109th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide commemorated across South America

Throughout the month of April, the Armenian communities of South America organized various activities to commemorate the 109th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The most notable were rallies and main events in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay, but smaller communities also carried out commemorative activities. 

Argentina

The biggest event in South America was the traditional rally in Buenos Aires organized by youth representing all Armenian organizations in front of the residence of the Turkish Ambassador to Argentina on April 24. The column of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF-D) and its sister organizations, the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), Homenetmen, Armenian Relief Society (ARS) and Hamazkayin, carried flags and wore t-shirts with the phrase, “The right to return to Artsakh,” to demand the return of Armenians to Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) after the genocidal ethnic cleansing carried out by Azerbaijan in 2023. 

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“This April 24 is the first in which there are no Armenians in Artsakh. The goal of the Turkish government remains the same. This did not end with the ethnic cleansing in Artsakh. The authorities of Turkey and Azerbaijan are going after Armenia. We said it in recent years, and we repeat it again: the Armenian people are in danger. A genocide denied is a genocide repeated,” stated the message read by the youth.

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Before the march, there was a church service and an action organized by Armenian Institutions of the Republic of Argentina (IARA), which represents all Armenian institutions in the country. Sergio Tchabrassian, president of IARA, said that the people of Artsakh “remain in exile, while their ancestral territories are appropriated by Azerbaijan.” “Unfortunately, the legal framework of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide by the United Nations on 1948 did not and does not have any results in the face of the impunity of the genocidal perpetrators,” he concluded.

The government of Argentina published an official message, which highlighted the role of the Armenian community in keeping historical memory alive. “In Argentina, the Armenian community has led efforts to keep the memory of the victims alive, with the construction of numerous memorials and monuments throughout the country since 1998. These spaces are tangible testimonies of Argentine commitment in the fight against political and religious violence,” said Casa Rosada. The Argentine Foreign Ministry, for its part, remembered and commemorated “the genocide of which the Armenian people were victims, with the spirit that their memory is a permanent lesson about the steps of the present and the goals of our future.” Argentina continues to be the only country that has a national law recognizing and commemorating the Armenian Genocide and a court ruling that determines that what happened in 1915 constituted a genocide.

The Khrimian Armenian School organized a blood donation campaign, Homenetmen prepared a madagh and open scout activities, and on April 27 the Armenian General Benevolent Union organized a screening of the documentary Aurora’s Sunrise.

In another important annual event in Argentina, the Boca Juniors football (soccer) club, the most popular in the country, displayed an Armenian flag remembering the Armenian Genocide before a match in the historic Bombonera.

The Armenian Genocide commemoration at the Bombonera, the stadium of Boca Juniors

In Córdoba, which has the second largest Armenian community in the country after Buenos Aires, the main commemorative event was held at Plaza San Martín on April 24, along with another ceremony at the Civic Center of the Bicentennial Brigadier Juan Bautista Bustos on April 25. The ARS and Blood Bank of the province of Córdoba held a blood donation campaign at the Historic Town Hall, and Homenetmen held a madagh. Several public buildings and monuments were illuminated with the colors of the Armenian flag.

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In Rosario, the community gathered in the Park of the Communities, where the monument to the Armenian martyrs is located, and presented the “Cartography of the Exile,” during which Armenian families approached the stage and marked on a giant map where their relatives came from. “It’s a symbolic act of re-territorializing those who had to flee to survive,” said the organizers. The Armenian Chair of the National University of Rosario also carried out a significant number of academic activities along with a screening of The Cut (2014), a movie about the Armenian Genocide directed by Fatih Akın, at El Cairo Cinema. Other smaller communities in La Plata, Berisso and Mar del Plata also organized events in their cities, while the “Centennial of the Genocide against the Armenian People” square was inaugurated in Río Gallegos.

Uruguay

Commemorative events in Uruguay began with an academic event organized by the Chamber of Deputies and the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Uruguay at the Legislative Palace, with the presence of President Luis Lacalle Pou along with a large part of his cabinet, ministers and legislators. The Legislative Palace has a special symbology, since it is where the Armenian Genocide was recognized by law for the first time in history in 1965.

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The president of the House of Representatives Ana Olivera made opening remarks, followed by Dr. Ricardo Torres, member of the Artsakh Forum of Argentina, and Anaclara Davidian, representative of the ANC of Uruguay. Dr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, first Attorney General of the International Criminal Court, and the mayor of Paris Anne Marie Hidalgo sent recorded messages.

Moreno Ocampo explained why what happened in Artsakh was genocide: “There are many ways to commit genocide. Article ‘2.C’ of the Convention states that inflicting conditions that produce the destruction of a group can be a genocide. That happened when last year, Azerbaijani blocked the Lachin Corridor that connected Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh and cut off all supplies of food, gasoline and medicine. The genocide was completed in September when there was a bombing against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, who escaped en masse. 100,000 people decided to leave their homes, their clothes, their tools, their ancestral land, to escape and save their lives.” 

He recalled how Judge Gassia Apkarian of California, United States, presented a report to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court asking that the president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev be investigated “for a genocide not only in Nagorno-Karabakh, but in Armenia herself.” “She cites and shows statements by President Aliyev stating that the Armenians had to leave. Incredibly, she cites a decision of the parliament of Azerbaijan that denies the existence of Armenia and calls it ‘West Azerbaijan’. It is the first known genocide in which a parliament authorizes it,” he said.

Mayor Hidalgo said: “You know how important it is for the Armenian Genocide to be recognized by as many countries as possible, regardless of the pressure exerted by Turks and Azeris. To the countries of South America that have not yet recognized it, I can only invite them to do so.” Hidalgo reiterated her request for the “immediate release” of Artsakh Armenians imprisoned in Azerbaijan.

Finally, Davidian stated, “It is already too late to prevent another genocide against the Armenians, but the international community still has time to adopt concrete measures to condemn the genocide and stop the military aggression against Armenia.” She closed the event with four specific requests: demand international guarantees for the return of the Armenians of Artsakh to their homes, stop the destruction of ancient cultural and historical heritage, sanction the Azerbaijan regime and demand the release of the political leaders illegally imprisoned in Baku.

On April 24, Young Armenians of Uruguay organized a protest in front of the Turkish Embassy. The protesters erected replicas of the We Are Our Mountains monument, waving the flags of Armenia and Artsakh. “Does anyone believe that the genocidal intention ended with the handover of Artsakh? No. Does anyone believe that the genocidal intention ended with the destruction of our cultural heritage? No. Today, the Armenian population is being threatened by constant bombing within the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. Today, Armenians continue to be threatened by the policy of ethnic cleansing maintained and promoted by Azerbaijan and Turkey,” said the organizers.

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The Armenian community in Uruguay is especially hurt by the opening of the Turkish Embassy after an unpleasant precedent of recent years. On April 23, 2022, former Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu made the gesture of the racist organization Grey Wolves to protesters from the Armenian community during the opening ceremony of the Turkish Embassy in Uruguay, on the eve of the commemoration of the 107th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. When the video of the events became public, Uruguayan President Lacalle Pou stated that Çavuşoğlu’s gesture was “regrettable,” and “the Armenian community is hurt, and rightly so.” Days later, Çavuşoğlu justified his racist gestures and confessed that Turkey had demanded that the Uruguayan authorities prohibit demonstrations in front of the Embassy. In 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attempted to visit Uruguay, but his trip was suspended after he asked the Uruguayan government to allow a group of Turkish snipers for his protection with immunity from the law.

Chile

Apart from a church service and a community meeting on April 20, the news this year is that the Chamber of Deputies of Chile approved a project to declare April 24 the “National Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Armenian Genocide.” The resolution was presented by Congressman Cristian Araya, president of the Chile-Armenia Parliamentary Friendship Group, who met with representatives of the Armenian National Committee of South America (ANC-SA) Hagop Tabakian and Aram Mouratian in March.

“More than one and a half million people were murdered in a planned manner because of their ethnic and religious affiliation. It was systematically made invisible by the executioners, maliciously ignored by the leaders of the time and submerged under a mantle of unjust indifference that continues to this day. From a distant country like ours, in a humble but firm and vigorous way, we are raising our voices in the face of such injustice, officially recognizing the Armenian martyrs,” Araya said during the session.

Approval of Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day in the Chamber of Deputies of Chile

The Turkish Foreign Ministry rejected the Chilean resolution: “The resolution adopted yesterday (April 24) by the Chamber of Deputies of Chile recognizing the events of 1915 as ‘genocide’ is void. Parliaments do not have the authority to interpret or pass judgment on history,” said the Turkish Foreign Ministry, which then falsely stated that the resolution “contravenes the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, which establishes that the crime of genocide can only be ruled by a competent court.” Contrary to what Turkey claimed, the Genocide Convention does not prohibit parliaments from establishing a day to remember genocides. 

On June 5, 2007, the Senate of Chile approved a resolution in which it expressed solidarity “with the Armenian nation, condemning the genocide of its people” and requested that the government of Chile “adhere to what was agreed upon by the United Nations in 1985.”

On October 1, 2020, the Chamber of Deputies of Chile issued a resolution in support of Artsakh in the midst of the war unleashed by Azerbaijan and Turkey. On that occasion, the Chilean parliamentary body asked the president to “convey to Azerbaijan, Armenia and the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, Chile’s desire to immediately cease the attacks and persist in the search for a peaceful, legal and historic solution to the conflict, within the framework of the United Nations and international organizations, adjusting to International Law under its principles of prohibition of the use of force, respect for the sovereignty of nations, self-determination of peoples and peaceful resolution of disputes.”

Brazil

The Armenian community of São Paulo participated in a service at the Apostolic Church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator on April 21. The previous day, the youth of the ARF distributed informational flyers about the Armenian Genocide and the situation in Artsakh.

The Legislative Assembly of São Paulo held an ecumenical ceremony on April 24 in front of a khachkar donated by Armenia in 2003. “Brazil is a peaceful country that welcomed and embraced the Armenian people with open arms,” stated State Representative Danilo Balas, who organized the event. The ecumenical ceremony brought together representatives of the community as well as diplomats and leaders of Armenian churches located in São Paulo. The State of São Paulo has celebrated the “Day of Recognition and Remembrance of the Victims of the Genocide of the Armenian People” on April 24 since Law 15,813 was approved in 2015. On April 28, the Government of Franco da Rocha, a municipality in the state of São Paulo, inaugurated the “Armenia Eterna” square, with a khachkar installed there.

Ecumenical Ceremony in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Santos Futebol Clube, one of the biggest football clubs in the country, remembered the Armenian Genocide with a post on its social networks, which have more than three million followers on X, Facebook and Instagram. Corinthians, another of Brazil’s biggest clubs, played a match on April 28 wearing shirts alluding to the Armenian Genocide.

Conclusion

The President of the ANC-SA Hagop Tabakian analyzed the activities of the region in an interview with the Weekly: “In Buenos Aires, the mobilization towards the residence of the Turkish Ambassador was the center of activity. It is a different year for several reasons: Artsakh is empty of Armenians, we lose territory and sovereignty day by day, they seek to reform the Constitution, and the government of Armenia not only is not defending the interests of the Armenian people, but it is already beginning to replicate denialist speeches that come directly from Ankara or Baku. In that context, South America mobilized, and particularly our sector, ARF and the institutions that share their ideology, began to present the idea of the ‘right of return’ of the people of Artsakh.” According to Tabakian, “the diaspora is the target of the denialist policy,” because “this discourse aims to attack the spirits of the diaspora and its institutions, weakening its connection with Armenia.”

Tabakian also highlighted the support of local governments in the commemoration events in Córdoba, Rosario and other smaller regions.

Speaking about the presence of the Uruguayan President during the academic event in Montevideo, Tabakian stressed, “There is a clear continuation and support for the fight for justice and the work of the Armenian community in Uruguay, especially the Armenian National Committee that organized the event.”

He also highlighted Chile’s “important” resolution and the aim to “obtain a recognition law like the one we have in Argentina and France to commemorate April 24 as the Day of the Martyrs.” “This is as a result of the work that we have been doing with a group of deputies from the Chile-Armenia Parliamentary Friendship Group. We will continue working for the Senate approval,” Tabakian said.

Matías Raubian

Matías Raubian

Matías Raubian is the editor of Diario Armenia, the largest Armenian newspaper in Spanish founded in 1931. Diario Armenia covers news from Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora, with special focus on Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Spain.

1 Comment

  1. Dear Mr Matas Raubian,
    I follow your work with interest and wish you every success.
    I am committed to strengthening friendly relations between nations.
    On 14 May 2024, the state of Uruguay passed the law on the
    ‘Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide’,
    was passed.
    I would be very grateful if you could send me the original of this law.
    Yours sincerely
    Refik Mor

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