NEW YORK – The only cure for chronic and monstrous lies is continual and loud doses of the truth. Pope Francis “shocked” the Turkish government with his Easter statement on the Armenian genocide, but his voice will be backed by millions this year as Armenians and their friends, especially Greeks, mark the 100th anniversary of the darkest days of the genocide, which was both mocked and acknowledged by Hitler’s notorious words “Who remembers the Armenians?”
Their memory is eternal, and Armenian groups around the world have been fighting for international recognition of the genocide for ten decades.
In Armenia there will be a large observance on April 24, which will be attended by the presidents of major countries.
On April 24 there will be a huge march to the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles, which has a large Armenian community, and on April 26 there will be a rally in Times Square.
There is a whole series of events in early May in the U.S. that will be attended by Serzh Sargsyan, the president of Armenia. On May 7 there will be a service at the National Cathedral and a concert and banquet the following day.
“LIGHT – THE TRUTH – IS OUR ALLY”
“The greatest ally we have is sunlight – attention, the spotlight. Our greatest enemy is darkness…ignorance of our issue, as it is for Greek-Amercan issues having to do with Turkey,” Aram Hamparian, the Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) told The National Herald.
The ultimate hope is for Turkey to finally acknowledge a dark chapter in its history, but Armenian-Americans have long been frustrated that Armenian Genocide resolutions have never been passed by Congress while as of 2014 twenty-two countries have recognized the genocide.
“When these issues are decided in the light of day, good decisions are made. If they are decided in the shadows they go against us,” Hamparian said.
He told TNH “the centennial first and foremost is about the added attention that is devoted to this issue,” adding that they welcome the extra attention that comes for statements by celebrities like George Clooney and the Kardashian family. “There was more information to the general public about Armenia last week through Kim Kardashian that form 50 years of tourism budgets,” he said.
They are hoping this year will be a turning point and that President Barack Obama “after six years will decide to honor his pledge,” Hamparian said. “We want nothing more on April 24 than what he promised as a candidate…that he would recognize the Armenian genocide. He said America deserves a president that will recognize the genocide and works against all genocides and he called President Bush’s policy inexcusable.”
Greek-American groups, which also fight for recognition of the Pontian and Asia Minor genocides, have been most supportive of the cause through the years, as have various anti-genocide movements and human rights organizations. The Assyrians and Kurds are also allies and Jewish-American groups like the American Jewish Committee are increasingly more helpful.
Hamparian’s family deeply appreciates the support of non-Armenians. His grandmother was saved by an American-funded orphanage that set up by a woman named Zevart Art.
His roots are in Western Armenia, Sivas – Byzantine Sebasteia – where there were many Greeks, and Diyarbakir. They immigrated to America in the early 20th century and had the opportunity to live the American dream after Turkish forces drove them from their homes and into Lebanon and Syria.
ANCA is headquartered in Washington and Hamparian will be the U.S. Capitol April 22 when the Armenian Caucus and the Armenian community host a commemoration.
Armen Sahakyan, whose roots are in Van, in western Armenian, and Nagomo Karabakh, represents ANCA on the Armenian Genocide Centennial Commemoration Committee/Eastern Region, the umbrella group coordinating all the Armenian organizations for the Centennial.
Each year the Armenian community sends a float to the Greek Parade on Fifth Avenue in a touching demonstration of solidarity with the people of Greece and Cyprus, and this year Hellenes can reciprocate by participating in Armenian events across the country. Information can be obtained by contacting local Armenian churches.
Sahakyan told TNH about events in New York, which include marches that begin after services at the Cathedral of St. Vartan at 630 Second Avenue and 34th Street.
On April 24, the “March to Demand Justice” departs from St. Vartan’s at noon and proceeds to the Turkish Consulate, where there will be a demonstration until 4PM. Participants will then cross the street to United Nations/Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at East 47th Street and 2nd Avenue, where there will be a Commemoration Vigil from 4-6 PM.
On April 26, the liturgy at St. Vartan’s begins at 10AM and will be followed at 12Noon by a march to Times Square, where the commemoration will be held between 1:45PM and 4:30PM. The event will feature guest Speakers Stephen Smith, chair of the USC Shoah Foundation, and genocide scholar Taner Akcam. Sebu Simonian of the band Capital Cities will perform.
HOW TO SUPPORT THE CAUSE
The easiest way for Greek-Americans to help is through the website marchtojustice.org, where people can simultaneously write to the President Obama, the Congress and the UN.