Monday, March 30, 2015

Paris Conference on Genocide Draws Experts from Around the World

Special for the Armenian Weekly
‘France is working to pay off its debt to the Armenians for not having made every effort to save them and prevent their disappearance from the Ottoman Empire between 1918 and 1923.’
PARIS (A.W.)—A three-day academic conference titled “The Genocide of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire in the Great War” kicked off on March 25 at the Great Amphitheater of La Sorbonne. Historians, researchers, political analysts, and journalists gathered to share their work and reflections on 100 years of research on the Armenian Genocide. The conference was organized by the International Scientific Council (CSI), with the support of “Mission 2015” of the Council of Armenian organizations of France (CCAF) and the Regional Council of Paris and surrounding areas.
France’s Minister of Education and Research Najat Vallaud-Belkacem
France’s Minister of Education and Research Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (Photo: Fiona Guitard)
“One hundred years ago, one of the most horrifying episodes in the history of Europe and the world was being crafted. The political project of the Committee of Union and Progress, which was aimed at the total extermination of the Armenian people, was about to be put into execution, activating a mass murder, genocide—the first contemporary genocide.” With these words, France’s Minister of Education and Research Najat Vallaud-Belkacem started her speech.
Vallaud-Belkacem expressed her gratitude to historians, and paid tribute to all the intellectuals who lost their lives simply because “they were Armenians.”  She spoke about Komitas, “the greatest genius of Armenian music” who “saved from oblivion the most beautiful Armenian folk songs.” She also remembered the poet Daniel Varoujan and the novelist Zabel Yessayan.
Minister Vallaud-Belkacem reminded those present that France publicly recognized the Armenian Genocide through a law passed on Jan. 29, 2001. She spoke about the Armenians who perished during the genocide and shared her thoughts on Hrant Dink, the Agos newspaper editor assassinated in 2007. She also thanked the Turkish intellectuals seated in the amphitheater—among them Ragip Zarakolu and Bursa Ersanli—for their work and presence.  She concluded by paying tribute to the history teachers in France, who work every day to make the new generations sensitive, tolerant, and respectful.

Pierre-Cyrille Hautcoeur, the president of l’École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), was the second speaker on the first day of the conference. He noted that it was not until April 1984 that we witnessed a court session—the Permanent People’s Tribunal in Paris—on the genocide. He reminded attendees that during this session, historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet compared the Armenian Genocide to the Holocaust. During that trial, Vidal-Naquet even used the term “great denial.” It was a great denial not only employed by the Turkish state, but also by its allies, “even by the United Nations,” said Hautcoeur.
Jean-Paul Huchon’s official representative from the Regional Council of Paris told the story of Missak Manouchian, a resistance fighter during World War II. Manouchian was orphaned after 1915, and worked to keep the Armenian culture alive. The representative paid tribute to the 60,000 Armenians who came to Marseille to find a safe haven, and who contributed to the development of France. She announced that the Council will distribute the magazine “Histoire,” which chronicles the history of the Armenian Genocide, to all high schools in Paris and the surrounding areas. In addition, an event is scheduled to take place on May 27 to commemorate the genocide. Taron Margarian, the mayor of Yerevan, will be present.

Vincent Duclert, who emceed the opening of the conference, concluded his remarks with the following words: “France is working to pay off its debt to the Armenians for not having made every effort to save them and prevent their disappearance from the Ottoman Empire between 1918 and 1923.” Duclert was referring to efforts, like the conference, that aim to raise awareness about the Armenian Genocide.
Yves Ternon, an historian and president of the CSI and a member of the Scientific Council of the Shoah Memorial, delivered the keynote address at the opening. He offered a detailed account of the history of the Armenian Genocide. Ternon’s was a powerful speech. He noted, “It becomes more and more obvious that the eruption of war releases moral constraints, transforming individuals, civilians, and the military into murderers.” He explained how the genocide took place, beginning with the putsch of July 1908 and the emergence in the 19th century of nationalists in the Balkans, and ending in 1923. He mentioned the recent massacres of the Yazidis in Sinjar. “The news shows us that sometimes history returns to the scene of a disaster, that the massacres committed yesterday by delirious nationalists are reproduced a century later in the same places, that the monster is back, with another mask, one of fanaticism.” Ternon spoke for an hour, and received a standing ovation.
(L-R) Mikaël Nichanian, Raymond Kévorkian, Gaïdz Minassian, Hamit Bozarslan, and Claire Mouradian (Photo: Fiona Guitard)
(L-R) Mikaël Nichanian, Raymond Kévorkian, Gaïdz Minassian, Hamit Bozarslan, and Claire Mouradian (Photo: Fiona Guitard)
The opening ended with a roundtable discussion chaired by Gaïdz Minassian, a political analyst and journalist. He was joined by Claire Mouradian, Mikaël Nichanian, Hamit Bozarslan, and Raymond Kévorkian.
Mouradian said that research about the Armenian Genocide has moved forward in the past 20 years. “It was necessary to reconstruct the facts, which were facing denial,” she said. Now, not only are historians dealing with the research, but also anthropologists, authors, and sociologists. She added that even if the three days of the conference are intense, they are not enough to cover all the research available.
Kévorkian explained that “the ground was cleared collectively these past decades, but there is considerable work to be done.” Kévorkian hopes that new perspectives will soon be explored. “There are interesting perspectives. Micro history is becoming a real important tool,” he said. He gave the example of the brutalization of civilians during war, which can add a different perspective to the study of the Armenian Genocide. He also mentioned another central element that could offer a new angle: the Young Turks’ project of homogenization.
Nichanian insisted that one third of the research presented at the conference is from the specificity of Turkology. He reminded attendees that the conference brought together multi-disciplinarily approaches to research on the genocide.
Bozarslan said that 25 years ago Turkish history could be discussed without even mentioning the genocide of the Armenians. Historians who started to talk about it were marginalized. Turkish national history was not questioned until the 1980’s, he said, and explained the important role Turkish historians could play in Armenian Genocide research.
The conference concluded on Sat., March, 28, at the National Library of France. Videos of the event will soon be released on the CCAF’s “Mission 2015” website.

Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group Publishes Final Report

YEREVAN (A.W.) – The Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group (AGRSG) published its final report, entitled “Resolution with Justice—Reparations for the Armenian Genocide,” on March 30.
The cover of the report
The cover of the report
In September 2014, the group completed the report, which is a wide-ranging analysis of the legal, historical, political, and ethical dimensions of the question of reparations for the genocide. The report also includes specific recommendations for the components of a complete reparations package.
The AGRSG was assembled in 2007, comprised of four experts in different areas of reparations theory and practice. Funded initially by a grant from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), the members of the AGRSG are Alfred de Zayas, Jermaine O. McCalpin, Ara Papian, and Henry C. Theriault (chair). George Aghjayan serves as a special consultant.
The question of reparations for losses suffered both by individual victims and the Armenian nation as a whole during the genocide has been studied by many scholars and academics over the years. However, the discourse was generally limited and included only abstract notions of territorial and monetary return. Although there have been several examples of valuable works treating the issue, none have approached the topic of reparations with a comprehensiveness and detailed analysis like the one put forth by the AGRSG.
In December 2014, Theriault spoke to The Armenian Weekly about how the project was conceived and executed, as well as some of the challenges the group had faced. According to Theriault, the resolution of the Armenian Genocide issue had to go beyond simply ending denial, and required real long-term justice in the form of reparations, including land.
The final report is available in PDF format on the AGRSG’s website

Sunday, March 29, 2015

UN Human Rights Council Adopts Resolution on Prevention of Genocide

GENEVA, Switzerland (A.W.)—On March 27, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution on the prevention of genocide (A/HRC/28/L.25). Introduced by the Permanent Mission of Armenia to the United Nations, the resolution recommends that the General Assembly designate Dec. 9 as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of Genocide, “in order to raise awareness of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and its role in combatting and preventing the crime of genocide.”
The resolution stresses that the fight against impunity is key to the prevention of genocide. It also underscores the importance of genocide education and the need to identify the root causes of genocide, and suggests that a list of contact points be established to strengthen efforts toward prevention. It also expresses the need for “enhanced international cooperation.”
The resolution further “condemns the intentional public denial or glorification of crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity as defined by international law, and notes with concern that public denials create a risk of further violations and undermine efforts to prevent genocide.”
On Feb. 13, the government of Armenia approved a motion declaring Dec. 9 as the “Day of Remembrance of Victims of All Genocides.” According to the reasoning submitted by the sponsoring members of Parliament, the adoption of the law will set Dec. 9 as the day of condemnation and remembrance of all genocides, “based on the fact that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide on Dec. 9, 1948.”
The full text of the UNHRC resolution can be read here.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Balakian Discusses Genocide, Cultural Destruction at Holocaust Museum Houston

Anticipation was peak as a record crowd gathered at the Holocaust Museum Houston on Sat., March 14 for an emersion into a fascinating lecture on Raphael Lemkin, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and cultural destruction.
Balakian speaks at Holocaust Museum Houston
Balakian speaks at Holocaust Museum Houston
Tamara Savage, the director of the Holocaust Museum Houston, introduced Balakian, the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities at Colgate University, who has made the genocide a key part of his life’s work as an award-winning writer, poet, and genocide expert.
Balakian started by praising the history of Jewish rescue, witness, and intellectual work on the Armenian Genocide. From Ambassador Henry Morgenthau to Raphael Lemkin, to Franz Werfel and into the modern era of Jewish scholars working on and standing up for the Armenian Genocide discourse, Balakian noted that “the role Jews have played in bearing witness to and later defining the Turkish genocide of the Armenians has been profound.”
It was Lemkin who became the father of the U.N. Genocide Convention of 1948. It was Lemkin who coined the phrase “Armenian Genocide” in the 1940’s. As a graduate student he challenged his professor after learning about the Turkish massacres of the Armenians, asking, “How can it be that if one man kills another he is charged with murder, but if a whole nation-state kills more than a million people they are allowed to do it without any consequences?” This moment ended up changing his career path.
Among the many layers of Lemkin’s understanding of genocide as a crime is the concept that the destruction of culture is a vitally important aspect of the genocidal process. At the core of every group identity are the cultural institutions that codify group identity.
The official number of dead in the Holocaust, according to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, is 5.1 million. In the Armenian case, Lemkin put the death toll at 1.2 million. The epicenter of killing was in 1915 and 1916. About two-thirds of the Armenian population perished.
Balakian discussed some defintions of culture as essential to the identity of any ethnic or group. He also analyzed some of the tactics of Turkish assault on Armenian culture in 1915. He discussed the destruction of about 4,500 churches and schools; the killing of the culture producers—the writers, teachers, editors, clergy, and journalists—on April 24 and after thoughout Turkey; and the forced conversion of Armenians to Islam as a way of eradicating ethnic identity.
Balakian discussed the the city of Ani in eastern Turkey as an example of the politicization of historical monuments and their preservation in a post-genocidal context. Ani, which Balakian suggested might be seen as the equivalent of Florence for Italy, was the medieval capital of the Armenian Bagratid Kingdom in the 10th and 11th centuries, and is today on the Turkish-Armenian border. It was celebrated for the artistry of its churches and other structures. The city was abandoned in the 17th century and has since been subjected to earthquakes and destruction that have left it in ruins.
Balakian referred to Grigoris Balakian’s The Ruins of Ani to suggest that scholars might now see the erosion and falsification of Ani by the Turkish government through a post-colonial lens. He emphasized the connection Armenians have to eastern Turkey, but also the experiences of exile and loss because of what he called the “lock out syndrome”—the result of Ankara’s policy of disallowing even proper identification on the signage of historic Armenian churches.
In response to a question from the audience about the U.S. government’s refusal to go on official record about the Armenian Genocide, Balakian noted that the State Department remains afraid of standing up to Turkish coercion and pressure, and this seems to be a failure of ethical courage. Twenty-two countries have passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide, including Poland, Sweden, France, Greece, and Switzerland.
Vreij Kolandjian thanked Balakian for his lecture and the Holocaust Museum Houston for emphasizing the importance of the Armenian Genocide by hosting two lectures and one exhibition on the topic three months in a row. Balakian’s talk stunned the audience to rapturous applause.

2 Comments on Balakian Discusses Genocide, Cultural Destruction at Holocaust Museum Houston

  1. avatar richard c bozian M.D. F.A.C.P. // March 26, 2015 at 7:01 pm // Reply
    Peter Balakian has done a noble service to the Armenian cause in his address at Houston, as is always the case with him. His efforts are notable in several respects. First, in emphasizing the systematic destruction of our culture: the churches, the schools, the museums, in addition to over one million innocents in the 19th and 20th centuries. This puts the lie to the Turkish claim that they were merely responding to traitorous act of Armenian soldiers. The Turks do not address the fact that thousands of Armenians served the Ottoman Empire loyally in the 19th and 20th centuries. Second, it is admirable that he recognizes and honors Jewish contribution to recognition of the genocide.We need coalitions to support our efforts even though many Jews today minimize the realities of the Armenian Holocaust. Lastly, he points to the shortsightedness and cowardice of our State Department notwithstanding that so many countries recognize the facts of history. This is not the only example of shortsightedness on the part of our country in foreign relations.
  2. The “erosion and falsification of Ani” does not come from Turkey. Turkey has tried to do it, and continues to attempt to do it, but no visitor to Ani has ever given any regard to it. The real erosion and falsification of Ani is now coming from the secretive foreign band of “experts” who control Ani. For example, Carsten Paludan-Müller, director of The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, considers that the identification of Ani as an Armenian site, or the identification of a particular structure as Armenian, is “ideological” rather than being an architectural or archaeological question, and he has stated that the goal of his project’s team (aka the “Ani Workshop”) is to get Ani “de-nationalised”. Under the “Ani Workshop”, Ani is no longer an archaeological site whose preservation and study should be guided by international protocols. Ani is now a tool to be used in ngo, EU, and US government-controlled “Turkish-Armenian dialog” exercises, where discussions about the identity of, or significance of, Ani’s monuments is dictated by the goals of the Ani Workshop’s paymasters.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sassounian: 10 Reasons Why Obama Should Travel to Armenia on April 24

Armenia’s President Serge Sarkisian has invited several world leaders to Yerevan on April 24 to commemorate the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide.
The presidents of France, Russia, Poland and Belarus have already accepted Sarkisian’s invitation. The White House has yet to make a public statement on whether President Barack Obama plans to travel to Armenia on this most solemn occasion.
A century ago, Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, described the systematic annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians as “The Murder of a Nation.” Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish lawyer, told CBS that he coined the term “genocide” based on the mass crimes committed against Armenians during World War and against Jews during World War II.
Here are 10 reasons why Air Force One should make an auspicious landing in Yerevan’s Zvartnots International Airport on April 24:
  1. Obama would pay tribute to hundreds of thousands of compassionate American citizens for having raised over $117 million—today’s equivalent of over $2 billion—to aid destitute Armenians in the aftermath of the genocide. Initiated by Morgenthau and supported by President Woodrow Wilson, Near East Relief helped rescue and care for 132,000 Armenian orphans. This massive charitable effort was the first international humanitarian outreach in U.S. history.
  2. By visiting Armenia on this occasion, Obama would be reaffirming the longstanding U.S. acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide—a settled historical fact recognized as genocide by:
- the U.S. government in a document submitted to the World Court in 1951;
- the House of Representatives in 1975 and 1984;
- President Ronald Reagan in a Presidential Proclamation issued on April 22, 1981;
- 43 out of 50 U.S. states;
- two dozen countries, including France, Italy, Russia, Canada, Holland, Vatican, Switzerland, Sweden, Argentina, Lebanon, Greece, Cyprus, Poland, and Venezuela;
- several international organizations, including the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities; the European Parliament; and the International Association of Genocide Scholars.
  1. The Centennial could well be Obama’s last opportunity to regain the trust of the Armenian-American community by honoring his solemn pledge as Senator and presidential candidate to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
  2. Obama could lay the foundation for improved Armenian-Turkish relations based on truth and justice, in line with a pending resolution in the House of Representatives, and his previous April 24 statements, declaring that “a full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all of our interests.” Obama’s visit would also encourage Turkish human rights activists to continue their arduous task of assisting the government of Turkey to reckon with the darkest pages of its past.
  3. The U.S. president could take advantage of this visit to urge Turkey to lift the blockade of Armenia, while taking a glimpse at the biblical Mount Ararat just across the closed border.
  4. In response to mounting attacks by Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh), Obama could stress Washington’s strong support for a peaceful settlement of this thorny conflict.
  5. Obama’s visit would help balance Armenia’s relations with the West, particularly after its membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, and in view of Putin’s planned trip to Yerevan on April 24. Armenia has enjoyed close relations with Western Europe and the United States, and has participated in international peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, and Lebanon. More recently, the appointment of former Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan as Armenia’s Ambassador to Washington underscores the importance Yerevan attaches to its relations with the United States.
  6. Since Obama, due to the Ukraine crisis, is not planning to travel to Moscow to take part in the World War II Victory Day celebrations on May 9, he would have the opportunity to meet with President Vladimir Putin in Yerevan, in a less conspicuous atmosphere.
  7. Obama’s visit to Armenia would be a significant gesture of goodwill toward the Armenian-American community. Last week, 16 major Armenian-American organizations sent a joint letter to the president urging him to participate in the Armenian Genocide Centennial events in Armenia.
  8. Obama would be making a historic first U.S. presidential trip to Armenia, preceded by several high-ranking American officials: Secretary of State James Baker III in 1992; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2001; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2010 and 2012, when she laid a wreath at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, as all U.S. Ambassadors have done on every April 24, since the country’s independence in 1991.

Armenia Recognizes Assyrian and Greek Genocides

YEREVAN (A.W.)—On March 24, Armenia’s National Assembly passed a resolution recognizing the Assyrian and Greek Genocides committed by the Ottoman Empire of 1915-23. The Republican Party-sponsored bill, entitled “On the Genocide of the Greeks and Assyrians Perpetrated by Ottoman Turkey between 1915 and 1923,” passed unanimously, with 117 votes in favor.
The bill was authored by the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Eduard Sharmazanov; the leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) parliamentary faction Armen Rustamyan; as well as Parliament members Hovhannes Sahakyan, Edmon Marukyan, Arpine Hovhannisyan, Tevan Poghosyan, Gurgen Arsenyan, Heghine Bisharyan, Alexander Arzumanyan, Vahram Baghdasaryan, Hermine Naghdalyan, Margarit Yesayan, and Lyudmila Sargsyan.

The Assyrian Genocide Monument in Yerevan
The Assyrian Genocide Monument in Yerevan

Speaking to reporters on March 23, Sharmazanov explained that by condemning the Assyrian and Greek Genocides, Armenia was standing in solidarity with the two nations. “By submitting the draft as a declaration on condemnation, we want to show society and our Greek and and Assyrian brothers and sisters and the international community that the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia and all the political forces attach importance to [the] condemnation of the genocide perpetrated against the Greeks and Assyrians,” said Sharmazanov.

Sabri Atman, the director of the Assyrian Genocide Research Center, commended the National Assembly of Armenia in a statement published by the Assyrian International News Agency. “We salute the Republic of Armenia for its decision to recognize the Assyrian and Greek Genocide. This encourages us and gives us strength to be recognized internationally,” said Atman.
In a 2014 interview with the Armenian Weekly, Atman stressed the importance of recognition and criticized the Armenian government for not taking a strong stance on the issue. “Denial is a form of continuation of the genocide. It is to be killed twice. Failure to recognize the genocide has led to even more genocides against Assyrians in their homeland. We Assyrians also don’t understand the fact that the Republic of Armenia has not recognized the Assyrian Genocide yet,” Atman said in the interview.
The resolution comes a little over a month after the government of Armenia approved a motion declaring Dec. 9 as a “Day of Remembrance of Victims of All Genocides.” The resolution, which passed on Feb. 12, was introduced “to remedy historical injustices, protect human rights, and struggle against Turkey’s genocide denial policy,” according to Heritage Party member and motion co-author Zaruhi Postanjyan.
From 1915-23, an estimated 300,000 Assyrians and 500,000 Greeks were systematically killed by the Ottoman-Turkish government.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Historic Ecumenical Service to Be Held May 7 at Washington National Cathedral

“I am a proud person. I am the grandchild of a saint,” said Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy, in a conversation at the Prelacy headquarters. “After April 23, I will pray to them, not for them.”
Prelate Oshagan Choloyan
Prelate Oshagan Choloyan
He was referring to the anointing of the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide as saints on April 23 in Etchmiadzin, Armenia, by the Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II, and the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, Aram I. Both Catholicoi will then travel to Washington, D.C. and preside at the historic Ecumenical Service at the National Cathedral on May 7, at 7 p.m. Also expected to attend will be the President of the Republic of Armenia Serge Sarkisian.
Archbishop Choloyan’s grandfather, Rev. Fr. Arshavir Choloyan, was nailed to the door of the St. Sarkis Armenian church in Baghin, Palu, during the genocide. “The martyrs of the genocide died for their faith,” he related with great emotion. “We lost our brave people and our ancestral land, which is not only a geographic entity, but the place where all our vision is established.”
Remembrance is not enough, he stated. We have to have a cause to pursue. “As Armenians, and children of survivors, we must take care of Armenia, and nurture our youth with this cause,” he declared with emphasis.
“It is significant that we are commemorating our genocide together in Washington, D. C., the capital of the United States, the most important place in the world,” Archbishop Choloyan noted. “We are going there as united Armenians to raise awareness among religious and political leaders. Many know what happened to the Armenians. Some are courageous and stand with us.”

A world-famous shrine
The world famous National Cathedral in Washington, closely modeled on the English Gothic style, is the sixth largest cathedral in the world, and the second largest in the United States. This famed Episcopal edifice was erected under a U.S. Congress charter on Jan. 6, 1893, with construction commencing in 1907. The foundation stone was laid in the presence of President Theodore Roosevelt; the cathedral was finally completed in 1990. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and ranked third on the “List of America’s Favorite Architecture” by the American Institute of Architects.
The Washington National Cathedral
The Washington National Cathedral
The National Cathedral has been a religious landmark designated by the U.S. Congress as the “National House of Prayer,” and the structure has hosted both religious and secular major events, including state funerals for Presidents Dwight Eisenhower (1969), Ronald Reagan (2004), and Gerald Ford (2007). Memorial services have been held there for Presidents Warren G. Harding, William Howard Taft, Calvin Coolidge, Harry S. Truman, Richard Nixon, and for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and South African President Nelson Mandela, as well as for the casualties of the Vietnam War and the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
President Woodrow Wilson, who was so instrumental in politically fighting for the survivors of the Armenian Genocide, is the only American president buried in the National Cathedral, and joins the ashes of such luminaries as author and advocate for the blind Helen Keller, and Philip Frohman, cathedral architect.

Commemoration and celebration
“We will commemorate the genocide and also celebrate our survival, and our important contributions to society as a large,” related Eastern Prelacy Vicar General Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, a member of the Ecumenical Service Planning Committee.
“The service will entail traditional sharagans [church hymns], as well as Armenian prayers dedicated to our sainted martyrs authored and composed by the late Archbishop Zareh Aznavorian, who was a member of the Holy See of Cilicia,” he related.
“We are expecting a large number of ecumenical guests from different churches, ensuring their participation in the service,” he said. Also invited to attend are dignitaries of the diplomatic world and members of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the U.S. government.
Currently, due to high demand, there is a waiting list for seats at the National Cathedral. To join the waiting list, e-mail, sending the name and address of each person wishing to attend. Because of high security at the National Cathedral, entrance will be by ticket only, accompanied by presentation of photo ID. Tickets will not be available at the door.

What’s the Point?-- activism will lead to full restitution of Armenian rights.


In just over a month, it will crescendo. It has already begun. Weeks and weeks worth of commemorations, conferences, demonstrations, marches, memorials, museum and monument dedications, pilgrimages, rides, etc. will culminate in… what? Actually, they will even continue beyond April 24, 2015.
But what’s really the point of all this? A good feeling of having done right by our soon-to-be-formally-sainted martyrs? Working on getting Turkey to recognize the Genocide, but at a more fevered pitch? Informing the rest of the world of our fate? Celebrating our survival? Putting it all behind us with one big, blow-out week/month/year of activity? No, no, no, no, no, and no to any other such pathetic, ultimately insubstantial motive.

It’s all about making things right. It means, as succinctly put by the name of the recently completed conference in New York, “Responsibility 2015,” responsibility to make Armenians whole by returning lands, property, wealth, and dignity. It means reconnection with our stolen homes and orchards, shops and factories. It means the wealthy of Turkey must be compelled to disgorge the massive ill-gotten gains of their murderous grandparents. It means us walking and living in safety wherever our original homes were, whenever we choose to go. It’s not just about recognition. In fact, recognition is a small part of the picture. It’s everything else. After all, are not those lands and properties ours REGARDLESS OF GENOCIDE?
It’s time to come out of our fearful shells, for all Armenians to get with the program and not just plead for recognition. We deserve and have earned FAR more than just that.

And there’s another coming out, that of the crypto-Armenians who, through incredible perseverance, have endured for a century under different guises – as Moslems, Kurds, Alevis, and amazingly, in this age of ISIS-like nut-jobs, even as Christians. These compatriots already have associations in Sasoon, Moosh, Dersim, and Diarbekir. It’s time for Diasporan compatriotic unions to reconnect with those of us who remained on ground zero – Western Armenia. And, in some places it is even more overt than that. On the Mediterranean coast, on Musa Dagh, the village of Vakef has persisted. On the Black Sea’s shores, we have the Hamshentzees.

All this is necessary for us to elementally, fundamentally, viscerally, reconnect with our stolen… everything. In this context, the rapidly increasing number of Mt. Ararat climbs is very important, as are trips such as those organized by Armen Aroyan to Turkish occupied Armenian lands. We have to resolve, among ourselves, the dilemma of not supporting the Turkish economy with our tourism dollars vs. remaining distant from our lands.

And there is progress, especially now, in Turkey. The Dersim Armenian and Alevi Union plans to commemorate the Genocide in the gorge in Kharpert where Armenians were thrown in. A human rights group has set out to document the sites of Armenian (and others’) mass graves. In Sasoon, a soft echo of an ancient Armenian pilgrimage to Maroota Mountain can be heard. Traditionally held on the last Thursday of July, it is scheduled this year for July 31. Locals expect other Sasoontzees to return home and join this re-birthing event. Stanford University is sponsoring three students to go to Constantinople for Genocide commemoration activities. And in this same city, where 100 years ago, our community’s leaders were rounded up in the dead of night to be butchered, a conference titled “The Armenian Genocide: Concepts and Comparative Perspectives” is being organized.

Yet, as always and unsurprisingly, we have the “traditional” Turkish policies on display as well. And, it is not only the higher level stuff – the fiasco/farce of scheduling the Gallipoli centennial remembrance on April 24th or Turkish government “academic” hacks boasting that they will deflect Armenians Genocide-related efforts – which offends any human’s sensibilities. Smaller scale, yet perhaps more brutal episodes, also abound. In the village of Ksert (Kurdish name), an Armenian cemetery adjoining a ruined church was dug up and bones strewn about, all to build a new road. I suppose it would have been “impossible” to redirect the road by a few dozen yard/meters… Then there is the hue-and-cry over the Armenian roots of Alevis and Kurds, and now Arabs and Assyrians, too! But that’s not all. The argument seems to be since these groups have (partially) Armenian roots, therefore there is no Alevi or Kurdish issue in Turkey. It’s all about the Armenian issue! Maybe we should be thanking those Turks making such ridiculous assertions for doing some of our public relations work for us.

Keep on punching. We are on a journey of a million steps, and have taken very few of them. Constant engagement, effort, and activism will lead to full restitution of Armenian rights.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Eric Bogosian's New Book - Operation Nemesis: The Assassination Plot that Avenged the Armenian Genocide

A masterful account of the conspiracy of assassins that hunted down the perpetrators of a genocide 

In 1921, a small group of self-appointed patriots set out to avenge the deaths of almost one million victims of the Armenian Genocide. They named their operation Nemesis after the Greek goddess of retribution. Over several years, the men tracked down and assassinated former Turkish leaders. The story of this secret operation has never been fully told until now.

Eric Bogosian goes beyond simply telling the story of this cadre of Armenian assassins to set the killings in context by providing a summation of the Ottoman and Armenian history as well as the history of the genocide itself. Casting fresh light on one of the great crimes of the twentieth century and one of history's most remarkable acts of political retribution, and drawing upon years of new research across multiple continents, NEMESIS is both a riveting read and a profound examination of evil, revenge, and the costs of violence.
The book will be made available on April 21st, 2015. The book can be pre-ordered on Amazon by clicking here.
"Hitler asked, 'Who remembers the Armenians?' Eric Bogosian, that's who. Read his potent, action-packed account of how a little known assassination plot harkens back to a world-historical genocide and so will you. So take that, Hitler."—Sarah Vowell, author of The Wordy Shipmates and Assassination Vacation
"A dark and compelling tale of blood vengeance. In Operation Nemesis, Eric Bogosian tells the remarkable story of how a small group of powerless, post-war assassins sought revenge against the all-powerful masterminds of the Armenian genocide."—Annie Jacobsen, author of Operation Paperclip
"Absorbing and accessible, Bogosian presents this complex and multi-layered history with a master dramatist's flair. Operation Nemesis is an engaged and provocative account of an unforgettable tragedy and a cathartic attempt at finding justice."—Atom Egoyan, Academy Award-nominated writer and director of The Sweet Hereafter and Ararat
"Eric Bogosian, actor, playwright and novelist, can now add historian to his resume with this carefully researched tale of organized revenge on the perpetrators of one of the most heinous state-engineered genocides in modern history--the murderous expulsion of the Armenian people from Ataturk's newly reconstituted Turkey."—Richard Price, author of The Whites
"If you think you know all the great thriller stories of the last century, you don't. And this one is true. Operation Nemesis reads like a high-stakes suspense novel, but it tells us something essential about the world we're living in right now."—Peter Blauner, author of Slipping Into Darkness and Slow Motion Riot
"Operation Nemesis is a spell-binding book. It is written both with urgency and patience. Bogosian's chapter summarizing the "variety of peoples who crossed and recrossed" Anatolia is as good as any of the half-dozen established accounts I've read. His play-by-play story of the Armenian assassins avenging the Armenian genocide (1915-20) is as gripping as a Graham Greene novel. The whole book is a significant contribution to the history of Asia Minor and its effect on our present world."—John Casey, author of National Book Award winner Spartina
"In this resurrection of a lost story, Eric Bogosian vividly tells the story of the assassins who avenged the Ottoman mass killings of Armenians in 1915. Unfolding like a thriller, Bogosian's history brings to life long-forgotten events and the courageous people who set out in their own way to bring a kind of justice and peace to their shared past."—Ronald Grigor Suny, Professor of History and Political Science, University of Michigan, and author of They Can Live in the Desert But Nowhere Else: A History of the Armenian Genocide
About the Author

Eric Bogosian is an actor, playwright, and novelist of Armenian descent. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his play Talk Radio, and is the recipient of the Berlin Film Festival's Silver Bear Award, as well as three Obie Awards and the Drama Desk. In addition to his celebrated work in the theater and onscreen, he has authored three novels. He lives in New York City with the director Jo Bonney.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Over 40 House Members Introduce ‘Truth and Justice’ Resolution, Call for Genocide Recognition

 WASHINGTON—Today, Reps. Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), David Valadao (R-Calif.), and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), along with 40 other members of the House of Representatives, introduced the Armenian Genocide Truth and Justice Resolution. This bipartisan resolution calls upon President Barack Obama to work toward equitable, constructive, and durable Armenian-Turkish relations based on the Republic of Turkey’s full acknowledgement of the facts and ongoing consequences of the Armenian Genocide. The resolution will also establish a fair, just, and comprehensive international record of this crime against humanity.

“We welcome today’s introduction of the Armenian Genocide Truth and Justice Resolution, and strongly support this new bipartisan approach to promoting regional peace, protecting Armenia, and preventing future atrocities,” said Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
Aram Hamparian speaking today at press conference
Aram Hamparian speaking today at press conference
“This innovative, justice-based initiative builds upon the U.S. record of past Armenian Genocide recognition by calling for a new U.S. policy—one that reflects our American values and also recognizes that our national interests will be served by Turkey ending its obstruction of a truthful and just international resolution of this crime,” added Hamparian.
This year, 2015, marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide—a systematic and deliberate annihilation campaign launched in 1915 by the government of the Ottoman Empire against its Armenian population, leaving 1.5 million Armenians dead and millions more displaced. While the Armenian Genocide has been recognized by more than 20 nations, including Canada, Italy, Sweden, France, Argentina, and Russia, as well as the European Parliament, it has not been formally recognized by the U.S. Congress in decades and has not been recognized by Obama.

“Denial of the Armenian Genocide undermines foundations for durable peace and security, making future atrocities more likely,” said Dold. “As the greatest force for human dignity in the world, the United States has an obligation to send an unequivocal message that we will never forget those that were lost, nor shall we tolerate any country that hides behind bully tactics to shroud violations of human rights.”
“One hundred years ago, one and a half million Armenian men, women, and children were deliberately murdered in the first genocide of the 20th century—these facts are indisputable,” said Schiff. “And on this important anniversary and while there are still survivors among us, we in Congress and the president have an opportunity and an obligation to send a strong message that we will never forget those who were lost, and we will call this crime against humanity what it was, genocide. We feel a powerful sense of urgency and the profound call of moral duty to recognize the Armenian Genocide unequivocally and without delay.”
“One hundred years after the genocide, the sense of loss and pain is still strong as many in our community have a direct connection to someone who was unable to escape,” said Valadao. “While those impacted by the genocide are always in our hearts, let us take an extra moment to remember the 2 million Armenians whose lives were lost.”
“As we recognize the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, we remember the one and a half million Armenians who were slaughtered by Ottoman Turks,” said Pallone. “Now is the time for the United States government to do the moral thing and recognize these atrocities for what they are—genocide. While we mark 100 years since this horrible act of violence, we also recommit ourselves to the work of speaking out against oppression and senseless violence. Today, I join my colleagues in remembering the victims and paying homage to the Armenian people who, for thousands of years, have shown their perseverance and strength in the face of great challenges,” said Pallone.
The full text of the resolution, introduced today during a press conference on Capitol Hill, follows.
Calling on the president to work toward equitable, constructive, stable, and durable Armenian-Turkish relations based upon the Republic of Turkey’s full acknowledgment of the facts and ongoing consequences of the Armenian Genocide, and a fair, just, and comprehensive international resolution of this crime against humanity.
Whereas the Obama Administration has, since early 2009, sought to improve Armenian-Turkish relations through diplomatic efforts to lift the Republic of Turkey’s blockade of Armenia and facilitate an end to Ankara’s refusal to establish diplomatic relations with Yerevan;
Whereas at the start of this process, President Barack Obama had, on April 6, 2009, voiced the United States Government’s expectation that Armenia-Turkey dialogue would “bear fruit very quickly,” but that since then, the Obama Administration has commended Armenia’s participation in this dialogue while holding Turkey largely responsible for the lack of results from this process, with the Secretary of State noting, on June 4, 2012, that, on this matter, “the ball remains in Turkey’s court”;
Whereas on April 24, 2013, President Barack Obama stated, “A full, frank, and just acknowledgment of the facts is in all of our interests. Nations grow stronger by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past, thereby building a foundation for a more just and tolerant future”;
Whereas the Republic of Turkey, rather than acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past, has escalated its international campaign of Armenian Genocide denial, maintained its blockade of Armenia, and increased its pressure on the small but growing Turkish civil society movement acknowledging the Armenian Genocide and seeking justice for this systematic campaign of destruction of millions of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Pontians, Syriacs, and other Christians upon their biblical-era homelands;
Whereas the United States is on record as having officially recognized the Armenian Genocide, in the United States Government’s May 28, 1951, written statement to the International Court of Justice regarding the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, through President Ronald Reagan’s April 22, 1981, Proclamation No. 4838, and by Congressional legislation, including House Joint Resolution 148 adopted on April 8, 1975, and House Joint Resolution 247 adopted on Sept. 10, 1984;
Whereas even prior to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the United States has a record of having sought to justly and constructively address the consequences of the Ottoman Empire’s intentional destruction of the Armenian people, including through Senate Concurrent Resolution 12 adopted on Feb. 9, 1916, Senate Resolution 359 adopted on May 11, 1920, and President Woodrow Wilson’s Decision of the President of the United States of America Respecting the Frontier between Turkey and Armenia, Access for Armenia to the Sea, and the Demilitarization of Turkish Territory Adjacent to the Armenian Frontier, dated Nov. 22, 1920;
Whereas President Barack Obama entered office having stated his “firmly held conviction that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence,” affirmed his record of “calling for Turkey’s acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide,” and pledged that “as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide”; and
Whereas the United States national interests in the establishment of equitable, constructive, stable, and durable relations between Armenians and Turks cannot be meaningfully advanced by circumventing or otherwise seeking to avoid materially addressing the central political, legal, security, and moral issue between these two nations, Turkey’s denial of truth and justice for the Armenian Genocide: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, that the House of Representatives calls on the President to work toward equitable, constructive, stable, and durable Armenian-Turkish relations based upon the Republic of Turkey’s full acknowledgment of the facts and ongoing consequences of the Armenian Genocide, and a fair, just, and comprehensive international resolution of this crime against humanity.

Panel at Harvard on ‘Armenia 1915-Auschwitz 1945’

BELMONT, Mass.—A special program commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, entitled “Armenia 1915-Auschwitz 1945: Small Nations and Great Powers,” will take place on March 25 at 7 p.m., at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Starr Auditorium (Belfer B-200, 79 John F. Kennedy St., Cambridge). The event is co-sponsored by the Harvard Kennedy School European Club, the Harvard College Armenian Students Association, the Mashtots Chair in Armenian Studies at Harvard, and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR). It is free and open to the public.
Participating in the program will be Dr. Simon Payaslian, Charles K. and Elisabeth M. Kenosian Professor of Modern Armenian History and Literature, Department of History, Boston University; Marc A. Mamigonian, director of Academic Affairs, NAASR; and Dr. James R. Russell, Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University. Hovhannes Ghazaryan, a graduate student in the Mid-Career Master in Public Administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, will serve as the moderator. Fr. Arsen Barsamian of St. James Armenian Church of Watertown will offer an opening prayer in Armenian, and Russell will give a concluding prayer in Hebrew.
The panelists will explore interrelationships between the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust, with particular attention paid to the direct ties between the two genocides, some of the similarities and differences in the genocidal processes as well as the denial of both genocides, the role of self-defense on the part of Armenians and Jews against the Ottomans and Nazis, respectively, and the role of the Great Powers in the genocides and their aftermath. Following the panelists’ presentations, there will be a discussion period followed by a reception.
For more information about this event, contact NAASR at (617) 489-1610 or

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Armenia Releases Eurovision 2015 Entry ‘Don’t Deny’ (Video)

VIENNA, Austria (A.W.) – Armenia’s Eurovision 2015 song entry, “Don’t Deny,” was released earlier today. Diasporan artists from five continents and one artist from Yerevan will represent Armenia in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest that will take place in Vienna this May. The song has enraged some in neighboring Azerbaijan, which claims the lyrics contain a political message.
Along with the release of the song and its music video, Inga Arshakian of Armenia was unveiled as the final performer of the group Genealogy. Arshakian joins Stephanie Topalian, Essaï Altounian, Vahe Tilbian, Mary-Jean O’Doherty Vasmatzian, and Tamar Kaprelian, who hail from Europe, Asia, America, Africa, and Australia—and are all of Armenian origin. According to the official website of the Eurovision Song Contest (, this is the first time a country participates with performers from different parts of the world.

 The music for “Don’t Deny,” was written by award-winning Armenian musician and composer Armen Martirosyan, who also composed Armenia’s entry into the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest, “Apricot Stone.” The lyrics to the song were penned by Inna Mkrtchyan; and the music video was directed by renowned Armenian director, Aren Bayadyan.

Since the name of the song—“Don’t Deny”—was made public, there has been speculation that the title might refer to denial of the Armenian Genocide, the Centennial of which is being commemorated this year.
France’s entry has also been accused of referring to the Armenian Genocide. The song is entitled, “N’oubliez Pas” (“Don’t Forget”). According to, it was first performed at a concert in November 2014, at a World War I commemoration event, and “the singer emphasizes that the song refers not only to this very special event in history, but to any kind of conflict.”
Although there has been no explicit mention of the Armenian Genocide from the organizers, Azeri media outlets have accused both Armenia and France of politicizing the music event.
The Eurovision Song Contest 2015 will take place in Vienna from May 19-23.

Putin to Commemorate Armenian Genocide Centennial in Yerevan

click for more
MOSCOW (A.W.)—The Kremlin has announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be attending the Armenian Genocide Centennial commemorations in Yerevan in April.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo: official website of the Kremlin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo: official website of the Kremlin)
“Yes, he will fly to Yerevan,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told France’s Agence France-Presse (AFP). Peskov added that Putin discussed his plans to visit Yerevan with his Armenian counterpart Serge Sarkisian by telephone on March 12.
According to Sarkisian’s press service, the two discussed the key aspects of the strategic partnership between Armenia and Russia and exchanged views on further integration processes followed by the entry into force of the Treaty on Armenia’s Accession to the Eurasian Economic Union on Jan. 2.
The two reflected especially upon the peaceful use of nuclear energy and oil and gas sectors, during their discussion about bilateral relations.
Sarkisian and Putin also coordinated the schedule of their upcoming meetings to ensure joint participation in the events marking both the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and the 70th anniversary of the Red Army’s victory over the Nazi forces.
The State Duma, the lower house of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, recognized the Armenian Genocide on April 14, 1995, and accepted April 24 as a day of remembrance for the victims of the genocide.

100 LIVES Initiative Launched in New York

NEW YORK (A.W.) – The launch of an initiative entitled 100 LIVES was announced on March 10 in New York. The project will celebrate those who saved Armenians during the genocide, and support individuals and organizations that keep the legacy of gratitude alive.
The initiative is led by a group of Diasporan Armenians including the President of Carnegie Corporation Vartan Gregorian, and entrepreneurs Ruben Vardanyan and Noubar Afeyan

The project aims to uncover and recount stories about survivors and their saviors, which will be collected through academic research, personal accounts, and story submissions by the public to the website.
“The humanity, generosity, strength and sacrifice shown by those who saved so many Armenians compel us to tell these stories,” said Ruben Vardanyan, co-founder of 100 LIVES. “Now is the time to shine a light on those most extraordinary lives, to build on the lessons they teach us, and to express our gratitude for what they did.”

Academy Award winner and activist George Clooney joined Vardanyan on stage in a panel moderated by managing editor of Washington Week and co-anchor and co-managing editor of PBS NewsHour, Gwen Ifill.  When asked why it was important for him to be involved in such a project, Clooney explained that it is these types of initiatives that help shed light on ongoing atrocities. “We don’t want to triage in the end, I think that’s silly and too late. Our thought was let’s explore anyway we can to expose these things and make it more difficult to happen in the broad daylight, because we know it happens in the dark,” said Clooney.
“We really want people to get involved with 100 LIVES, to celebrate those that overcome adversity and give back to others, just as the Armenian community is doing in this centenary year,” said Clooney.

The Aurora Prize is named after Aurora Mardiganian who, as a child, survived the Armenian Genocide and 
went on to devote her life to providing humanitarian relief and raising awareness about the plight of the Armenians. Mardiganian is best known for starring in “Ravished Armenia,” also known as “Auction of Souls,” a 1919 American film based on the Armenian Genocide.
One of Mardiganian’s relatives, Ani Karabashian, addressed the crowd on behalf the family and stressed the importance of the initiative.
The 100 LIVES initiative will also digitize the written record of the Armenian Genocide—something that the founders believe can help preserve the memory of the genocide.
“There are a small number of survivors of the Armenian Genocide left with us. It is crucial that we ensure that, as we approach the centennial, we take this opportunity to leave a lasting imprint of what happened a century ago onto the world’s collective conscience,” said Vartan Gregorian.
“Resilience, strength, survival and gratitude are characteristics exhibited by Armenians, though not by us exclusively. They are found in all people,” said 100 LIVES co-founder Noubar Afeyan, adding, “We developed the concept of #BeArmenian #BeAlive to encapsulate the strength of the human spirit – not just for Armenians, but for everyone.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Describing the Indescribable: 1915

How does one “think about the unthinkable?” How does one “describe the indescribable?” These are among the analytical and moral challenges in trying to understand genocide. As Raphael Lemkin, the originator of the concept of genocide, noted: genocide occurred in history before the word “genocide” was created. The history of humans is marked by episodes of great cruelty and mass killings where groups that were different were targeted for persecution and slaughter.
The mass deportations and killings of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire peaked during World War I, but occurred before the term “genocide” emerged in 1944. In fact, the Young Turk regime’s slaughter of the Armenians would be a catalyst for Lemkin to develop such a legal concept, in a preliminary way in the 1930’s and in final phrasing in the 1940’s.
When trying to understand the events of 1915 onwards, it is useful to ask: What words and phrases were used by the Armenian survivors, domestic and foreign witnesses, and newspaper writers to describe what happened? The challenge was how to describe the indescribable, or what Churchill would in 1941 call “the crime without a name.”
The New York Times reported extensively on the massacres of the Armenians under the Young Turk dictatorship. A content analysis overview of the New York Times for the year 1915 (the peak year of the deportations and killings) reveals that a variety of words and phrases were used to try to describe the horrific scenes and deeds. Reviewing the range of the words employed can assist in conveying the magnitude of the man-made catastrophe that befell the Armenians.
Among the terms and phrases offered in the articles in the New York Times in 1915 were the following: “pillage,” “great exodus,” “great deportation,” “completely depopulated,” “wholesale deportations,” “systematically uprooted,” “wholesale uprooting of the native population,” “young women and girls appropriated by the Turks, thrown into harems, attacked or else sold to the highest bidder,” “children are being kidnapped by the wholesale,” “kidnapping of attractive young girls,” “rape,” “unparalleled savagery,” “acts of horror,” “murder, rape, and other savageries,” “endure terrible tortures,” “revolting tortures,” “their breasts cut off, their nails pulled out, their feet cut off, or they hammer nails into them just as they do to horses,” “burned to death,” “helpless women and children were roasted to death,” “massacres,” “slaughter,” “atrocities,” “unbelievable atrocities,” “systematically murdered men and turned women and children out into the desert, where thousands perished of starvation,” “million Armenians killed or in exile,” “1,500,000 Armenians starve,” “dying in prison camps,” “wholesale massacres,” “slaughtered wholesale,” “fiendish massacres,” “massacre was planned,” “most thoroughly organized and effective massacres this country has ever known,” “extirpating the million and a half Armenians in the Ottoman Empire,” “policy of extermination,” “plan for extirpating Christianity by killing off Christians of the Armenian race,” “plan to exterminate the whole Armenian people,” “deliberately exterminated,” “virtually the whole nation had been wiped out,” “annihilation of a whole people,” “organized system of pillage, deportations, wholesale executions, and massacres,” “pillage, rape, murder, wholesale expulsion and deportation, and massacre,” “systematic, authorized and desperate effort on the part of the rulers of Turkey to wipe out the Armenians,” “deliberate murder of a nation,” “war of extermination,” “race extermination,” “intention was to exterminate the Armenian race,” “Armenia without Armenians,” “extinction menaces Armenia,” “death of Armenia,” “deportation order and the resulting war of extinction,” “aim at the complete elimination of all non-Moslem races from Asiatic Turkey,” and “crimes against civilization and morality.”
There are at least 10 examples (5 in the decades before 1915 and 5 in the years after) where the biblical word “holocaust” in the generic sense was used to describe either the mass burning of Armenians alive, massacres of Christians, or attempts at annihilating the Armenian people. The New York Times’ references in the 1915-22 era to the Armenians’ fate included the phrasing “holocaust,” “war’s holocaust of horror,” “great holocaust,” and “final holocaust.”
Clearly, authors strained for the words that could explain the magnitude of such horrific scenes and deeds. Witnesses were often overwhelmed, particularly at the time of the deadly deeds, but also in retelling the painful accounts. For many who witnessed such atrocities, it was a life-altering experience.
Within a month of the Ottoman Empire’s April 24, 1915 arrest, deportation, and later killing of key Armenian leaders in Constantinople and increasing reports of mass deportations and massacres, the allied Entente countries of Britain, France, and Russia used the ominous phrase “crimes against civilization and humanity.” This description, officially issued on May 24, 1915 (and printed in the New York Times on the same day), was part of a semi-judicial warning to the Young Turk regime about its crimes and would become a key term in international law. It was an important step in the development of the legal concept of genocide.
However, no single word or combination of words or phrases could adequately convey the magnitude of suffering and horror of what had transpired. Even today, we search for ways to “describe the indescribable.”