I was proud to lead 37 of my Senate colleagues in calling for this course of action earlier this year. It is the right thing to do. It is long overdue, but now we can say unequivocally that the United States will no longer be complicit in denying or mischaracterizing the fact that the Armenian Genocide was a genocide. Now our full government can say with one voice that the truth of what happened and that human rights, not ignorance and denial, shape our foreign policy,” said Senator Menendez.
Nora Kzirian, co-chair ANC of Pennsylvania, discussed the work being done to call for sanctions against Azerbaijan and Turkey for their countless war crimes. “Sanctions are needed not only for the litany of war crimes that transpired during the war, but for what continues as we see with relation to our POWs and MIAs. We’re working to ensure Congress ends the presidential waiver of section 907 of the Freedom Support Act,” said Kzirian. “Our community members are making the calls and sending the messages to their representatives, and these messages are being heard. We went from having virtually no support from the PA delegation to nearly full bi-partisan support across the state. We still have work to do, but one thing is clear. Grassroots activism works,” she stressed.
Representing Rhode Island, Congressman Jim Langevin honored the victims of the Armenian Genocide in his remarks and condemned Azerbaijan for its aggression in Nagorno-Karabakh. “Tonight we commemorate the Armenian Genocide, a horrific atrocity committed by the Ottoman Empire, in which more than 1.5 million Armenians were murdered in cold blood for no reason other than their ethnic heritage,” said Congressman Langevin. “Over 100 years later, grave human rights violations are still being committed against the Armenian people…this time at the hands of the Azerbaijani military and their Turkish patrons. Azerbaijan must be held accountable for its murderous campaign in Artsakh. The United States must immediately suspend military aid to the government while we work with the international community to undo the Azerbaijani land grab that accompanied the ceasefire agreement,” he concluded.
Closing out the program was ANCA Eastern Region Board and ANCA National Board Member Dr. Ara Chalian, who discussed President Biden’s recognition and the need to continue the fight for reparations and restitution through the lens of the Artsakh War. “We are still in a state of genocide, an existential threat to the Republics of Artsakh and Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora,” he stressed. “Those of you who are here tonight are the children, the grandchildren of genocide survivors. You are the warriors of the Armenian nation. Some of you are not Armenian and have taken an interest and have taken on our cause. Many of our leaders in Congress, both in the House and in the Senate have sacrificed and committed significant energy and influence to fight for the pursuit of justice for the Armenian Genocide. The world is ready to do the right thing. We do have to demand it though,” he concluded.
Later that evening from California, ANCA National Chairman Raffi Hamparian joined Facebook Live to mark the milestone of recognition and stress the importance of the road ahead. “Today marks the end of an era where the United States was a participant and in effect complicit in the denial of the Armenian Genocide. We believe that after recognition comes naturally reparations and restitution, and that is what the ANCA intends to do. We intend to pursue the Armenian cause now that we have US recognition to make the Armenian nation whole again through a path of reparations and restitution. That which was stolen from the Armenian people must be restored,” said Hamparian. “As we move on to this new and consequential phase of the Armenian cause, we will not bend. We will not bow. We will not be deterred. We look forward to working and fighting the good fight together in the days, the months and the years ahead,” concluded Hamparian.