WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—The 96th Armenian Genocide Commemoration in Boston took place on April 25 with a keynote speech by Ambassador Garen Nazarian, permanent representative of the Republic of Armenia to the United Nations in New York.
The event, organized by the Greater Boston Committee for the Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center (ACEC), began with a formal entrance and flag ceremony performed by the Homenetmen scouts, clad in uniforms, followed by a requiem service performed by Fathers Antranig Baljian, Arakel Aljalian, and Karekin Bedourian, and Reverends Avedis Boynerian and Gregory Haroutunian.
Also present were Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, representatives from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), the Armenian Relief Society (ARS), community leaders, and 300 members of the community.
“After 96 years, we have not forgotten and we will not give up the fight to demand justice and territorial and financial reparations,” said the evening’s MC, Stepan Keshishian. He then introduced the first speaker, Asbed Kotchikian, a lecturer at the global studies department at Bentley University and editor of the academic peer reviewed journal, the Armenian Review.
“Ninety-six years is a long time for a person… But 96 years in the collective world history is just an instant, just a heartbeat,” began Kotchikian. “When we remember the 96 years, the genocide, we also think about injustice… Many in the non-Armenian circles, and even some Armenians…circulate doubt. They raise questions: whether Armenia and its leadership is not in tune with the pain and the pursuit of justice that the rest of the diaspora feels… Speculations like these are not only counterproductive, they’re also dangerous… We should never ever assume that the collective that includes the state, the people, the citizens of Armenia, and the diaspora in its entirety are not in tune and do not share a common aspiration and a common goal…[in] pursuing the justice that has been denied.”
Kotchikian then talked about focusing on the future, without forgetting the past. He suggested that Armenians, instead of grieving on April 24, celebrate it as a day of victory and rebirth. He closed with a quote by Czech writer Milan Kundera, from The Book of Laughter and Forgetting: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”
On behalf of Boston’s Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) “Nejdeh” Chapter, Sosse Beugekian took the stage and introduced a new initiative, “Sponsor the Future,” which aims to collect enough funds in a one-month period (from April 24-May 24) to sponsor 20 births, in cooperation with the ARS Mother and Child Healthcare and Birthing Center in Akhourian, Armenia. A sum of $150 will cover the expenses for each birth, including all the necessary vaccinations for the child.
Serena Hajjar followed Beugekian on stage, where she performed compositions by Gomidas and Arno Babajanian on piano.
Finally, Ambassador Nazarian took the stage. Alternating between Armenian and English, he commended the youth organizers of the event, thanked those present, and noted the significance of genocide recognition, reminding the audience that for the state of Armenia the issue was also a matter of national security. He spoke about the effects of the genocide, the darkest chapter of Armenian history, which was a blow to the collective Armenian identity, stripping Armenians of their right to live on their historical Armenian lands.
“The denial of the Armenian Genocide and the impunity paved way for the repetition of new crimes against humanity. Today we advocate the importance that independent of geopolitical and other threats, the international community should stand together in the condemnation of genocide and its prevention. It is due to the absence of this unanimity that humanity witnesses new attempts of committing genocides,” he said.
“History of the past 60 years, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, Darfur, and other tragedies, demonstrated that goodwill is not enough to root out genocidal expressions or the hatred and hostility propagated on national, racial, or religious grounds. These days we have seen the horror of genocide repeating itself in different parts of the world, and I am sure we are not alone in our disappointment that promise of diversity and global integration has not been fully realized, and that innocent civilians including children continue to be persecuted for no other reason than their ethnicity, religion, or national origin.”
The ambassador noted that despite the fact the death marches and mass killings were documented by, among others, the diplomatic representatives of Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Austria and the U.S., Turkey continues to deny them. “It is appalling that today Turkey can say in public that the Armenian ‘allegations’ of genocide have never been historically or legally substantiated, and they need further investigation for discussion on that subject. As president of Armenia, Serge Sarkisian said, ‘Turkey cannot talk to Armenia and Armenians around the world in the language of preconditions. We will not tolerate it. We will not subject the veracity of the Armenian Genocide to scrutiny in any format,’” said Nazarian, who prior to representing Armenia at the UN was the ambassador of Armenia in Tehran from 2005-09.
“Armed with the lessons of the Armenian Genocide, it is now our responsibility to shatter the great conspiracy of silence, and to break down the walls of international inaction and Turkish negation. To stand against Turkish and Azerbaijani hatred so that the evil of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and deportation will not triumph again,” he continued. “Indifference and inaction gives space for acceptance of genocidal ideologies, and left unchecked, will result in deadly practices that the international community and all people of good intentions pledge never to let happen again. Today the international community is not only responsible for the crime of the Armenian Genocide itself, but it is also responsible for not condemning and not recognizing the crime of 1915.”
Nazarian added that the personal efforts and the dedication of U.S. Congressmen, Congresswomen, Armenian advocacy groups, including students and university groups in Boston, Washington, and many other cities, are highly valued. “Today, we call upon others to follow their lead… We have suffered extreme intolerance and want to assure that such a fate does not befall other nations,” he said.
For more information on the AYF’s “Sponsor the Future” initiative, contact the organizers at (617) 849-2214 or [email protected] You can also visit the group’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/AYFboston.