Friday, September 15, 2017

The 95th Anniversary of the Destruction of Greeks and Armenians in Smyrna/Izmir: An Interview with Tehmine Martoyan

Special to the Armenian Weekly

Tehmine Martoyan is lecturer at the University of Economy and Law (Yerevan, Armenia). She is also the president of Lazaryan Institute scientific and educational NGO.
Sept. 13, 2017 marks the 95th anniversary of the start of the Great Fire of Smyrna
Martoyan is the author of books and articles on the Armenians in Safavid Iran, and she has participated in international conferences and meetings in Armenia and abroad. She also translated into Armenian the book by Theofanis Malkidis titled The Greek Genocide: Thrace, Asia Minor, Pontus.
She has made two films dedicated to the Greek and Armenian populations in Smyrna. Her forthcoming book is titled Psychological and Political Causes of Annihilation of the Armenians and the Greeks in Smyrna.
Tehmine Martoyan
This interview was conducted by email during early Sept. 2017.
George Shirinian: You contributed the chapter in Genocide in the Ottoman Empire: Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks, 1913-1923, titled “The Destruction of Smyrna in 1922: An Armenian and Greek Shared Tragedy.” Amid all the chaos and destruction at that time, why is the fate of this one city noteworthy today?
The start of the fire, seen from Bella Vista, photographed Sept. 13, 1922
Tehmine Martoyan: First of all, I would like to express gratitude for the opportunity to commemorate with the readers of this journal the 95th anniversary of the destruction of Smyrna, which began on Sept. 13, 1922. Smyrna was a major international commercial center, and it was also known as a tolerant and cultured place, where Christians, Jews, and Muslims had lived together in harmony and prosperity, before the advent of extreme Turkish nationalism.
The Allied Powers suspected Ataturk was going to take reprisals on the city for the conduct of the Greek army during the Greco-Turkish war, and warned him against doing so, but he ignored their warning and got away with it. It was an unnecessary act of wanton destruction that affected only the Christian sections of the city. What happened is very well documented, by eyewitness accounts, photographs, and even video.
The headline of The New York Times report of the fire on Sept. 17, 1922
The extermination of the Armenian and Greek people of Smyrna and the destruction of the Christian districts of the city made a great impression on contemporaries and continues to attract the attention of researchers today. Entire books are still being written about it.

G.S.: Explain briefly what happened.
T.M.: One author has described the event this way: “What happened over the two weeks that followed must surely rank as one of the most compelling human dramas of the twentieth century. Innocent civilians—men, women, and children from scores of different nationalities—were caught up in a humanitarian disaster on a scale that the world had never before seen.” The Armenians and the Greeks of Smyrna were systematically robbed, murdered, and abducted.
Buildings on fire and people trying to escape
According to the account of Edward Bierstadt—secretary for Near East Relief at the time—around 100,000 people fell victim to the slaughter, and 160,000 were driven away to the farthest parts of Turkey. More than 50,000 houses, 24 churches, and 28 schools, banks, consulates, and hospitals were burned. Turkish soldiers deliberately led the fire down the Greek and European sections of Smyrna by soaking the streets with petroleum or other highly flammable matter.
Panoramic view of the fire of Smyrna
The people were massed along the quay, and with the fire and intense heat behind them; they had nowhere to go but jump into the Mediterranean. There were ships from several countries just outside the harbor, but most had orders not to intervene. Greek ships took refugees to the island of Mytilene and elsewhere, and a Japanese ship was noteworthy for joining the effort from the start, rescuing survivors from the sea.
Overcrowded boats with refugees fleeing the fire; the photo was taken from the launch boat of a U.S. warship
The American navy helped only when the courageous Asa Jennings, a devout minister from upstate New York who had only recently arrived to take up duties as secretary to the local YMCA, rowed out to them and personally demanded that they rescue survivors. He was assisted by an equally courageous and strong-willed naval officer, Lt. Commander Halsey Powell. Together, they helped rescue almost a million refugees.
So, beyond the story of the destruction of the city and its non-Muslim population, there is the story of courageous rescuers who defied orders not to intervene.

G.S.: Why did Ataturk destroy this jewel of a city?
T.M.: To a certain extent it was to punish the Greeks for the Greco-Turkish War, even though the Smyrniotes were Ottoman citizens. But Smyrna was also a symbol of Christian prosperity, a major center of European trade, and an example peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims—all things the new Turkish nationalist movement was vehemently against. Ataturk even declared that neither American colleges nor any Christian institutions would operate in Smyrna in future. He wanted to build a new “Turkey for the Turks” out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
A view from the city after the fire, on Sept. 15, 1922

G.S.: Is there any parallel in history for such a destruction of a single city?
T.M.: The massacre in the Chinese city of Nanking (Nanjing) by the Japanese in 1937-38 comes to mind. It is interesting to note that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia ruled that the murder of some 8,000 Muslim Bosnians in Srebrenica in 1995 was “genocidal.” One could say the same for the murder of 100,000 Armenians and Greeks of Smyrna.
Greek refugees mourning victims of the Smyrna massacres
G.S.: You mentioned that this history is particularly well documented. Are new sources still coming to light?
It is true that this history is particularly well documented, and there are new sources still coming to light. I am now researching the entire press of the period at the National Archives of Armenia and Fundamental library of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia. I can also add that I had the opportunity to incorporate in my chapter a previously unpublished letter of the American eyewitness, Bertha Morley, from the Zoryan Institute archives.
Greek victims of the Smyrna massacres

G.S.: You have done extensive work on the Greek Genocide. Why do you, as an Armenian historian, devote so much attention to the Greek experience?
Desecrated graves at the Greek cemetery of Saint John
T.M.: Historical-cultural ties between the Armenians and the Greeks from ancient times are evident in their religion, culture, traditions, lifestyle, legends, etc. These two nations have always had strong ties, both emotionally and historically, due to religious and cultural roots.
Studying the experiences of these two peoples in parallel, I use content analysis as a research method to show how both the Armenians and the Greeks suffered from genocide that was planned and committed by the same state. As the subtitle of my chapter states, unfortunately the Armenians and Greeks have a shared tragedy.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Breaking: House Passes Valadao Amendment Securing U.S. Funding for Artsakh De-Mining

ANCA Backed Life-Saving Measure Overwhelmingly Adopted by Legislators

WASHINGTON—The U.S. House today adopted an amendment by Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) backing continued Congressional appropriations for the HALO Trust’s life-saving de-mining across the interior farmlands and villages of the Artsakh Republic. The decisive move was welcomed by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), which spearheaded the launch of Artsakh aid in the 1990s and has, over the past two decades, secured tens of millions of dollars in life-saving U.S. assistance to the independent republic.
The U.S. House today adopted an amendment by Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) backing continued Congressional appropriations for the HALO Trust’s life-saving de-mining across the interior farmlands and villages of the Artsakh Republic (Graphic: ANCA)
The Valadao Amendment was approved by voice vote, as part of the FY 2018 foreign aid appropriation, which, in turn, is part of a broader spending measure (H.R. 3354), which will be voted on as early as Friday, September 8th. Congressman David Valadao (R-Calif.), who serves as a Co-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, was joined in supporting this bipartisan measure by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), House Intelligence Committee Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and his fellow Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). Rep. Valadao introduced his measure on the House floor, as part of an en bloc series of amendments, and spoke passionately in support of its adoption.
ANCA Chair Raffi Hamparian, National Board member Aida Dimejian and ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian discussing efforts to expand US aid to Artsakh and Armenia with House Appropriations Committee member David Valadao (R-Calif.).
“Progress for Artsakh. The Valadao Amendment’s overwhelming adoption by the full U.S. House of Representatives powerfully affirms, over Aliyev’s relentless opposition, America’s enduring support for Artsakh’s safety and security,” said ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian. “We join with friends from Fresno, across America, and from as far away as Artsakh in thanking Congressman Valadao and all his colleagues for his leadership in the victory of this pro-peace, life-saving legislation.”
Video of Rep. Valadao’s remarks a on the House floor is available on the ANCA YouTube page here:
Immediately following his amendment’s passage, Rep. Valadao shared with the ANCA that: “It is a grave reality that families in Nagorno-Karabagh live under the very real threat of landmine accidents each and every day. However, with the funding secured in my amendment today, I am optimistic significant strides will be made to ensure the region is landmine free by 2020, restoring these communities so they may live without fear of mine-related accidents.”
Rep. Pallone concurred, noting that “I was proud to work with my colleagues to extend aid to Nagorno-Karabagh. U.S. aid especially towards demining efforts in Nagorno-Karabagh has helped the HALO Trust to clear mines, cluster munitions, and other explosive remnants of war since 2000. This aid will help HALO Trust to complete this important work by their 2020 deadline and I will continue to work to support efforts relating to Nagorno-Karabagh in the future.”
Rep. Speier thanked her colleagues for “providing critically needed funding for the ongoing effort to remove deadly landmines from Artsakh. Given the danger posed to the people of this Republic—an area that suffers the highest per capita incidence of landmine accidents in the world, with a third of these casualties involving children— this modest $1.5 million amendment is destined to have a major impact on the physical and mental health of the people of Artsakh. It also shows our government’s strong and abiding commitment to securing peace and prosperity for Artsakh, which has achieved great progress and has an even brighter future on its horizon.”
The HALO Trust’s infographic shows the incredible progress made toward a mine-free Artsakh by 2020
The Valadao Amendment represents the first time in four years that the full U.S. House has gone on record affirming its official support for the Artsakh assistance program. The Senate has traditionally been more consistent in its support in this area. The Executive Branch is responsive to Congressional intent, as reflected in legislative and report language, particularly on appropriation priorities.
Thanks to the efforts of the ANCA and the leadership of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), former Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone and former Republican Co-Chair Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and many others – the U.S. has provided millions in funding to The HALO Trust, which has successfully demined approximately 97% of Artsakh. Over the last 16 years, the HALO Trust has destroyed over 8,733 anti-personnel mines, 2,584 anti-tank landmines, 180,858 small arms ammunition, 12,423 cluster bombs and 48,572 other explosive items.
“The Valadao Amendment’s overwhelming adoption by the full U.S. House of Representatives powerfully affirms, over Aliyev’s relentless opposition, America’s enduring support for Artsakh’s safety and security,” said ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian
The ANCA’s efforts to secure direct U.S. assistance to Artsakh date back to May of 1997, when Congressman Brad Sherman first offered an authorization amendment, as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to the Foreign Policy Reform Act, to authorize direct U.S. funding for Artsakh. This effort lead to subsequent support, later that same year, by appropriators, notably then-senior Congressman Joe Knollenberg of Michigan, who successfully worked to ensure that the House Appropriations Committee approved a Foreign Aid bill (Public Law 105-118) that ultimately led to the allocation of an initial $12 million FY 1998 allocation for Artsakh.
Senate Appropriations Committee Calls for Continued Aid to Artsakh and Armenia; Slams Turkey and Azerbaijan For Human Rights Abuses
Parallel to House passage of H.R. 3354, the Senate Appropriations Committee today adopted its version of the FY 2018 foreign aid calling for continued assistance to Artsakh at current levels and allocating assistance to Armenia as follows: $17.633 million in economic assistance, $1.5 million for battling narcotics trafficking, $600,000 in for international military education and training and $1 million in foreign military financing. The Senate maintained parity in military assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In addition, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted three ANCA-backed amendments including one, led by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Committee Vice-Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) opposing the use of US funds to facilitate the sale of arms to Turkish President Erdogan’s security detail; as second amendment by Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) denying U.S. visas to Turkish officials involved in the unlawful imprisonment of U.S. citizens; and, the third by Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) denying U.S. visas to Azerbaijani government officials connected to the improper jailing of the editor of the independent Turan News Agency.
Additional coverage of the Senate’s fiscal year 2018 foreign aid bill will follow.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

New Documentary Links 1915 Genocide To Recent Azeri Massacres of Armenians

A new Armenian Genocide documentary will be screened in many theaters across the United States and also available “on demand” as of October 7. Unlike other documentaries on the topic, this one is different and more relevant to today’s non-Armenian viewers. The documentary titled, “Architects of Denial,” and sub-titled “Genocide denied is genocide continued,” links the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 to contemporary massacres of Armenians by Azeris, ethnic kins of Turks, in various cities of Azerbaijan, and threaten to kill Armenians living in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh).
The documentary is produced by two Hollywood celebrities, Dean Cain and Montel Williams. It interviews world famous personalities and experts on the Armenian Genocide, some of them for the first time, such as Julian Assange (WikiLeaks), FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, prominent international lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, Prof. Taner Akcam, one of the first Turkish scholar to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, Dr. Gregory Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan, Tom de Wall, an expert on the Caucasus region, Former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, Cong. Adam Schiff, former Kurdish mayor of Sur, Diyarbakir in Turkey, Abdullah Demirbas, His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, Bako Sahakyan, President of Artsakh, Prof. Ugur Ungor, an expert on the Armenian Genocide, Baroness Caroline Cox, a member of the UK House of Lords, eyewitness accounts of survivors of both the 1915 Armenian Genocide and the massacres in Baku and Sumgait, Azerbaijan, since 1988, and earlier in the 20th century, and this writer.
Documentary "Architects of Denial" provides a first person account of the Armenian Genocide
Documentary “Architects of Denial” links the Armenian Genocide with recent Azerbaijani massacre of Armenains
The interviews were conducted in several countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Armenia, Artsakh, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Russia by camera crews sent to these places at major expense and great risk. The documentary also weaves the commonality of various genocides from Cambodia to Sudan (Darfur), the Holocaust, the Bosnian and Rwandan genocides.
Here are important excerpts from statements made by some of those interviewed by the documentary-makers:
Julian Assange: “Turkey has gone all around the world aggressively lobbying diplomatically to make sure there are no references to the Armenian Genocide, including even the major powers such as the United States.”
Pres. Serzh Sargsyan: “The leaders of Turkey and Azerbaijan announce from time to time that they are one nation, but live in different countries. And naturally along with that one nation, they are injecting the ideology of denial.”
Perhaps the most scandalous revelation in the documentary was made by Sibel Edmonds who was fired from her FBI job for informing her superiors about the involvement of high-ranking U.S. politicians in illegal Turkish schemes: “The justification to the excuse the United States government has been using, we are doing this [denial of the Armenian Genocide] for sensitive diplomatic relations. This is a hypocrisy that I have been witnessing, especially with inside knowledge of what takes place in the United States. It started with trying to do the right thing and we fought criminal activities bought and abused and basic retaliation for that.”
Explaining why Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert killed the genocide recognition bill at the last minute, Sibel Edmonds stated: “It was a move that came with a price. He had bribery with cash to lock this vote. He also took bribery in the form of sexual favors during his junket trips to Turkey in a particular hotel that he would stay. Sexual favors would be delivered to him – under-age males. Also it was delivered in his townhouse; it was bribery, foreign bribery which constituted treason. But that was a very small portion of what the FBI has already gathered. In Chicago, he also was directly involved with the notorious Turkish network that handled very large percentage of heroin-related activities, operations, sales in the United States, including receiving cash in suitcases from these particular people, and he and his Chief of Staff; their evidences were monitored. They were bugged not only for audio, but also for video. The FBI had in its possession, starting from 1997 slam dunk evidence in their hands, criminally implicated Dennis Hastert. The State Dept. knows, many people in Congress whom I testified to, they know. And I said, ‘you watch, there would be no accountability and mockery of the entire system.’”
The documentary also shows an original footage in which Azeri soldiers barbarically cut off the heads and ears of Armenian soldiers and civilians during Azerbaijan’s attack on Artsakh during April 2016!
Finally, the documentary-makers question several members of Congress who refuse to answer whether they believe the Armenian Genocide actually took place, except Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (Dem.-Texas) who is shown giving a speech at an Azeri energy conference, where she boasts:” I am a member of the [congressional] Azerbaijan Caucus, enthusiastic member, and supportive member!”
The documentary-makers then ask Cong. Johnson on camera: “do you deny that the Armenian Genocide happened?” She shamelessly answers: “I do deny that!” This is a major scandal for a serving member of Congress to make such a categorical denial which is rarely denied by Members of Congress. The Armenian-American community nationwide and their friends should support her opponent in the next election and those in her district should vote against her to remove her from Congress. Once one of these denialist scoundrels is kicked out of office, other members of Congress will be very careful not to deny the Armenian Genocide. We need to make an example of her!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Viewing Ukraine from Armenia August 25, 2017

Prompted by the New York Times reporting that North Korea may have gotten some of its best missile technology from a factory in Ukraine, I realized there was a long-standing gap in my understanding of where that country fell in the Armenian scheme of things. So, I did a bit of reading, by no means exhaustive, which, combined with the snippets floating around in my head, resulted in what follows.
Historically, the Armenian-Ukrainian connection goes back to the times of Turkic invasions of our homeland. Not only did that trigger movement westward, resulting in the Cilician kingdom, but also northward across the Black Sea to Crimea, Ukraine, and Poland. Unfortunately, these communities ultimately assimilated and were largely lost. Of course, that wasn’t the end of Armenian migration to Ukraine. It must have continued, since today, there are anywhere between 100,000 and 350,000 Armenians in Ukraine. The lower number is from a 2001 census and includes only official residents, not temporary, migrant workers or those otherwise present. The higher figure is more recent and based on an Armenian organization’s estimate. How these figures are to be divided, with Crimea now separated from Ukraine is yet another question. Another more recent historical aspect was the cooperation between Armenians and Ukrainians in anti-Soviet efforts through the 1970s.
The upshot of so many Armenians living there is that at least two of them hold fairly high-ranking positions in government. This suggests that there’s not a strong anti-Armenian sentiment among Ukrainians. Naturally, these two are acting in the best interests of Ukraine. Yet, at least one Azeri columnist suggests writing Ukraine off as an ally of Azerbaijan because of their presence – a fine example of the anti-Armenian sentiments regularly inflamed by Baku clouding judgment so much as to hurt its own interests.
This begs the question – what/how are relations between Azerbaijan and Ukraine? We hear niceties being exchanged between Yerevan and Kiev, but there seems to be an underlying tension. It seems to me that a big part of the problem rises because of the relationship between Ukraine and Russia. There’s a pretty long history of conquest and antipathy between them. Thus, my guess is Kiev views much of the rest of its relationships through that prism, quite understandably – you know the mindset that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and “the friend of my enemy is my enemy”.
Couple this approach with Ukraine’s loss of Crimea and potential for losing more territory to Russia, and you can see why Kiev supports Azerbaijan’s “territorial integrity” argument when it comes to Artsakh. Unfortunately, this support predates Russia’s annexation, so there must be more to it. Ukraine has been and is Azerbaijan’s second (perhaps now third with all the Israeli sales) largest arms supplier after Turkey. Even if this is more attributable to Ukraine’s economic needs, trade and so on, obviously, it cannot be ignored by Yerevan.
Hence, it should have come as no surprise to Ukraine when Yerevan’s position regarding Russia’s annexation of Crimea was less than supportive of Kiev. This naturally led to cooling of relations, but there does seem to be a thaw. Bilateral trade between Ukraine on one side and Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey on the other seems to be steady, which is a sign of good relations. Once again, Russia is a big factor and Ukraine wants to get energy from other sources to reduce its dependence, hence its need for Azerbaijani supplies. In fact, Ukraine was advising Turkey, in the aftermath of the latter’s shoot-down of a Russian jet (Fall 2015), to reduce its reliance on Russian natural gas to below 25% as a “safe” level. It seemed like Ukraine was trying to take advantage of the heightened tension between Russia and Turkey. Plus, Turkey-Ukraine relations are good enough to enable shipment of Ukrainian arms, courtesy of Turkish secret services and trains they chartered, to Daesh/ISIS in 2014, based on a recent report. This, too, runs counter to Armenian interests, both for the closeness demonstrated with Turkey and the damage inflicted on our compatriots in Syria.
Finally, there’s GUAM – Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova, later renamed ODED-GUAM (Organization for Democracy and Economic Development). It briefly became GUUAM when Uzbekistan joined, but later dropped out. This 1990s vintage grouping is currently quiescent, though I also encountered some commentary that it should be reinvigorated. It was clearly formed as a way to push back against Russia. These are all countries in which Russia supports “separatist” movements. Of course if all those movements are like our Artzakh liberation struggle, then it behooves GUAM to start treating its citizens better and not persecuting, even massacring (think Baku, Gandzak/Cantsag [Kirovabad, Ganja], Sumgait), them. This grouping did not become much of a military alliance. Ironically, had it done so, it might have elicited strong pushback from Russia, which would have run counter to its raison d’etre.
The upshot seems to be that Armenian-Ukrainian relations will, for the foreseeable future, remain hostage to/heavily impacted by the Russian factor.
I hope some good comes of this article. If you notice errors of fact or interpretation, please write.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Caruso Agrees to Advertise ‘Architects of Denial’ at Americana

"Architects of Denial," a documentary focusing on the denial of the Armenian Genocide
“Architects of Denial,” a documentary focusing on the denial of the Armenian Genocide
Also Says it Will Forge Relationship with Armenian Community
GLENDALE– Moments ago, the Armenian National Committee of America – Glendale received a letter from Caruso Affiliated Executive Vice President of Operations, Jackie Levy condemning “violence and atrocities of any form anywhere in the world, including the Armenian Genocide that has impacted the lives of Armenians in our community.” The letter also states that Caruso Affiliated will work with the producers of “Architects of Denial” and the City of Glendale in an effort to display the advertisement at the Americana at Brand, at no cost to the producers.
The ANCA Glendale welcomes this important albeit delayed response as the first step in addressing a larger issue of insensitivity toward the Armenian-American community and utter lack of outreach and understanding. We look forward to working with Americana at Brand and Caruso Affiliated to further address the community’s needs and develop a positive and constructive relationship moving forward.
We especially want to thank the grassroots in our community who rose to the occasion by making our collective concerns heard on a larger scale. This outcome shows that when the community is activated, decision makers will hear its voice.
We are sincerely grateful to our elected officials – specifically State Senator Anthony Portantino who joined us on the ground from day one, members of the Glendale City Council who supported our position, as well as US Congressman Adam Schiff, LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, and Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Krekorian for responding to the call for action and providing their staunch support that made this possible.
Below is the letter sent by Caruso Affiliated to the Glendale community.
August 17, 2017
To the Glendale community:
Over the past few days, we have reached out to, and heard from, many longtime friends in the Glendale
community, including those who spoke at the Glendale City Council meeting this week.
We have learned, through these countless conversations and exchanges, our position on human rights
has been misunderstood and for that we apologize. We have always condemned violence and atrocities
of any form anywhere in the world, including the Armenian Genocide that has impacted the lives of
Armenians in our community.
While this advertising use is a violation of the city’s zoning, we will work with the producers of
Architects of Denial and the city of Glendale in an effort to display the advertisement at The Americana
at Brand, at no cost to the producers.
We have the utmost respect for and appreciate the deep values of the Armenian community in this
great city.
Jackie Levy
Executive Vice President of Operations

Monday, August 7, 2017

Uncle Boghos Biography


Sunday, August 6, 2017

ANCA Joins Yezidi Genocide Commemoration in Front of White House

A memorial to the Shingal attack
A memorial to the Shingal attack
WASHINGTON–Armenian National Committee of America staff and supporters took part in a candlelight vigil in front of the White House on August 3 to mark the 3rd anniversary of the ISIS attack on Shingal (Sinjar, in Arabic), which marked the beginning of the Yezidi Genocide in 2014.  Thousands of Yezidis were killed by invading ISIS forces, which faced no opposition from Iraqi government troops.  Thousands of women and children were also abducted and used as sex slaves by ISIS.  To this day, many are still held captive.
The vigil was organized by the Free Yezidi Foundation and the American Ezidi Center.  “The Yezidis have suffered so much for so long.  Today we need the international community to stand with us,” remarked Pari Ibrahim, Director of the Free Yezidi Foundation.  “We seek justice, security, and a brighter future for our people.”  The message resonated strongly with the audience, which also included Kurdish and Iraqi Christian community members.
ANCA Executiive Director Aram Hamparian at the Yezidi Genocide commemoration event
ANCA Executiive Director Aram Hamparian at the Yezidi Genocide commemoration event
In 2016, the United States House of Representatives voted unanimously to declare that “the atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”  Similar motions passed unanimously in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Parliament.
In Armenia, the 40,000-strong Yezidi community – the nation’s largest minority group – is able to thrive by worshipping freely and providing Kurmanci-language education in local public schools.  The world’s largest Yezidi temple is currently under construction in the village of Aknalich, 14 km west of Etchmiadzin, in the Armavir marz.  Under Armenia’s new 2015 constitution, Yezidis are guaranteed representation in Armenia’s National Assembly, along with the next three largest minority groups: the Assyrians, Kurds, and Russians.
During the First World War, many Yezidis protected their Armenian neighbours from Ottoman troops.  Some were killed for their involvement.  On April 21, 2015, a monument was inaugurated in Yerevan to honor those “innocent Yezidi martyrs.”
According to one Reuters report, around 50 Yezidi families fleeing the Shingal region in 2014 have found refuge in Armenia.